The Warlord Chronicles

The Winter is Coming website has a post up, What books should you read as you wait for The Winds of Winter? (The Winds of Winter is the next Song of Ice and Fire book).

I don’t have much time for fiction at this point, but the first entry that they suggested was Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles. This is a very dark, gritty, and realistic, retelling of the Arthurian legend, written in a fashion more reminiscent of historical fiction than fantasy. I read this series perhaps a year after first reading Game of Thrones, and was struck by similarities of tone.

As it happened this was before George R. R. Martin was quite as famous, and I emailed him at some point in 2000 about various issues relating to his works and inspirations, and asked him about Cornwell’s series. Martin admitted that he was a huge fan, and appreciated that there were similarities of style and tone.

In any case, I second this recommendation. Warlord Chronicles is not the most easy read…but worth it.

5 thoughts on “The Warlord Chronicles

  1. I read the trilogy a couple years. I’d describe it tone-wise as what A Song of Ice and Fire would be like if there was no looming threat of the Others in the background. The background conflict in the Warlord Chronicles is different, more like the weight of an increasing cultural shift. It’s an element I’ve noticed frequently in modern Arthurian fiction, about a conflict between a rising Christianity that represents the story equivalent of Tolkien’s “Age of Men”*, and a paganism except with real magic (maybe).

    I’d love to see a TV series try and adapt it. It wouldn’t be a big-time budget killer, given that the magic (assuming it’s real) is mostly low-key and even the scale of battles and number of people involved are relatively small. Given the failure of Starz’ Camelot (which had a higher budget than Game of Thrones that year but looked so much cheaper and smaller), it’s unlikely.

    * As in, the rise of Christianity in Arthurian fiction and Tolkien’s “Age of Men”/The Fourth Age represent the disappearance of the World of Meaning and the Promise of Magical Wonders, and the rise of normalcy and the World As We Know It.

  2. And what about The Prince of Nothing (The aspect-emperor) series? I’ve only red the first two book in the prince of nothing, I couldn’t finished the Thousandfold thought, I think the third book lost some steam, anyway, Mr Razib, what do you think about Anasurimbor Kellhus? (fucking sociopath) A savior or doom upon all the Earwa? Also, it would be cool to see Kellhus on Westeros.

    1. Bakker has an obsession with pop neuroscience and the idea of the “semantic apocalypse” that’s been bleeding more heavily into his work over time (although it was strongest in Neuropath). He’s still one of the more interesting (and horrifying) fantasy authors to read, and I’m really looking forward to Unholy Consult.

      He needs to write some horror books already. Bakker has a talent for creating horrifying scenes.

      A savior or doom upon all the Earwa?

      Having read all five of the books out (plus one or two of the short stories), I’m thinking “Savior” . . . but in a particularly nasty way that would spoil a lot if I put it in the post. I don’t know how to do spoiler formatting in this comment system, assuming it’s possible.

        1. The “semantic apocalypse” is Bakker’s argument that science and modernity have progressively destroyed the meanings that we once attached to the world via religion, myth, etc. What happens in such a world, where all our myths about ourselves and meanings have been evaporated away?

          I’m not saying I agree with that, but that’s basically the idea IIRC. And the idea of the “semantic apocalypse” is tied into The Prince of Nothing/Second Apocalypse series, because Bakker has said before that the world of the Prince of Nothing is a meaningful universe – a world where actions have moral judgment inherently attached to them as sure as gravity is attached to mass. I can’t go into too much more detail because it would be spoilers, but it’s that type of thing.

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