Audio CD review: A first-rate novel - puts the series back on form,
This review is from: Death of Kings (The Warrior Chronicles, Book 6) (Paperback)
I have to confess that, though I love this series, I found the last two novels in the series a little lacklustre and feared that it had jumped the shark after the utterly amazing The Lords of the North. One particular fear I had was that this novel would involve yet more fighting in Benfleet (or Essex area) as the previous two novels had (probably owing to Cornwell's Essex background).
Which is why this novel made such a refreshing break. Instead of Essex and random trips to places like Holland and Scotland, Uhtred goes to places that are relevant to the plot of the series and teaches you things at the same time (e.g. when he goes to the ruined Roman town of Wroxeter, Shropshire - which he says was bigger than London in its day).
One thing I'd forgotten about Uhtred is that he is a deeply compelling central charactor - rough on the surface but good underneath, and not in a way that can be predicted or fathomed. Uhtred has also changed and grown up from what he was in the first three novels, becoming less fiery tempered and more sensible, though still able to surprise.
The plot comes across as well thought-out and clever. Where the previous two novels fell too readily into a predictable small battle...filler...big battle, this plot has a staggering amount of twists and turns and a fully fleshed-out mystery at the heart of the plot - the war that surpasses human understanding.
Last of all, I had read the previous novel in the series and had forgotten how powerful the audio books versions of this series are. Where Sword Song was read by a man who sounded posher than Hyacinth Bucket, this audio CD makes the wise choice of Stephen Perring, who has the rugged edge to make a convincing Uhtred.
If you haven't tried any of this series yet, then I thoroughly recommend it on audio book. The first person narrative really lends itself to audio and fully brings out the grittiness of Uhtred's narration, to the point that you could swear he was in the room with you!
Anyway, to sum up, this book was a really excellent continuation of the series and felt like a real advance in the story. I hope and pray to the Gods that Cornwell will be able to finish the Saxon stories with the same brilliance as he started them. Let this novel be a sign of more great works to come...
Incidentally, for anyone that has read the novel, don't you occasionally find that song off the TV series 'Sharpe' coming into your head? Though Uhtred and Finan are different from Sharpe and Harper, you could easily be forgiven for occasionally thinking that Sharpe rides again...