The fifth installment of Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling Saxon Tales chronicling the epic saga of the making of England, “like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer, London)—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit BBC America television series.
At the end of the ninth century, King Alfred of Wessex is in ill health; his heir, an untested youth. His enemy, the Danes, having failed to conquer Wessex, now see their chance for victory. Led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair, the Viking hordes attack. But Uhtred, Alfred’s reluctant warlord, proves his worth, outwitting Harald and handing the Vikings one of their greatest defeats.
For Uhtred, the sweetness of victory is soon overshadowed by tragedy. Breaking with Alfred, he joins the Vikings, swearing never again to serve the Saxon king. Instead, he will reclaim his ancestral fortress on the Northumbrian coast. Allied with his old friend Ragnar-and his old foe Haesten-he aims to invade and conquer Wessex itself. But fate has different plans . . .
In The Burning Land, Bernard Cornwell, “the reigning king of historical fiction” (USA Today), delivers a rousing saga of Anglo-Saxon England-an irresistible new chapter in his thrilling Saxon Tales, the epic story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.
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The Burning Land: The Saxon Chronicles, Book 5 (Unabridged Audiobook)
The Burning Land is vintage Bernard Cornwell storytelling - well crafted and paced, thoughtful but as usual lacking the sense of humour typified by Patrick O'Brian's tales of the Royal Navy. My only pause (literally) comes from the narrator's voice. His delivery, though expressive, lacks timing judgement because of run-on sentences. There are too few of those pauses that a previous Cornwell narrator, Tom Sellwood, was so adept at. The current narrator's voice is also a bit too theatrically cultured for the main character, although most of the other characters' voices work well enough. Nonetheless, this audiobook version carries the tale at a good pace.
Cornwell has once again written an excellent story. But the story gets lost behind the narrator. He reads the story very fast and dry. Cornwell needs to be read with passion as it is written.
Wish I'd stayed away
Like the other reviewers, I enjoy the tale but think the narration is lacking. Whatever the reason for switching from Jamie Glover, who's narrated the previous audios of the Saxon Tales, I don't agree with the change. John Lee is a voice actor and narrator of high regard, but he's not right for this role. His voice sounds like I'm having the story read to me by an Oxford don, not a warrior. His reading lacks the emotion and passion that defines Uhtred of Bebbanburg, and the cynical humor that Jamie Glover used so well.
On a technical note, Lee flat-out mispronounces many Anglo-Saxon places and proper names (Example: He pronounces Steapa as "staypa," Fearnhamme as "fearnum" - both wrong), and his Danes all have atrocious accents like Nazis in a bad movie. His "R's" rrrrrroll on forever, so again, everyone comes off far too cultured and smooth for their character.