THE BURNING LAND
BY BERNARD CORNWALL
With The Burning Land, New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell returns with the fifth volume of his brilliant Saxon Tales series. This installment continues where Sword Song left off, as King Alfred of Wessex—the only English king ever called “The Great” —again calls on his reluctant warlord Uhtred to defend England from Danish and Viking hordes intent on conquering the island. Cornwell “tells Alfred’s story with wit, intelligence, and absolute narrative authority,” (Washington Post Book World) and continues in the tradition of his bestseller Agincourt, “a must-read for fans of authentically detailed historical fiction.” (Booklist)
In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.
At the end of the ninth century, King Alfred of Wessex is in ill health; his heir, an untested youth. His enemy, the Danes, having failed to conquer Wessex, now see their chance for victory. Led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair, the Viking hordes attack. But Uhtred, Alfred's reluctant warlord, proves his worth, outwitting Harald and handing the Vikings one of their greatest defeats.
For Uhtred, the sweetness of victory is soon overshadowed by tragedy. Breaking with Alfred, he joins the Vikings, swearing never again to serve the Saxon king. Instead, he will reclaim his ancestral fortress on the Northumbrian coast. Allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—he aims to invade and conquer Wessex itself.
Yet fate has different plans. The Danes of East Anglia and the Vikings of Northumbria are plotting the conquest of all Britain. When Alfred's daughter pleads with Uhtred for help, he cannot refuse her request. In a desperate gamble, he takes command of a demoralized Mercian army, leading them in an unforgettable battle on a blood-soaked field beside the Thames.
In The Burning Land, Bernard Cornwell, "the reigning king of historical fiction" (USA Today), delivers a rousing saga of Anglo-Saxon England—an irresistible new chapter in his thrilling Saxon Tales, the epic story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bernard Cornwell was born in London in 1944—a "war baby," whose father was a Canadian airman and whose mother was in Britain's Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted by a family in Essex who belonged to a religious sect called the Peculiar People (and they were), but escaped to the University of London, and after a stint as a teacher, he joined BBC Television where he worked for the next 10 years.
He began as a researcher on the Nationwide program and ended as Head of Current Affairs Television for the BBC in Northern Ireland. It was while working in Belfast that he met Judy, a visiting American, and fell in love. Judy was unable to move to Britain for family reasons, so Bernard went to the United States, where he was refused a green card. He decided to earn a living by writing, a job that did not need a permit from the U.S. government—for some years he had been wanting to write the adventures of a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars—and so the Sharpe series was born. Bernard and Judy married in 1980, are still married, and still live in the United States—and he is still writing Sharpe.
Not a fan or reader of Saxon lore, this was a real challenge for me. HOWEVER, from what I can tell in listening to others and after reading my way through this excellently written book, I chose the right author to start with. I do think I was at a disadvantage having not read the four books that came before this but I gave it a valiant reading warrior's effort. Main deal is that King Alfred of Essex is enemies with the Vikings. In this book, his warrior Uhtred is Viking raised but a Saxon warrior and he seems torn between staying with King Alfred and his very Christian dominated court and going instead back to the Vikings where he really feels he belongs. Uhtred really wants to leave Alfred and go back to take over his ancestors home that was stolen from him in the beginning of this story. He wants to settle down and be done with this war. However, Uhtred can't because the land now where he lives is literally burning because the Vikings keep setting fire to places all over Wessex. While Uhtred is sworn to King Alfred he really doesn' t like him but he has a job to do. So he decides to defeat a group of invaders by bribing them and then defeats the others in the battles at a place called Fearnhamme. With this, you think things would be good but Alfred is still not comfortable with the fact that Uhtred was raised by Vikings and has what Alfred calls a pagan background even after the victory. Things start to turn and so Uhtred decides he must leave the king and return to his real love and land.
In order to get his land back, he has to get money and so takes several voyages trying to do so, meeting people along the way who will become important later on, and when he is still no closer to getting his land back, Alfred's daughter sends for him and gets him back which is something her father could never do. Soon, Uhtred is once again battling the Vikings. So from what I read not having the background, it looked to me like Uhtred is still torn between his desire to go home and his strange loyalty to the Saxon court. I found the book was so well written and easy to get involved with the characters that even though this is not a book in my comfort zone nor is it one I have much background for, I still enjoyed the story. It was, however, because of my personal failings, a tough one to get through. If you are a historical fiction fan, especially Saxon lore, than you will LOVE this book. I think it will be a huge hit when it comes out later this month. I will follow it with interest and wonder if indeed I have kept myself too limited in my literary choices!
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