‘Enemy of God’ by Bernard Cornwell

Much of what I said about the first book in The Warlord Chronicles holds true.  There’s my delight in the viscera and the lack of anachronistic romanticism of most Arthurian retellings.  There’s the silliness and openness in the narrative character of Derfel.  I can’t write much more on that, and really I should stop gushing and just move on to the next one.  So, a quick note of the most striking parts:

What I came away from the final chapters with was a sense of pathos and adumbration handled well.  There’s tragedy in the death of a child and in the echoes of past mistakes cascading into terrible sorrows.  I hate most uses of tropes that tug on heartstrings, but these tragedies aren’t overplayed or milked for effect.  They are handled well and without lingering uneccessarily.  The politics and the fallibility of emotional humans in positions of power – and the unfairness of birth and circumstance as shown through the cruel abuse of position exercised by Lancelot – is tied very well in to the progressing parallel stories of Derfel’s past and present.

What I liked best, though, was that even as many characters are settling into a Pagan versus Christian mentality there are levels of fanaticism and rationality displayed in members of both religion.  Especially in Arthurian storytelling, one side or another tends to be glorified or vilified, and I am head over heels in love with how reasonably well Cornwell has handled inter-religious tension and conflict in this book.

I think mainly, though, in any historically set fiction, I spend more time cringing at the dialogue and world-building and inaccuracies than I do reading the damned books.  To not be swearing, frowning, and rolling my eyes every ten seconds is such a welcome change that I have no guilt over how smitten I am by Enemy of God.  If I make it to the lifeline bookfair, I’m going to keep an eye out for my own copy of this series.


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