The Winter King
by Bernard Cornwell
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This retelling of Arthurian legend returns to Britain in the Dark Ages and the coming of the greatest king of them all.

All Reviews

4 + 2 in other languages
Topodabiblioteca95Topodabiblioteca95 wrote a review
11
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Romanzo storico da ombrellone con cui ho passato i pomeriggi di inizio estate; si è rivelato una droga :D

Famoso soprattutto per il ciclo dei "Fucili di Sharpe", ambientato durante le guerre napoleoniche, Bernard Cornwell in questa trilogia intitolata "Warlord" ha tentato di rinarrare in modo storicamente plausibile le vicende di Re Artù e dei Cavalieri della Tavola Rotonda. Ed ecco sparire cavalieri, tavola rotonda, imponenti castelli in pietra, amor cortese, Sacro Graal e così via: Artù è ricollocato nel vero contesto storico in cui avrebbe dovuto vivere secondo le leggende, non nel Basso Medioevo coevo ai poeti cortesi ma nella Gran Bretagna del V-VI secolo d.C., decisamente un pessimo posto per viverci - I Romani sono fuggiti e il loro impero è collassato, gli Anglosassoni hanno invaso la metà orientale dell'isola, i Celti romanizzati si sono divisi in reami litigiosi, il Cristianesimo tenta in ogni modo di rimpiazzare la decadente ma ancora viva tradizione druidica...

E in tutto questo Artù figlio di Nessuno è un condottiero del regno celtico di Dumnonia, figlio illegittimo di re Uther Pendragon e tutore dell'erede al trono, il piccolo Mordred (il "re [nato] d'inverno" che dà titolo al libro); attorno a lui si muovono in una sarabanda affascinante e colorata un Merlino decano tra i druidi britanni, signore di una fattoria tra le paludi chiamata Avalon, una Ginevra principessa senza terre, un Lancillotto principe dei Celti di Bretagna, una Morgana discepola di Merlino, un seguito di cavalieri che non siedono a una tavola rotonda, bensì osano combattere lancia in resta prima che siano inventate le staffe - non è un caso che la maggior parte dei Celti e dei Sassoni combatta a piedi in un muro di scudi...

In questo favoloso poiché verisimile scenario di eroismo barbarico, nostalgia per la grandezza romana, tensione tra dèi antichi e nuovi, la narrazione in 1a persona del guerriero dumnoniano Derfel Cadarn accompagna il lettore nel primo atto dell'epopea di Artù, dalla nascita di Mordred alla guerra contro il primo grande nemico del piccolo Re d'Inverno (di certo non vi dico chi è ;) ).

Una narrazione sempre coinvolgente, un'atmosfera unica nel suo genere, personaggi carismatici poiché insieme ben noti e nuovi: tutti motivi per fare di "The winter king" la vostra nuova lettura d'evasione.

NOTA: il sottoscritto ha letto in libro in lingua originale - è un Inglese britannico con un buon numero di termini inusuali (vedi i nomi delle piante usate dai druidi o degli indumenti medioevali), ma ben comprensibile a chi come me ha un livello d'Inglese sopra la media (per intenderci, se avete passato un esame FCE di Cambridge ce la fate). Non prevedo di leggere e valutare la traduzione italiana, ma mi sento di sconsigliarla a chiunque può/vuole leggere l'originale: come già con il ciclo "Cronache del Ghiaccio e del Fuoco" di George R.R. Martin, la Mondadori ha pensato bene di spezzare i libri in più volumi per lucrare di più -_- .
BettieBettie wrote a review
00
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published-1995, winter-20112012, medieval5c-16c, historical-fiction, fraudio, adventure, britain-england, epic-proportions, magicians, mythology
Read from November 27 to December 02, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Set in what we can glean, historically, of the times just after the Romans left Britain, this is a refreshingly approach to Arthur. Realistic blokes in Dark Age warfare, where Merlin in these early mediaeval times is the approximation of a da Vinci in his Renaissance times. No magic, just inspiration and blindingly awesome intelligence.

This is Cornwell so the blood and guts factor highly and with graphic flourish; characters are written to be either very bad or very bad with some nice moments. Wouldn't expect anything else.


Read by Edmund Dehn. Unabridged.

Amazon.com - In Dark Ages Britain, Arthur has been banished and Merlin has disappeared; a child-king sits unprotected on the throne and magic vies with religion for the souls of the people. Going far beyond the usual tales of romance and chivalry, The Winter King introduces us to an Arthur who is both utterly convincing and a true hero: a man of honor, loyalty, and amazing valor; a man who loves Guinevere more passionately than he should; a man whose life is at once tragic and triumphant. This magnificent novel will forever change the way the story of Arthur is told.




