Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell
This is the second novel in an Arthurian trilogy, following ‘The winter king’, which I read last summer.
When I picked up the book and read the first five or six pages, I felt burdened with trying to remember the events and characters of the previous novel. It was a mental effort, but the effort was rewarded as I persevered. The author quickly developed a new energy in the story, with an early climax, as the narrator, Derfel, claims the hand of the beautiful Ceinwyn, on the very night of her betrothal ceremony to Lancelot. A second story of Merlin’s search for a cauldron carries into the core of the book, and I was hooked again.
The reinterpretation of the Arthurian legends is bold and original. Cornwell develops a complex, believable world, which I judge to be a major achievement. That world is replete with good characterisation, lovely descriptions of nature, shocking violence, convoluted events and conflicting loyalties and political compromises that make it very realistic.
The ‘enemy of God’ in the title is Arthur himself. The growing Christian faction in the country calls him an enemy of God because he has pagan beliefs, or at least refuses to persecute the pagans. The book has a fascinating anti-Christian tone that possibly reflects the views of the author himself. Certainly it gives a very fresh re-interpretation of history and the Arthurian legends, which traditionally paint Arthur as Christian.