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Firelord (Firelord #1)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,110 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Firelord is a historical fantasy novel by Parke Godwin, published in 1980. It is a retelling of the King Arthur legend.
Godwin tells the story of King Arthur from a historically accurate perspective, based on research & his own archeological trips to various parts of England.
The novel begins with Arthur dictating his memoir to a friar at a monastery. In flashback we ar
Hardcover, 396 pages
Published October 1st 1980 by Doubleday & Company (NY) (first published 1980)
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Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the most definitive version of the legend of King Arthur in the last thirty years, in my opinion. Godwin has done his research, and traces Arthur's origins from a high-born Romanized Briton in the twilight years of Rome's presence through his rise to power and the creation of a well-organized, effective kingdom that is capable--at least for a while--of holding back the encroachment of the Jutes, Saxons, Angles, and other mainland tribes. If Arthur actually existed, well, it coul ...more
Eric O'Brien
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very few of my adolescent loves have survived the rigorous critique I learned in graduate school. This novel has--it enthralls and moves me as much as it did when I first read it when I was nineteen. But it's also very, very smart: one paragraph might contain Wordsworthian neo-plantonism, agrarian critique of industrialized agriculture, matrilineal kinship relations and their ability to resist capitalism, or pastoral food production as rebellion. Historicism abounds, as do striking ideological c ...more
Mar 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Favorite Quotes

There’s not a stone or leaf or life that men won’t put a name to. It gives them a nice safe box to collect things in. They get in the habit of collecting things and end up surprised at the weight they’re carrying. A dream they thought might fit someday, something bright and sweet like a woman, picked up for her shine and somehow never left or at least never forgotten. Or an ambition! There’s a fine item in any man’s bag. A great, glowing ambition. They never fade, never wear even
May 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though Arthur drives me nuts, I have a soft spot for Arthurian stories because they're part of what launched me into being a medievalist. That said, this is one of my absolute favorite retellings because Godwin is pretty much a genius about characterization. I know enough about the historical references of Arthur (like "History of the Kings of Britain" and such) to appreciate how much Godwin works into this story; he's truly done his research, including the Briton/Saxon/Roman clash of the 5 ...more
Oct 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Far and away my favorite book of all time. Highly underrated.
Godwin is a genius with a flair for muscular, supple prose and astonishing charaterizations. This imaginative re-telling of the Arthurian legend is one of my annual re-reads.
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: king-arthur
Oh WOW that was good.

King Arthur on his death bed narrates his life from boy running around the hills of his step-mother’s Roman style villa to a very weary aged king in his last hours after the inevitable battle with Mordred.

Lancelot and Guinevere and Merlin and Magana and Tristian and the Holy Grail and Camelot all dance through the pages as he chronicles his journey…

But it’s all just a bit different this time round - gritty and fantastic and familiar and alien all rolled into one.

Between Rom
Althea Ann
A retelling of the Arthurian legend... reminded me of Bernard Cornwell's "The Winter King" in that this is a very gritty, militaristic view of Arthur's story, without any mystical or supernatural elements. Perhaps "Winter King" was even more gritty and unromantic, but "Firelord" is also set in a potentially-believable 6th-century (?) Britain. Arthur is an ambitious man ("Merlin" is his 'inner voice,' not an advisor or wizard) with aims on kingship and unification of the tribes of Britain. Howeve ...more
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Parke Godwin's specialty is the retelling of the classic legends. In Firelord he takes the legend of King Arthur and rewrites it in a way that fits the likely historical era in which the real man who was probably the basis of the legend lived. It's not a history text, but entirely a fictional novel, but the book brings a historical realism to the story that really resonated with me. Beloved Exile follows Guinevere after Arthur's death and is set in the period that the Germanic tribes are slowly ...more
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kara, Karl, expecially, but everyone
This is my all-time favorite Arthurian novel. I hated when it went out of print because I couldn't use it in classes anymore, even though the students never liked it as much as I did. It is available used for as little as a penny at Amazon, and its sequel "Beloved Exile," which focuses on Guenevere is still in print. If you want a thoroughly modern and equal Art and Gwen, this is your book.
Jul 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. The voice of Artorius comes through like he was speaking right at your ear... from the innocence of childhood, to his experiences as a soldier, to the early years of kingship and lastly the majestic voice of the old king, Godwin brings to life the evolution of a man into a legend.
Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another of my all-time favorite books. Arthur Pendragon narrates his life story from his deathbed after the Battle of Camlann.

