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In The Winter King and Enemy of God Bernard Cornwell demonstrated his astonishing ability to make the oft-told legend of King Arthur fresh and new for our time. Now, in this riveting final volume of The Warlord Chronicles, Cornwell tells the unforgettable tale of Arthur's final struggles against the Saxons and his last attempts to triumph over a ruined marriage and ravaged dreams.

This is the tale not only of a broken love remade, but also of forces both earthly and unearthly that threaten everything Arthur stands for. Peopled by princesses and bards, by warriors and magicians, Excalibur is the story of love, war, loyalty, and betrayal-the work of a magnificent storyteller at the height of his powers.

436 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1997

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About the author

Bernard Cornwell

311 books15.9k followers
Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother, who was English, a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted and brought up in Essex by the Wiggins family, who were members of the Peculiar People, a strict Protestant sect who banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine. After he left them, he changed his name to his birth mother's maiden name, Cornwell.

Cornwell was sent away to Monkton Combe School, attended the University of London, and after graduating, worked as a teacher. He attempted to enlist in the British armed services at least three times but was rejected on the grounds of myopia.

He then joined BBC's Nationwide and was promoted to become head of current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland. He then joined Thames Television as editor of Thames News. He relocated to the United States in 1980 after marrying an American. Unable to get a green card, he started writing novels, as this did not require a work permit.

As a child, Cornwell loved the novels of C.S. Forester, chronicling the adventures of fictional British naval officer Horatio Hornblower during the Napoleonic Wars, and was surprised to find there were no such novels following Lord Wellington's campaign on land. Motivated by the need to support himself in the U.S. through writing, Cornwell decided to write such a series. He named his chief protagonist Richard Sharpe, a rifleman involved in most major battles of the Peninsular War.

Cornwell wanted to start the series with the Siege of Badajoz but decided instead to start with a couple of "warm-up" novels. These were Sharpe's Eagle and Sharpe's Gold, both published in 1981. Sharpe's Eagle was picked up by a publisher, and Cornwell got a three-book deal. He went on to tell the story of Badajoz in his third Sharpe novel, Sharpe's Company, published in 1982.

Cornwell and wife Judy co-wrote a series of novels, published under the pseudonym "Susannah Kells". These were A Crowning Mercy, published in 1983, Fallen Angels in 1984, and Coat of Arms (aka The Aristocrats) in 1986. (Cornwell's strict Protestant upbringing informed the background of A Crowning Mercy, which took place during the English Civil War.) In 1987, he also published Redcoat, an American Revolutionary War novel set in Philadelphia during its 1777 occupation by the British.

After publishing eight books in his ongoing Sharpe series, Cornwell was approached by a production company interested in adapting them for television. The producers asked him to write a prequel to give them a starting point to the series. They also requested that the story feature a large role for Spanish characters to secure co-funding from Spain. The result was Sharpe’s Rifles, published in 1987, and a series of Sharpe television films staring Sean Bean.

A series of contemporary thrillers with sailing as a background and common themes followed: Wildtrack published in 1988, Sea Lord (aka Killer's Wake) in 1989, Crackdown in 1990, Stormchild in 1991, and Scoundrel, a political thriller, in 1992.

In June 2006, Cornwell was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's 80th Birthday Honours List.

Cornwell's latest work, Azincourt, was released in the UK in October 2008. The protagonist is an archer who participates in the Battle of Agincourt, another devastating defeat suffered by the French in the Hundred Years War. However, Cornwell has stated that it will not be about Thomas of Hookton from The Grail Quest or any of his relatives.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 960 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
654 reviews39.9k followers
August 2, 2017
The Warlord Chronicles trilogy is hands down the best Arthurian saga I’ve ever had the chance to experience out of all medium.

"I have to confess that of all the books I have written, these three are my favourites.” – Bernard Cornwell

2 months and 20 books after my last 5/5 stars (without rounding up) read, the end to that slump is finally here, for I have found a new addition to my favorite shelves in a genre I rarely ventured. Cornwell has a new fan and this might be a sign for me to dive into more Historical Fiction in the future.

Excalibur, the third and last book in the Warlord Chronicles trilogy is definitely the best entry out of the trilogy. I’ll try to keep this review as brief possible to avoid any kind of spoiler, I’ve talked about what made the trilogy great in my previous reviews, the only thing missing was the battle and war scenes I’ve come to expect from the genre, and they’re finally here.

