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4.7 out of 5 stars1,086
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 October 2013
This is instalment seven of the Warrior Chronicles set in the time of King Alfred and his successors, with Uthred, the pagan warlord brought up by the Danes, still fighting on the side of the Saxons, although getting a bit long on the tooth. Unsurprisingly, a number of reviewers who (just like myself) have read through the whole series over the years may have a sense a "déjà vu", to the extent that some mayt be getting a bit tired with having similar scenes played over and over again. These include the hero getting himself into trouble by murdering and terrorising overbearing churchmen, throwing his weight around, rushing around the country waving his sword and saving the Saxons almost on his own. If the book was limited to this, then indeed I would share their feelings. But there is, at least for me, far more to it than that...

As mentioned in the title of this review, the book is a thundering good yarn, regardless of whether you have read the previous ones in the series. It was, at least for me, hugely entertaining. It is one of these books that you can't drop until you have reached the last page and I admit to spending most of Saturday reading it from cover to cover non-stop. Hence you get comments from some other reviewers about the book being shorter than others, perhaps, and shorter than they would have wished, quite certainly. This, in itself, makes the book well worth reading. It is a first class swashbuckler adventure story, fast-paced and with lots of "blood and thunder". In this respect, Bernard Cornwell is true to form.

Then there is the historical context, and the painting of what was shortly to become "England". Here also, the author has been true to form, meaning excellent. One of the strongpoints of this book is to show that while King Alfred is commonly credited for having "saved" England from the Danes, more accurately, he saved Wessex, and there was still a chance that the largest part of the island would one day be called "Daneland", rather than England.

Among other features, the author shows to what extent the Scandinavians (they were not all Danes, even if these were probably a majority) had taken control of Northumbria, East Anglia and the northern part of Mercia, where they had settled in whet seems to be large numbers. The book contains several glimpses of these Danish settlers and the author contends through his characters (and directly in his historical note) that the survival of "Anglo-Saxon England" was not at all a given after the death of King Alfred.

Having mentioned this, the author does seem to have taken a few liberties with the history records. For instance, Chester (Ceaster), the old Roman legionary fortress of Deva, seems to have been reconquered by the Saxons a few years before the battle of Tettenhall, and, as Cornwell mentions, the Danish warlords that he includes in his story are mostly fictional. This, however, does not detract from the story in any way and, because of the paucity of the sources, the novelist has quite a lot of room to weave his story in between the few known facts that they mention.

The characterisation is perhaps where some readers may have this sense of "déjà vu" that I was mentioning earlier. Uthred, in particular, seems to be his usual swashbuckling but cunning self, and most of the other characters also seem to be true to form. None of this should come as a surprise, to the extent that the characters are still the same as ever, even if a little bit older, and not necessarily any wiser or milder than in previous episodes. Even there, however, there are a couple of interesting and somewhat original features.

One is the indulgent and somewhat amused attitude that Uthred's companions start to have when he is at his most threatening and blustering, although they are careful not to show their amusement until the warlord's gambles have either paid off or failed. This points to a key feature of the society at the time or at least of the war-like nobility in the British Isles, and in Northern Europe more generally. A warrior's reputation was everything, however terrified he might actually be, for instance when in the shield wall. Indeed, Bernard Cornwell yet again shows rather vividly how horrible and traumatising such an experience might have been.

Another feature, related to the first, is the rather dare-do, mischievous and sympathetic character of the very young Athelstan (the future king) who was indeed brought up at the court of Mercia alongside his aunt (the sister of Edward the Elder, and daughter of King Alfred). He could accordingly very well be part of this book. He shares at least some of Uthredd's adventures alongside "the Lady of Mercia."

I could go on, and on, but there is no need. Given all this, I simply cannot find any reason for rating the book less than five stars. For me at least, it was a superb read. I just hope it will work at least as well for you...
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I love spending time on the ancient roads with Bernard Cornwell's characters and one of the more recent, Uhtred of Bebbanburg has been one that I've loved to hang around, especially during the chaotic time surround Alfred the Great. What his stories do is bring a chaotic time to the reader and allow them to immerse themselves in the bloody fields of war whilst also giving them a cracking story throughout.

Whilst this book has felt an age off coming, one of the things that has kept striking me throughout the whole series is when are we going to get to the characters own personal goals rather than his manipulation by those surrounding them. Its taken a long time to come round and to be honest I'm not sure how many more books the character has in him.

All round I have thoroughly enjoyed the story but the key thing with any of these books is that we know that the key character is never in any real danger (as he tells his tale from the future as an old man.) That detracts from the danger for me, and as such I do feel a little cheated as you known that no matter what the odds are he'll walk away alive. That really does irk me. That said, it is a cracking addition to the series and one that many readers will not wait to get their hands on, especially as the dark nights close in, with the home fires banked. What more could you wish for?
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on 22 December 2015
In long running historical sagas some books can feel like filler and there was none more so that Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Death of Kings’, a book that felt so padded that it could have been used to insulate the walls of old Victorian terrace housing. Not much really happened in ‘Death’ because Cornwell was trapped with the frustrating reality that during the period Britain was in an uneasy peace. Thankfully, by ‘The Pagan Lord’, Uhtred has finally given up waiting for the Kings of Wessex to start a war and he sets off to finally try and get back his castle in Northumbria. For this reason ‘Pagan’ is a novel that feels like it has far more purpose and direction than the last outing.

