The Flame Bearer (The Saxon Stories #10) by Bernard Cornwell

34217182The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย  Harper, 2017
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 284
Rating:ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

Britain is in a state of uneasy peace. Northumbria’s Viking ruler, Sigtryggr, and Mercia’s Saxon queen, ร†thelflaed, have agreed on a truce. And so England’s greatest warrior, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, at last has the chance to take back the land his traitorous uncle stole from him so many years ago–and which his scheming cousin still occupies.

But fate is inexorable, and the enemies Uhtred has made and the oaths he has sworn conspire to distract him from his dream of recapturing his home. New enemies enter into the fight for England’s kingdoms: the redoubtable Constantin of Scotland seizes an opportunity for conquest and leads his armies south. Britain’s precarious peace threatens to turn into a war of annihilation. Yet Uhtred is determined that nothing–neither the new adversaries nor the old foes who combine against him–will keep him from his birthright.

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What I thought

And just like that, I’m all out of Uhtred stories, which makes me so very sad. Once again, I am at a loss to say which of these books has been my favorite because I have loved each and every one. I hate to sound so cliche, but after ending this series (or rather, catching up with this series), I feel like I’ve lost some friends. I’m glad I only have to wait until this fall for the next installment. I will be counting down the days, that’s for sure.

This series, including this book, has been so much fun to read and I have loved reading these books along with my husband. There are twists and turns, battle scenes, valor, glory, wit, humor, and theology, among much more. We always had something to talk about. There was rarely a dull moment–it was so hard to put these down.

With this book, in particular, I was glad to see that this will not be the end of Uhtred’s story, like I thought it might be. Usually once a character reaches their goal, it seems like there isn’t a point to continue the story beyond that. But I’m glad to hear that we are not done with Uhtred yet. I cannot reiterate enough times–this is one of THE BEST book series I have EVER read. As long as Bernard Cornwell keeps writing Uhtred’s story, I will keep reading along. I cannot recommend these books highly enough.

Warriors of the Storm (The Saxon Stories #9) by Bernard Cornwell

28694409Warriors of the Storm (The Saxon Stories #9) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2016
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 298
Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

A fragile peace reigns in Wessex, Mercia, and East Anglia. King Alfred’s son, Edward, and formidable daughter, ร†thelflaed, rule the kingdoms. But all around, the restless Northmen are mounting raids.

Uhtred of Bebbanburg, the kingdoms’ greatest warrior, controls northern Mercia, but forces are gathering against him. Northmen allied to the Irish, led by the fierce warrior Ragnall Ivarson, are soon joined by the Northumbrians, and their strength could prove overwhelming. And with Uhtred’s own daughter married to Ivarson’s brother, who can be trusted?

In the struggle between family and loyalty, between personal ambition and political commitment, there will be no easy path. But a man with a warrior’s courage may be able to find it. Such a man is Uhtred, and this may be his finest hour.

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What I thought

At this point, it’s pretty evident that I love these stories in this series, so I’ll try to keep it pretty short. I won’t say that this series is faultless. It isn’t, and neither is this installment. I could delve into all that, but I’m not going to. Suffice it to say that despite any faults, I just love these books, andย Warriors of the Storm was no exception. It was another romping good adventure! I’ve seen some people say that these books can be read as standalones, but I disagree. I have become so attached to these characters over the series, especially Uhtred. Without giving anything away, I will say that I was sad to see the final fate of one of the series’ original characters.

I am hopeful that the next book will see Uhtred going to retake Bebbanburg. And I hope that Finan will continue to play a bigger role in the story–I LOVED his part in this book! I will truly never tire of following these characters.

Now, it’s time for book #10, the last Uhtred story I can get my hands on for now.

The Empty Throne (The Saxon Stories #8) by Bernard Cornwell

25816779The Empty Throne (The Saxon Stories #8) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2016
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 296
Rating:ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

Britain, early tenth century AD: a time of change. There are new raids by the Vikings from Ireland and turmoil among the Saxons over the leadership of Mercia. A younger generation is taking over.

ร†thelred, the ruler of Mercia, is dying, leaving no legitimate heir. The West Saxons want their king, but Uhtred has long supported ร†thelflaed, sister to King Edward of Wessex and widow of ร†thelred. Widely loved and respected, ร†thelflaed has all the makings of a leader–but could Saxon warriors ever accept a woman as their ruler? The stage is set for rivals to fight for the empty throne.

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What I thought

Even though, by now, I know what to expect when I pick up a Bernard Cornwell book, I am STILL constantly finding SO MUCH enjoyment out of these stories. The general framework of the plot may be similar, but Uhtred’s antics never fail to amuse me.

This book’s “version” of Uhtred was one of my favorites, so far. He’s getting older, he’s getting grumpier, but he is like a grizzled, wily old man. His cleverness always surprises me. I also loved seeing him play the father role for young Uhtred and for Stiorra. Speaking of Stiorra, she is becoming a favorite for me. She is definitely 50% Gisela, 50% Uhtred.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: I loved this series to pieces. With this book finished, I’m starting to feel a little sad that we’re almost caught up with the series. From the sounds of it, thought, it doesn’t sound like Cornwell plans on ending the series any time soon. So, for now, I guess at least I have 3 more books to look forward to.

