Friday, August 1, 2014

Book Read in July 2014

Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell

The second book in Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles was told almost episodically in four parts. The first part was about a war against the Saxons. The second part was a Grail Quest of sorts, re-imagined as a quest to find a pagan cauldron, one of the Treasures of Britain. I found the first two parts underwhelming. Battles get boring to read after a while and this version of the Grail Quest, stripped of all its symbolism and mysticism, was just a prosaic retelling of a fascinating story. Luckily, the last two parts made up for it. The first was about Britain during a short, but peaceful time and the second was about Lancelot's rebellion and Guinevere's betrayal of Arthur. This is when the themes of the gods vs. kings and order vs. chaos really got a chance to shine and the results were fascinating. I love Cornwell's writing style. It's very readable, but also obviously well-researched. I did find it a bit funny that by making Lancelot such a scumbag, the conflict between him and Arthur was a lot more black-and-white than it was in the legends. All of the despicable characters were lumped together conveniently on one side. That's not to say this book in its entirety is black-and-white by any means, but I just thought it was interesting because modern re-tellings like this usually try to make things more "morally complex" than the originals.

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