Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of 9th Century Northumbria, but orphaned at ten, adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred’s fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the last English kingdom when the Danes have overrun Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia.
That war, with its massacres, defeats and betrayals, is the background to Uhtred’s childhood, a childhood which leaves him uncertain of his loyalties, but a slaughter in a winter dawn propels him to the English side and he will become a man just as the Danes launch their fiercest attack yet on Alfred’s kingdom. Marriage ties him further to the West Saxon cause, but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of a Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea, and there, in the horror of a shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance
This new series from Bernard Cornwell focuses on 9th Century Britain and the onset of the Viking invasion and settlement in a move that would split the country into Wessex and the Danelaw, and how Alfred started to develop into the “great” king he became.
The story follows a young boy called Uhtred, as his family deal with the invasion, and without giving away too much of the plot the paths his life takes because of the invasion, crossing the paths of both Dane leaders and Saxon ones.
I have seen criticism that this book is the same formula as all Bernard Cornwell’s other books. I won’t deny that it DOES follow the same style of story development and characterization as previous books such as “Sharpe” and the Holy Grail trilogy. However the real beauty of these books is the weaving of a fictional story into actual chronicled history, and Mr.Cornwell is a master at this.
We meet such real historical characters as King Alfred, Guthrum and there’s a wonderful take on the death of King Edmund of East Anglia.
The way this book has been written you can truly see the Danes and the Saxons in your mind, hear them, touch their clothes and even smell them, such is the wonderful ambience that comes from reading the book.
If you’re looking for something original and unconventional then this book may not be for you….but generally speaking historical novels like these can’t be too original. If, however you are a fan of history and love delving into thinking about possibilities within history that are not black and white, then you’ll love this book.
I’m really looking forward to the second book in this series