Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell

Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell
The Saxon Stories #3
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full length (317 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

The year is 878. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has helped the Saxons of Wessex defeat the invading Danes. Now, finally free of his allegiance to the victorious, ungrateful King Alfred, he is heading home to rescue his stepsister, a prisoner of Kjartan the Cruel in the formidable Danish stronghold of Dunholm. Uhtred’s best hope is his sword, Serpent-Breath, for his only allies are Hild, a West Saxon nun fleeing her calling, and Guthred, a slave who believes himself king. Rebellion, chaos, fear, and betrayal await them in the north, forcing Uhtred to turn once more, reluctantly, to the liege he formerly served in battle and blood: Alfred the Great.

Uhtred’s path seems clear, but fate has other plans.

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So much happens to Uhtred in this installment! As the story opens, Uhtred is once again irritated with Alfred. Uhtred played a major part in Alfred’s latest victory over the Danes, but received a paltry reward. I can’t help but sympathize with Uhtred. He’s done so much for Alfred, his family, and the kingdom of Wessex but receives practically nothing for his service. So, he leaves Alfred and Wessex behind and goes North intent on killing Kjartan and Sven as revenge for the death of his foster father and to rescue his sister, Thyra, if she still lives. To do that he’ll need to attack Dunholm, which is a formidable fortress.

Uhtred is an excellent warrior, but since he doesn’t have an army or a solid plan, I had no idea how he was going to accomplish this. I eagerly dove in to the book with a smile on my face ready to follow Uhtred on his latest adventure. I must admit I was quite surprised to see what fate had in store for Uhtred. I won’t give away too many details, but I will say that a betrayal derails Uhtred’s plans and tears him from his life as a warrior. In his darkest moment, he finds aid from an unexpected source.

As I’ve said before, Uhtred is one of the most well-rounded characters I’ve had to the pleasure of knowing. Yes, he can be arrogant, selfish, and ruthless in battle, but he’s also brave and quite caring. He refuses to leave friends behind, and he is true to his word. Whether he wants to admit it or not, he has the makings of a great hero.

At this point in the series, the books have a familiar feel to them. However, this doesn’t make the tale boring. Far from it! Uhtred’s adventures are never dull. The familiarity comes from knowing Uhtred and his sense of humor. I find it comforting, like talking to an old friend. I also think this book has a stronger sense of nostalgia about it than the previous books. I can really feel that Uhtred, telling the story as an old man, is really missing his days as a warrior and it makes my heart ache.

I’m completely addicted to this series! I highly recommend this bittersweet tale to fans of historical fiction and adventure. I’ll be picking up the next book very soon!

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