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on 30 September 2011
`Wyrd bid ful araed'; as is the annual instalment from Bernard Cornwell. A year has passed, `The Fort' is but a memory and the steadily increasing anticipation surrounding Uhtred's latest adventure has finally been satiated. And what a read it was!

In the `Death of Kings', there are monumental political upheavals. Alfred finally succumbs to death, leaving a power vacuum which several rival claimants seek to fill. The ever uneasy truce between the Danes and Saxons is strained to bursting point; treachery, deceit and subterfuge abound. These combined themes created an atmosphere which was tense from the initial page. When I began the book, Cornwell very cleverly created a sense of suspense in which the political instability and fluidity resulted in a series of events in which Uhtred (and therefore by default, the reader) was immediately suspicious. This was a great writing technique and one which had me attempting to unravel the mysteries alongside Uhtred.

It is fair to say that the main story is monopolised by the demise of Alfred and the aftermath of his death. Yet there are several subthemes and forays throughout the book which are guaranteed to delight. In addition, Uhtred will come into contact with more members of the clergy than ever before - much to his dismay! There are several scenes where Uhtred (with his wicked sense of humour) clashed with the clergy, that had me in complete stitches. Indeed I think that Cornwell's most comical scenes in his entire works to date are to be found within the `Death of Kings'. Uhtred has mastered the art of infuriating the Saxon clergy and the prospective reader will enjoy the fruits of labour on numerous occasions.

At its heart, for all its politicking, espionage and statesmanship; the `Death of Kings' is still a `blood and guts' adventure story. There are several lengthy battle scenes and scrapes at various points and the fourth part of the book is dominated by the inevitable battle between the Saxons and the Danes and the various claimants. The central theme of war which has flowed steadily throughout this series is present as is to be expected in the `Death of Kings'. Ferocious fighting is complemented with Uhtred's canny leadership style and his ability to outfox his opponents. I particularly enjoyed Uhtred's excursion to Snotengaham in which he thoroughly made a nuisance of himself. So, if you require a healthy dose of action to complement the story, this book will not disappoint.

The `Death of Kings' is a transitory book which was necessary, but which could have been rushed. In some ways it is the end of an era. Alfred has gone and Wessex is in danger of being overrun by a Danish horde. Cornwell could have dashed the book off in an attempt to hasten his depiction of the events following Alfred's death. Yet he doesn't do this, he takes his time, creates an atmosphere in which uncertainty and instability abound and lets Alfred slide gently out of the story before focusing fully on his son, Edward. Full credit is due to Cornwell for allotting sufficient time to Alfred's death and the decisions made during that time. I think it gives greater authenticity to the series and allows us to focus fully on Edward without wondering about the final demise of his father.

The `Death of Kings' is a great book and Cornwell fans will not be disappointed, I'm sure. If you love this series then this latest book will be an absolute joy. Uhtred is back, all of the old loveable characters are back and Cornwell demonstrates once again why he is one of our favourite writers. I only wish that I hadn't so long to wait for his next book! Roll on 2012.
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on 9 October 2011
...So goes the old saying. I was eagerly anticipating the latest installment of Uhtred's adventures in the late Saxon era, and that made the wait seem to stretch on for ages. To satisfy my desire for the Victor Books for Grown-Up Boys which Cornwell turns out, I returned to his much older Arthurian Trilogy which have been on my shelf for years. I read all three several times, and then got the Audiobook for the car.

Magnificent preparation, or so I thought. What I should have done was re-read Burning Land, to remind myself how the Saxon sagas are much shorter. But then, maybe that would have made the disappointment of Death of Kings even more acute. Yes, even an avid Cornwell Arthurian/Saxon fan such as I (I've never really got on with Sharpe) may come away disappointed. Not angry, not let down, not sad, but most certainly not satisfied.

Death of Kings is not bad by any measure. Yes, it's formulaic, but then Cornwell's stories tend to repeat the same plots (as indeed do most in the genre, so it's not really a criticism), and yes it's fairly predictable for the most part. But there's one key ingredient missing; emotion.

Cornwell's usual strength - especially with the earlier books in the Uhtred series, and absolutely with the Arthurian trilogy - that of imparting great character and emotion to the main protagonists; bringing them to life, gently detailing relatively inconsequential traits, and drawing you into the character's world, their motivations, and really getting you rooting for them. It's almost entirely absent this book. Undoubtedly some of this detail can be saved, as we're now on book five, but having jumped out of the Arthurian books into this one it's very noticeable how little time is spent with the characters except to simply propel the plot forward.

