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Monday, June 23, 2008

The Skystone - Jack Whyte

The Skystone is a different take on the Arthur legend, beginning before Arthur, Merlin, Galahad and Lancelot supposedly lived, before the Romans abandoned the island of Britain. It is the first book in the Camulod Chronicles.

The story follows Gaius Publius Varrus, a soldier and second in command to his friend, Caius Brittanicus, Roman commander of a large contingent in Britain. From history, we know that the time setting of this book is the decline of the Roman empire. Publius is seriously injured in an ambush by the savages of northern Britain and the story unfolds his new life after his service to the empire. His motivation is to find more of the skystones, stones of ore that produce a strange but almost magical metal. A sword made from this metal would be exquisitely exotic.

Publius becomes entangled in a bloodfeud not originally from his family, but of his friend and compatriot, Brittanicus. The Seneca family and the Brittanicus family have been feuding for several generations and Publius, by sheer accident becomes involved. Along with searching for the skystones, seeking revenge upon a certain young malice from the Seneca tribe is his motivation.

This is a wonderfully written story, full of historical facts about the Roman empire and military, centered in Britain in the mid-4th century. I found the book/series in the fantasy section at my local big box book store. There was no magic involved in this book, but is hinted at for the coming books.

I really liked this book. The author is a master of character and developing relationships with those characters. The book is not as action-packed as some I've read recently, but it kept my attention very well, with well-paced dialogue and excellently written scenes and appropriate sequels.

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