The year is 885, and England is at peace, divided between the Danish kingdom to the north and the Saxon kingdom of Wessex in the south. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord—warrior by instinct, Viking by nature—has finally settled down. He has land, a wife and two children, and a duty given to him by King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames. But then trouble stirs: a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have arrived to occupy the decayed Roman city of London. Their dream is to conquer Wessex, and to do it they need Uhtred's help.
Alfred has other ideas. He wants Uhtred to expel the Viking raiders from London. Uhtred must weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning tide of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles. It is Uhtred—half Saxon, half Dane—whose uncertain loyalties must now decide England's future.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"...Nor doom one doom to your friend; another to your foe!" King Alfred in the Doom Book or Code of Alfred.
Bernard Cornwell has given us another smashing tale of war and love from 9th century "England". The year is 885 CE and King Alfred of Wessex struggles to consolidate his control of the Saxon lands as defined in the treaty with Guthrum that divided the island between Saxon and the Danelaw.
Cornwell's once again uses the narrative voice of Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg as he reflects on his life in extreme old age (probably around 940 CE). Uhtred, now 25, is a Saxon raised as a Dane, pagan serving a most Christian king. Uhtred worships the old Norse gods and looks forward to long days of battle and nights of song, drink, and women at Odin's Death Hall (Valhalla). In Uhtred's eyes, Alfred worships the `Christian nailed god', a god who fences men in with laws and rules so limiting that a man is not allowed to lust after his neighbor's wife!
Having flown through the preceding books in this series, I was delighted to find this latest work available before leaving for a trip. No spoilers, here, but this volume continues the tale of Uhtred, the half-Saxon, half-Danish warrior who reluctantly serves at the behest of Alfred, King of Wessex, known to us as "Alfred the Great."
Cornwell's command of a relatively little-known period of British history is excellent and more importantly, entirely plausible. His characterizations are rich in detail and well-drawn. Cornwell's development and exposition throughout the series of Alfred the Great is compelling, putting flesh on the bones of a monarch who is mostly the stuff of legends.
Cornwell has found his personal "medium," in the character of Uhtred who, while appropriately grim for a warrior, has a certain sardonic sense of humor and a penchant for pointed social commentary. Cornwell's idea of creating Uhtred as a "pagan" instead of a Christian is brilliant...
The Saxon Chronicles, panned from the outset as Cornwell trying to return to his British roots, has proven to be a juggernaut that cannot be stopped by bad and, in this case, off-base, press reviews.
Book 4, 'Sword Song: The Battle for London', continues the story of Lord Uhtred, Saxon born, Dane raised, sworn man of King Alfred the great. In this installment, Uhtred fights to take London back from the invading Northemen, the Vikings. Uhtred, who loves the Vikings far more than he cares for the Christian religion of the king he is continually sworn to serve, now must fight to take back London and to save Alfred, and his family, from defeat at the hands of the Norse invaders.
This book, beginning in the year 885, probably doesn't see the end of 886 before the final page is turned. Unlike the first 3 offerings in this series, this book covers a very short period of time, perhaps 6-8 months. It is a fast moving, blood-letting adventure as Uhtred overtakes Danish...
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