Cornwell’s capability in weaving plot and unfolding them slowly is impeccable. He’s a masterful storyteller and one of the few authors whose prose worked wonderfully to me. Both George R R Martin and John Gwynne stated that Bernard Cornwell is their personal best author when it comes to battle scenes and this book finally reveals the truth on that notion.

“Only a fool wants war, but once a war starts then it cannot be fought half-heartedly. It cannot even be fought with regret, but must be waged with a savage joy in defeating the enemy, and it is that savage joy that inspires our bards to write their greatest songs about love and war.”

Three intricate, fast paced duels with a lot of stakes behind each one, the 130 pages of war filled with siege, tactics, clashing shield walls against the Saxon at Mynydd Baddon, and the thrilling climax, were all so epic, thrilling and breathtaking.

Everything about Derfel and Arthur also reached closure here. The story that was told from 480 AD until 525 AD, full of loss, tragedy, friendship, familial love, war, heroism, betrayal, everything has been waged and fought and the ending has reached the most appropriate conclusion.

I do admit that I wish for one more chapter of epilogue for more closure for two characters, but when it comes down to it, this series has never been only about Derfel, it’s about Arthur and the people he met as well and for that, I can't ask for any other end.

Picture: Fanart of Derfel Cadarn by chronicvillainy on Deviantart

Often I had to remind my brain that this story is fiction. The book is superbly written and Cornwell’s Arthur formed out of the blend of legend and imagination has brought forth original characters, retelling and amazing plots that reminds us how deep the history humanity has left us, how much we, despite living in a totally different age and civilization still remained the same with the people of our past. Fate, as Merlin says, is inexorable.

“History is not just a tale of men’s making, but is a thing tied to the land. We call a hill by the name of a hero who died there, or name a river after a princess who fled beside its banks, and when the old names vanish, the stories go with them and the new names carry no reminder of the past.”

This book was published exactly 20 years ago, I was only 8 years old back then and yet, it became and still the best Arthurian saga I’ve ever had the chance to experience, not to mention superior in comparison to a huge amount of high fantasy books I’ve read. It’s Cornwell’s personal favorite books that he ever wrote and it’s now included in one of my favorite trilogies of all time list. That's all I have to say on this review.

I totally recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of Historical Fiction genre, Arthurian saga, or just in need of a marvelous book with great storytelling in general. The Warlord Chronicles trilogy is an incredible retelling of a name. A name which personification cannot be put proven to exist by countless historians, a name that brought forth countless retelling, adaptation and a name that may have truly became ‘real’ in the perception of many despite the lack of proofs. His name is Arturus Rex Quondam, Rexque Futurus: Arthur, our Once and Future King.

Series review:

The Winter King: 4.5/5 Stars

Enemy of God: 4.5/5 Stars

Excalibur: 5/5 Stars

The Warlord Chronicles: 14/15 Stars

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
October 22, 2019
Excalibur is the final book of the Warlord Chronicles trilogy and it maintains the excitement, intrigue, conflict and wonderful narrative the first two books led us to expect. The Arthurian legend has never been better told, on any medium.

The land is divided into kingdoms and Arthur continues his quest to unite the Britons and repel the Saxons. His mission is noble and is tied to his oath to Uther.
“Mordred should be King, we took an oath to make him King, and if we beat the Saxons, Derfel, I’ll let him rule.”
For Arthur to achieve his goal he needs all his cunning in political manoeuvrings and tactical subtlety to orchestrate victory. Meanwhile, his Saxon opponents, Cerdic and Aelle, are continuing to increase in strength and establish footholds in Briton and many of the other factions want to ensure they end up on the winning side. Arthur needs to divide his opposition and unite potential allies.
“‘If we can divide our enemies one more time,’ Arthur said, ‘then we still have a chance. If Cerdic comes on his own we can defeat him, so long as Powys and Gwent help us, but I can’t defeat Cerdic and Aelle together.’”
Arthur can never be faulted for his strategy but he can’t control the dealings of his alleged allies and does he actually have the resources to win? The array of machinations, hidden agendas, personal vendettas and ideology is mesmerising. Cornwell is a true master in this warring historical fiction genre and it is difficult to let a page escape your attention.