It is also helped that it is set during a time that the peace is beginning to falter; the Dane’s are looking to become more ambitious and some of the older lords are starting to feel their age, whilst others are sensing their weakness. Uhtred is starting to feel old himself and for the period his middle age years would have made him old indeed, but as a reader you are willing to overlook his ability to keep fighting because his antagonistic style is so fun to read. Cornwell does acknowledge his advancing years and brings it into the story as a way of pushing him towards his goals and also by making him deal with his sons.

Like with so many Cornwell novels the battle sequences are excellent and the clash between religions gives the book spice. It is the fact that something actually happens this time that makes this perhaps the best in the series yet, but to get to book 7 you do need to read through a few slightly turgid Uhtred outings.
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on 4 October 2013
I must admit that Bernard's craft is exceptional and the 'making of England series' is up there with the best of his work in my opinion. Uhtred is a fabulous creation and here were are at number 7 in the series. It's a great addition, but I thought along with Sword Song it was weak. Let me explain.
The story starts well and then we go on another quest or sorts which leaves everyone, including Uhtred disappointed. Bebbanburg is mentioned several times over, Haesten, so was Alfred being dead and the Roman's and their straight roads, milestones, shield walls and the evil Christian church. It becomes a bit samey in the middle, then after the siege of Chester it does pick up again, but by then you've turned the last page. I read the same sort of sentances and worried that Bernard had become lost, confused - why the repetition?
I love reading about Uhtred when he's threatening (anyone) and Bernard does it ever so well. There are some fantastic pieces of dialogue here, funny moments and the gut-wrenching battle scenes which Bernard writes is still as fresh as ever.
With 7 or so years before Aethelflaed dies and 14 years until Edward the Elder passes, Uhtred will be in his 70's by the time he sees the country become England. I hope it's a good ending. I shall be there until the end.

David Cook, author of Liberty or Death (The Soldier Chronicles Book 1) and Heart of Oak (The Soldier Chronicles Book 2)
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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 beyon 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 October 2013
Masterfully written, of course, but not as good as the previous novels in this saga. Uhtred has turned into a bit of a d**k to be honest... I loved his character in the earlier books as he was developing and growing his empire with his hopes and dreams expanding with his experiences on the battlefield and in his personal life but now it just feels rushed. And I could tell what was going to happen after the first chapter, something I've never been able to do in the past with Cornwell, which slightly disappointed me.

With that having been said, the battle scenes were fantastically written as always and it's worth a read if you've read the series thus-far but please DO NOT READ THIS ONE FIRST, read The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom (The Warrior Chronicles, Book 1)).

Regardless, I'm still a huge Cornwell fan and would recommend him to anyone and I hope this review does not put people off reading his work, as everyone should experience his enchantingly brilliant storytelling at some point.
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on 14 October 2013
The " blurb" on the cover compares the book with George R R Martin's "Game of Thrones" series but Cornwell's work is much, much better. His writing is tight, compact and accessible and he does not waste time on unoriginal childish literary tricks. Each volume of the series is a complete story leading on to the next and leaves you wanting more - for which you do not have to wait years!
Uhtred is a complex character; nobleman and former slave, a Saxon with a Danish upbringing, a ruthless killer who protects the weak and a pagan who detests the Christian religion but keeps a priest in his household. He must have a fantastic sense of humour, a pity we are not allowed to share it, I would love to share a joke with Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

Cornwell's research takes you into the dark ages, you slip without effort into a world of mud and muck, leather, steel and mouldy thatch but I would contest the inclusion of silage in the agricultural economy of the ninth century
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on 25 October 2013
Another great Uhtred adventure, with probably the best ending of the series so far.
Uhtred gets himself into a spot of bother at the start of the book in an excellent way to put him with his back against the wall and in peril, and we get to see a slightly different Uhtred than the previous novels as he spends much of the book unsure of himself and what to do. This was fun for me to read as someone who has read the previous novels.
A slight criticism in that it was a short book and somewhat under-developed in some ways. As other reviewers have noted, there is no real sub-plot or side intrigue and I think we could have had a bit more soul-searching from Uhtred; while that wouldn't really fit his character, maybe even Pagan Saxon warlords have mid-life crises?
Nonetheless, very enjoyable all the way through, superb climactic scenes and well paced. The series is one of my favourites and this is a good installment, a notch below Death of Kings but still worthy of 5 stars.
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on 31 May 2016
As always, Cornwell delivers! This installment of Uthred's story is as gripping as the previous 6 books. I am a fan of historical fiction but this series is something else. From start to finish the book is filled with action and solid characters that are relatable and believable.I have never really taken much interest in the Danish occupation of Britain but I have read the first seven books in this series in the last 5 months.

Cornwell's style of writing sucks the reader into the book and spits them out at the end gasping for breath and desperate to read the next installment.

All I can say is that if you are a fan of historical fiction and looking for something that is out of your usual "era", give Uthred a chance, I would be incredibly surprised if you are disappointed, the plot is intricate, detailed and compelling. As long as the Saxon story is told by Cornwell, I shall read it. Avidly.
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on 2 October 2013
A great series and great characters, but it feels like its running out of momentum. The story drags painfully in places, yet as ever the battles and other confrontations are superb. At points however, the insult trading sounds florid and contrived. Not the standard I'm used to from this master storyteller.
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