As I mentioned in my previous review, I’ve never bothered to start Cornwell’s work, it brings me joy when someone, a friend (even better again when it’s from one of your favorite author) recommended a book/series to you and you loved it. That’s truly how I feel about the trilogy so far, Cornwell again captivate me with his original and haunting retelling of an Arthurian saga full of heroism and tragedy.
The now monk and Christian, Derfel Cadarn continues telling his tale to Igraine, his current Queen about his time as a Pagan called Lord Derfel Cadarn, Derfel the Mighty, Champion of Dumnonia and the beloved friend of Arthur. Derfel’s tale in Enemy of God begins in the year 495 AD, 15 years after the beginning of his tale in The Winter King and continues immediately from the aftermath of the last battle in the previous book. Most of the plot in the book focused on Merlin’s hunt for the Cauldron of Clyddno Eiddyn (or in modern names, the Holy Grail), driving back the Saxon, Camelot (Arthur’s glorious years of rule) and eventually, why Arthur earned the title ‘The Enemy of God, all told masterfully from Derfel’s 1st person omniscient-ish narrative.
“To hear the tales told at night-time hearths you would think we had made a whole new country in Britain, named it Camelot and peopled it with shining heroes, but the truth is that we simply ruled Dumnonia as best we could, we ruled it justly and we never called it Camelot”
A lot of heavy realistic topics were brought upon in this book. One of the most memorable moments being the complication to choose friendships or to uphold law and oath in the name of peace, even when you know the decision is wrong. On instincts, I’ll always choose friendship but what if, by choosing to save that friend, you risk killing millions of people? Will you still go through with it? Or will you follow the law, saving millions of people’s lives that you don’t know in exchange of your loyal friend’s existence?
“Arthur did try to change the world and his instrument was love”
That topic is very well written but imo, the best part of the book lies on another realistic topic and definitely the factor with the strongest emphasis, religion, specifically on Christianity, Pagan and the mystery of the Goddess, Isis.
“It's only when you're lost and frightened and in the dark that you call on the Gods, and they like us to call on them. It makes them feel powerful, and that's why they like us to live in chaos.”
The entire discussion and conflict on religions are very thought provoking. It made me think a lot on faith and afterlife, which honestly, unsettled me a bit. This goes to show just how well written this book is. There is a sense of hope, glory, friendship and loss that were told. While the first half is still slow paced, the pacing is much more balanced now compared to the previous book where the first half was so dense with descriptions and minim dialogues. The second half have faster paced, the last two chapters (more or less the last 60 pages of the book) in particular were damn thrilling despite having only a small amount of actions.
I honestly don’t know how I can tell you just how well written this book is. It’s simple, beautiful, haunting, and vivid. Although every chapter is still very long, with 13 chapters out of 470 pages, it never felt like a slog going through it because Cornwell’s prose worked so well for me.
The only minor con I had with the book is that I find myself a bit disappointed by the lack of battle scenes in it. It’s the second book already and I still haven’t seen any of Cornwell’s supposedly memorable battle scenes. This doesn’t mean the book isn’t thrilling or filled with suspense at all, the second half of the book was so addictive and thrilling despite having minimum actions as I mentioned. However, I came into this series expecting to see a lot of war scenes but haven’t seen them yet aside from the climax in book 1, which were still too short for my taste. This however is just a minor con due to my expectation, for the quality of the storytelling solely never fails to captivate me.
Enemy of God is an amazing sequel and a marvelous book to bridge the gap to the final book in the trilogy, Excalibur. I love the previous book, love this one even more and I hope the last one will continue the same tradition. I totally recommend this for any lover of historical fiction and Arthurian saga.