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Stonehenge: A Novel [Paperback]

Bernard Cornwell
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 21 2004

Bestselling author Bernard Cornwell takes us back four thousand years, to a vibrant world of ritual and sacrifice that is at once timeless and wholly original. This historical novel unlocks the mystery of Britain's most haunting and puzzling structure, and tells a tale of three brothers -- fierce rivals -- who are uneasily united in their quest to create a temple to their gods. Lengar, the eldest brother, kills his own father to become chief of his tribe. Camaban, the illegitimate middle brother, is determined to have a massive temple built in his own honor. And Saban, the youngest, who actually builds Stonehenge, must act as mediator between the other two. Stonehenge is the enthrallingly dramatic story of patricide, betrayal, and murder; of bloody brotherly rivalry; and of the never-ending quest for power, wealth, and spiritual fulfillment.

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From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Cornwell is best known for his novels about modern military heroes stories that make for nearly perfect audiobook listening. Stonehenge is something very different a purely fictional speculation about the origins of England's most famous ancient stone monument. Nevertheless, it, too, is engrossing. Set so far in the past that even the Druids would have considered its time period ancient, this tale imposes a demanding learning curve on listeners. Every character and place has an unfamiliar name, but eventually they seem natural, and the story is not difficult to follow. Its speculations on the construction of Stonehenge are fascinating, but even more fascinating is its depiction of the power struggle among three very different brothers competing for control of their tribe. This work is probably easier to follow in print than on tape; however, Sean Barrett's powerful reading brings the story alive in ways not possible on mere paper. Recommended for all audio collections. R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More like 3 and 1/2 May 27 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book tells the imaginary story of the creation of the famous british monument around 3000 B.C. It follows the lives of 3 brother, Saban, Lengar and Camabin. All three have various problems.
Saban is a coward and both Camabin and Lengar(to varying degrees) are nuts. The story goes very well untill half way through the book. Then it seems to suffer from Steven King syndrom and rush the rest of the way through, so in the end what you get is a really lackluster book. However that does not take away from the good battles you can always count on Cornwell to give you.
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2.0 out of 5 stars I Think I Have Found Cornwell's Worst Novel. Sept. 6 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Stonehenge" by Bernard Cornwell is a complete departure for the author of the Sharpe series. Frankly, I didn't like it very much. Maybe it was the pacing, which was slow or the character development, which was shallow. I never got the sense or feel of the times. Luckily for me I picked the book up at a bargain otherwise I would have felt cheated. I finished it only because Cornwell is one of my favorite authors.
Perhaps it is because I couldn't identify with the main characters. The lead characters are brothers, namely Saban, Camaban and Lengar. Saban the protagonist, is the perpetually young warrior, hero and builder. Saban's crippled brother Camaban, is the tribe's sorcerer, kook and priest. Saban's oldest brother Lengar, is the obligatory antagonist, villain and tribal chieftain. None of these characters are interesting, all of them seem merely to be props to tell the story. I can accept this type of fiction by some other authors, especially when used in short stories but here it seems shallow. I don't think Cornwell allowed the readers a chance to get into the heads of these people.
I think most people knew it took Britain's Neolithic inhabitants years and years to build Stonehenge. After all they barely seem to master fire, metal tools and planting crops. But I thought the story could have been much more interesting and exciting. Cornwell paints a picture of people who were brutal war-like savages. They applied blue tattoo scars to their bodies to signify the number of people they have killed. Ordinarily Cornwell is the perfect author for this type of job, all of his other works are great but he never carries it off.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Tale of Determination and Wonder Aug. 17 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Over 20 years ago I fulfilled a long-time dream by standing before the giant and ancient monument known as Stonehenge. Like everyone else who stood there, I marveled at the minds and determination of the men and women who must have struggled against the elements as they overcame the limitations of their ancient times to build this structure. Like anyone else, I wondered how they were able to do it and why they took on this task.
