Tag Archives: saxon

sword of kings

Sword of Kings (The Last Kingdom #12) by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

An oath of loyalty.
Two warring kings.
A destiny he didn’t choose…

England is in turmoil as Vikings and Saxons battle for territory. Rumours build about the fatal sickness of the King, and the country awaits an heir.

A violent clash at sea forces the warrior lord Uhtred to lead his men from his Northumbrian fortress to London and plunge into the eye of the storm. For two kings claim the empty throne, and a new kingdom cannot be born without bloodshed.

Uhtred’s sword will leave one king dead and the other victorious. But sometimes it is hard to know the will of the gods…

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

One of the best books in the series and a real return to what I love about Uhtred’s character and the series in general. Although there is one more, final book to come it has a real feeling of a finale and it’s obvious that Uhtred’s story is drawing to an end.

What I liked most about this book is that it is much more contained than previous books. Although Uhtred still gets around geographically the storyline is kept mainly to a small number of locations and the main focus is on Uhtred and his group of warriors.

Overall the story is quite dark. There’s a real sense that Uhtred is coming to the end of his story but also that pagan Britain is also coming to an end as Alfred’s Englaland begins to approach reality. The close relationship between Finan and Uhtred is a poignant theme through the whole story as Finan’s concern for his old friend becomes more real.

As much as I’m looking forward to seeing how Uhtred’s story finishes I would be quite happy if the series ended here. As I said above it leaves the reader with a sense of finale.

war of the wolf

War of The Wolf (Last Kingdom #11) by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

While Uhtred might have regained his family’s fortress, it seems that a peaceful life is not to be – as he is under threat from both an old enemy and a new foe. The old enemy comes from Wessex where a dynastic struggle will determine who will be the next king.  And the new foe is Sköll, a Norseman, whose ambition is to be King of Northumbria and who leads a frightening army of wolf-warriors, men who fight half-crazed in the belief that they are indeed wolves. Uhtred, believing he is cursed, must fend off one enemy while he tries to destroy the other. In this new chapter of the Saxon Tales series—a rousing adventure of courage, treachery, duty, devotion, majesty, love and battle, as seen through the eyes of a warrior straddling two worlds—Uhtred returns to fight once again for the destiny of England.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I dithered about this rating. I did really enjoy it and it’s definitely better than 3 stars but not quite good enough to get 4. It could be that the series had now been going so long that it’s hard to do anything different with Uhtred and his story.

There is a lot of good in this book. The writing, as ever, is excellent and the historical connections really interesting to the point that I’d often divert to Google to learn more about the background and surrounding stories. I particularly liked the political machinations of this book. There’s a lot of twisting and turning as the main characters try to use and manipulate each other for their own good and to see both the successes and failures of these plans.

I also really like how the author is allowing the characters to get older. Although this means he is limiting the length of the story it does create a new perspective as the series develops. I particularly liked how he described the changes in battle for Uhtred, how he struggled to accept his limits and how those around him helped and supported but also restricted him when he was getting carried away.

I am disappointed with two aspects of the story. I thought there was much more scope for Sigtrygger and Stiora’s story and the feeling throughout this book is that they are now relegated to very minor characters. At the end of the book I got the feeling that their stories are both pretty much over.

I am also disappointed with the Bebbanburg element. So much has been invested in securing Uhtred’s family home to have it pretty much disregarded in this chapter. Maybe the author has other plans, possibly involving Sigtrygger, but I haven’t read any future synopsis yet so I’m not sure.

Finally I found the culmination of the battle with Sköll very clumsy. It was a real Hollywood ending and just felt very unrealistic. It was as if the author had painted himself into a corner and created such an insurmountable task that he needed this unbelievable stroke of luck to save our hero. It just didn’t sit right with me, especially as Uhtred is a wiley enough warrior by now to have avoided it all.