Consequently, the proverbial kettle never really gets to the boil. I felt no real attachment to Uhtred, we found out little of the new characters introduced, or those formerly bit-part players thrust into the limelight, and the story just skittered along, almost as if Cornwell was willing it to finish early so he could get down the pub.

It does feel as if Uhtred has slightly outstayed his welcome in Cornwell's heart - and although we're left with yet another obvious lead to the eventual end at Bebbanburg, I rather fear that that may be dealt with in a similarly pedestrian fashion.

Nonetheless, I don't doubt it'll get rave reviews from the die hard fans, and indeed that I'll get lots of unhelpful votes for this less than complimentary review, but that's what a review is for.

Would I recommend it?

Well actually I would - not least because we've all invested some time and effort in the first four, so we owe it to ourselves to see this one through to the end. Also because it's still a good story, it's just not as well told as the previous installments.
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on 25 January 2012
Death of Kings finally see's Uhtred, as the respected and feared warrior he always was.

In the previous novels you see Uhtred constantly punished and limited by the ungrateful/untrusting Alfred and his priests, while in this book you finally see the chains cast off as Uhtred receive's the respect and reward he is due. This is evident in Alfred's talks with Uhtred, where you discover an underlying respect between both of them, which has replaced the resentment of their differing religions. In previous novels when Uhtred announced who he was, often he was overruled or dismissed, now some years after the previous novel Burning Land, Uhtred has become respected, feared and everyone now listens when he speaks, this is summed up when he declares; "I am Lord Uhtred of Babbenburg," and you read of the fear etched in the recipient's face.

Interestingly in the first book; The Last Kingdom, we see Uhtred as a young boy but by Death of Kings (the 6th book) he has grown to his mid-40s, an astonishing age for those times, which is emanated when in battle a champion of the enemy calls him an `old man' and we discover he now has wisps of grey hair. We then begin to understand, with great sadness, that the once feisty, rebellious and under rated Uhtred that we've been through from his adolescence, is now growing old and his tale will soon end.

The reader can be wholly satisfied with Uhtred finally having the chains cast off and the tools to fight unhindered by Alfred or his priests, the book offers some twists and turns, with plenty of action and you won't be able to put the book down. However because of Uhtred's rise to prominence between the beginning of Burning Land and the end Death of Kings, I felt that the enemy in this book; Sigurd and Cnut, were not as strong as previous Danish leaders. It would have been good to get under their skins to give the reader an insight to their power and the threat they pose to Wessex, so we fully realise the danger Uhtred is in. And lastly I did miss Uhtred's involvement with Danish life, particularly with his interaction with his adopted brother Ragnar Ragnarson however I feel Bernard Cornwell was saving his Danish brother for perhaps the next book.

This is a great book that continues the great story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg and is a must read. I will be sad when this series ends, which I can see in the next 1-2 books.

Highly recommended.
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on 13 January 2012
Unlike some reviewers, I found the latest of Bernard Cornwall's books the best so far. Perhaps that is because I am an agnostic non-believer with a great interest in religion. The relgious schism between Uhtred and Alfred fascinates me and in this book it reaches a sort of climax. Uhtred is constantly ruminating on the shortcomings of Christianity compared with his Norse religion that maintains that the world will eventually degenerate into chaos and the death of the gods but meanwhile life should be "fun". His main quarrel with Christianity is that it seems to be against "fun". This is not so far from today's religious debates except that today the "godless" scientists led by Ricard Dawkins and the modern Christins rail against each other on similar issues. I am fascinated by what Utred makes of Christianity and the occasional concessions he makes with sneaking admiration for individual priests for their sense of justice - perhaps? Most of all, his interactions with the religious king, Alfred The Great. He says he sometimes hates him and other times admires him but you get the impression that his loyalty and admiration goes further than he admits. In this book Uhtred only meets Alfred once but what a meeting. This is a death bed meeting with eight pages of golden dialogue in which there is a reconciliation of sorts between the two men. If the rest of the book had been mediocre, it would have been worth it just for these eight pages but Cornwall is, of course, not capable of "mediocre".