"Stonehenge" is a novel and does not pretend to be fact. In his historical notes, Cornwell makes it clear that no one really knows who or why it was built, and there are only clues as to how. He points out that future scientists may very well look at our cathedrals and draw conclusions about our own culture and beliefs that are as likely to be wrong as right. However, that is not important here.
Cornwell has constructed a tight and fascinating story that tells maybe why and maybe how Stonehenge came to be. The story centers on three half-brothers, two of them doomed to death at the hands of their siblings, the women who loved and hated them, warriors, priests, and a pantheon of gods and goddesses, not physically part of the story, but whose presence, real or imagined, drives the characters on. I cannot think of one character that wasn't well drawn or who acted against their nature in this story. Even though so many of the events in the story deal with the reaction to the mythology (a term meaning someone else's religion) of the characters, I never once felt that their actions or beliefs were too farfetched. They were each people of their times, not modernized versions of ancient people.
Stonehenge is exceptional. Anyone who likes historical fiction, especially as it deals with the ancient world, will love it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Starts good but ends poorly July 6 2001
By Blah
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The book starts off great. The first two hundred pages with its explanation of the tribe and the brothers who are the chiefs sons are truly engrossing. Unfortunately it tapers off from there. About the time you hit page 300 the book is basically over. the author however decides to babble for abouta hundred pages or so before he finally ties up some loose ends. Another disappointment is the protagonist, Saban, who starts out likeable enough but ends up being somewhat annoying and weak. His counterparts his wives, his war chief brother and his club footed brother are far more interesting characters.
While Cornwell's explanation of Stonehenges purpose is nothing out of the ordinary his description of its possible use is quite interesting. The best part about the book is the imaginary mythology that Cornwell has created for the tribe and their worship of sundry deity. For example, in the novel the tribe takes their dead (and there are many) to the death place where they allow the body to be consumed by vultures and other birds. Students of religion will recognize this as a Zorastrian custom, that began in Iran about 3000 BC.
All in all the book is not too bad but on the other hand it really isn't all that good either.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother.
I haven't even finished this book. I'm about three quarters of the way. I thought I was love this book so much. It had all my favourite things in it. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Allyanna
3.0 out of 5 stars Too long!
I thought the book was good but it went in great lengths and I felt that there was little character development.
Published on June 24 2003 by "cipollina21"
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A wonderfully written book. Full of mystery, suspense, whatnot. A wonderful book by a great author. Not boring at all. You really should read it.
Published on Aug. 29 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Love Cornwell but Hate this Book
I was so excited when I saw this new book by Cornwell...and then I started reading it. The story is long and boring and never seems to reach a climax. Read more
Published on Nov. 6 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Cornwell's Best
I was very excited when this book came out because I was thoroughly enchanted by the Warlord Chronicles. Unfortunately this book was not on par with that trilogy. Read more
Published on June 17 2001 by "sarah_446"
2.0 out of 5 stars Unlike the Builders of Stonehenge, this Misses the Mark
I have never read anything by Bernard Cornwell, and eagerly picked this up hoping for another _Pillars of the Earth_ or _Sarum_. Read more
Published on May 18 2001 by Kate
5.0 out of 5 stars Hanging Stones
Stonehenge in Britain is not on the awesome scale of the pyramids of Egypt and doesn't exhibit the incredible 'caveman' art that has been discovered in France -- but it is, like... Read more
Published on May 10 2001 by Wyatt James
5.0 out of 5 stars The dream that became one man's reality, "Stonehenge."
"Stonehenge" by Bernard Cornwell, is a different kind of novel. He writes here about man and how he evolves, how to train to be a hunter and a warrior or to train to be a... Read more
Published on May 6 2001 by Claudia Kurzyna
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable story about a remarkable place
Bernard Cornwell has a truly incredible talent for creating vivid and interesting characters, and Stonehenge is no exception. Read more
Published on May 3 2001 by "delric"
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