The fourth installment of Bernard Cornwell’s New York Times bestselling series 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 television series.
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. Warrior by instinct and Viking by nature, Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has land, a wife and children—and a duty to King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames. But a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have invaded the decayed Roman city of London with dreams of conquering Wessex... with Uhtred’s help. Suddenly forced to weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning tide of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles, Uhtred—Alfred’s sharpest sword—must now make the choice that will determine England’s future.
Cornwell's fourth entry in the popular Saxon Tales (following Lords of the North) is a rousing romp through the celebrated ninth-century reign of Alfred the Great. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a 28-year-old pagan Saxon "lord of war," has pledged to serve Alfred by commanding the defensive frontier forts ("burhs"). Trouble arises when the Norse Viking brothers Sigefrid and Erik Thurgilson capture and occupy London, threatening Alfred's border and his control of the Thames River port. The Christian Alfred directs Uhtred to raise a Wessex army, expel the pagan Thurgilsons and resecure London. Commanding Uhtred is his vain, abusive cousin Ethelred, who is married to Alfred's eldest daughter, Ethelflaed. Plying his swords Serpent-Breath and Wasp-Sting, Uhtred is a stirring, larger-than-life action hero conflicted by ambition, fidelity and thirst for violence. All the major characters are well drawn, and the London battle scenes unfold quickly and vividly. A deft mix of historical details and customs authenticates the saga. And Cornwell drops in a slick twist precipitating the climatic battle to wrest control of London for the Saxons, paving the way for the story to continue.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Excellent beyond measure!
This book, the fourth in what is called the Saxon Chronicles, is another superb work presented to us by a masterful author. The true hero of the book, a Saxon warrior who had been raised from youth by the Danes, reluctantly fights for Alfred (the Great) and the Kingdom of Essex, that will later evolve into what we now know as England. The author's mastery of the tale in a historical setting yields a book that you simply cannot put down. Valor and cowardice, treachery and loyalty, honor and ignominy, plus ambition, vision, love, and hatred--and even more than that, all of which which makes for a volatile and fast-moving mix in a troubled time of brutal conflict. Cornwell is a compelling weaver of tales with twists and turns nested within the twists and turns--but his skill with the pen (or word processor!) make it all so very plausible. Guys--and it is very much a guy book--will not be able to put it down.
This is an engrossing story. Like the other novels in the Saxon Tales, I was transported back to the 9th century. Plenty of action and unexpected twists to the plot. A great "guy" book.