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The Singing Sword by Jack Whyte
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The Singing Sword (1996)

by Jack Whyte

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Camulod Chronicles (2), A Dream of Eagles (2)

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8551010,470 (4.02)12
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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
good book, history with authors people in it. ( )
  donagiles | Nov 1, 2012 |
This is the second book in the Camulod Chronicles, which began in The Skystone. The book deals with the legend of King Arthur, but unlike other treatments of the material I've read, it's entirely realistic, with none of the fantastical--that, in fact is it's fascination. I haven't read the series by Bernard Cornwall or Stephen Lawhead, so maybe they're in that vein, but even the novels by Mary Stewart that put the stories in the Dark Ages Romano-British context had elements of fantasy--let alone more tradition approaches such as the stories by T.H. White. But in Whyte's story, if the sword Excalibur is special, its because it was smelted from a meteorite and forged by a master smith. And the Lady of the Lake? Well, she has a purely realistic explanation too we learned in the first book.

This book starts off right from where the last one began, in the twilight of the Roman Empire. And in fact, if I rate this a bit lower, it's because it does feel so much like a continuation, and so not as novel in its impact. It shares the same virtues and drawbacks--and narrator--as the last book. This is the account of Publius Varrus, a former Roman legionnaire and the man who will forge Excalibur. Whyte in my estimation as good a writer as Mary Stewart or T.H. White who were both strong prose stylists. The information isn't always woven in that naturally, and I'm not ever struck by passages I'd love to highlight or dogear.

But I did, just as with the last book, find myself fascinated by the depiction of the Roman Empire falling apart and the beginning of a new era. If the last one was notable for it's picture of the political and military, this one is interesting for what I learned, for instance, of the challenge of Pelagius to the Christian orthodoxy established by St Augustine. Also here you see the beginnings of knights--in the development of heavy cavalry, the visor, the stirrup and the lance. And while the last book merely set the backdrop of late Roman Britain, and you had to depend on the back of the book to learn Varrus would be Arthur's great-grandfather, in this book we finally begin to see the emergence of the age of Camelot with the birth of Merlyn and Uther. I'm certainly still interested in reading more of the series. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Nov 22, 2011 |
This is the second book in Whyte's Camulod Chronicles, a saga of the Arthurian Legend. These are historical novels, as opposed to the fantasy books that generally populate the Arthurian genre.

This book follows Publius Varrus, as did the last one. He's a blacksmith, but also the leader of the army at the Colony. They run into a spot of trouble at the Colony, thanks to an old foe, but once that is cleared up, they make some very powerful friends. The threat of Saxon raiders comes closer to home in this book as does the need for true laws at the Colony. All of this is setting things up for that which is to come. You know it's a long series when Merlyn isn't born until the end of the second book.

Arthurian legend is one of my favorite genres of all time. This deep-seated love is borne of an awesome Brit Lit class my junior year in high school. Mrs. Nixon introduced me to The Once and Future King by T.H. White and I was hooked. My home library has not been the same since. I started this particular series believing that it was a trilogy. Learning my mistake after I had already finished the first novel, I was fully set to continue with the series anyway. The first had me drawn in that much, even though there wasn't a single character in it who I knew from all my other readings in the genre. The same is true mostly of The Singing Sword until Merlyn and Uther Pendragon (cousins) are born at the end of the book.

My point is that the story and the history and the anticipation of my beloved story are all well enough to keep me interested. I knew that the metal from the skystone would become Excalibur, how could it not? The joy is in getting there, in learning about the end of Roman Britain and the rise of all the warrior-kings. I'm thoroughly engrossed in Whyte's telling of how these historical facts intermingle with the Arthurian legend.

I just started book three. I can't wait to see where this leads me. ( )
  Jessiqa | Aug 17, 2011 |
Oh I just loved this book, this series is turning out to be utterly fantastic! This is the second book in the Camulod series about the beginnings of the Arthurian legend. I thought the first book good but this was excellent. Every chapter had me in it grip from start to finish. You are drawn into the story through the eyes of Publius Varrus, great grand father of Arthur (who does not exist yet!) written in the first person. You can see the story unfolding little by little. The Singing Sword brings into existance 'Excaliber'. You simply have to read this series! ( )
  Glorybe1 | Apr 28, 2011 |
Book 2 of a King Arthur retelling for those who like their legends with hearty dollops of sex & violence. Fascinating conjecture on the possible historical roots of Arthurian romances. Fun, quick read. Dreadful literature. Rosemary Sutcliff's YA historical novels are much superior.

