Customer Review

118 of 130 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Watched Kettle..., 9 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Death of Kings (The Warrior Chronicles, Book 6) (Kindle Edition)
...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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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Oct 2011 23:53:49 BDT
Couldn't agree more. Bernard needs to take a long rest and not publish in-between books to keep the publishers happy. The next book MUST be the last of the series that sees him regain his inheritance and it must be a real blockbuster, not another weak instalment of the story so far.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Oct 2011 11:08:01 BDT
Darius says:
You've hit the nail on the button. I dread to think how good or indeed how bad the Sharp books will be if and when Cornwell decides to fulfil his earlier promise. I just think he (Cornwell) needs to take more care in picking the story for his next book. And yes ! the next Utrecht book should be the last in the series, otherwise this "up to Burning Land" series is in danger of becoming a quickly forgotten saga.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Oct 2011 09:45:57 BDT
KT says:
I have just posted my own review and have now read yours and the comments attached to it. I couldn't agree more with what you have said - you were far more eloquent than I.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Oct 2011 15:21:59 BDT
I'd add my agreement to you 3. He needs to sit back have a long think & come back with something fresher. I'm a big fan of Mr Cornwell & even though 'The Fort' bored me I was glad he'd tried something a little different even if it didn't work for me.

In fact if Mr Cornwell reads the review pages here might I suggest the Border Reivers (bandit cattle raiders- both English & Scots) and/or the battle of Flodden might be an underwritten period of British history that would suit his writing style?

Posted on 22 Oct 2011 10:13:38 BDT
B. Raine says:
To relish the idea of Bamburgh you must first see the Norman built castle, then you can appreciate how important it was to the Saxons. The same with the Norman built Durham Castle, although after the timescale of these stories their locale is very important.It is a pity there are no stories set totally in Durham/Northumbria in this series.

Posted on 24 Oct 2011 12:01:03 BDT
Totally agree with the sentiments expressed in this review.

Posted on 9 Dec 2011 00:26:18 GMT
Mr H says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Dec 2011 00:27:50 GMT
Mr H says:
having read the book I think the name is Uthred...and not "Utrecht"

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Dec 2011 01:08:39 GMT
Your point being?

It is entirely possible to give three stars and recommend a book.

Quoting things without the context is a little contrived - I wrote that I'd recommend it on the basis of we (who have read the preceding books) owe it to ourselves to see this one out, and that it's not a bad book.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2011 18:02:43 GMT
Yes I will have to finish the saga, but I might well wait for the paperback!
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