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Cornwell writes fine storyline-driven historical fiction and this novel, fourth in the series of novels about a once Saxon dominated England, is no exception. What I perhaps most enjoyed in the series is Cornwell's debunking of certain 'Viking' mythologies.
This is a great romp battle fest of historical fiction. I think Bernard Cornwall may be a Robert E Howard fan. His hero of this series of books Uhtred of Bebbanburg - has to my mind a similar disposition to Conan although with some slightly more nuanced feelings around fear, compassion. That said, Uhtred is a hard man, enjoys "the battle joy" multiple women and is the Ninth Centuries version of Conan. Both being warriors from the North. I love the settings of these books. Ninth century Britain. Not yet England but divided between Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex and East Anglia. The Scotts to the North, The Irish over the Sea and the ever present Danes who have invaded and taken large swathes of Britain for themselves. Cornwall handles the factual history brilliantly, painting vivid characterisations of Alfred (the Great) of Wessex, his family and historical figures from Denmark such as Harold. I cant stop reading this series. It is the best thing I have read since the entire Robert E Howard collection.
Read this book in 2007, and this the the 4th episode of Uhtred in the "Last Kingdom" series.
This book is set in the year AD 885, and Eng(la)land is at peace with King Alfred of Wessex in the south and a Danish Kingdom in the north.
But that peace is broken when a supposed dead man has risen and his Vikings are occupying London.
It falls to Uthred, half Dane, half Saxon, to show his true loyalties, and thus he should be the one to expel these Vikings from that place and win London back for King Alfred.
What is to come is an action-packed tale about loyalty, bravery, rivalry and violence, and this great Sword Song will make Uhtred and England formidable to enemies wherever they come from, whether its from within and without.
Very much recommended, for this is another exciting addition to this great series, and that's why I like to call this wonderful episode: "A Brilliant Sword Song"!
I have said this for the previous three books,but it still stands true, Bernard's mix of historical events with fiction is marvellous. Although this book may have been more fiction than fact, it still held the integrity and believability that these events could have happened as portrayed. This is just further testament to how well written these books are, and how inviting Bernard's writing style is.
This book sees the kings daughter wed, beaten by her husband behind closed doors, and kidnapped, while our protagonist watches, fights to secure lundene as a wedding gift then have to go and rescue said daughter from the Danes, all while following Alfred's orders.
Book 5 awaits me, and I will dive into that very soon, and those after it.
A great story. I have read it’s three predecessors and they are all great. This author is a wonderful writer - a terrific imagination and splendid use of the English language, of which he has a solid grasp. His research is beyond excellent and his knowledge (and fictional inventions) of the history of a period so instrumental in the unifying of what is now England, is exceptional. His characters, fictional and historical, are very well drawn and thoroughly engaging, keeping the reader interested in their lives and actions . His prose fairly rips along at a terrific rate, even making the battle scenes gripping (which I do not normally care for). Thoroughly enjoyed and recommended!!
I read book 1 - 8 of the Last Kingdom series back to back as if they were one omnibus through a wet and miserable January. I had seen the BBC 2 series which covered book 1 and book 2 and found The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman such good reads I was glad that I had not read them before seeing the series. I was impressed by the explanations of the internal struggle Uhtred has to establish his identity,, and the uniqueness into which he forges his experiences , philosophy and education into the warrior and man he grows into. I was also impressed by the historical integrity Conwell brought to the background of Uhtred's adventures. Definite page turners all the way through. Loved every minute spent reading 1-8. Although one should not bring 21st century thinking, morals and mores to 10th century life, one could not help thinking that 'everything changes and nothing changes.' Cornwell does encourage the reader to stop and think beyond the swashbuckling thoughout. I am not sure whether Uhtred's forewords are a good or bad thing - whether they telegraph the ultimate outcome of the scrapes and adventures or whether they enhance the enjoyment of the finer points of the tale... I was disappointed at the Kindle price of book 9- Warriors of the Storm, which at the present time is more than the hardback edition. Although I am hooked enough to want to read it very badly, principle prevents me following on at this time.
In this, the fourth of the chronicles of Uhtred and the birth of the English nation under Alfred, the year is now 885 and the Danes appear to have been subdued. The treaty with Guthrum has the Danes settled in their own area of the Danelaw and the remainder of the Anglo Saxon kingdoms are apparently quiet; Alfred is now looking to consolidate his hold over the whole kingdom. This should be the high point for Alfred and all to look forward to from here; if he can keep his nephew Aethelwold from causing trouble, and hold off any more potential Dane incursions, hopefully he can bring Christianity to the whole country and start to rebuild under his own dynasty.
But for Uhtred things are not so straightforward, as the Norse under the Thurgilson brothers arrive in Lundene from Frankia. Alfred wants Uhtred's cousin Aethelred to be King of Mercia so tasks Uhtred with tidying up the problem in Lundene. While Uhtred is, as always, happy to fight and kill, he's not so happy to be involved in Alfred's schemes. All Uhtred really wants is to go home to Bebbanberg and reclaim his inheritance. But, he is a warrior and must do as a warrior does. I didn't count up the number of who died in this book, but I think it was a lot! Life sure was hard, short and brutal in those days.
Other reviewers of this book have complained that it lacks action, and that the story is stretched beyond its limits. I think that this story stands quite well in the series of five books about Uhtred, as in this one some years have passed since the last book, and relationships have settled. Uhtred finds himself content with his wife, Alfred's children are growing and demanding attention, the Danes are shifting their attention and their allegiances. I think that this book really acts as a stepping stone from the action that filled the first three books to the settlement of the many threads of the story hopefully in the fifth book. I guess we'll just have to see when I get to it. Still, recommended.
I am re-reading these novels as I have a poor memory, and having thoroughly enjoyed reading up to Sword Song in the past, I thought I'd skip through books 1-4 before embarking on book 5. I am flabbergasted at how much I have enjoyed my re-reading of this magnificent tale, a fiction based in a history, a saga of epic proportions. At this exact moment in time, I am supposed to be finishing my vat return ready for the accountant tomorrow, but she is just going to have to wait. I am about to buy book 5, and spend the whole night reading on. Put tomorrow on hold, this chick is throwing a sicky.
Bernard Cornwell's Alfred the Great series really form one long novel, though they are self-contained stories that are also readable separately. These are well-written tales of derring-do, with plenty of battles and adventure interspersed with political and sexual intrigue. Cornwell also takes an interesting stab at capturing the religious politics of the time, and the deadly contest between Christianity, supported by the Saxons, and Norse paganism as championed by the Danes. Indeed, it was a great narrative idea to have Uhtred, the hero, a Saxon but a pagan.
The series was recommended to me by an Anglo-Saxonist, who said it was historically plausible. This friend, in particular, says Cornwell portrays Alfred realistically, with all his ambiguities and his scheming piety. Moreover, the author signals any conscious historical departure - such as the date or location of a battle when it is uncertain - in an appendix. I thought that the plot flags a little in Sword Song, but the scene is well set for the following instalment, The Burning Land, and this is still eminently readable and fun.