The women in the story play a huge part with Guinevere, Nimue and Ceinwyn having a massive impact in both positive and negative ways. Derfel states at the outset of this book
“… it took both a man and a woman to bring Britain low, and of the two it was the woman who did the greater damage. She made one curse and an army died, and this is her tale now for she was Arthur’s enemy.”
This teasing suggestion adds to the suspense, who will be the destructive catalyst against Arthur. The conflict between the beliefs and followers of the old Pagan Gods and Christianity is hugely important as Christianity continues to grow and Druids like Merlin and his priestess Nimue, remain powerful but are losing their believers.

Many will read the ending and appreciate that there was no other way for this epic story to finish, while others will be left wondering and wishing it could continue and resolve some of the finer issues.

The weaving threads of lubricious politics, war tactics, religious conflict, history, magic and amazing characters are so impressive and they never lose the momentum of this captivating storytelling. This trilogy is amazing and will assuredly sit on my favourite’s shelf forever. I highly recommend reading this book and trilogy. Five glorious stars.
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
204 reviews2,105 followers
December 30, 2022
Check out my YouTube channel where I show my instant reactions upon finishing reading fantasy books.

It's hard to consider this book on it's own and judge it without comparing it to the previous book, which is one of the best books I have ever read. Unfortunately (and predictably) this book doesn't reach the heights of that second book, but it is extremely enjoyable nonetheless and has a quality ending to an extremely wonderful series.
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
325 reviews1,185 followers
July 8, 2021
I now have a YouTube channel that I run with my brother, called 'The Brothers Gwynne'. Check it out - The Brothers Gwynne

My expanded review is on BookNest!


“Tell your father” I said, “That I loved him to the end.”

Excalibur is the third and final book in The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. It brings about the conclusion of the best Arthurian novels I have ever read.

“This tale of Arthur, my Lord, my friend and the deliverer of Britain.”

Excalibur was utterly brilliant just like its predecessors. It is the finale of a story that has immersed me into the lives of the characters as my feelings became the victims to the scale of emotions experienced, from euphoria to misery.

“Only a fool wants war, but once a war starts then it cannot be fought half-heartedly. It cannot even be fought with regret, but must be waged with a savage joy in defeating the enemy, and it is that savage joy that inspires our bards to write their greatest songs about love and war.”

Excalibur contained the largest scale conflicts of the trilogy, with Arthur and his warriors forced to repel a Saxon invasion that far outnumbers them. One of the best duels I have had the pleasure to read was in this, and it was mesmerising, the tension and description moulding together to make the scene truly incredible, I will remember that duel for many years to come.

So many acts of heroism were performed that had me physically grinning and then there were the despicable actions that had me weeping as the characters I have so grown to love fell victim to those whose ambitions are insatiable. Some of my most loved characters and most hated were in this trilogy, Derfel and Arthur being two who I will genuinely miss.

While Excalibur had its fair share of tragedy to say the least, it was also complete with moments of bitter satisfaction, that softened the blow slightly, but not enough to stem the tears….

“So, in the morning light, where they flapped in the drying wind, the bear and the star defied the Saxons.”

Excalibur was certainly a five star rating for me, I would give it more if I could. It was a wonderful, brutal, heart-wrenching, beautiful story about friendship and loyalty. I wept at multiple points and am shocked about how much my emotions have been affected.

The Warlord Chronicles is one of my all-time favourite series that has left me with a serious book hangover which will surely take a while to overcome. But now I must say farewell to the novel and all its contents, so goodbye to Derfel and his inspiring loyalty, Merlin and his wisdom, Galahad and his kindness and of course, Arthur, the Lord and saviour of Britain.
Profile Image for Wick Welker.
Author 5 books314 followers
November 30, 2022
A stunning masterpiece.

I feel like I want to write a several page essay about why this book, and this trilogy, is so incredibly good. I walked away from the final book in this Arthurian trilogy, Excalibur, humbled and awestruck at the remarkable accomplishment of characterization achieved. Every character has depth, dimension and enough flesh and bones that I will never forget them. The epic saga that unfolds in these pages is bursting with thematic power, lore, history, romance, bravery, friendship and the horror of warfare.

First with the characters. The depiction of Arthur is incredibly masterful. He is a man full of ideal, do-goodery. The reluctant ruler who refuses to be King yet cannot help but rule by his sheer bravery, charisma and loyalty. Arthur pines for consensus and brotherhood when no one wants to share his same fellowship. Arthur is both a fool and a hero and perhaps he is a hero because he's a bit of a fool. His foibles abound when his inaction causes disaster and his self-interest causes calamity. Yet it is only Arthur's idealism that actually keep Britain together. And yet, despite Arthur's bravery and loyalty, he is despised of his own because of the very forces that refused to reciprocate his naive round table. I believe that Arthur depicted in this trilogy is one of the best depictions of a protagonist I've ever read. His romance with Guinevere serves as both foil and companion. Guinevere herself is a dynamic, brilliant and unpredictable character.

