This was a highly enjoyable, and FAST read! An excellent page turner and plenty of fascinating real history woven into the story of Uhtred during the reign of King Alfred in late 9th Century Britain.
The story starts a few months after the end of "The Pale Horseman"(book 2), after the dust has settled from the battle of Ethandun. Although Uhtred was something of a battle-winning hero at the end of the last book, he wasn't given much of a reward from Alfred, so again he finds himself wanting to desert the king and makes his way north again, with the hope of winning back his rightful family home of Bebbanburg.
Of course things are never that simple, and the author has created a wonderful series of plots, and sub-plots with the introduction of several new characters...including a slave that becomes a king and that man's sister Gisela, who seems deeply linked to Uhtred. Again Uhtred is forced to take actions that lead him away from his real goal. There are betrayals, skirmishes and surprises all the way through the book, with ultimately Uhtred's fate still bringing him back to Alfred!
Uhtred's main companion at the start of the book is the ex-nun Hild, and she has a remarkable story in the background of the book, and as a reader you have to smile at how it turns out. There are some excellent returns of characters, from Ragnar and Father Beocca, to Kjartan and his son Sven.
If you liked the first two books in this series, you'll love this third one. This series gets better and better, giving the reader a real sense of the atmosphere and culture of the 9th Century and the factions of Danes and Saxons, and pagan versus Christian. I truly believe this series is Bernard Cornwell's best work so far!