By Bernard Cornwell
A stranger appears one day at an old unused temple near Ratharryn. He is not a member of any of the local tribes. He is also injured, and with a little help from the two who found him, soon dies from his wounds. This stranger carried gold with him and it is this gold that will bring forth a feud that will tear brothers apart, inspire religions, and cause war among the local tribes.
Brothers Lengar, Saban, and Camaban have little in common. Lengar is strong, defiant, and always willing to fight; Saban is the peacemaker and builder; and Camaban is unacknowledged by his father and cast out of the tribe because of a deformed foot. Lengar uses fear and brutality to eventually take over the tribe, overthrowing his father and virtually enslaving his own people. He casts Saban out but is unaware of a plan by Camaban to keep him safe until he can return to rule the tribe. In the end, it is Camaban who cleverly uses religion and sorcery to inspire the building of Stonehenge and bring about the near destruction of his people. Saban, who unwillingly shares his brother’s vision for the temple, is the one that is able to finally bring it to fruition and peace to his people.
As with most Cornwell novels I have read, there is usually a long list of characters and this one is no exception. There are several tribes, sorcerers, gods, and places to keep track of in this book. He manages to blend the stories of the different people well and it feels cohesive even when several events are taking place at the same time.
I put this book down at one point and wasn’t sure if I would go back to it. Eventually I did and once a certain character was out of the picture, I found I liked the book much more and found the remainder quite interesting. The building of the temple was fascinating — the way the stones were moved, fashioned, and positioned was a story unto itself. The religious aspect and invoking of several gods was also intriguing. The superstitions and rituals were so ingrained in the characters that it felt very natural for some of the events to take place even if they were barbaric and not something one would consider necessary for religion.
I didn’t like this book as much as other Cornwell books I have read but found it rather interesting in terms of the religious aspects portrayed here and how the societies were torn apart by gold and gods. Cornwell’s imagining of the building of Stonehenge is engrossing and made me want to find out more about it in the end.