Derfel is one of my favorite characters that I've read in a novel, period. The loyal narrator of this tale, Derfel is honest to a fault, loyal when very few remain, and most of all: he loves his family and friends. Defel is shrewd when he needs to be and ignorant when it best serves the interest of Arthur. He is brave and terrifying on the battlefield and all his words are tinged with a self-aware irony. His romance and loyalty to his wife and family almost had me in tears. I will never forget Derfel.

Let's not forget Merlin and Nimue. No spoilers, but by the end of this series it is clear that they are out of their minds. They serve to function as vestiges of Britain past, the crumbling world order that once ruled as Pagans and the desperation that lashes out to cease power back from the Christian upstarts. The lore of the druids clashing with the christians is a constant theme and one of the main drivers of plot throughout the series. It is incredibly engaging and weirdly relevant to the politics of today. The land of Britain is a character itself. It is in a constant identity crisis with not only the pagans and christian but the constant threat of the Saxons. And despite the constant culture war between the two religions, it’s clear by the end of the third book that Arthur was right all along: it’s trust in one another that succeeds.

The battle scenes are unbelievable. With both horror and pity, Derfel brings war into the mind of the reader. Everything about the battles is epic; Derfel is a warrior and a poet as he describes the numerous battles throughout these pages.

I could really go on but I'm not going to do this book justice. This is hands down one of my favorite series I've ever read. I cannot recommend it enough.
Profile Image for Rob.
511 reviews103 followers
July 21, 2018
Number 3 and the last of the Arthur Sagas.

Bernard Cornwell kept the bests for last. This book oozes with heroes, undying love and magic most foul.
This is Britain in the late 5th and the early 6th centuries. When the Britain’s were under siege from the marauding Saxons who were hell bent on taking as much of Britain as they could. The Saxon’s had to be stopped but this was no easy task. Britain at this time was a land of many small kingdoms and these kingdoms have spent many generations killing each other.

The land needed a hero and that hero was Arthur. If Britain was to survive all the kingdoms have to come together as a whole and this was the task that Arthur gave himself.

This was also a time when Druid paganism and Christianity were vying for supremacy. So we have a land that is being torn apart by military warfare and spiritual warfare.

Merlin is trying to bring the old Gods back but baulks at the cost of young lives needed for entice the Gods back. Merlin’s disciple, Nimue, frustrated at Merlin’s ineffectiveness takes matters into her own hands and unleashed untold horrors upon the land.

There is a lot of well researched history here and the reader will get a real insight into what life was like back then.
But this is not, and never was intended to be, a history text book. This is a, warts and all, folk lore fantasy minus the romance and gallantry that we normally associate with Arthur and the Knights of the round-table.

Nobody constructs battle scenes better than Bernard Cornwell which is just as well as there are a number of horrific battles to be fought.

There are characters here that will bring you to tears. Make you smile. Make you proud and some you will hate with a passion.

Highly recommended for anybody even remotely interested in historical fiction.
Author 3 books117 followers
November 15, 2015
I read this series years ago, but started it again to study Cornwell, line-by-line.

This book just gets so profoundly sad as you move deeper through it. There are so many things I would love to change about our history. This book makes me want to step back in time 15 centuries to stop Christianity from infecting the world, and to burn all of the Saxon ships before they sailed to Britain.

Cornwell is truly a masterful writer. I aspire to his level of skill for my own life as a writer.
Profile Image for North.
22 reviews10 followers
June 13, 2022
Another 10/10. Three 10/10s. The best trilogy I've read. Thats it - now go read it.

If you're still here, here are some of my brief thoughts. I'll try and not cuss this time.
The plot isn't anything crazy, but you get invested in the tale because of Cornwell's character work. Each person - Derfel, Arthur, Guinevere, Ceinwyn, Culuwch, Galahad, Lancelot, Sagramor, Meurig, Merlin, Nimue, and so many others - just absolutely bounces off the page. You hate them and you love them, not a single character I can describe with the word 'meh'. Keeble's narration and his voices for all these characters made the experience so much more enjoyable.

