Enemy of God
By Bernard Cornwell
St. Martin’s Press
Enemy of God is the second book in the Warlord series by Cornwell. It picks up where The Winter King left off with Derfel telling the story of Arthur to Queen Igraine of Powys, his patron.
In The Winter King, Arthur was working to protect the child Mordred, the eventual leader of Dumnonia, and to secure peace in the land he loves. In Enemy of God, that peace has been secured but there are still battles to be fought — some with the Saxons and many with Arthur’s own family and friends.
Derfel, who has an everlasting trust in Merlin, goes with him in search of Britain’s greatest treasure, the Cauldron of Clyddno Eiddyn, which Merlin believes will bring the gods back to the land. Derfel is reunited with his love, Ceinwyn, during this time and while it’s not always a happy or easy life for him, you can’t help but admire him and want to hear his story.
We also learn more about Arthur and Guinevere, their sad love story, and how it brings the ruin of what many people, but mostly Guinevere, referred to as Camelot. Oddly, you’ll also notice that the 10 years of peace that Arthur brings to the land are still rife with fighting, just smaller scale but it’s still there and Derfel doesn’t let the reader forget it was a rough life. The ending is full of betrayal and brings about a change in Arthur, less kind and more brutal but justified — the emergence of the warlord leader you have been waiting for. He is no longer protecting the land for Mordred who is now grown and assumed the thrown, but fighting in his own name for his own cause.
The rise of Christianity and the fall of the Pagan gods drives a good portion of the story. I found the small rituals that each character performs to ward off evil and ill-luck from the other religion fascinating. I don’t think I’ve read about so many people spitting, crossing themselves, and touching iron in any other book. The good part here, is that it’s part of who these characters are and adds to the story without distracting attention.
I’m working my way through this series for the Arthurian Challenge and I’m loving it. I’ve had the pleasure of being able to read all three book back to back which has kept the story going without interruption making it very easy to just open the book and get lost. If you’re looking for a good historical read, Cornwell delivers with this series. Even if you’re not an Arthur fan, it still works very well providing a picture of life that’s just brutal but so satisfying.