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Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Singing Sword - Jack Whyte

With a title like The Singing Sword, you'd think that most of the story is a telling of the creation of the famed Arthurian sword, Excalibur. While it is true that Excalibur is forged in this book, it is a minor and later part of the book, although it plays a destructive role in the final battle scene.

The Singing Sword is the second book in the Camulod Chronicles and is told from the point of view of Publius Varrus, a Roman born in Britain, and his friend/commander, Caius Brittanicus, leader of the Colony, an irregular stronghold of Roman ideals and discipline in Britain where the Roman forces are steadily being withdrawn back home to defend the home turf, a historical fact that essentially began the Dark Ages.

Our main characters are neck deep in defending their Colony and making new laws that must cover the changing world that is Britain in the 4th century A.D. There are new threats coming in addition to the Saxons and Celts.

The feud between the Senecas and Varrus continues with a black hate in this book. Claudius Seneca, who we thought was dead toward the end of The Skystones is not! He survived Publius' humiliating plan of death for him. He has returned with power and Varrus and Brittanicus must find a way to keep Seneca from exacting revenge on them.

Both Varrus and Brittanicus become grandfathers in this book. Both of these births are results of marriages of state between the diminishing Roman presence in Britain and the Celts. These births are also forerunners of Arthur, as we find out in the blurbs on the back of the books.

I really enjoy Jack Whyte's writing style. While not blood-thirsty for battle scenes, he paints a realistic picture of the world as it begins to enter the Dark Ages. His large battle scenes are often short or even implied. He seems to want to spend more time with character than explaining the macro-ness of armies battling. He also makes efforts to be historically forthcoming regarding the Roman ways of society and military. He is educational along many subjects of technology of the time.

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