Also, nobody writes action this good. I was almost enjoying the maddening slaughter that occurs when a shield wall shatters and break, and men slice down spilling blood and guts. You're really in Derfel's head 100% of the time. Extremely immersive experience, will definitely be re-reading this one after a couple of years.

Looking forward to reading more Bernard Cornwell later this year, but I will be surprised if any books/series can top The Warlord Chronicles for me this year.
Profile Image for Shannon.
883 reviews217 followers
April 20, 2014
Per my review of WINTER KING, this is a different take on Arthur, focusing on the legend and the times. And those times were when Briton was desperately fighting itself and trying to hold back the Saxon invasions. The ruins of Roman occupation still remain.

In this part of the trilogy Arthur's plans to unite Britain begin to unravel. Merlin is betrayed and former allies of Arthur turn on him or won't assist him as Mordred gathers power.

Follows the Arthurian legend in some places but in others it is very different. For instance, Galahad and Lancelot are half-brothers; Galahad is brave but Lancelot is a coward who had good PR people, to speak, who made him into a hero. Arthur has children from a previous marriage. Mordred is club-footed. Merlin doesn't get trapped in a tree. I could go on but don't want to give out real spoilers.

Appreciators of an author who can blend History with legends will greatly appreciate this trilogy.

Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews223 followers
November 11, 2017
Book 1: 3*'s
Book 2: 3.5*'s
Book 3: 4*'s

If you like the tales of Arthur this series is a must and each book gets better. It is probably the darkest and least romanticized version I've read. The endings for a lot of our characters of myth are much less glorious as well then other versions of the tale. This makes them no less compelling and even more so in the more realistic gloom of 6th century what would become England. It's somewhat amazing with all the hatred across kingdoms they ever did manage to unify.
Profile Image for Kaora.
549 reviews279 followers
June 22, 2021
That was a wild ride and I loved every minute of it.
Profile Image for Ben K.
151 reviews10 followers
October 27, 2022
What a great finale to the trilogy, and I was pretty sad when it ended and I didn't have any more pages and time to spend with Derfal's story.

This one had some fantastic battle scenes, many heartfelt character moments, and unpredictable plotting that kept me in suspense throughout. The ending was just absolutely perfect for the series too.

The combination of fully lovable protagonists and utterly loathsome villains, mixed with some complicated characters who I both liked and wanted to bonk over the head, provided a great range of people to get invested in. The frame narrative was a real delight as well even though we spent very few pages with it, and the bard character in this book added a lyrical dimension that I loved as well.

Cornwell wrote an absolutely gripping trilogy that is going to stay with me and I fear springboard me to many more medieval-set books!
Profile Image for Nate.
481 reviews20 followers
March 29, 2013
I have to admit that this novel was another pleasant surprise from Cornwell for me. While I'm always entertained and informed by his books they very rarely actually move me in a sentimental way, given that they're not really sentimental books. However, this novel was really touching. Potent episodes of broken and then redeemed love, undying loyalty and sticking to ones' principles even when you have nothing to gain and everything to lose spring up everywhere during this book. It's really nice and so bittersweet.

That's not to say it's like a novel-length Hallmark card, however. This is probably the most violent and bleak Arthur book. All of the wounds and rivalries and in-fighting boil of the past books boil to the surface and the pages fly by in this kind of blur of utter turmoil and strife. I don't think it's a spoiler that Arthur has to confront the Saxons and deal with their shit for good in this novel and boy, does he ever. The series of engagements that makes up the event we call Mount Badon is really given the full Cornwell treatment. It's long, gory, exhausting, tense, and full of memorable scenes that run the gamut from terrifying to funny to heartwarming.

Also, so much magic. Whereas Enemy of God concerned a particular kind of intense and overzealous Christian fervor gripping the countryside, in this book the pagans are even worse. I'm not really sure if Cornwell just completely makes all these bizarre rituals and superstitions up or he consults some source or a mixture of both, but he pulls out a huge arsenal of them and many of them impressed me with their sheer gross paganiness. One bizarre thing that always stuck out with me was the druids insisting on shaping their hair into spikes with dung. I'm not sure if Cornwell ever mentioned a particular reason for that or if it was just a cosmetic thing popular among fifth and sixth century druids.

