This is the sixth book in the Camulod Chronicles. The story takes us back to Camulod where war is brewing on two fronts. Ambrose takes one force (and Arthur) in one direction, while Merlyn takes another force in the opposite direction. Ambrose learns that things are still well with Vortigern and the following Autumn, Merlyn goes to accompany Bishop Germanus to Verulamium as in one of the previous books, for the Pelagian heresy had been completely rooted out. Things go awry and Merlyn returns home in a hurry and on the journey loses his wife and many of his men. He blames Peter Ironhair for all this and undergoes his metamorphosis, into that sorcerer we know him best as. This is out of revenge, which he does not attain in full, for Ironhair is killed by another’s hand. He is also gravely injured on this quest, and the leprosy he feared seems to be real, although his old friend Lucanus had assured him this was not so.
I have complained before about how in the previous books so much seems to go so well for the people of Camulod and Merlyn in particular, with a few large exceptions. It seems Whyte was saving all his bad mojo for this book, where Merlyn loses not only his wife, but his brother, and for a time, his sanity. He goes down a dark path and even by the end of the book, he does not truly come back into the light. Perhaps he never will.
The draw for me in Arthurian Legend is Arthur himself. Not Lancelot or Guenivere or even Merlyn. In this series we have seen precious little of Arthur. And that’s fine: This isn’t his story. It’s that of Camulod, told by those who knew it best, Publius Varrus and Merlyn. So, when this book reached it’s end with Arthur being proclaimed High King and pulling the sword from the stone three times, my heart filled with the happy. This was familiar territory and a hint that the next selections in the series may have a bit more of my favorite character, I hope.
On the whole, I enjoyed this book and recommend the series to any who enjoy Arthurian Legend. This series puts it in an almost plausible historical setting, subtracting the magic and miracles from the legend. One can imagine that if Arthur and Merlyn really lived, that this may have been how it could have happened.
Review by Jessica A.