Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg arrives at King Alfred of Wessex's court to proclaim his victory over the Danish Chieftain, Ubba Lothbrokson, only to find that Ealdorman Odda the Younger of Defnascir has taken the glory for himself and been named leader of Alfred's bodyguard. He comes across a settlement ruled by the British king Peredur, who hires Uhtred and his men to fight an invading Danish force led by Svein of the White Horse.
Uhtred and Svein however ally to kill Peredur and pillage his settlement, and Uhtred carries off Peredur's wife, the shadow queen Iseult. A monk named Asser, who was at Peredur's court, witnesses the betrayal and escapes to Dyfed in Wales. Uhtred and Svein then sail up the coast to Land's End, where they part ways.
Svein goes to Cynuit, where Ubba was killed previously, and Uhtred to the coast of Wales where he captures a ship laden with treasure. He returns to his estate and pious wife Mildrith, using his hoard of treasure to build a great hall and relieve his debt to the church. The Witan summons Uhtred to an audience with King Alfred in Cippanhamm , where he is accused of using the king's ship to raid the Britons with whom Wessex is at peace based on the testimony of Asser, who has made his way to Alfred's court, and wrongfully accused Uhtred of attacking the Cynuit abbey on the false testimony of the warrior Steapa Snotor, who is loyal to Uhtred's enemy Odda the Younger.
To settle the dispute, a fight to the death is ordered between Uhtred and Steapa. During the duel, Uhtred carries only his sword, Serpent-Breath, whereas Steapa is fully armoured. The duel is cut short when Guthrum's Danes attack and the crowd is scattered. The five of them wander for a few weeks until they reach the swamps of Athelney. As they enter the marsh, Guthrum himself attacks Uhtred.
Uhtred makes a fighting escape onto a boat that carries him, Leofric, and another passenger to an island within the swamp. The passenger insists that Uhtred should have left a Danish warrior alive, and turns out to be King Alfred himself. Uhtred becomes Alfred's bodyguard and for a few months they hide in the swamp, spreading the word that the King is still alive, hoping that enough men will find their way to join Alfred's army.
When Svein anchors his fleet at the mouth of the River Parret close to their hideout, Uthred launches a surprise attack against Svein, during which the fleet is burned and many of Svein's men drown when the flood comes in, after they have been lured out too far into the marshlands.
Later they assemble the army and fight at the Battle of Ethandun and Alfred takes back Wessex, with Uhtred being instrumental in the death of Svein of the White Horse.
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Uhtred has debts to the church and must return to his wife and young child. Rumours of his deeds have leaked to his king and his must face his distaste for a second time. Though what can Alfred truly expect? Uhtred is as much Danish as he is Saxon. He is a divided man. One who realises that only through Alfred can he regain his former Earldom. However, he is Danish at heart as they he was raised by them.
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But, Uhtred is now sworn to Wessex and its King. He rode a white horse, wore a white woollen cloak, and his mail and boar snouted helmet had been scrubbed with sand until they glowed silver in the watery sunlight.
Bernard Cornwell does another amazing job at evoking inner character conflict and divided loyalties. His characterisation of Uhtred is marvellous.
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We know where he will eventually end up but, somehow, the prospect of reading how he gets there is more exciting than the situation in the first place. The Saxon Stories 1.
The Last Kingdom- A fine five stars 2. The Pale Horsman- - A brilliant five stars 3. Lords of the North- A vengeful four stars 4.
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Sword Song- A familiar four stars 5. The Burning Land- A loyal five stars 6. Death of Kings A mighty five stars View 2 comments. I suppose that is part of growing up, and it is not always comfortable. Fast forward , I started watching Vikings and I liked it very much, that in turn made me come back to this series.
While the History's Viking has a different plot than this but the theme of Danes' invasion of England is where both match. I am very happy that "There comes a moment in life when we see ourselves as others see us. I am very happy that I came back and read this book because I loved it. This book started with Uhtred's return to England. High on his win over Danish leader Ubba Lothbrokson, Uhtred was expecting high praise and reward from Alfred, King of Wessex but nothing of that sort happened. Uhtred was furious and angry, and thus he decided to wait for the day when Danes would defeat England and he would gladly join them and take revenge for the insult that he got from Saxons.
