#8 – The Lords of the North, by Bernard Cornwell

This third book in The Saxon Stories takes rather an unexpected turn. Uhtred (our hero, such as he is), completes a period of service with King Alfred, whom he doesn’t much like, and then returns to Northumbria in order to take the first step in regaining his lost lands, killing Kjarten, the man who killed his adopted father. Things don’t go according to plan for Uhtred, as he is more or less immediately captured and sold into slavery. He serves two years aboard a Danish trading vessel before he’s rescued and returned to Alfred’s service. Well, a bit more happens than that, but you get the idea.

In the real ninth century, being sold into slavery to the Danes probably would have killed Uhtred, hardy warrior though he was, and The Saxon Stories would have come to a rather swift and inglorious conclusion. But this is historical adventure fiction, so instead, though he is worked nearly to death and comes to the very edge of his sanity and is nearly broken as a man, Uhtred actually comes out of the experience with a new resolve, a new kind of strength, and a completely new level of savagery in the battlefield. Lots of steam to let off, one would imagine.

The Lords of the North is less fun than the first two books, but it forces Uhtred to mature considerably, advances the story by two years without having to go into descriptions of long gaps between significant events, and allows for old characters to reappear and new political machinations to be set in motion. I really have very little to say, except that I continue to find Cornwell’s books to be light and exciting. Cornwell’s books and I have come to an agreement: they will provide me with a few hours’ pleasure and escapism, and I, for my part, won’t look too closely at them. A good deal all around, I think.

Next is Bernard Cornwell’s Sword Song, the last of The Saxon Stories to date.


Writer. Editor. Critic.

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