On to book #9…

The Pagan Lord (The Saxon Stories #7) by Bernard Cornwell

21547833The Pagan Lord (The Saxon Stories #7) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2015
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 299
Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward, his son, reigns as king. Wessex survives, but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will not rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.

Inย The Pagan Lord, loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes: a war that will decide the fate of every king, and the entire British nation.

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What I thought

I can’t help it–I just love these books. I will never tire of Uhtred’s story. Yes, they might be formulaic, andย The Pagan Lord is no different, but to me, it’s comforting. I might go into these books with a general idea of what to expect, but Bernard Cornwell always includes enough twists & surprises to keep the story moving and to keep me coming back for more.

I have loved each book of the series so far, but some of them have been my favorites, andย The Pagan Lord is one. I can’t really say why, other than the fact that every time I picked up this book, I just sunk into the story and couldn’t put it down. I loved reading Uhtred’s perspective in this installment particularly. He has become quite the cantankerous “old” man, but he is still the clever and wily we’ve been reading about all along.

All in all, this was another outstanding addition to The Saxon Stories. I will say that I am very glad that I have the next book waiting for me because that ending? That was the biggest, most shocking, and most heartwrenching cliffhanger of the series thus far! On to book #9!

Death of Kings (The Saxon Stories #6) by Bernard Cornwell

13623969Death of Kings (The Saxon Stories #6) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2012
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 320
Rating:ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

As the ninth century wanes, Alfred the Great lies dying, his lifelong goal of a unified England in peril, his kingdom on the brink of chaos. Though his son, Edward, has been named successor, there are other Saxon claimants to the throne–as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the north.

Torn between his vows to Alfred and the desire fo reclaim his long-lost ancestral lands in the north, Uhtred, Saxon-born and Viking-raised, remains the king’s warrior but has sworn no oath to the crown prince. Now he must make a momentous decision that will forever transform his life and the course of history: to take up arms–and Alfred’s mantle–or lay down his sword and let his liege’s dream of a unified kingdom die along with him.

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What I thought

I feel like, at this point, it’s safe for me to say that it’s a given that I’m going to give each of these books a five-star rating. Yes, I could go into minute detail about all of the things I enjoyed or all of the minor flaws I could list. But let’s be real, that would get redundant pretty quick…not to mention, no book is perfect. Let it suffice to say that these books have come to occupy a very special place in my heart, and I’ve loved each one, flaws and all. I will say I did enjoy this one a little more than the last one, but that seems to happen with each book in this series. Uhtred is getting older, and I am still so fascinated by his character development. He is beginning to realize that he is no spring chicken, and this brings a whole new element to his character. England’s history hits a turning point in this installment, as well. I’m definitely curious to see what will happen in the books to come. I think Edward will learn, slowly but surely. I’ll be onto book #7 just as soon as it shows up in my mailbox!

The Burning Land (The Saxon Stories #5) by Bernard Cornwell

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The Burning Land (The Saxon Stories #5) by Bernard Cornwellย 
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2010
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 336
Rating:ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

At the end of the ninth century, with King Alfred of Wessex in ill health and his heir still an untested youth, it falls to Alfred’s reluctant warlord Uhtred to outwit and outbattle the invading enemy Danes, led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair. But the sweetness of Uhtred’s victory is soured by tragedy, forcing him to break with the Saxon king. Joining the Vikings, allied with his old friend Ragnar–and his old foe Haesten–Uhtred devises a strategy to invade and conquer Wessex itself. But fate has very different plans.

Bernard Cornwell’sย The Burning Land is an irresistible new chapter in his epic story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.

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What I thought

As I continued on to the end of book number five in this series, it is seriously impressive to me that the momentum of these books has yet to die down for me. Not that I want it to! It’s just that I’m the type of reader that needs to be always switching up what I’m reading. I just can’t stop reading these! I HAVE to know how Uhtred’s tale will turn out.

Anyway, I’m keeping this review short & sweet. Cornwell’s writing is just as engaging as it’s been. I honestly just love this series. One thing I did want to note about this particular book is that I found it quite interesting and clever that as Uhtred’s life takes a tragic turn, his story has him kinda all over the place, which is very reflective of his life in this book.

Another solid entry to a very beloved series! Bernard Cornwell is a must-read author!

Sword Song (The Saxon Stories #4) by Bernard Cornwell

4009500Sword Song (The Saxon Stories #4) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2009
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 314
Rating:ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

The year is 885, and England is at peace, divided between the Danish kingdom to the north and the Saxon kingdom of Wessex in the south. Warrior by instinct and Viking by nature, Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has land, a wife and children–and a duty to King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames. But a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have invaded the decayed Roman city of London with dreams of conquering Wessex…with Uhtred’s help. Suddenly forced to weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning tide of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles, Uhtred–Alfred’s sharpest sword–must now make the choice that will determine England’s future.

