Friday, February 17, 2012
Death Of Kings
Death of Kings is the sixth book in the ‘Saxon Chronicles’ series. Perhaps not the best idea to start reading a series at the end but that’s how it happened. I recognized the author, Bernard Cornwell from having read his wonderful historical fiction novel Agincourt. How could I go wrong? Well, I didn’t. This is the story of the land that would one day be England, at the end of the 9th century AD. It is largely occupied by Danish speaking Norsemen except for the recalcitrant Welshmen. . By the tenth century most of the English speaking population had converted to Christianity and King Alfred (remembered now as Alfred the Great), King of Wessex had a dream of uniting the whole of England into one country with one religion and one language. Most of the Danes were pagans, worshiping the Old Norse gods like Odin and Thor, believing that to die with a sword in your hand was the only way to enter Valhalla, home of the gods. The central figure, first person protagonist, is Uhtred of Babbanburg, Alfred’s champion and chief war leader; this, in spite of the fact he was brought up by the Danes, is pagan himself, much to Alfred’s chagrin he refuses to be converted. Well into his middle years, Uhtred is still one the most feared warriors in the land. ‘Death of Kings’ is a fast paced action/thriller, historical fiction, with everything in just the right amount: intrigue, deceit, retribution, and 9th century warfare and battle action so real you can smell it. It even has a little romance. I only problem I had with following the complex plot was the use of old Saxon names for the characters and town. It took me a while to catch on that Lundeen was contemporary London etc. Some days I’m a little slower that others.