Stonehenge: 2000 B.C.
Bernard Cornwell / Author HarperCollins Publishers $26 (434p)
Prolific British author Cornwell is best known for his Napoleonic warfare adventure series with Captain Richard Sharpe, and for the Starbuck Chronicles, about the American Civil War. Now he imaginatively unlocks the mystery of Stonehenge's creation in 2000 B.C., at the beginning of Britain's Bronze Age. This wild tale, rich with sorcery, pagan ritual, greed and intrigue, is Cornwell's most ambitious fiction yet. It features three brothers linked by blood but divided by madness, jealousy and lust for power. Lengar, the eldest, murders his own father to become the chief of his tribe. As a warrior and tyrant, his brutality is second only to that of his crippled brother, Camaban, a sorcerer ruthlessly determined to have a massive stone temple erected to honor his authority. The youngest sibling, Saban, will ultimately construct the temple, but not until he has endured torture, slavery and betrayal. The story covers nearly 20 years as the brothers and the people of Ratharryn struggle to survive as a tribe, fighting harsh weather and starvation, warring with other tribes and trying to appease their angry gods. It is Camaban's idea to build Stonehenge as a temple to create balance between the moon god and the sun god, to eliminate winter and force a change in the circle of life. Murder, magic and misery prevail, and there is no shortage of victims or bloodshed. Cornwell's portrayal of life and death in ancient Britain is graphic, gritty and riveting. However, his detailed descriptions of how Stonehenge was constructed utilizing primitive engineering are the real strength of this book. Although its length may daunt some readers, this ambitious and intriguing saga will be a hit with lovers of ancient history who want to decipher the mysteries of a vanished world. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000