1 like
AmpersandAmpersand wrote a review
01
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I don’t know how historically accurate or plausible Cornwell’s depiction of the late fifth, early sixth century in Britain is, but he certainly succeeds in constructing a coherent and convincing Arthurian world. It is a savage place, ravaged by war and disease, by strife between rivalling warlords and competition between different religions. Ruled by superstition and oaths, it is a fairly alien world that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Arthurian society as we see it in medieval romances. There is lots of spitting to avert evil and scores of lice torment our heroes. There are Druids who perform atrocious rituals, sorcerers who style their hairdos with dung, hundreds of heads are lopped off, the skins of virgins are used as shield covers and magic invariably involves the use of blood, body parts, urine or faeces. Recipes are brought to you by Merlin and Nimue, mostly, and you are kindly advised not to try them at home. Now, one thing that distinguishes Cornwell’s treatment of magic from similar scenarios by other writers is that he leaves it up to the reader to determine whether or not all the crazy business with pee, poo and human sacrifices actually produces the least result. The line between the supernatural and the coincidental is never clearly drawn, a choice that allows Cornwell to have sorcerers without drifting off into the realm of fantasy and the all-too-improbable. The result is that magic in the Warlord Chronicles is actually plausible - even if I do remain sceptical about the spells :-).

Actually, the Warlord Chronicles contain quite a few story elements that have the potential of giving me allergic reactions. It has barbarous rituals and a society that seems barely civilised. It has a violent conflict between Pagans and Christians. It proposes a ‘realistic’ look at a society about which we know too little to make accurate assumptions. It uses medieval French and English names of Arthurian characters like Galahad, Agloval and Dagonet (what's with the Dagonet thing? He appears in the King Arthur movie too) and mixes them with old Welsh names like Hygwydd and Emrys and Mynydd Baddon. But reading this trilogy did not give me a rash. The books are skilfully written and well-plotted; the story simply took me along and it worked. I enjoyed it when I first read it more than ten years ago, and despite having become much more critical since, I had a great time rereading it.

In Cornwell’s version, Arthur is not a king and Mordred is not his son. Instead, Mordred is King Uther’s grandson and the legitimate king of Dumnonia, whereas Arthur, Uther’s illegitimate son, is a warlord sworn to protect and support Mordred until he comes of age. Unfortunately Mordred turns out to be less than suitable to rule, and almost everybody urges Arthur to usurp the crown. Arthur, ironically, does not want the crown at all. He has very definite ideas about how the land should be ruled, and as a powerful and successful warlord he could easily seize Dumnonia, but all he really wants is a simple life. Throughout the trilogy he is torn between the oaths he has sworn, the dictates of reason, and his personal longings. He is a man who always acts for the best, but his decisions invariably bring him on a collision course with someone or other - whether it be his clever and ambitious wife Guinevere, his enigmatic former teacher Merlin, the cowardly and vain prince Lancelot, the conniving bishop Sansum or his own best friends Culhwch and Derfel.

Derfel Cadarn is the story’s narrator. Saxon and slave-born, he survives a Druid’s death pit and is subsequently adopted by Merlin, Druid and Lord of Ynys Wydryn. Derfel grows up to be a hardy spearman and warlord staunchly loyal to Arthur. Due to circumstances that I cannot reveal without spoiling a few good plot twists, he eventually becomes a monk, in which capacity he commits Arthur’s story to parchment at the behest of Queen Igraine of Powys. (A Wikipedia search has taught me that there is actually a Catholic saint Derfel Gadarn who was a companion of Arthur’s before he became a monk - I adore that kind of thing.)

The idea of an old man writing down the story of a hero he knew in his youth may not be amazingly original, but in this case it is one of the things that add charm to the series. When Derfel tells of the events he has witnessed, he doesn’t leave out the gory details and refuses to glorify people and events. His benefactress, Queen Igraine, belongs to a younger generation that has already begun to fantasise about Arthur, his reign and the people surrounding him, and she frequently takes Derfel to task for not embellishing his tale or for not telling it the way she has heard it from the poets. As a reader, you get an amusing contrast between a reality that could have been and the legend that we all know.

In my opinion, the story gets better as it moves along; the first book is the one I enjoyed least. As you read on, you see the plot elements come together and situations and characters become more nuanced. Cornwell has a sense of humour that serves to lighten up some of the gloom of his story of a decaying society and he creates several memorable characters - his version of Arthur, Guinevere and Merlin are among my favourite interpretations of the legendary figures.