I am very much looking forward to the next installment. Hopefully back to Bebbanburg but I feel that time is now running short for Uhtred as he gets older and Saxon Englaland grows in power and turns its eyes towards Northumbria which has now become “The Last Kingdom“.

the flame bearer

The Flame Bearer (The Last Kingdom #10) by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

Britain is at an uneasy peace. After their bloody defeat of Danish-held East Anglia, the West Saxons stand victorious while the Mercians have taken back their land on the border of Northumbria, the last kingdom of Britain still ruled by the pagan northmen. A precarious truce exists between Æthelflæd’s Mercia and Northumbria, now ruled by Uhtred of Bebbanburg’s son-in-law, Sigtryggr.

Under the cover of this fragile calm, Uhtred must begin his campaign that will end with the assault on Bebbanburg, the great fortress that is rightly his and was stolen from him in childhood. But his plans are shattered when the Scots surge down and lay claim to the north of England, as the West Saxons, under Uhtred’s old enemy, Æthelhelm, invade Northumbria from the south. If Uhtred is to succeed in recapturing Bebbanburg he must both defeat Æthelhelm’s forces and drive the Scots away before he can attack the formidable fortress by the sea. He has a small army and many enemies, but Uhtred is not the supreme warlord of Britain for nothing…

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Finally after so many books and so many years Uhtred gets the chance to break free from the Saxons and make his claim for Bebbanburg in blood and violence.

Unlike so many of the other books in this series this one focuses solely on Uhtred and his ambitions. There is of course, some dealings with his Norse and Saxon allies as well as his Scots enemies but it’s all in the context of the assault on Bebbanburg.

(spoilers follow)

I was really pleased that the Bebbanburg storyline was brought to a conclusion. I was beginning to wonder how long it could be kept going before it became ridiculous and I’m really looking forward to seeing how Uhtred’s story continues now as he ages and finally as Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg.

the empty throne

Saxton Chronicles #8 by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

“My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred . . .”

Britain, early tenth century AD: a time of change. There are new raids by the Vikings from Ireland, and turmoil among the Saxons over the leadership of Mercia. A younger generation is taking over.

Æthelred, the ruler of Mercia, is dying, leaving no legitimate heir. The West Saxons want their king, but Uhtred has long supported Athelflaed, sister to King Edward of Wessex and widow of Aethelred. Widely loved and respected, Athelflaed has all the makings of a leader—but could Saxon warriors ever accept a woman as their ruler? The stage is set for rivals to fight for the empty throne.

Uhtred is still suffering from the wounds he received in battle. To recover his strength he needs to find the sword that caused the injury, but lost amid the battle’s blood and mud, how could it be traced and who among the Vikings or Saxons might be holding it?

In the end it is one champion, one hero, who will destroy the new Viking threat to Mercia and ultimately decide the fate of England.

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

This was so much better than the preceeding “A Pagan Lord“. The characters were interesting, the story was snappy and full of detail and the story was well developed. Unlike Pagan Lord the story was kept within a short timeline and despite taking Uhtred to Wales it didn’t aimlessly wander across half of Britain.

Like most of the other books there was plenty of political shenanigans but this time Uhtred was back in the thick of it, manipulating the Saxon Lords and getting his way despite their best efforts.

As usual there are plenty of battles but the details are kept tight with just enough to picture the scene without getting bogged down in unnecessary complexity.

I particularly liked the introduction of the next generation. Uthred’s children, Uhtred and Stiorra, are great characters as is his adopted son Aethelstan. The relationships between them all is excellently described. Using Uhtred jnr to introduce the story was really enjoyable and the scene is set as Uhtred snr is gearing up to train the first King of Englaland.

the pagan lord

Saxon Stories #7 by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.

Loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.

My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

I enjoy Uthred and I enjoy the style of the author’s writing but this book didn’t seem to add anything to the story. It was focused solely around Uthred and his band and didn’t build anything on his relationship with Edward or any other significant character. It felt very much like a filler, killing off some other characters and moving forward some of the historical background. A good read but not great. Hopefully #8 will make use of this and take the story on a new direction.