From speeches at the wedding Arthur's grandparents - a Celtic Prince and a daughter of an aristocratic Roman family:
"'Today, we make a new beginning, a complete departure from the ways of old, and yet we will do it in a way that keeps the best of the old ways - the best of the Celtic ways and the best of the Roman ways.'" (pg. 466)
"'For the children of this marriage will be ours, the best of all of us, combined in strength! The start of a new people - named by us, and not by foreigners! Their children - our children! - will be the people of Britain. Not Romans, not Celts, not Belgae or Dumnonii but BRITONS!'" (pg. 468)

The iron-worker, Publius Varrus, invents a weapon for use by soldiers on horseback, the new and revolutionary way of making war.
The swords "were beautifully made, their blades long and lethal, their hilts heavy, elongated and weighted at the ends by large pommels. They balanced perfectly..... a cavalry sword, not meant for a man on foot." (pp. 441-2)
One exceptional sword is made from the unearthly metal of a meteorite.
"'Excalibur. That's its name. That's what I've called the sword. That's what it is.'
"Plautus blinked at me. 'Excalibur? .... I've never heard it before.'
"....'It's never been said before. Calibur - qalibr - is the north African desert people's word for a mould. This came out of a mould....' .... Minutely graduated lines rippled like water-marks along each side of the long blade, flowing outward from the thick central spine to edges sharper than any I had ever known, reflecting the light in their patterns and showing where the metal had been folded upon itself and beaten times without number during the tempering process." (pg. 517)
  maryoverton | Apr 24, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jack Whyteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bini, SusannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The tribune recognized the first signs from more than a mile away, just as the road dropped down from the ridge to enter the trees: a whirlpool of hawks and carrion-eaters, spiralling above the treetops of the forest ahead of him.
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Book description
The Camulod Chronicles

The legions have departed. The last vestiges of Roman authority are gone and a thriving colony that has lasted for more than four hundred ears is poised on the brink of destruction.

Publius Varrus and Caius Britannicus are two Romans who choose to stay, choose to fight for their adopted land. They will build a hill-top fort that will withstand the onslaughts of the barbarians who seek to plunder Britain's wealth.

Out of their struggles a new Britain and a new people will emerge - Britons who are a carefully crafted alloy, a tempered fusion of Roman and Celtic greatness.

And one thing more...

These two men are great-grandfathers to the man known as Arthur, King of the Britons, and their actions will help shape a nation - and forge the sword known as Excalibur.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765304589, Paperback)

We know the legends: Arthur brought justice to a land that had known only cruelty and force; his father, Uther, carved a kingdom out of the chaos of the fallen Roman Empire; the sword Excalibur, drawn from stone by England's greatest king.

But legends do not tell the whole tale. Legends do not tell of the despairing Roman soldiers, abandoned by their empire, faced with the choice of fleeing back to Rome, or struggling to create a last stronghold against the barbarian onslaughts from the north and east. Legends do not tell of Arthur's great-grandfather, Publius Varrus, the warrior who marked the boundaries of a reborn empire with his own shed blood; they do not tell of Publius's wife, Luceiia, British-born and Roman-raised, whose fierce beauty burned pale next to her passion for law and honor.

With The Camulod Chronicles, Jack Whyte tells us what legend has forgotten: the history of blood and violence, passion and steel, out of which was forged a great sword, and a great nation. The Singing Sword continues the gripping epic begun in The Skystone: As the great night of the Dark Ages falls over Roman Britain, a lone man and woman fight to build a last stronghold of law and learning--a crude hill-fort, which one day, long after their deaths, will become a great city . . . known as Camelot.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:19 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

We know the legends: Arthur, who brought justice to a land that had known only cruelty and force; his father, Uther, who had carved a kingdom out of the chaos of the fallen Roman Empire; the sword Excalibur, drawn from stone by England's greatest king. But legends do not tell the whole tale. Legends do not tell of the despairing Roman soldiers, abandoned by their empire, faced with the choice of fleeing back to Rome or struggling to create a last stronghold against barbarian onslaughts from the north and the east. Legends do not tell of Arthur's great-grandfather, Publius Varrus, the warrior who marked the boundaries of a reborn empire with his own shed blood; they do not tell of Publius' wife, Luceiia, British-born and Roman-raised, whose fierce beauty burned pale next to her passion for law and honor. The Singing Sword continues the gripping epic begun in The Skystone. As the great night of the Dark Ages falls over Roman Britain, a lone man and woman fight to build a last stronghold of law and learning - a crude hill-fort which one day, long after their deaths, will become a great city; a crude hill-fort which one day will be known as Camelot.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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