King Arthur: Warrior of the West
This is the second volume in the King Arthur trilogy. The book opens twelve years after Artor (Arthur) has been crowned High King. However peace remains unstable while Glamdring Ironfist, a fierce Saxon leader continues to attack Artor’s domain. A bloody battle and a swift, successful siege remove the threat to the kingdom, and the King and his people settle down to a time of tranquillity. Artor is advised by Myrddion Merlinus, his chief counselor, to take a wife in order to beget an heir. Recognising the strategic need he agrees to marry Wenhaver. Their marriage is a disaster from the outset. Wenhaver is a spoilt, vindictive and cruel young woman who quickly alienates Artor. They become estranged, with Artor spending all his time on his kingly duties, while Wenhaver deliberately seduces Gawayne, a young knight in Artor’s household At the same time, Merlinus has fallen for Nimue and as the book closes they leave Artor and the strained atmosphere of the royal court, thus fulfilling part of the prophecy about the end of Artor’s reign.
Arthur is no idealized king – he is ruthlessly pragmatic, doing whatever is necessary to ensure the survival of his kingdom. Arthurian purists may raise their eyebrows at the portrayal of Guinevere – sorry, Wenhaver (I must admit that before the book was over I wanted to have her executed), but she is a victim of her upbringing. Throw in a mass murderer, well written battle scenes and crisp dialogue and you have an entertaining, pacey read. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next instalment – even if it is just to see Wenhaver get her comeuppance!