Sword of Kings
© 2019 Bernard Cornwell
“Tighten the sail!” I shouted. The trap was sprung, and now the snake would discover how the wolf and the eagle fought. p. 19
Uhtred of Bebbanburg has been fighting all of his life. A much-feared and much-respected lord of war, he has earned a rest at his family lands in Northumbria. But the king of the Anglo-Saxons lies on his deathbed, the threat of civil war looms, and someone is prowling Bebbanburg’s seas and killing her fisher-folk. Clearly, there’s no rest for the weary.
Sword of Kings is twelfth in the Saxon Chronicles, which have followed the fall of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to the Danes, and the resurgence of the English dream under the hands of King Alfred and his heirs — ever made possible by Uhtred. Instead of yet another battle on land, Cornwell treats readers to a variety of settings here, from naval action to covert action inside Lundene, the battleground between two possible heirs. We see Uhtred in fine form here; despite his age, he can still fight — though he’s far more vulnerable than he was in his thirties, and one point here he’s humbled as he has not been since Lords of the North, when he was sold into slavery. Perhaps that’s no accident, as slavery features throughout the novel, and it’s through his contempt for it that Uhtred recruits some unusual followers.
It took me months to get into War of the Wolf, but I finished this one within a couple of days of first picking it up. The Saxon stories have suffered a bit, I think, for there being so many of them — and even though they’re all “good”, they tend to blur into one another. Sword of Kings will be more memorable, I think!