No magic in this tale. This is Roman Britain, and the story is about the gritty details of war, religion and politics in a land being transformed by the forces of history.
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan of Aurthurian Legend. This is a wonderful take on a story we all know. It is by far my favorite King Arthur story.
Michael S.
Apr 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man, I love this guy's writing style! He wastes no words and creates such vivid imagery and emotions in the reader's mind. His sentences hit like arrows; piercing to the heart and embedding themselves deep in my memory. He is a true wordsmith.

I fell in love with this author's work when I read Sherwood and its sequel. I didn't enjoy this one as much as I did those, but that may just be because Sherwood was my first exposure to this amazing writer. After reading Sherwood and Robin and the King, G
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Firelord' is a chronicle of the life of King Arthur, and his journey from life as a small, peasant boy to a fabled and legendary king. We've all heard of King Arthur in some form or other, and I find it interesting that there are countless versions--all of them open to interpretation, of course--of Arthur, Guinevere, Morgana, the knights, Camelot, and so on. Of all that I have read (and I have read a few) 'Firelord' was my favorite, the one that really hit home. This was a portrayal of the man ...more
Jan 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a frustrating read. The premise has a lot of potential: Take a world famous legend (The King Arthur story) and tell it as if it actually happened, using historical details and actual settings. Here we get Arthur as a hardscrabble Roman centurion, who seizes the thrown not through magic, but shear luck and brutal fighting. This changes every aspect of the story, and makes it seem more real and more harsh than it ever has before. The little details, like the marriage squabbling being ...more
Anita O'halloran
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Normally I like my Arthurian legend a little more magical (if I want to read about actual historical kings, I'll read about actual historical kings), but this book came highly recommended so I gave it a go, and I'm very glad I did. Godwin's research shines through without ever bogging the story down and makes it easy to believe this is an actual history. In my head, this is now how things really happened.

Arthur is portrayed as just a man, and even through the first person narration it is easy to
Phillip Akel
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: favorites
I still cannot get over the fact of how great, sensational & moving Parke Godwin is as an author. I first read 'Sherwood' & 'Robin & The King' and I was so blown away with this authors style of writing. I just finished 'Firelord' and the bar Parke sets each read gets higher and higher. I've read many Arthurian books/series and I feel like I got out of this one book what I couldn't get out of all other books combined. Unfortunately there's only 2 books in this series not including th ...more
Jan 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another completely different take on the King Arthur legend. I liked it (although The Mists of Avslon is still my favorite); my favorite aspect of the book was definitely the Prydn subplot, and my favorite character was Morgana. Other than that, it was good but not amazing. It made me very interested to learn more about the real history of the Faerie people. For some reason, I cried at the end of the book even though I didn't love it that much. I think I got somewhat attached to the characte ...more
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just reread this book after several years. No problem there. This is one of my very very favorites.
This time was different for me though. I am married now and several scenes have more meaning than they used to. The scene where Arthur mourns Morgana really tore me up because now I know what it means to love someone that much. I can't imagine losing my wife. Especially not that way, to murder. I can't imagine that I would survive that . . .
That's the way it is with good books, you get something ne
There are very few definitive retellings of the Arthurian legend. Parke Godwin belongs in that select group. I read this many years ago and it's due for a re-read. This and the amazing sequel Beloved Exile remain well-loved and cherished classics on my bookshelf. These will not be read in e-book format. The physical books are too special for that. And yes, I love the cover.
Sorry. Had to get rid of that ghastly romance cover --- it was making me ill! Arthur in the book is described as an "old bear" by the end of the book which is what this original cover reflects. Arthur, Quinevere and Morgana are all the way they should be on this cover. You would almost think the artist had actually read the book. Or that the author had some say in what his work was wrapped in.
I know that what is important is what is inside. But it isn't too much to ask that the cover art should
3-dimensional female characters in a King Arthur novel?? Crazy! Also has one of the best Mordred/Morganna characterizations I've seen.

