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Group Read Discussions > May 2015: The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell - SPOILERS ALLOWED

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message 1: by Becky, Moddess (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) | 3437 comments Mod
New group read time... Doing things a little differently this time and posting a set of threads - one for spoilers, and one without. This is the SPOILER thread, where you can post anything you want without fear that you will be spoiling someone else, because they have already been warned by the title. ;)

Please remember to UNCHECK the "Add to my update feed" box below the comment box, though. That will prevent you posting spoilers out to your feed and making your friends and followers angry! :D


Peggyzbooksnmusic | 683 comments I started this a few days ago and even though I'm only about 15% in I can see that I'm going to like this novel and hope to eventually read the next 2 books in this series.


message 3: by Susan (new)

Susan (susanconder) | 47 comments I agree, Peggy. I was charmed by the opening sentence: "Once upon a time, in a land that was called Britain, these things happened."

I was a little intimidated by the 4-page list of characters but the writing is so good it has been easy to keep them straight so far.


Peggyzbooksnmusic | 683 comments Cornwell is one of my favorite authors. I've read all of his Richard Sharpe series Sharpe's Tiger. and a few other stand alones.

Have to admit that I had a some difficulty in the beginning with all of the characters but that is probably due to reading at night when I'm tired :D

I'm at the point where Arthur is finally in the story and am wondering when Merlin will appear.


message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan (susanconder) | 47 comments I'm at about that same point, too.

This is my first Cornwell but several are on my TBR list.


message 6: by Kate (new)

Kate Quinn | 544 comments This trilogy is my favorite of all Cornwell's books, and BC is one of my favorites. Something interesting about this book is an interview I read where Cornwell says he thinks he messed up the opening of this book, saying "I got too involved in setting up a world, when I should have been getting on with the plot."

So if anybody thinks the opening 60 pages or so are a tad slow, hang in there - once Arthur storms onto the scene, it's all off to the races!


message 7: by Eric (new)

Eric (eric_g) | 6 comments I am interested in what you all think about the historical nature of this book. In this respect I was a bit disappointed. In the notes, Cornwell lists a few sources, mainly describing the origin of the Arthur myth. Are there historians (or aficionados) here in the group who know what kingdoms, battles, etc. are based on history?
I think my lack of historical knowledge in this period combined with the mythical and druid magical aspects of the book make me feed more like I am reading fantasy than historical fiction. Did that bother anyone else?


message 8: by Anne (new)

Anne Ipsen | 120 comments What bothers me about Cornwell's books is the constant bloody fighting. I have tried several but they all emphasize the violence over the history, the warrior over the ordinary person. I can't even tell you which ones I've read for they all seem the same. I will be interested to find out if this book (or another of his) is different.


Peggyzbooksnmusic | 683 comments Sorry, I deleted my previous post as I forgot to uncheck the "Add to my Update Feed". Here is that post:

Since I've read Bernard Cornwell before, I was not surprised at the amount of violence in his writings. My feelings on that are that it brings out how terrible war is no matter where or when in history the battles take place. But I have to agree that so far in this book Cornwell seems to be more suited to writing about the historical events then "fleshing out" the personalities of the characters. Maybe that is because this is only a trilogy? I read all 20 of his Richard Sharpe books and became very attached to the main characters.

Has anyone here read The Crystal Cave series by Mary Stewart? I read the first 3 in the series back in the 1970's and I don't remember Guinevere and Lancelot being so unlikeable but that may be due to my poor memory.


message 10: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 5 comments Eric wrote: "I am interested in what you all think about the historical nature of this book. In this respect I was a bit disappointed. In the notes, Cornwell lists a few sources, mainly describing the origin ..."

I've gone back and forth with similar thoughts, I am curious as to the history behind the battles and what if any tie directly to the book. That said I've actually been impressed with the way Cornwell has handled magic and myth in this because that would have been in the early time period how people really felt about their world and the influence of the gods. It does read like sci fi at points, but I feel like it does perhaps the closest thing to justice that we can get to how people probably felt.


