Enemy of God – Bernard Cornwell
The second book of the Warlord Chronicles, Enemy of God takes this epic Arthurian story up another notch. The political manoeuvrings, personal quests, mix of diverse personalities, and the unpredictable relationships between male and female characters, makes for captivating reading.
The compelling feature of this novel is the extent and depth of how characters are developed and how the plot is full of unique twists and surprises. Within this environment of hidden machinations and power struggles, Arthur is winning battles he feels he needs to fight and striking alliances where he can. His vision is a unified Britain that can defend against the Saxon invasions. While his war strategy can be clever, personal relationships often deteriorate which harbour resentment and retaliation.
Derfel narrates the story from a first-person perspective and it was very clever to create him as a new character (within the context of the traditional Arthur story) without preconceived baggage. Derfel is highly trusted by Arthur, not only for his loyalty but his capability to deliver on Arthur’s plans. He finds himself appointed Lord Derfel, Dumnonia’s Champion and betrothed to Guinevere’s sister Gwenhwyvach, although he is oath-bound to Ceinwyn. Derfel finds himself responsible for assisting in the upbringing of Mordred who is becoming a nasty, evil and unforgiving heir to the throne.
The story arcs around Arthur, Guinevere, Derfel, Lancelot, Ceinwyn, Galahad, and Merlin are superb and weave together with such masterful storytelling. The love triangles are enthralling, where promises and oaths are fickle and risk of conflict threatens with destructive consequences.
The religious struggle between the old pagan gods and the growing influence of Christianity is very intriguing. Merlin as a Druid is on a quest to find the Cauldron of Clyddno Eiddyn.
“The Cauldron was the greatest Treasure of Britain, the magical gift of the old gods, and it had been lost for centuries. Merlin’s life was dedicated to retrieving those Treasures, and the Cauldron was his greatest prize. If he could find the Cauldron, he told us, he could restore Britain to her rightful Gods.”
Derfel finds himself torn between both beliefs and prays at pagan shrines while later becoming a Christian monk. Arthur is also someone who tries to play a delicate noncommittal game between the old and new gods. Unfortunately, the Christians intent on seizing eradicating false gods recognise him as the enemy of their god.
The enchanting writing style is engaging and the story-telling is exceptional, with a magnetism that prevents you from setting the book down. I normally expect the middle book in a trilogy to slacken from the first book and allow a build-up to the last but this one is better and I’m excited to see what awaits in the third. I highly recommend this book and couldn’t contemplate giving anything less than 5 stars.