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The Skystone by Jack Whyte
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I can't beleave that I enjoyed a military book, it had just the right amount of people & their life to keep me reading. The resurch that went into such a book had to be huge. What it took to change lives and history , things we take for granted is astounding , what we learn today with out experanceing and take for truth is mind blowing. The fact of writing & reording teaches us & future people , most with out understanding the why & how of everyday life things is so accepted, we are lost without these teachings. ( )
  donagiles | Oct 29, 2012 |
Skystone by Jack Whyte, is the first in a series set late 4th to early 5th century in Britain. It is a much grittier and violent version of the Arthur Legends.

Caius Britannicus, a Roman Patriarch born in Britain, held the long view that Rome was rotting at the core and would soon be forced to withdraw her troops from outlying posts to defend Rome. Even before retiring from the Legions, he began planning and preparing his lands for the vacuum in power which would follow withdrawal of the Legions from Britain.

What I love most about this series is the underlying theme of nation building, laying the very foundations and rules of law upon which Britain would be born. To this was added the wedding of the Celtic royal line with the Roman to create a new people.

What I have struggled the most with is the overwhelming thrust of a much harsher and violent time. Whyte makes no excuses for the archaic belief systems and behavior of his characters, good guys and bad guys alike. ( )
  cfk | Sep 4, 2012 |
The work of Arthurian literature that captured my imagination as a teen was Mary Stewart's Crystal Cave about Merlin--it was even assigned to me in high school. My knowledge up to then of King Arthur was that he was pure fantasy. Although there are fantasy elements in Stewart's tale, what fascinated me is that she did root him in the history of the Dark Ages after Rome's fall, much as Mary Renault had done for the Bronze Age Theseus in The King Must Die. Later I'd fall in love with T.H. White's Once and Future King, which bases itself on legend rather than history, with overt fantasy and anachronistic medieval touches. And I loved that book greatly as well. Both works are by first-rate authors, and feature absolutely skillfully woven narrative and beautiful prose.

That's not the case with Whyte's Camulod Chronicles. The style is decent enough, and the first person voice of Publius Varrus is engaging enough to propel me through, but there's no doubt in my mind he's not a writer in the same league as Stewart and White. But what I did find so fascinating in this book was that this is at the opposite end of the spectrum from T.H. White. Jack Whyte scrubs away all the fantastical elements of the legend, writing us a story of Camelot that might have been from all we know of history. And seeing the familiar elements of the legend from that perspective is fascinating. The skystone of the title, for instance, is a meteor that makes the raw material for what becomes Excalibur.

There's no mention of an Arthur or Merlin or Guinevere here yet--not even of Arthur's parents Uther or Ygraine. The back of the book tells us Publius Varrus and his former commander Caius Britannicus are two great-grandfathers of Arthur. This book covers from 369AD, when there was a major incursion of Scots and Picts over the Hadrian Wall to 388AD, when Maximus, a commander in Britain, tried to become Emperor. So this book ends over a hundred years before the time King Arthur (if he existed) flourished.

I also loved the picture of the era, how rich Whyte made his world. So much is brought in to evoke the fading Roman world. Part One works well as a work of military fiction dealing with Publius' and Caius' time as officers in the Roman legions. But the rest of the book deals with Publius' work as a smith and the growing idea of "the Colony" in Western Britain set up as a haven where the best of Roman civilization can survive the coming invasions that Caius foresees. The book takes in economic and political forces, metallurgy, sciences, engineering. Some complain it's infodumpy and takes in a centuries later perspective it wasn't possible for those in the crumbling empire to foresee, but I found it fascinating for how it all tied into Arthurian legend from dragons to the Lady of the Lake into a strictly realistic tale. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Nov 17, 2011 |
The first book in an amazing series. I had never read that much on the Arthur Legend or been that interested in it. My dad gave these to me in high school and I blew through them. They are written as historical fiction taking away some of the "magic" of the lore and turning it into a story and the history of a family that may have actually occurred.This novel starts a few generations before Merlin. My only complaint is that they have ruined me for other Arthur books because they so thoroughly convince you that Whytes version of the tale is what actually occured ( )
  reb922 | Mar 31, 2011 |
I loved this book, which is the first in a series about the Arthurian legend. This first book takes you back to before Arthur, to the time when Romans were in control of Britain. It is written in the first person by Publius Varrus a Roman soldier who is a very early ancestor of Arthurs, and is a fantastic introduction to the rest of the series. Full of descriptons of Roman military life as well as the ordinary working man which Publius became when injured and had to leave the army. He had a gift for working with Iron and you can see the lead in to excaliber coming into being.
It also gives a good account to normal Roman life, the villas, servants and lifestyle, of the time. I can't wait for the 2nd book, as this series, I think is going to be a fantastic journey through early British history. ( )
  Glorybe1 | Mar 12, 2011 |
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To my wife, Beverley,
who always believed,
but now can't, quite.
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Today is my sixty-seventh birthday, a hot day in the summer of 410 in the year of our Lord, according to the new Christian system of dating the passage of time.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812551389, Mass Market Paperback)

Everyone knows the story-how Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, how Camelot came to be, and about the power struggles that ultimately destroyed Arthur's dreams. But what of the time before Arthur and the forces that created him?

How did the legend really come to pass?

Before the time of Arthur and his Camelot, Britain was a dark and deadly place, savaged by warring factions of Picts, Celts, and invading Saxons. The Roman citizens who had lived there for generations were suddenly faced with a deadly choice: Should they leave and take up residence in a corrupt Roman world that was utterly foreign, or should they stay and face the madness that would ensue when Britain's last bastion of safety for the civilized, the Roman legions, left?

For two Romans, Publius Varrus and his friend Caius Britannicus, there can be only one answer. They will stay, to preserve what is best of Roman life, and will create a new culture out of the wreckage. In doing so, they will unknowingly plant the seeds of legend-for these two men are Arthur's great-grandfathers, and their actions will shape a nation . . . and forge a sword known as Excalibur.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In 5th Century, two disgruntled Roman soldiers help King Ullic Pendragon create an independent Britain. By the author of The Crystal Cave.

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