Peggyzbooksnmusic | 683 comments I've finished the book and rated it 4 stars. I felt the story picked up once Arthur was introduced. Since this took place in what is now considered the "Dark Ages" I give the author a pass on basically changing the legend. I'm no historian but from the little I've read it seems that there is much disagreement on some of the historical details that have been handed down through time in the re-telling of this legend. Plus so little was actually written, most was simply passed down verbally and is up for debate.


message 12: by Eric (new)

Eric (eric_g) | 6 comments Sarah, I agree with you on the magic and myth for the most part. I liked that the magical aspects of it were not describing actual magical effects, but rather people's beliefs and fears regarding magic. However, there were a few times when it seemed like more that that. For example, there was Derfel's hand pulsating whenever he got close to Nimue. Perhaps I should chalk those few incidents up to an unreliable narrator.

And, Peggy, I also agree that Cornwell has every right to change the legend as he wishes. I very much like his idea of re-writing it as it might have really been. I just wish that the book had illuminated a little more of the dark ages than perhaps is possible, or that his notes were a little more explicit in what parts of the story were historical versus imagined (apart from the legend itself).


Peggyzbooksnmusic | 683 comments @Eric, Yes, it would have been great if Cornwell would have added more notes. Since there are 2 more books in the series, I wonder if he'll elaborate more on his decisions with those books. Also he might not want to add anything to book #1 notes that might be considered spoilers in #2 & #3?


message 14: by Donna (last edited May 14, 2015 06:16PM) (new)

Donna | 224 comments I like this SPOILERS ALLOWED thread. I need to vent.

This was just okay for me....I will add a star because I did the audio and it was well done. The reader did a great acting job.

This wasn't my kind of book though. All the casting of curses, the superstitions...are not my thing. This was heavy on the narrative, but the plot construction seemed well thought out. It was also heavy on the violence and fighting and not so much on the characters and their developmental process. The men just seemed like boys in mens' clothing acting out on the battle field, fighting over stupid stuff.

This was a different take on King Arthur and Merlin. I admire the author's initiative, but it didn't work for me. The male MC just seemed a little too perfect. He was always the savior or always being saved in the nick of time. He was always sought out and rewarded, yada yada yada. And of course that leads to the next thing.....all women were whores. And not only that, we are told several times (over and over and over) that they were whores. "I got it. I got it already," turned into an often repeated mantra. If they deleted that word, this book would be at least 24 pages shorter.


message 15: by Anne (new)

Anne Ipsen | 120 comments Donna wrote: "I like this SPOILERS ALLOWED thread. I need to vent.

This was just okay for me....I will add a star because I did the audio and it was well done. The reader did a great acting job.

This wasn't ..."


I'm glad I didn't bother--definitely not my kind of book.


message 16: by Kate (new)

Kate Quinn | 544 comments Hmm, I don't know that all the women were characterized as whores. They are certainly called whores by men who don't like them (Nimue, Guinevere), but I always took that as less the author's statement on the women than his statement on the men who judge them, i.e. back then as it is today, slinging the word "whore" at a woman is still the go-to insult.


message 17: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) | 278 comments Anne wrote: "What bothers me about Cornwell's books is the constant bloody fighting...I will be interested to find out if this book (or another of his) is different."

It's less violent than Agincourt. But I was made uncomfortable by the horrible vengeance in the last pages, which I didn't feel we the audience were asked to be critical of. I.e., I felt I was asked to get in and enjoy it, he being the bad guy. Maybe I'm hung up. I often enough dislike how violence is done.

Still, I liked this better than other BCs I've tried.


message 18: by Eric (new)

Eric (eric_g) | 6 comments This is only the second BC novel I have read, the first being The Last Kingdom. In both, he does seem to focus on the battles and the violence, and I understand that is his forte in other books as well. I do not mind the violence per se, because I think I can be just as interested in the drama on a battlefield as I can about a pure character piece.

However, I sympathize with Anne in that the fight scenes in these books are so interchangeable. And that brings me back to my criticism of the historical nature here. Are there really no differences in how Saxons, Britons and Danes conducted warfare over those centuries? I am no authority on the matter, but I think for a book that focuses on those aspects of the period, I am not learning anything, and that undermines a large part of what attracts me to historical fiction.


message 19: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) | 278 comments You asked earlier, Eric, whether we consider this fantasy or hf: it's fantasy to me, historical fantasy if you like, so I had less to do to suspend disbelief than with his The Last Kingdom (which just doesn't capture Anglo-Saxon England for me -- although this is a matter of interpretations).


message 20: by C.P. (new)

C.P. Lesley (cplesley) | 673 comments Is it possible to write historical fiction about Arthur? That's news to me!

I don't think we know anything about Arthur beyond what's in Mallory. Archeological stuff about the world he purportedly lived in, sure, but Arthur himself? No.


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