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Review: The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

The power vacuum left when the Romans retreat from Britain, had been filled by kings and warlords who not only fight amongst themselves but also fight off invading Saxons and Irish warbands. One king, Uther, manages to cobble together a group of kingdoms. But he's dying, and leaves behind him only one legitimate son, Mordredd, born with a club foot. He gets a promise from one of his allies, that he will marry Mordredd's mother, Uther's queen, and act as regent until Mordredd, then only a baby, comes of age.
When Uther dies, the king betrays his promise and attacks, killing Uther's widow and attempting to kill Mordredd. But Merlin's band of Druids and outcasts manages to save and hide the future king.
Into that tableau comes Uther's bastard son Arthur, who had been banished to Amorica and who is now a warlord of great renown. Arthur promises to protect Mordredd and hold the kingdom for his half-brother.
Following the actual historical record (what there is of it), the tale is unlike all the other Arthurian books I've read. There's little brightness in the world of the Dark Ages. It is full of betrayals and endless wars and few men of honor to be found. Even Arthur is flawed and despite his desire to war for peace, he's foiled at almost every turn if not by his own flaws, then by betrayals and impossible odds.
An amazing book. ( )

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