John Nichols
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DEATH OF KINGS - Bernard Cornwell 25/04/13

I have long been a fan of Mr Cornwell's work since and have faithfully collected each of his new books as published after receiving Sharpe's Gold as a gift in 1981. I really enjoyed this book even though there does bring the series of Saxon novels closer to a close.

A précis of the tale has been the subject of many other reviews and so I will not repeat it here, except to say that as usual Cornwell's novel is full of action and as usual the authors research gives the story a believable grounding in historical fact. I think that the King Alfred books are possibly my personal favourites from Cornwell's historical novel stable.

Another top rate novel from Bernard Cornwell, packed with action, believable characters and historic personalities and a good story line woven around historical events.

I already owned the hardback but purchased Kindle edition of this book to read on the move. The Kindle version is excellent, I could find no real faults 5/5.
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on 27 January 2016
I read book 1 - 8 of the Last Kingdom series back to back as if they were one omnibus through a wet and miserable January. I had seen the BBC 2 series which covered book 1 and book 2 and found The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman such good reads I was glad that I had not read them before seeing the series. I was impressed by the explanations of the internal struggle Uhtred has to establish his identity,, and the uniqueness into which he forges his experiences , philosophy and education into the warrior and man he grows into. I was also impressed by the historical integrity Conwell brought to the background of Uhtred's adventures. Definite page turners all the way through. Loved every minute spent reading 1-8.
Although one should not bring 21st century thinking, morals and mores to 10th century life, one could not help thinking that 'everything changes and nothing changes.' Cornwell does encourage the reader to stop and think beyond the swashbuckling thoughout.
I am not sure whether Uhtred's forewords are a good or bad thing - whether they telegraph the ultimate outcome of the scrapes and adventures or whether they enhance the enjoyment of the finer points of the tale...
I was disappointed at the Kindle price of book 9- Warriors of the Storm, which at the present time is more than the hardback edition. Although I am hooked enough to want to read it very badly, principle prevents me following on at this time.
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on 7 May 2016
One more star for those who wouldn't expect more. Bernard Cornwell tells a great yarn. He does it concisely. His sentences are short and to the point. His characterisations are more implied than described. He focuses on the battles. His protagonist is fairly one dimensional. This is not a character known for insight or mindfulness. Cornwell is the Ernest Hemingway of historical fiction. As always the story moves and carries us along with it. This is simple fiction focusing on short periods. It is effective for those readers who just want to get on with it.
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on 23 June 2012
Having commenced reading this series of books I find that I want to know what happens to Uhtred, even if he is frankly rather irritating. If you have read the previous 5 books then this is really just more of the same. I am getting a bit bored with this character now, even if he has mellowed a little with age, and all the battles are getting a bit tedious. However, you cannot fault Bernard Cornwell's research and I am a great deal more interested in Anglo Saxon history now than I was before I started to read this series of books. The writing really brings the era to life and I can easily picture the scenes that Bernard Conrwell paints. As the title indicates, this story deals with the aftermath of the death of King Alfred the Great and does have one or two twists and turns that I didn't see coming. Bishop Asser still turns up to rain on Uhtred's parade as usual, but once again, his friends in high places save him and of course, Uhtred then gets to save them. Again. Uhtred and Asser may be a tad one-dimensional but the cast of supporting characters are well drawn and I particularly like the portrayal of the Lady Aethelflaed, who, like most of the female characters, is surprisingly feisty. She continues to disobey both her husband Aethelred and the new king, her brother Edward, and plays her part in saving the day.
I thought this was the last book in the series, but in the epilogue it does say that England is still not safe and that Uhtred will have to fight again.
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VINE VOICEon 25 August 2013
This is the sixth novel in the Warrior Chronicles series featuring Uhtred of Bebbanburg. This is the novel where Alfred the Great dies and his son Edward (called the Elder) succeeds, but is rivalled by his cousin Ethelwold, son of Alfred's elder brother, King Ethelred. This gives an interesting historical dimension to the proceedings, but otherwise it is the usual killing and mayhem throughout. With every passing book in this series, I wonder why I carry on reading, as they feel very samey - yet at least one further novel is about to appear, and I am sure I will read it in due course.
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on 31 January 2016
Bernard who normally writes exceptionally good books has obviously come to the end of his imagination. This book is so repetitive, it could be cut by 60-70%, and the storyline is weak, and the main character seems to have moved from dynamic to nearly senile. Sorry but this is a book just churned out to make money. Will not buy another of Bernards.
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