Monday, August 07, 2006
Uther is the first companion book for the series A Dream of Eagles, and it is a parallel telling of the third book of that series, The Eagles' Brood. Uther deals with the life of Uther Pendragon, the father of the legendary King Arthur and of his war with Lot, the self-styled King of Cornwall.
A Dream of Eagles was always narrated from a first person perspective, with The Eagles' Brood having been narrated from the view point of Uther's cousin, Caius Merlyn Britannicus. For that reason, there were some questions left over from that novel that were never answered simply because Merlyn did not have them. Questions such as who killed Merlyn's wife Cassandra, how did Uther come to romance and love his bitter enemy's own Queen, Ygraine, and how Lot himself came to be hung by a tree with severed hands and feet.
Not only is Uther a parallel story to The Eagles' Brood, but it also is the only book in the series thus far to have a different style of narration. If you're reading Uther, I'm going to assume that you have read A Dream of Eagles and thus know that Uther Pendragon meets his end at the conclusion of the war against Lot's Cornwall. For that reason, it was impossible for Jack Whyte to have Uther be a first person narrator in the novel, and Uther features a traditional, omnipotent, third person narrator. While a departure from the series' tradition, it is by no means detrimental to the enjoyment of Uther.
The novel focuses upon Uther's life, from boyhood to death. It greatly expands upon the customs and traditions of the Pendragon Federation which where touched upon in A Dream of Eagles, and deals less with Camulod itself and even Uther's relationship with Merlyn. It focuses on Uther's realization of a darkness inside him and his quest to master it, about his tutelage under the Pendragon Champion, Garreth Whistler and Uther's training to become a cavalry man and to create a group of Pendragon cavalry, his bodyguard known as the Dragons.
Uther also branches much more into the details of Cornwall and its King, Uther's childhood enemy Lot, and the effects the war had on that country. More details are given on this war, the reasons behind it, and the effects it has on both Pendragon and Cornish, that even though Uther is a companion book, it can indeed stand upon it's own as so much of the information contained within is new or simply glanced upon in The Eagles' Brood.
There are many spectacular battles in the novel, some short and some drawn out, and the combined military tactics of cavalry, bowman, and infantry are all enjoyable to read. It's also interesting to get to explore the new characters who are introduced, as well as see some original ones return, however viewed in a completely different light. The only problem with the new characters is that many of them have predicatable plot roles to fill, something that wasn't as cut and dry in A Dream of Eagles. It's quite obvious that Nemo was created for the explanation of a certain event that happened in The Eagles' Brood, for example, and while her character had more impact than just the resolution of one specific situation, you know that was really her main reason. While this predictablility is not a bad thing, it does take away from a lot of suspense that could have occured, however since most of those issues were brought up in The Eagle's Brood, I suppose it's not that much of a concern.
The Eagles' Brood was an excellent novel in the series, shifting its tone to a darker, more military perspective, and Uther takes that path and expands upon it. If A Dream of Eagles left you wanting more, or you simply wish to revisit the events prior to the Arthurian Legend itself to see in greater detail the struggle and hopes that the people had, Uther will not disappoint.