The Chronicles of Camuloud: The Skystone by Jack Whyte

The Skystone

Plot: The book is written from our main characters perspective, Publius Varrus, and as so it begins with his telling us why he is writing this chronicle of events.

Publius is severely wounded near the beginning of the book, and is laid up with his general, who is also wounded, in their own private tent. As they lay there for some weeks and talk and get to know each other very well, and eventually the general is healed and departs, leaving Publius alone for many more weeks; he recovers and is left with a noticeable limp. Following this episode Publius makes his way back to his hometown where his grandfather lived, his deceased grandfather left his forge and home to Publius. There he meets an old friend named Equas, together they clean up the old forge, make a partnership and uncover all the tools Publius’s grandfather left him. Safely hid beneath the forge’s floor, along with a valuable dagger made from skystone; metal smelted from a rock that fell from the sky. Several months after settling in and selling weapons to the Roman legions, Publius is visited by his old general, Caius Britannacus.

Caius learns of the dagger and all the wonderful weapons Publius makes, and asks him to consider going to his own villa, many miles away, to live and forge swords for his small colony he is creating. He believes Rome will fall soon, and is determined to outlast all the chaos by building a self-reliant colony. Publius is far from convinced about his friend’s beliefs, but promises to consider the option. Caius is nearly murdered by the assassins of an old enemy, Claudius Seneca, but thanks to Publius and his friend, lives to see another day. Caius leaves to finish his duty in another country while Publius goes home.

After many weeks and several misadventures, Publius is on the run for his life from none other, than Claudius Seneca, who wants to kill him for breaking his nose and carving a V in his chest. All this is Claudius’s fault, but only Publius and his friend who was with him, know that. Few weeks pass before Publius arrives at Caius’s villa, wishing to live there. Note, Claudius tries to have Publius killed at least three times on his way to the villa. Caius is on duty in Africa but will be home soon, some of his colonists house him until Caius’s sister, Luceiia Britannacus. Who happens to be very beautiful, perceptive, educated and smart..

Positive: I really like the background the author gives us about that period in which Arthur was born; it helps one understand why Arthur does what he does later in life. (Make note, this is a series, so Arthur doesn’t actually come into the picture until the fourth book) The plot was well thought out, and the style of writing is very engaging. The book is very detailed and is always sure to let you see each characters personal interests and character traits. You get to know the characters very well throughout the book, and those following the first.

Negative: In the book there are many sexual comments and references. There are several undesirable comments about women. A few sexual scenes between man and woman, including some between man and his wife. (scenes that should stay between man and wife.)

Being Romans, they tend to swear and call people “whoresons,” and some modern day swear words.

By a moral standard, Publius is not very moral, as he tends to lust after women quite a bit. Though he is very good at what he does for a living, we like that part, he also has a pretty good sense of honor. And I am not saying he is no good, just that he has problems. However we (at least I did) end up liking Caius better, because he is far more moral and thinks things through more often!

Overall: I did enjoy this book, even though I had to skip over several pages some times. Due to sexual scenes.

I would recommend this book to very few, as it is more of an adult historical fiction. Though this book does teach you a lot about the Arthurian legend, and gives you information about the period before Arthur’s birth and about the fall of Rome. Personally, I think if you tore out those bad pages, this series could be offered to a wider range of readers.


21 thoughts on “The Chronicles of Camuloud: The Skystone by Jack Whyte

  1. Interesting. Reminds me of the series by Stephen Lawhead. Lawhead (I DO NOT ENDORSE HIS BOOKS) argued that Excalibur was created on Atlantis and Merlin was Atlantean.

    Yeah, I hate it when they stuff the crass stuff into a book. Not a lot of point there except to sell books. I mean if it works in the movies it must work for books too….

    Though if you enjoy epic SciFi and are willing to skip those types of sections, read The Saga of Seven Suns by Kevin J Anderson.

  2. People are 46-72% less likely to remember what ad was about if it involves lust. Movies with a high crass content (R rated) earn an average of 400-500% less than those with very little/none crass content. It is put there to sell books, but statistically, it has a reverse affect. Sheer numbers are against you; if kids and families (say four) can read your book instead of just one member of the family, you’ll sell more copies just because your market is so much bigger.

    I find that kind of stuff very frusterating. Its ulitmate aim is to degrade the culture by pandering to its most amoral elements (and, by doing so publicly, to normalize perversion).

    For a good sci-fi/fantasy series without crassivity, “Artemis Fowl” is very clean. Also, a good biography or history book can cover the era without veering into the never-changing depths of sinful humanity. Has anyone read the original Arthurian legends and thier source?

  3. In this series, Merlyn is 1/3 Britian, 1/3 Roman and 1/3 Celt.
    And Publius Varrus creates Excalibur, of course this is historical fiction, so that part is probably inaccurate.
    Before I read this book, I did not know that the name Excalubur meant ‘made from a mould.’ At least thats what the author said.

  4. I have read Artemis Fowl!! I agree, very good book, and its following books are good too.
    I know the legend of Arthur fairly well, my sister told me about it, and I read about it on wikipedia.

  5. Haven’t spent much time on the Arthurian legend because I always hated the Lancelot-Guenevere relationship. (Not that I believed that Arthur was truly a noble reincarnation of David, but I hate the idea of a honorable man being treated in such a manner.)

    S, you are right though. R-rated films certainly sell fewer copies. I don’t know why these authors put the smut in their books. I do know that in the Saga of Seven Suns, the occasional problematic material comes across as forced. As if the publisher forced it to be included. Doesn’t make it right, but helps ever so slightly.

