“So long as there is a kingdom on this windswept island, there will be war.”
Uhtred Uhtredsson started the series as the heir to Bebbanburg following the death of his older brother, until his father was killed by invading Danes and he was taken and raised by his father’s killer. Taking advantage of his absence, his uncle has installed himself as Bebbanburg’s lord. Since then, we’ve followed Uhtred as he sought to avenge the death of his foster father, a man he came to love much more than bio-daddy, and to reclaim Bebbanburg as his own. Things haven’t gone entirely to plan for Uhtred along the way, and his mission to recapture Bebbanburg has had to take a back seat thanks to his swearing an oath to King Alfred (not yet come to be known as The Great) to defend Wessex from the Danish threat.
We catch up with Uhtred in Sword Song a few years since his last adventure and find him happily married to Gisela, the headstrong sister of King Guthred of Northumbria, and a father of two. But domestic bliss can’t last as the Danes are threatening the tenuous peace once more and have taken Lundene (London), and Alfred wants it back. However, the Danes have also made Uhtred a very attractive offer – to become King of Mercia – and so he must choose between his oath to Alfred and his own dreams of greatness. All while kicking the living daylights out of anyone who crosses his path.
Once again, Cornwell has delivered an engrossing book filled with fantastic characters for us to love or loathe, brutal and brilliant battle scenes, and an eye for historical detail. Uhtred himself is as fantastic to read about as always – a triple-hard bastard with the blood of a Saxon but the spirit of a Viking, whose skill with a sword is accompanied by a devious mind, a knack for disobeying and annoying anyone in authority, an overflowing font of sarcasm, and a surprisingly gentle streak when it comes to those who’ve earnt his affection.
I’m immensely pleased to know that there are still so many books to come (there are 9 published so far), and I’ll definitely be trying more of Cornwell’s work as soon as I’ve run out of these. And in the meantime, also watching the hell out of the adaptation, which stars an astonishingly pretty Uhtred: