Excalibur: A Novel of Arthur

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Excalibur: A Novel of Arthur (novel)
BernardCornwell Excalibur.jpg
First edition cover
Author Bernard Cornwell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Warlord Chronicles
Genre Historical, Fantasy novel
Publisher Michael Joseph (UK) & St. Martin's Press (USA)
Publication date
1997 (1st edition UK), 1998 (1st edition US), 1999 (paperback US)
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 448 pp (hardcover edition) & 436 pp (paperback edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-7181-0057-3 (hardcover first edition) & ISBN 0-312-20648-8 (US paperback edition)
OCLC 38171947
Preceded by Enemy of God

Excalibur: A Novel of Arthur is the third and final book in The Warlord Chronicles series by Bernard Cornwell. The trilogy tells the legend of Arthur seen through the eyes of his follower Derfel Cadarn.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel begins shortly after the end of Enemy of God. Arthur has taken full control of Dumnonia, Guinevere is imprisoned, Mordred who, while still king, has had his power taken away from him. Lancelot has joined with the Saxons and Derfel is trying to deal with both his daughter's death and his service to Arthur. Meanwhile, the two Saxon kings, Aelle and Cerdric, have put aside their differences to work as a combined front against the British kingdoms. Although Arthur has united Dumnonia, Powys and several Irish kings to his cause against the Saxons, Gwent refuses to fight. King Meurig offers to fight against the Saxons but only if he is given Dumnonia's throne, as Arthur does not want it and Mordred is no longer considered fit to rule. However, Arthur and the other Kings refuse his demand.

Merlin is preparing for a pagan ceremony at Mai Dun [(Maiden Castle in Dorset)], that is said will bring the Old Gods back to Britain. Before the ceremony though, Derfel must go and try to make his father Aelle turn against his ally Cerdic. Upon arrival Cerdic demands Derfel's death but Aelle says his son must fight a Saxon in single combat and if he wins he will be allowed to live. Derfel wins and stays the night but is unable to get his father to stop his attack on Britain.

It is finally the time of Mai Dun the ceremony is not completed though due to Arthur realising that Nimue intends to sacrifice his son to bring the gods forth. Arthur's part in stopping the ceremony earns him the hatred of many pagans in Britain, who blame him for preventing the gods' return.

Finally the Saxons invade, Derfel, who along with Ceinwyn and Guinevere, leads a group of survivors who are trapped at Mount Baddon. Derfel is impressed by Guinevere's efforts in the battle. Eventually, Arthur arrives along with Saragmor and Cuneglas and manage to win a victory over the Saxons. Derfel eventually finds Aelle and kills him. Lancelot is caught and hanged. Cuneglas is killed in battle and thus Arthur loses one of his greatest allies, also the price Arthur has to pay for Gwent's help is giving up his power.

Arthur gives up his power and he leaves Derfel and Saragmor in charge of Dumnonia's army while Mordred is given back his power. At the same time Mordred goes on war raids. Later a messenger says he is dying while also being besieged. Derfel is trying to avoid a succession issue and goes to Arthur. He learns that Arthur does not want to be king but Arthur's son does. Derfel returns to Dumnonia to find Mordred still alive and learns that he faked his injuries and plans to take revenge on both Derfel and Arthur. Derfel manages to escape with the help of Taliesin.

Derfel returns to find Ceinwyn is deathly sick, he tries everything to save her, but nothing works. He is taken to meet Nimue who says that she caused Ceinwyn's sickness and will only remove it if Derfel gives her Arthur's sword and Arthur's son. Derfel, having no were else to turn, goes to Morgan who offers to remove the fever if Derfel will agree to convert to Christianity and serve her husband, Sansum. To complete the spell, Derfel's hand is cut off.

Mordred comes for Arthur and faces him at Camlan where Mordred is killed and Arthur is wounded. Derfel stops Nimue by throwing Arthur's sword into the sea (The English Channel) and watches as his friend and his lord sails away with Guinevere to Avalon.


  • Derfel Cadarn - Protagonist, narrator.
  • Ceinwyn - Derfel's common law wife, princess of Powys .
  • Arthur - son of Uther, protector of Mordred.
  • Lancelot - Exiled former prince of Benoic now allied with the Saxons against his fellow Britain's.
  • Guinevere - Princess of Henis Wyren and wife of Arthur.
  • Galahad - A Christian and friend of Derfel.
  • Merlin – Lord of Avalon, a Druid.
  • Mordred - King of Dumnonia.
  • Nimue - Priestess, Derfel's former lover who is desperately trying to bring the old gods back to Britain.
  • Taliesin - A Druidic bard.
  • Sagramor - Arthur's Numidian commander.
  • Sansum - Treacherous bishop of Dumnonia.
  • Aelle - Father of Derfel and a Saxon king trying to take Britain.
  • Cerdic - A Saxon king and Aelle's ally in the battle to take over Britain.
  • Meurig - King of Gwent, his ambition is to take Dumnonia's throne.
  • Cuneglas - King of Powys and ally of Arthur.

Release details[edit]