Either way, it's stuff like this that really brings the unique and enthralling Britain of these books to life. A fun thing is that Cornwell really leaves it kind of ambiguous as to how much of the magic is "real". A cynic like myself will probably leave with the idea that everything that transpired in this book could well have happened but others may not be so convinced. Most of the characters in the book (whether they'd like to admit it or not) believe in it and that's enough for it to take on a reality of its own regardless of what the reader might personally believe. This kind of thing will be utterly familiar to people that have read the Saxon Tales, but in this one it was a lot harder for me to just dismiss the pagan magic as interesting superstition. I'm not sure why I just harped on the magic thing for so long.

And the characters! Man, it's really hard for me to really dig the guts out of why I found them so engaging. We certainly don't get into their heads and souls like we might with other characters in other books, but the way we see them was kind of novel for me. Although I was familiar with the perspective from the Saxon Tales, it certainly had a different flavor to it. I suspect that Cornwell planned to use Uhtred in a role similar to Derfel; that of the observer and limited participant, with the main character of the story being a person that this character hangs out with and observes. However, Uhtred is just so arrogant and likable that for me he kind of broke free of Alfred's shadow and just fucking ran off with the story. I mean,

Cornwell couldn't have done that with this one. As much as I admired Derfel, he was really just the eyes with which we saw these neurotic, colorful, and eventually legendary people. The relationship the reader has with them is the closest thing to the relationships we have with each other in life; you can interact with these people and observe them over a long period of time, but you can't just jump into their heads. You can only really speculate and make educated guesses. Derfel is constantly and realistically doing this throughout the story. I don't know, maybe he was a little more deep than I give him credit for.

I really don't mean to be a windbag with this review but you can probably infer from its length that I loved these books. I can certainly recommend that anyone on the fence about finishing the series should definitely forge ahead as this was the most gripping of the series, at least for me. This is probably Cornwell's magnum opus.
Profile Image for Kate Quinn.
Author 32 books21.5k followers
May 14, 2010
Bernard Cornwell is one of the best writers of historical fiction out there, and the Arthur trilogy is his best work. He strips a good deal of the gloss off the Arthur legends, and what is left is a fascinating picture of the squalor, mystery, brutality, and courage of sixth-century Britain. The third and final novel, "Excalibur," brings the curtain crashing down on a scene we think we know. The baby king Mordred is now a grown man, stepping into his birthright as Arthur bows out, and horror ensues as Mordred's character unfolds. But we all know the story of Arthur ends on a battlefield with his fight against Mordred, so why bother discussing it? The characters are what carry this story along so compellingly. Derfel, the lord of war and loyal friend who outshines even Arthur as a hero. Nimue, Derfel's childhood love, gone from fierce child to mad sorceress. Guinevere, the ambitious adulteress who finally redeems herself on a blood-soaked battlefield. Sansum, bishop and fanatic, the sorriest excuse for a Christian ever born. There is even time for minor characters: Derfel's unexpected father, Arthur's loathesome bastard sons, the sad story of Arthur's friend Tristan and his doomed Iseult. The final battle is a thing of hair-raising terror and breathtaking beauty. I do not cry easily at books, but the last fifty pages of this one have me weeping every time.
Profile Image for Amanda.
227 reviews
April 3, 2015
Arturus Rex Quondam, Rexque Futurus
Arthur, our Once and Future King
What an amazing retelling of the legend, I think I'm a believer. The book has a great ending, but I wasn't ready for the story to end. I hate it when I get closer and closer to the end of a book and just know that not everything I want could fit into the remaining pages. Its heartbreaking to keep reading then, but what a great series. I am a huge fan of Bernard Cornwell. Thats the 9th book of his I have read in less than two months. How can I read anything else?!
Profile Image for Dylan.
432 reviews86 followers
March 30, 2022
Bit of a slog through the final third but holy shit what an ending. Weakest in the series imo but I’m glad I saw it through.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,099 reviews44.1k followers
November 8, 2016
“So now I shall write the tale’s ending with my sword beside me and I shall hope that I am given time to finish this tale of Arthur, my Lord, who was betrayed, reviled and, after his departure, missed like no other man was ever missed in all of Britain’s history.”

Wow! What a great book. The ending is marvellous and keeps with the legend but yet raises the question of, “did he live?” This is not a book the reader will soon forget. The author converged history with myth, bringing new life into the old tale with a fresh take upon Arthur. We finally get to see how Derfel became a monk, which seems outlandish at first but then when the explanation is given, the reasoning is clear.

This is a MUST read with lots of emphasis on the MUST!
Profile Image for Clemens Schoonderwoert.
1,053 reviews77 followers
September 23, 2021
Read this book in 2006, and its the 3rd and final volume of this amazing trilogy.