But what Uhtred wanted never became reality instead he reached at a point where he had to pick a side and he ended up being a Saxon and winning the war for Alfred. This book was full of battles, and tells us how faithful Alfred was to Church. But it is Uhtred who made this book memorable for me.
Poor lad tried so hard to go back to Danes but every time situation brought him back to England. Also his transformation from an arrogant and proud young man to skilled warrior, and a leader was amazing. His relationship with Alfred grew gradually, where they both hated each other first but slowly became friends and started trusting it each other. It was a treat to read.
I am definitely ready to see what is next for Uhtred. View 1 comment. After the forces of Wessex prevailed at Cynuit, the Danes have pulled back. King Alfred thinks himself safe, but in truth the last kingdom of the Saxons is in grave peril Writing a sequel to an amazing novel can sometimes be amazingly hard. Bernard Cornwell fulfilled that task with style, and in the process created my personal favourite Uhtred novel and proved himself a master "For here starts war, carrion birds sing, and grey wolves howl.
Bernard Cornwell fulfilled that task with style, and in the process created my personal favourite Uhtred novel and proved himself a master of historical fiction. The Last Kingdom was an amazing book, but this is where this became one of my favourite series and Cornwell one of my favourite authors.
Uhtred must fight the hardest duel of his life against a truly formidable opponent, a strong Danish invasion catches the people of Wessex completely by surprise, and Alfred must hide in a swamp to avoid falling with his kingdom. All appears to be lost, including the fight to retake England from the Danes.
But the unlikely allies Uhtred and Alfred refuse to give up, and they will do whatever must be done to take their land back from the invaders. And I saw that Cippanhamm was burning. Smoke was darkening the winter sky and the horison was filled with men, mounted men, men with swords and axes and shields and spears and banners, and more horsemen were coming from the eastern gate to thunder across the bridge. View all 12 comments. This one took a lot longer to get going than book one but the second half and the ending were very good. The religious overtones to everything Alfred does makes me want to root for the Danes as does the corruption of many of the priests.
View all 3 comments. Aug 29, Dana Ilie rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-fiction , history.
Great book I promise to review as soon as possible. Oh Bernard, how do you do what you do? If I could write like this man, well, I'd be one very happy chick. And I do not want to write like this to make money, or make fans, or make myself famous, I just want to have this skill for myself, to know that I can do it, to know that I can create magic on paper, although, Bernard Cornwell, in this series at least, is more than merely skilled, he is an absolute master. Would it be presumptuous of me to say that I think that he is a writer's writer?
I just totally get it. To me there is no flaw in Cornwell's writing or storytelling in this series. His dialogue is pitch perfect, his story flow and description is natural and not in the slightest bit contrived. And as I said, I just totally get it.
Cornwell is a little heavy on the anti-Christian vibe and this may turn people off a bit, but I get that too, because they were heavy on God back then. Do you really think they would burn pagans and heretics alive etc etc.. Christianity dominated society and thought. Built civilisations and brought them down. People feared the Church and the Churchmen.
They did not gain this reputation throughout history by being patient and loving of all men and women.
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To me, early Christianity in England wasn't about love and tolerance and goodness and peace and forgiveness, it was about greed and power and survival. About jostling for King's favour and for wealth and fame. The description of Christianity in this book might be off putting for some, but I think it is an accurate portrayal of those times. But, please forgive me fellow reviewers, perhaps I am just a cynic. I am a woman, and I can see how these books may be too brutal and bloody for my fellow sex, or those of either sex who are oblivious to the subtle bluntness of Cornwell's storytelling and Cornwell's arrogant, uncomplicated male characters.
I imagine quite a lot does go over people's heads. I also imagine that when some women read about "guts spooling about his feet" they cringe and run away. But, while I am all feminine woman, I also have a very definite female side and very definite masculine side, and this character and Cornwell's style very much appeals to the latter, my masculine side.
My masculine side wants to don a helmet and mail and fight beside Uhtred in the shield wall, while my female side wants to editing out x-rated thoughts here Of course, being his female companion or his male companion could get me a sword to the head or a spear to the gut, but hey, wouldn't I get to go to Valhalla and party in the feast hall?