Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Death of Kings, Bernard Cornwell

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages:  330

Main Characters:
Uthred of Bebbanburg

Death of Kings is the sixth book in Bernard Cornwell’s brilliant ‘Saxon Stories’. The novel continues on from book five of the series The Burning Land and sees Uthred return to Wessex after his glorious victory over the Danish war lord Haesten at the Battle of Beamfleot.  On his return to Wessex Uthred is sent on a diplomatic mission to the East Anglian king Eohric to secure a treaty against the increasingly militant Danish leaders Sigurd and Cnut. However on the way to the King, Uthred is betrayed and walks into a trap set up between Eohric and Sigurd in an attempt to kill him. After fighting his way through the trap, Uthred returns to Wessex to find his king Alfred on his death bed. Knowing Alfred is all that holds the Danes at bay, Uthred returns to his land and prepares his sworn shields for war! But the war never comes. Alfred passes away and his son Edward takes the thrown of Wessex without an incident. Uthred knows something is wrong. The Danes should have attacked when Alfred died and Wessex was at its weakest, but three years pass without a single death. Uthred knows the survival of Wessex depends on the defeat of the Danes and if they won’t start a war, he will.
This was a great read and really adds to the ‘Saxon’ series. I knew that in this book Alfred was going to die and couldn’t wait to see how Wessex would cope without him. As usual Cornwell didn’t let me down. The book was brilliant! Full of action, battles, betrayal and conspiracy.  I am always amazed at how much detail Cornwell puts into these books as they are written about a time where there are not many primary sources available and the ones that are usually are unreliable. Nevertheless Cornwell does an excellent job of creating ninth century England in this book.
The only issues I had with this book is that the narrative is written from Uthred’s perspective (First person ‘I said’) when most historical novel have the own narrative (Third Person ‘said Uthred’) so it was a bit difficult to get used to. However, when I did get used to it, the narrative was much easier to read. It was also a nice change reading a book through the eyes of the main character. The only other issues with this book is that its prequel The Burning Land was realised two years ago, so I had trouble remembering what had happened in that book and the ones before.
All in all this was still a good book, I would suggest it to anyone who has read the other ‘Saxon Stories’ or to anyone who is a fan of Cornwell’s other books. I would also suggest it to anyone who enjoys Anglo-Saxon history as I think the book really brings history alive as most of the characters and events really did happen.
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