Sunday, December 9, 2012

Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

As with previous Cornwell novels, this one reads well and quickly. You can easily finish the book in a day if you have the time, the inclination you'll find easily enough. As with previous Uhtred books in the Saxon Tales, Cornwell is attempting to tell the story of how the beginning of what would become England was formed prior to 1066. We've all heard of William the Conqueror, but who has heard of Alfred the Great (especially since he was great about 900 years before the well known Peter, Frederick, and Catherine)? Even though Alfred is not fully successful in bringing England together, Cornwell believes the story should start with him. Uhtred, a warrior in many ways out of place in the world he's found himself in (be it religion or 'ethnicity'), is Alfred's 'champion', someone he can consistently rely on yet never fully trust. Thus a warlord who has helped secure parts of England for Alfred and regularly goes on to defeat one Danish or Saxon king after another is left without money or any estates. And this is where we meet Uhtred when the "Death of Kings" begins. Like previous novels in the Saxon series, there is a mixture of humor, action, intrigue, mystery, violence, and polemical thoughts on religion. It has somewhat become predictable, but in that predictability you have a character that you can consistently identify with and rely on throughout the series. We are creatures of habit, and Uhtred is no different. While I believe other novels in this series had more battles/violence/action than "Death of Kings", that doesn't mean there isn't enough of everything else to keep a reader interested and reading late into the night. The only real issue I have with this novel is the similarity in at least 4/5 names that are regularly referenced but which I continued to have trouble identifying up until the end of the book (but this is not the author's fault as he is using historical names). Otherwise, highly recommended for those interested in historical fiction and/or English history.

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