    I have heard of Artemis Fowl, but haven’t read it yet. I’ve never been much of a fantasy reader myself excluding the Binding of the Blade series (which has been reviewed on this site).

  6. I read a biography of Elinor of Acquitane, and it was in her court that the Arthurian legends were really made up. They were supposed to give legitimacy to her “court of love”, a feministic pre-hippies-and-free-love-place-for-hippies-and-free-love-yuppies.

    [Elinor laid the foundations for chivalry, albeit inadvertantly. By reminding Christendom that they had lost the love for all that Christ showed (i.e., respect for women and children), her “court of love” inspired many to return to the brotherly love of the early church, and the West has never quite shaken off that cultural revival. The whole “Guy picks up dropped handkerchief” thing came from her court.]

    The legends’ overall effect, to remind Christian men that if pagans were treating women so nicely they could too, was positive. Like most myths, however, that positive effect came with not-so-great content (how the world operates when its free from Christian influence). Admitting the world’s inherently sinfulness is key to a successful folk tale. Ever read the original Grimm’s fairy tales?

  7. Actually, I have read the original Grimm and Anderson stories. Quite violent to boot.

    That is an interesting take on the Arthurian legend. Personally, I always was drawn emotionally to Arthur so the betrayal felt personal. So, I freely admit that my dislike of the legend is not necessarily rational.

  8. Its interesting that people in those times read (and bought) the Grimms and Anderson stories. They were the popular versions, not Disney (albeit cute) reditions.

    I never really identified with any of the characters, partially because I was so young when I read the legends (and partially because Guineverre, unlike Arthur, has little or no character developement until Lancelot butts in. Then she becomes a more rounded character, but I didn’t see any reason for her to switch sides all of the sudden. Or for Arthur to want her back; that really confused me as a kid).

    I love the knight-in-shining-armour world in fantasy, but regarding King Arthur, only that space post-loving-Guineverre and pre-leaving-Lancelot grabs my positive attention. Anything else is either depressing (Mordrid is the most annoying character in the stories, to me), or not true to the original.

    Did you ever see Disney’s “The Sword And The Stone”? As I recall it wasn’t a bad rendition of pre-kingship-Arthur’s life. Havn’t seen it in years. That kind of thing I watched at relative’s homes (since the tv had to be on most of the time, the parents encouraged movies over cable).

  9. I did see it. Dumb show. And not sure it qualified as good pre-king life. Unless you squint carefully. The ludicrous point of the Sword and The Stone was about education/learning.

    A much better approach to that would be Winds of Dawn by Sigmund Brouwer.

  10. 🙂 I just remember finding it funny. Especially Merlin’s quote-on-quote magic.

    Is “Winds of Dawn” an adult-content book? I’ve seen a copy, I think, and it looked creepy. Might be a different “___ of Dawn.”

  11. I don’t remember much about it, except it was funny. The siblings and I made fun of Merlin’s quote-on-quote magic, and Arthur gets the sword, and all was well.

    What is “Wings of Dawn” like? Adult-content like this book we’re commenting on what-s-it-called-the-skystone? The Chronilces of Camuloud, that’s it (ha, the URL has the title)!

  12. I thought the Sword in the Stone movie was really cute, even if not completely accurate.
    I liked the songs, especially Higgustus Figgustus.
    I always felt sorry for Arthur, but I also wondered why Lancalot, if he was such a good friend to Arthur, would try and commit adultry with Guiniverre.

  13. Wings of Dawn

    Warning, it was one of my earlier reviews and not well written. BUT, it is one of the best books I have EVER read. More of a young adult fare, it was reworked into a series for children under the Wings of Light title. And sadly, I believe it is again out of print.

  14. Oh, and no. There is nothing objectionable in Wings of Dawn.

    Glad you liked Sword in the Stone. Just don’t ask me to watch it again….

  15. I have read Wings of Dawn!!! We own it, I agree, it was very good indeed. The only thing I did not care for was the girl he ends up marrying, she was good, but there were a few things she did that were not to my taste.
    Other then that, however, it was a very enjoyable book. I could not put it down.

  16. We own it? Hannasus, since when do we own it and I not know about it? “This is grave indeed”- Mr. Darcy

    (my first comment above was posted without the “captcha” words typed in on accident, it didn’t show up when I returned to the site, and so I reposted it. How’d it come back? Also, are we still linked from the Rebelution site, or only to them? I’m very confused today, as you can tell).

  17. Well, I found your comment in the spam filter and approved it.

    As for the linking to Rebelution, yes, we are still linked on the sidebar. Why? I have no idea if they are still linking here though.

  18. Just curious. The Harris twins’ new book, “Do Hard Things” came out today. We’re helping with their 2008 conference tour of the same name, so I don’t know if its fair that Hannasus or I review it. 🙂 If yes, we have a copy and are reading through it as a family (and it is really really really good). Otherwise, do you have a copy and want to review it?

    It hit Amazon’s #5 spot on March 25, by the way.

  19. No, I haven’t read it and don’t foresee a copy landing on my desk any time soon. I would be delighted if either or both of you wrote about it as long as you disclose your ties. 🙂 Tis only fair to the readers.

    How did it hit the #5 spot before it was released?

  20. March 25th was the day pre-ordering opened, with the option to get the book by April 15th (yesterday!).

    🙂 Plus, hosted a book-bomb that day. 2,300 copies were purchased, including ours. Its pretty amazing, how G_d has been using these young men. One of us will prepare a reveiw post-haste.

  21. greatttt book. hooked on the series now. if you like any type of king arthur material youll love this series. ive read the 2nd book as well now and it is just as good. both books keep you hooked from page one and their is never a dull moment. highly reccomended

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