If I read it slowly, it's only because there comes a point in Arthurian fan's life when you just bloody know what's going to happen, and it hurts (or suddenly becomes dreadfully boring), so you have to pause frequently.

Still, an excellent retelling with all the classical elements and superb characters.
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite retelling of the Arthur story. The book is written in first-person from Arthur's perspective, which gives it an intensity and intimacy that is often lacking from Arthurian fare. Arthur and Guinevere are portrayed as brilliant, deeply flawed people who allowed politics to drown out their love for one another. Definitely worth the read and a satisfying take on an ubiquitous story.
Jun 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Arthurian legend.
3.5 stars. Possibly this qualifies less as speculative fiction and more as magical realism bordering on Arthur having multiple personality disorder (I KNOW, I KNOW, ONCE AND FUTURE KING), but hey. This took me kind of a ridiculous amount of time to read, but it really wasn't for a lack of enjoyment. It's an extremely well-crafted novel, never wasting words, and I quite enjoy its rendering of the legend.
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Parke Godwin has a singular voice. His retelling of the Arthurian legend is the best I have read and I think I have read them all. His historical background is solid. The voice of Arthur as narrator sounds as real as the person sitting next to you on the bus. Best of all, the tale told here is totally believable with no hints of magic. I have read this book at least three times and it gets better each time.
Oct 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Am Anfang war es für mich sehr schwer zu verstehen, da es viele zeitliche und inhaltliche Sprünge macht. Aber als ich es dann pausiert habe ging es irgendwie besser und dann hat es mir sehr gut gefallen. Wobei ich empfehlen würde sich mit dem Buch Zeit zu lassen, da ich die letzten 150 Seiten in einem Rutsch gelesen habe und dann war es mir ein bisschen zu viel Krieg und Töten.
Al Boy
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Parke Godwin offers a version of the Arthurian legend sans the magic of Merlin.
The characters we've come to expect are all there, but the situations and dialogue are more genuine and less fanciful.
Still, the author affords the reader an interesting, engaging, and delightful look at a well-known legend from a more realistic perspective.
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Goodwin's use of language. He puts thing in a way that paints pictures in my mind and make his characters seem very real. His Arthur and Gwen are more sympathetic and understandable to me than the perfect hero and over virtuous heroine some other authors have presented. The Last Rainbow is still my favorite book by him, but this one was very enjoyable.
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very different take on the King Arthur legend, and I really enjoyed the unusual perspective. It was particularly interesting to view Arthur and the other nobles as coming from the Roman tradition in Britain. I found the descriptions of battles and military campaigns a bit tedious, but the portrayals of the interpersonal relationships were fascinating.
Jul 16, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Marion Zimmer Bradleys Avalon series is among my favourites of all time and all other Arthurian fiction is compared to that.
It took me 6 days to get halfway through this despite having lots of time to read, since it's my holiday. I finally gave up.
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Parke Godwin was an American writer known for his lyrical yet precise prose style and sardonic humor. He was also known for his novels of legendary figures placed in realistic historical settings; his retelling of the Arthur legend (Firelord in 1980, Beloved Exile in 1984, and The Last Rainbow in 1985) is set in the 5th century during the collapse of the Roman empire, and his reinterpretation of R ...more
More about Parke Godwin...

Other Books in the Series

Firelord (7 books)
  • Beloved Exile (Firelord, #2)
  • Der tote König (Die Erbin von Camelot, #1)
  • Im fremden Land (Die Erbin von Camelot II)
  • The Last Rainbow (Firelord, #3)
  • Dorelei (Der Priester und die Elfe, #1)
  • Der letzte Regenbogen (Der Priester und die Elfe, #2)
“The day comes when love means something beyond a reflection of ourselves, when there is more behind than ahead and the house of mind is haunted in every chamber with old songs, old ghosts, old hopes.” 9 likes
“Part of what we are is whom we’ve loved.” 6 likes
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