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The Skystone (The Camulod Chronicles, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – October 15, 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 201 customer reviews
Book 1 of 9 in the Camulod Chronicles Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

During the days of the decaying Roman Empire, the legions of Britain struggle to preserve the ancient principles of loyalty and discipline-virtues embodied in the Roman general Caius Britannicus and his friend Publius Varrus, an ex-soldier turned ironsmith. Whyte re-creates the turbulence and uncertainty that marked fifth-century Britain and provides a possible origin for one of the greatest artifacts of Arthurian myth-the legendary sword Excalibur. Strong characters and fastidious attention to detail make this a good choice for most libraries and a sure draw for fans of the Arthurian cycle.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“From the building blocks of history and the mortar of reality, Jack Whyte has built Arthur's world, and showed us the bone beneath the flesh of legend.” ―Diana Gabaldon

“Jack Whyte is a master storyteller . . . . Wyte breathes life into the Arthurian myths by weaving the reality of history into them.” ―Tony Hillerman

“I loved the book. It was an extraordinary story, totally original and clearly there is a lot more excitement to come in the upcoming volumes.” ―Rosamunde Pilcher

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st Mass Market Ed edition (October 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812551389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812551389
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I first saw this book my initial reaction was "Not another take on the King Arthur myth!" Now that I've read it, I must say, this isn't just another take on the myth. This is the Arthur Myth in a whole new light.
Jack Whyte presents Caius Brittanicus and Publius Varrus, the Roman forbearers of King Arthur and founders of Camulod. the novel starts off with the penetration of Hadrians wall by the Barbarian Hordes and takes us up to the end of the 4th Century. In it you will meet Picus Brittanicus, father of Merlin, and learn how Excalibur came to be. The characters are totally believeable and real. Each one has his/her faults as well as his/her strong points.
What I loved about this book is the fact that Whyte took his time and painstakingly recreated the Roman World. His description of the battles, the Roman Army, Roman life... It was all fantastic. This is more of a historical fiction than a fantasy novel, so if you are looking for wizards and warlocks, you will be disappointed.
I must say that some parts of this novel, and certainly in the ones that follow, contain "adult" themes. You might want to consider this before allowing young adults to read it.
Finally, the true measure of the first novel in a series is it's ability to get you excited about the next installment. As soon as I finished book one I immediately picked up book2, so it's a hit!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I recommend this book for the rich and colorful depiction of Britain during the 5th century, as well as for providing an intelligent version of Arthurian beginnings.

Full Review:

Having read just about every version of the Arthurian legend, I picked up Jack Whyte's book: The Skystone, hoping to find something more definitive and less magical. What I discovered, was an extremely well written and historically fascinating look at 5th century life in Roman occupied Britain.

Whyte did his homework, and it shows in so many ways. Not only does he evince a formidable knowledge and understanding of Rome's military men, but also of the impact the Empire had on the entire known world.

His explanation for the sword Excalibur's beginnings makes sense, and includes magic-if only for the way it appeared to primitive eyes. Whyte, like another author, Colleen McCullough, takes no shortcuts, nor opts for facile answers to the legend of Arthur, and the birth of Camelot.

Instead, he patiently builds, step by step, a plausible yet highly entertaining historical setting.

General Caius Brittanicus is a brilliant and highly decorated Roman man, who was born in Britain. A man of deep insight and wisdom, he forsees the collapse of the Roman Empire. When not on campaign for Rome, he lives with his wife, children and widowed sister Luceia.

Publius Varro is General Brittanicus' Primus Pilus, or senior aide. Their fortunes are inextricably entwined, and how the two of them grow deep in love and respect for one another, is the main thrust of the first book.

Varro, has a blade fashioned from what his grandfather described as a skystone. This sword has a sheen, and luster ordinary iron doesn't possess, and is much stronger than even bronze.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Upon the completion of Jack Whyte's "The Skystone" I was amazed by the originality of the story. Many authors take the Arthurian story and just tell it again in their own words. This is not the case for jack Whyte's epic. In fact, Whyte here starts his own Arthurian story as he starts from before King Arthur's time, in a time where the Romans are about to lose their control of Britian. Whyte's story is compelling and complicated and weaves like a luch epic.
The novel, which is the first in the epic series the Camulod Chronicles, by the way, is told in the first person through the eyes of Publius Varrus. Varrus is a Roman soldier and "The Skystone" tells his story during an important historical time for Britain. The book opens up with a raid against the British, and Varuus befriends military general Brittanicus. With a group of soldiers they are on the run and get into many brawls. Varrus then takes his own path and goes to his hometown to take over his family business of metal working. Varrus is then on the move again and eventually falls in love with a woman. From the beginning to the end "The Skystone" entertains.
The greatest aspect of this whole novel is the realism of the events. Similar things did take place back during the ages when Rome was in control of much of Europe and this historical novel, or historical fantasy if you will, holds up to the first part of it's name in being historical. The reader will learn much on the Roman army and how it functioned and much about Britian during this fascinating time in history.
The major thing that I didn't like about the book were the characters. I found most of the characters to be one dimensional, and while likeable, I couldn't care for any of them.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a prospective Master's student in English literature, and a medievalist, I read "The Skystone" and found it an interesting alternative to the fantasy re-writings of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. It starts on a special note, with the times prior to the coming of Arthur, which reminds you of the apocalypse that Arthur seems to initiate as a saviour-like figure in Celtic and post-Roman history. I found the angle from which it is narrated--the world-weary voice of Publius Varrus as he recounts and re-writes the past--a particularly interesting attempt to start off, where the book becomes another of the treatises that writers use to make a defence against amnesia and to affirm the selective process through which memory moves. The book is lacking in the neo-paganism of Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Mists of Avalon", and the fusion of quantum science, Norse mythology and a comparative approach towards religions that marks A.A Attanasio's fiction on Arthur, starting with "The Dragon and the Unicorn". But it makes up for it through its emotional depth of character, especially in Publius Varrus's ability to accommodate various experiences and ambivalent emotions in his narrations. One does ask if the issues of historical truth and representation hamper our appreciation of the novel itself, but we are aware of the risks that writers are taking upon themselves in revising history, and so, that issue may be peripheral.
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