Expectations before reading
“My father had once told me to make few oaths. ‘Oaths will bind you, boy,’ he had said, ‘and you’re a fool. You jump before you think. So think before you swear an oath.’
I had been a fool again… I had no business here. The fool’s errand was over. Except it was not…”
“ ‘If a man breaks his oath, he has no honour’
Uhtred of Bebbanburg is a man of his word. An oath bound him to King Alfred. An oath bound him to Æthelflæd. And now an oath will wrench him away from the ancestral home he fought so hard to regain. For Uhtred has sworn that on King Edward’s death, he will kill two men. And now Edward is dying.
A violent attack drives Uhtred south with a small band of warriors, and headlong into the battle for kingship. Plunged into a world of shifting alliances and uncertain loyalties, he will need all his strength and guile to overcome the fiercest warrior of them all.
As two opposing Kings gather their armies, fate drags Uhtred to London, and a struggle for control that must leave one King victorious, and one dead. But fate – as Uhtred has learned to his cost – is inexcorable. Wyrd bið ful aræd. And Uhtred’s destiny is to stand at the heart of the shield wall once again…”
What to expect when you have read many books of a series already and there comes a new one? Well.. a great new volume of course! In this case exciting battles and funny grumpy Uhtred. And – even though I already know who will follow Edward as a king I really expect this book to be thrilling and with twists and turns.
King Edward is dead and he divides his kingdom among his sons. But the sons want to rule all of England and so it comes to fighting. Uhtred doesn’t want to be part of this as his Northumbria isn’t part of that kingdom (yet). But he has sworn an oath and so he leaves his beloved home to join in. And in the south he meets one challenging situation after another. You actually also see Uhtred fail which seldom happens. But this keeps the suspense almost constantly high. It is great to see that the great Uhtred who has become a legend by now is not totally infallible.
The characters are great. The maincharacters especially. It is great to see how they can still surprise you even in book #12 of the series. You can still discover totally new sides on them. I may repeat myself but I especially love the Uhtred – Finan relationship. The way they take care of each other, the way they fear for each other, the way they treat each other. The way this deep friendship is depicted in this novel is just so very great.
“Finan looked at Benedetta who shrugged as if to suggest my mind was wandering. Perhaps it was. ‘He must sleep,’ she said. ‘No,’ Finan answered. ‘He must fight. He’s Uhtred of Bebbanburg. He doesn’t lie in a bed feeling sorry for himself. Uhtred of Bebbanburg puts on his mail, straps on a sword, and takes death to his enemies.'”Bernard Cornwell – Sword of Kings, p. 247
The book depicts the time back then so brilliantly. Yes, it is cruel at times. But also very realistic. And the way the author describes the cities and the country and just the scenery.. you can almost actually see it.
The writing is great. Never boring and Cornwell really knows how to build up suspense.
Opinion after reading
Another great Bernard Cornwell book about the making of England. Not the very best of the series but still quite good. This time Uhtred and his men has to overcome quite many obstacles and he actually sometimes fails in the attempt to do so which keeps the suspense in this book constantly high.
Uhtred is getting old. You can see it in multiple scenes. When it comes to fighting especially. His skills are still great but he points out that they used to be better. And he worries more than he used to. I like this development as it is quite realistic. And looking back to the very first novel I like it even more. The story of the young warrior Uhtred in search of a way to reconquer his home who eventually became a legend among other warriors.
While other books of the series contain many historical events, this does not contain as many but is mostly fiction. Still it shows another important step in the making of England. And the next book is already promised. I can’t wait for the next one to be out!