Narrated again by Derfel, now an old monk and then a mighty warrior and servant to Warlord Arthur.

This tale is full of war, love, loyalty and betrayal, and its the tale about the famous sword called, Excalibur, which will bring victories and fame to Arthur.

After at first having been victorious at Mount Baden, the unity will fall apart, as well as family bliss, nut promises made and other factors combined will be downfall for Arthur, followed by his heart-rending described journey into the afterlife, wonderfully pictured by the monk, Derfel.

This book is a tremendous conclusion of a terrific trilogy, and that's why I want to call this final episode: "A Glorious Arthur Ending"!
Profile Image for Mike.
1,101 reviews151 followers
October 25, 2011
5 Stars without a doubt. I did not want this book and series to end. What a story! This tale of Arthur will challenge your ability to read any other Camelot story. The characters feel real, the setting believable, the political intrigues constant and the battles gory. A taste of the battle scenes:

“It is the beguiling glory of war, the sheer exhilaration of breaking a shield wall and slaking a sword on a hated enemy. I watched Arthur, a man as kind as any I have known, and saw nothing but joy in his eyes. Galahad, who prayed each day that he could obey Christ’s commandment to love all men, was now killing them with a terrible efficiency…Gwydre was grinning behind his cheekpieces, while Taliesin was singing as he killed the enemy wounded left behind by our advancing shield wall. You do not win the fight of the shield wall by being sensible and moderate, but by a Godlike rush of howling madness.”

What makes this book a 5-Star is the brilliant evocation of a turning point in history. The Roman Empire left Britain a generation ago and now the Saxons (and Aengles) are invading in growing numbers. Christianity, introduced by the Romans is also invading, conflicting with the pagan Druidic belief system. The native Briton tribes are fighting among themselves. The Dark Ages are coming and some perceive the darkness descending inexorably. Add in Arthur, Merlin and all the others, along with new characters and Cornwell’s great writing and you have something special. The treachery of the royals, the fecklessness of the priests, the brutality of life in the 5th Century all are made so realistic. We all know the story of Arthur and Guinevere but this one brings these fabled characters to such a vivid, lifelike existence. Arthur’s dream of a just and fair society comes briefly to life and then is challenged on all sides. A timeless story.
Profile Image for Richard.
449 reviews102 followers
December 28, 2015

A good finale to this Arthurian trilogy but it was probably the weakest of the three overall. The pacing seemed slower than the previous novels and not a great deal happened over the duration of this book with a somewhat disappointing ending.

That being said, the characters are the usual high standard with a few pantomime style villains, the good guys who gleam and then the pagans and Christians feuding for land and people/worshippers. The main highlights of the book were the interactions between characters but this was closely followed by the few big battles that took place. I particularly enjoyed the one on one duels that took place.

The pacing in between these great moments were more noticeable here than the last novels with certain slow parts where I could read over a night and nothing much would happen. The ending also seemed to be more like a candle flame dwindling out as supposed to a Big Bang style ending meaning the impact at the end dampened my feelings for this one too.

Overall this was a disappointing ending to the trilogy but that is only because the previous two novels were of a much higher standard. I'd recommend this series to anyone interested on a different take (I.e. A more grounded version) of King Arthur but just don't expect Merlin to be like Harry Potter and his wand. I'll definitely be picking up the Saxon series by Cromwell in the future.

If you like this try: "Gates of Fire" by Steven Pressfield
Profile Image for Megan.
1,190 reviews73 followers
January 6, 2018
Such a strong finish to a great trilogy. I loved the rehabilitation of Guinevere, and some of the battles were pretty epic. But at various points, time passed maybe a little too quickly for my liking, and while I'm not disappointed in how things played out, I was expecting this book to be a 5 star read. If I'm honest, it fell a little short for me.

Still, a great read, and a fantastic trilogy! Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kyle Erickson.
331 reviews128 followers
March 17, 2022
9/10 or 4.5/5 for those who insist on stars.

This book is still really good. The ending is excellent. The melancholy is well done. The writing is still moving and evocative. But it's my least favorite due to some plot decisions that I just didn't love. I still highly recommend this trilogy and it is now my go-to recommendation for people who like fantasy to try historical fiction.
Profile Image for Andy.
410 reviews67 followers
October 6, 2018
Onto the final book in the trilogy & the conclusion.

We start C 525AD, again following on with the story right after the prior book.

