The story of The Saxon Shore
, the fourth novel in Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles, is largely that of Merlyn, who continues his struggle to preserve the refuge of Camulod and protect the infant king, Arthur. Merlyn, in Whyte's version, is a fascinating mix of pragmatism and naïveté, blending the observational skills of Sherlock Holmes with the oratorical gifts of Marc Antony. Because he thinks a bit more deeply than most around him, thinking things through and staying a step ahead, it's easy to see how he gains a bit of a reputation as a magician. He also has his failings, most particularly an over-confidence that leads him to believe he is just as right about matters he is ignorant of (such as leprosy) as he is about things he actually understands. It's also interesting to note that Merlyn's failings are in many ways the failings of his community. Preserving Roman ways has meant preserving Roman attitudes toward outsiders and barbarians, and on a trip to Eire and a later journey through the south of Britain, Merlyn learns just how out of touch Camulod has become with its new neighbours.
Thus the story leads us inexorably to a new generation that knows little or nothing of Roman culture. In this way, The Saxon Shore continues with the same strength as preceding volumes. Jack Whyte's most splendid achievement is the creation of an historical period so well grounded in fact that the legend becomes real and Arthur lives again. --Greg L. Johnson
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From Publishers Weekly
The fourth book in Whyte's engrossing, highly realistic retelling of the Arthurian legend takes up where The Eagle's Brood (1997) left off. Narrated by Caius Merlyn Brittanicus from journals written at the end of the "wizard's" long life, this volume begins in an immensely exciting fashion, with Merlyn and the orphaned infant Arthur Pendragon in desperate straits, adrift on the ocean in a small galley without food or oars. They are saved by a ship commanded by Connor, son of the High King of the Scots of Eire, who takes the babe with him to Eireland until the return of Connor's brother Donuil, whom Connor believes has been taken hostage by Merlyn. The plot then settles into well-handled depictions of political intrigue, the training of cavalry with infantry and the love stories that inevitably arise, including one about Donuil and the sorcerously gifted Shelagh and another about Merlyn's half-brother, Ambrose, and the skilled surgeon Ludmilla. As Camulod prospers, Merlyn works hard at fulfilling what he considers his destinyApreparing the boy for his prophesied role as High King of all Britain. Whyte's descriptions, astonishingly vivid, of this ancient and mystical era ring true, as do his characters, who include a number of strong women. Whyte shows why Camulod was such a wonder, demonstrating time and again how persistence, knowledge and empathy can help push back the darkness of ignorance to build a shining futureAa lesson that has not lost its value for being centuries old and shrouded in the mists of myth and magic. Author tour.
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