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The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman, Robert K. Massie
Excalibur - Bernard Cornwell 5 Stars without a doubt. I did not want this book and series to end. What a story! This tale of Arthur will challenge your ability to read any other Camelot story. The characters feel real, the setting believable, the political intrigues constant and the battles gory. A taste of the battle scenes:

“It is the beguiling glory of war, the sheer exhilaration of breaking a shield wall and slaking a sword on a hated enemy. I watched Arthur, a man as kind as any I have known, and saw nothing but joy in his eyes. Galahad, who prayed each day that he could obey Christ’s commandment to love all men, was now killing them with a terrible efficiency…Gwydre was grinning behind his cheekpieces, while Taliesin was singing as he killed the enemy wounded left behind by our advancing shield wall. You do not win the fight of the shield wall by being sensible and moderate, but by a Godlike rush of howling madness.”

What makes this book a 5-Star is the brilliant evocation of a turning point in history. The Roman Empire left Britain a generation ago and now the Saxons (and Aengles) are invading in growing numbers. Christianity, introduced by the Romans is also invading, conflicting with the pagan Druidic belief system. The native Briton tribes are fighting among themselves. The Dark Ages are coming and some perceive the darkness descending inexorably. Add in Arthur, Merlin and all the others, along with new characters and Cornwell’s great writing and you have something special. The treachery of the royals, the fecklessness of the priests, the brutality of life in the 5th Century all are made so realistic. We all know the story of Arthur and Guinevere but this one brings these fabled characters to such a vivid, lifelike existence. Arthur’s dream of a just and fair society comes briefly to life and then is challenged on all sides. A timeless story.