Customer Reviews of Uther
Fresh and Unique Novel from Jack Whyte
I am a die-hard fan of Jack Whyte, and love his books to peices. The point of views expressed in novels, the characters, the dialogue, the landscape, the history (presented in a none-too-boring way), the romance (and yes, even the very skanky sex) make his books both rewarding for the reader and inspiring. 'Uther' is startling different then his other Camulod Chronicle novels.
Readers grow almost to hate Uther in books such as 'The Eagle's Brood' and 'The Saxon Shore', due to the often mistaken and harsh judgements of his infamous cousin Merlyn, from whose eyes the books are portrayed. Upon delving into 'Uther', however, I found myself not only loving his character, but approaching the other books with a new understanding. The plot is simple, unlike the other books, and instead of focusing on future plans and dreams of its characters it seems to just naturally go with the flow, following Uther's exciting, sexy, and violent life as it unfolds. Overwhelming pity is at times the strongest emotion when reading this book, as the man Jack Whyte is portraying is misunderstood and seems slighted by destiny. In all, a fabulous read. I couldn't help but read it cover to cover in one sitting, litterally not putting it down. It's a grabber.
Alternative historical fiction. . .
After finishing the first six books of the Camulod Chronicles, I was both delighted and confused to see that the publication of a seventh book was imminent. Delighted because I regard Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles to be one of the best retellings of the Arthurian legend, confused because the title was "Uther". By the end of book 6, "The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis", Uther is long dead and his son Arthur just installed as High King of all of Britain. I ignored the anachronism and ordered the book anyway.
My faith in Jack Whyte was rewarded as "Uther" turned out to be one of the crowning jewels (sick pun intended) of the Camulod Chronicles. In the time line, "Uther" covers the same period as book 3 of the series, "The Eagle's Brood". Where "The Eagle's Brood" was told from the point of view of Merlyn, "Uther" is told from the point of view of. . . Uther. I suppose this book can be considered an alternative historical fiction, but I won't go there. . .
This book continues in the same sweeping, luxurious style of the others in the series with the only difference being in narration. The first two books were narrated by Publius Varrus, the next four my Merlyn himself. The all-seeing, all-knowing author narrates "Uther", and I feel that this point of view offers a nice change of pace in the series and works well. Although this book covers the same time period as a previous installment, the overlap of actual events is minimal. In "The Eagle's Brood", Merlyn regards Uther as a pariah. In "Uther", we are given the balancing story in which some of the major mysteries from earlier in the Chronicles are solved.
Overall, the whole series is different from most in its handling of Uther. In the original Mallory and all of the retellings I had read up to this one, the character of Uther is not a particularly well-developed one. He appears as almost an incidental character who co-incidentally sired Arthur. If he is given any ink, as in Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy, it is to describe him as a brusque, brutal, and lustful creature with no redeeming qualities other than his great physical strength and prowess as a warrior. Mr. Whyte has made Uther into a man of high nobility, deserving of our respect, admiration, and sympathy. And, this is only fitting if we are to consider that his son Arthur was renown for his nobility, personal strength, and sense of justice. Although Arthur never knew Uther as an adult, we all grow up hearing that the fruit seldom falls far from the tree.
I have read dozens of retellings of the Arthurian saga, and am nowhere near having my fill. I regard the Camulod Chronicles as one of the best. I look forward to reading book 8 of the chronicles as soon as it is written.
Read it for what it is...
What Uther does for the series is what J.R.R.Tolkein's, The Silmarillion, did for the Lord of the Rings. It's a collection of contextual notes and thoughts the author had lying around that answers some questions and enriches the history of his series (my explanation for why it is written in the person it is written in). Unforunately, its release is very untimely and I am willing to bet that it has something to do with money and the publishers. Although that is pure speculation. I can't divine any other reason why Whyte would release this book which is more of an appendix to the storyline, UNLESS, unless he had to tell Uther's side of the story before going on with Arthur's. We can only hope.
Sadly, while the information it divulges is really enlightening, it disrupts the beautiful magic and engaging story that Whyte had woven up to that point. I encourage people just starting in on the series to not read it until after the main story is finished.
Some author's don't realize that often the most engaging part of a story are those parts left untold. Those deeds and tails left to the readers imagination form some of the greatest ties between story and reader when left to our speculation. In that sense I almost wish I hadn't read Uther at all, but then I love to read so there is no way I could have restricted myself even knowing what I know now.
To the reviewer who was upset that this was an installment in a series... well, I for one don't understand how someone fails to enjoy the complexity that can only come from a story written over several volumes. The best TV shows, movies, video games, and books are all parts of series. And if you didn't want to read a book in a series there are literally dozens of indicators on the cover, in the first pages, and in the acknowledgments virtually shouting at you that this is part of series and should be considered that way.
And as a personal note, I thoroughly dislike author's that demean the intelligence, committment and attention spans of their readers by using up large portions of successive volumes retelling the story and explaining character profiles. I can understand the need for a quick summary in a t.v. show where someone might have missed an episode due to some other committment but the need utterly fails in regard to books and even movies.
I have read just about every spin-off of the Authurian Legend that has been written (Mary Stewarts (fantastic), Stephen R. Lawhead's (mostly good), T.H.White's (inventive)),and countless other minor variations and Jack Whyte's telling is by far my favorite of them all. He has the amazing ability to make the legend's seem like very real people and after the reading is through restore them properly to their legendary status.
The series comes highly recommended even if Uther seems rather out of place.
Excellent Arthurian legend tale
When his father died, Uther became King of Cambria ruling over the feral Pendragon tribes. At around the same time his cousin Caius Merlyn Britannicus becomes the monarch in Camulod.
However, Uther's life as the sovereign of Cambria is wrought with constant skirmishes with his offensive neighbor King Lot of Cornwall. Uther travels all over England on adventures that would destroy a lesser person especially his fights against the treacherous Lot. Still, Uther falls in love with his arranged bride, Ygraine of Ireland. Surprisingly, she returns his feelings even though she mistrusts males after being a victim of the bellicose Lot. Their love culminates with the birth of the future king.
UTHER: THE CAMULOD CHRONICLES is a fascinating look at the Arthurian legend by focusing on Arthur's parents mostly his sire. The plot is cleverly designed so that the story of the house of Uther fits quite comfortably within the previously established legend as scribed by Jack Whyte in his other Camulod Chronicles. This is a must read by Arthurian fans as is the previous works in this series, especially THE EAGLE'S BROOD (Merlyn's companion tale).
"Is it fiction or memory?"
Uther the seventh volume of the of Jack Whyte's Arthurian Legend gives life to an often neglected and much maligned figure, Uther Pendragon the father of King Arthur. As a child Uther's days were divided between Camolud, the birthplace of his mother, and Cambria, a more northern area in which his father and grandfather have been powerful elected kings. Uther finds himself more at home in Camolud with his cousen and constant companion Merlin, then in Cambria which he is destined to rule. From the birth of Uther to his ultimate demise we are presented with an heroic warrior king. The reader is caught up in page after page of events of the time. The author weaves a fascinating and suspense filled story about a courageous ruler. Another 623 pages would have been welcome. Uther is extremely well written, laying the ground for subsequent novels. One wonders if this saga is fiction or memory!