Book review: Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell

Lords of the North (The Saxon Stories, #3)Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 3rd book in the Saxon series (I know–I am way behind), and this one is my favorite so far. (Which is not to say that I disliked the other ones.) But by book #3, Uhtred’s personality is well-established as one where he knows perfectly well what he should do but often ignores it in favor of what he wants to do. (Trust me, so far there is no moral lesson to be derived from Uhtred’s behavior.) He continues to be snarky and sarcastic and irreverent, and I love him.
This book also deals very little with Alfred. Alfred the Great is one of my favorite characters in history and so I’m not always thrilled with the treatment he gets in this series (suffice it to say that Uhtred is not a fan). That being said, I like the fact that the author is willing to go against the commonly held conceptions about Alfred even as I cling to my illusions.
As always, the book is quintessential Cornwell. It is gritty and violent and gory, with no attempt to prettify the historical context. You can almost hear the grunts and screams of the men in battle and feel their swords slice into flesh.
If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend you do so (but do it in order). I very much look forward to reading the next installment!

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Book review: The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories, #2)The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In “The Pale Horseman,” we follow the continuing adventures of Uhtred, a snarky Saxon-raised-as-a-Dane-who-is-now-a-reluctant-subject-of-King-Alfred. (Emphasis on the “snarky” part.) Alfred has been caught by surprise by the Danes and has fled to the swamps where he plots his comeback. Uhtred is caught between his desire to regain his lost land, his family loyalty to the Danes, and his oath of loyalty to Alfred.
I do love Bernard Cornwell’s description of battle scenes–they are gritty, gory, and vivid. I also delight in his depiction of Alfred, whom Uhtred clearly dislikes and distrusts. (My favorite description of Alfred in this book is when Uhtred says, “Once we returned to the swamp, Alfred did what he does best–write letters.”)
I agree with some of the reviewers that female characters are not the author’s strong point (a common failing in male authors). But since the book is written in first person by Uhtred, the weakness does not significantly affect the book or the story. Uhtred’s flaws make him all the more appealing as a character, and the events covered in the book are well-paced and well-written.
I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

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