You’ll know all the characters by now so no need to go over them & I’ll not give to much (if any) away, because even if you think you know the legend of Arthur from other stories, films or television this creation by Cornwell has crafted the lore into a credible story which deserves to be read unspoiled & so I think i’ll leave this review at that......... Although.....

Jus one more thing...... an added interest that I must remark on before I wrap up, are some of the locations which are used in the books........ like, I’ll walk down my road and look across the bay to see the Isles of the dead (Portland) and 8 miles up the road we have Durnovaria (Dorchester) which is great & I recognise most of the other places too that have been used. And great to see that Mai Dun (Maiden Castle – Iron Age fort 7 miles away) gets to perform on stage in this novel. I could jus imagine the scene on the old hill fort – I’m long overdue a re-visit of the hill.

4.25 Stars..... for this one as it did slow in pace at times but all in all a very enjoyable series neatly wrapped up in a more than plausible style – A full 5 stars for the series from me.
Profile Image for Ned Ludd.
696 reviews16 followers
October 23, 2017
I think Martin put it best - ‘The best battle scenes of any writer I’ve ever read, past or present.’ A gripping tale of love, courage and betrayal. Highly recommended !
Profile Image for Μαρία Γεωργοπούλου.
Author 4 books81 followers
August 19, 2019
ΥΠΕΡΟΧΟ!!! Απλά ΚΑΤΑΠΛΗΚΤΙΚΟ!!! Η ολοκλήρωση της τριλογίας του Αρθούρου με άφησε κατεστραμμένη γιατί θα ήθελα να έχει και άλλο!
Για ακόμα μία φορά, δεν μπορώ να περιγράψω τα συναισθήματά μου για αυτή την τριλογία. Οι εξαιρετικές περιγραφές που δείχνουν την εμπεριστατωμένη έρευνα του συγγραφέα και ο τρόπος που περιγράφονται οι χαρακτήρες, κάνουν την ανάγνωση αυτών των βιβλίων μία αξέχαστη εμπειρία.
Ένιωθα την αγωνία των πρωταγωνιστών, έκλαψα μαζί τους και ήθελα να πολεμήσω στο τείχος των ασπίδων που έφτιαχνε ο Ντέρβελ. Ήθελα να βοηθήσω τον Αρθρούρο, να μιλήσω με την Κένγουιν και την Γκουίνεβιρ και να δω τον Μέρλιν να προσπαθεί να φέρει τους Παλαιούς Θεούς πίσω στη Βρετανία.
Στο τέλος έκλαψα και δεν ξέρω αν αυτό έγινε εξαιτίας της τελευταίας σκηνής ή της στεναχώριας μου για το γεγονός πως τελείωσε η καλύτερη τριλογία που έχω διαβάσει ποτέ!
Με λίγα λόγια, το αστείρευτο ταλέντο του συγγραφέα με έκανε μέρος της ιστορίας και είναι ό, τι καλύτερο μπορεί να μου συμβεί όταν διαβάζω ένα βιβλίο!
Profile Image for Велислав Върбанов.
294 reviews21 followers
August 8, 2022
Изключително силен финал на „Сказание за Артур“! Тази страхотна трилогия пренася читателите в сурови времена на тежки битки и интриги, описва възходите и паденията не само на кралства, но и на религии, както и изгражда силни персонажи, които си заслужава да бъдат запомнени! Артур, Дерфел и техните семейства не намират спокойствие дори след епичната битка срещу саксите при Минид Бадън, а отново са изправени пред огромни опасности… Гуинивиър много израства като личност в тази книга… Със сигурност ще си препрочитам трилогията след време, тъй като носи много силни емоции и теми за размисъл! Бърнард Корнуел пише страшно увлекателно… мисля че ще се превърне в един от любимите ми автори!

„Кралят на зимата“:

„Врагът на Господа“:
Profile Image for Terri.
529 reviews251 followers
October 9, 2011
Okay now, 3 stars, it looks odd I know. I rarely 3 stars Bernard Cornwell books. This time however, I felt no connection to the book and I found it borderline uninspiring. I don't know if this is because I read it right after book 2 in this series, Enemy of God, or whether the book actually was boring and there is no excuse, but there you have it. A guilty 3 star rating. I feel dirty now.

NB: this was also a reread. Read many years ago and I couldn't recall any of it. I think perhaps I was bored with it when I read it a decade ago too, hence the lack of memories.
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