I’m on a mission to catch up with one of my book reviews I have outstanding. I read Sword Song, the fourth instalment of the Saxon Stories in May this year. Whether you have/are reading the books or watched the TV show, there is something for all historical fiction fans.
I was introduced to The Last Kingdom, the first book of the series, by a Danish friend of mine. If you’d like to check out my reviews of the earlier books, you can find the reviews for The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman here and Lords of the North here. If you want to check those out before jumping into my review of Sword Song, now is the time to do it!
Sword Song – Bernard Cornwell
“Bernard Cornwell ranks as the current alpha male of testoterone-enriched historical fiction….This satisfying tale leaves you hungry for more of Uhtred’s adventures.” -USA Today
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 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 side of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles, Uhtred-Alfred’s sharpest sword-must now make the choice that will determine England’s future.
There is something about Uhtred’s character you cannot help but like. He’s tough, sure of himself; I’d even go so far to say arrogant. He is not without fault, and begrudging admitting it when he is. It’s all part of his charm. It’s funny, because I can’t stand people like that personally. I suppose there’s only room for one ego, so it has to be mine. I’m not even embarrassed to admit it either…
Caught between his Saxon heritage and his Danish upbringing and love of the warrior life, Uhtred’s loyalties are constantly tested. As a character, Uhtred makes the perfect narrator. Having ties to both sides, his conflicting feelings neither glorify nor demonise one side over the other. It serves well in building the conflict of the plot.
There may be peace between both camps for now, but it sits uneasily. As a Danish man, Uhtred is a firm believer in destiny. When word spreads of a prophecising dead man rising from the grave, Uhtred cannot resist the temptation to find out what his future has in store for him. With promises of Kingship and grandeur, Uhtred helps the Danes occupy Lundene, threatening the last standing kingdom of Wessex.
Aside from Uhtred there are plenty of other brilliant characters. From prodigiously devout to callous and reckless, England is as divided within its people as it is with the Danes. King Alfred is doing his best to pull everyone together, but he is one man – fighting a losing battle to unite the men hiding their own agendas before he even makes it onto the field.