Series: Warlord Chronicles
Nobody knows the truth about King Arthur. What Cornwell presents here is an historically plausible version of the familiar tales. He's stripped away all the romanticised, magical, mediaeval nonsense. In its place he's given us the story of a warlord struggling to unite the British kingdoms in the wake of the collapse of Roman rule in the face of invasion by the English and the Saxons, and the growing influence of a middle-eastern cult called Christianity. The charactersisation is well-rounded and the evocation of time and place is stunning. Many of the characters and battles refer to real people and events documented in Dark Ages history. Most of the usual Arthurian characters and episodes are present, but re-told within this pre-English British context, e.g. there is no hunt for the Holy Grail, but there is a search for a mystical, Druidic cauldron. Good quality writing, great adventures and a great study of leadership and national identity. The other two books in the series are equally strong, and are highly recommended too.