Book 3 of The Saxon Stories
Uhtred returns north to claim his rightful rule to Bebbanburg after discovering the identity of the usurper that led to the Danes claiming his land. In the south, Alfred is making advances toward the north with the arrival of Guthrum’s Great Army. Uhtred once again finds himself a hired mercenary training soldiers in a hope of claiming back his land. Much of the same really.
There is no real departure from the theme of the series and by now anybody who has read the first two will know what to expect from the third. Cornwell has been determined to portray Alfred as a scheming king more concerned with poetry and piety than with fighting. He is of course largely correct that Alfred was no military genius, and Cornwell is also careful to portray the negativity in context of seeing it through Uhtred’s eyes, a dispossessed Northumbrian, adopted Viking pagan.
Alfred is sidelined a little here as we return to the story being about Uhtred. In a way, this makes this a better novel overall than the second book where it was tending to get away from Uhtred and was more about the tentative nature of Alfred’s Wessex at that crucial time.
Again I have nothing really to add in terms of praise and criticism. Cornwell has his carefully crafted formula by now and it is working well. Nothing feels tedious yet