IMG_20180419_200200_066What I thought

I have truly loved every book in this series, but I think that this one was my favorite so far. Again, I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers, but I have definitely grown attached to this cast of characters. I have enjoyed their journey (and in particular, Uhtred’s journey) all along, but I think that this installment has a plot that I was able to get lost in more than the last book. Not to mention, the writing was some of Cornwell’s best, in my opinion. I can’t count the number of times I found myself pausing & rereading passages just because they were so beautiful. Once again, I loved it, simply put. I’m having such a wonderful time with this series, especially getting to read it with my hubby!

Lords of the North (The Saxon Stories #3) by Bernard Cornwell

2679014Lords of the North (The Saxon Stories #3) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2008
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 317
Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.ย 

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.

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What I thought

I truly believe, upon finishing this book, that I will never tire of Uhtred’s story. This is the third book in this series, and I loved it just as much as the first two. Yes, the structure of each book remains similar, but to me, I love that it feels familiar. As I pick up each subsequent book in this series, it feels like going home. I LOVE them.

In this installment, we see Uhtred really start to come into his own. He’s becoming wiser and he’s learning to be cunning, but he is still my beloved Uhtred at heart. Some scores get settled that I was dying to see how they turn out. And one of my favorite parts was when Beocca finally had a badass moment.

I’m going to keep this short, because I don’t want to give anything away for anyone who hasn’t read this far in the series. But this is brilliant historical fiction, end of story. Read this series! I’m onto book #4!

The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories #2) by Bernard Cornwell

68528The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories #2) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2007
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 349
Rating:ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.ย 

As the last unvanquished piece of England, Wessex is eyed hungrily by the fearsome Viking conquerors. Uhtred, a dispossessed young nobleman, is tied to the imperiled land by birth and marriage but was raised by the Danish invaders–and he questions where his allegiance must lie. But blood is his destiny, and when the overwhelming Viking horde attacks out of a wintry darkness, Uhtred must put aside all hatred and distrust and stand beside his embattled country’s staunch defender–the fugitive King Alfred.

The Pale Horseman is a gripping, monumental adventure that gives breathtaking life to one of the most important epochs in English history–yet another masterwork fromย New York Timesย bestselling author Bernard Cornwell.

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What I thought

I enjoyed this book every bit as much as I enjoyed the first one. This series has quickly become one of my favorites, as has the author.

At the risk of giving away any of the plot, I’ll keep this short. Uhtred & his companions have become so dear to me, it’s like I have no choice but to continue their story, so I know I’m going to keep reading this series.

I think what does it for me is Cornwell’s writing. His writing flows so well that the pages flew by, and I wasn’t even aware that I was reading. Even though this book, in particular, involves a lot of preparation & gathering of forces, the story still moved along at a good pace.

One thing that struck me about this book was how well Cornwell keeps his readers up-to-date between books without being too redundant. You can read these books one after another without feeling like you’re spending too much of your time retracing the previous book. But on the flip side of that, if you haven’t read the last book in a while, there are enough refreshers to get you back up to speed.

Overall, I just loved this book–two books in & I am seriously attached to these characters. I’m still having a blast reading the series with my hubby! You simply cannot find better historical fiction, especially about this time period. Bernard Cornwell is a master!

 

 

The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories #1) by Bernard Cornwell

68527The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories #1) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2006
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 333
Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ
Goodreads

 

Summary

In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.ย 

In the middle years of the ninth century, the fierce Danes stormed onto British soil, hungry for spoils and conquest. Kingdom after kingdom fell to the ruthless invaders until but one realm remained. And suddenly the fate of all England–and the course of history–depended upon one man, one king.

Fromย New York Timesย bestselling storyteller Bernard Cornwell comes a rousing epic adventure of courage, treachery, duty, devotion, majesty, love, and battle as seen through the eyes of a young warrior who straddled two worlds.

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What I thought

How can I even begin to put into words how much I loved this book & how much I’m looking forward to continuing with this series?

This year for Valentine’s Day, my husband surprised me with two copies of this book so that we could read (& discuss) this together. I had such a good time with this–I seriously cannot wait to continue reading this series together.

I admit, I was a little nervous. I was kind of expecting this to be super dry or battle-scene-heavy. (I’m not sure why I had this impression.) But I found this to be an accessible & engaging read. People always complain about first person POV, but for me, I thought that it helped to bring 9th Century England to life.

I found myself growing very fond of this cast of characters–I was honestly so sad to come to the end of this book, even though there are currently nine more books to read in this series. There are many characters I loved to read about–Ragnar, Brida, Ravn, Leofric, Ealdwulf. I feel like I knew them personally. But my favorite has to be Uhtred. He is such an excellent protagonist & narrator–you can’t help but root for him, flaws & all.

As a newcomer to this historical period, I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to follow what was going on. I was needlessly worried, though, because not only were the historical maneuvers/events/characters easy to follow & well-explained, but Cornwell also sprinkled the story with tidbits about daily life during that time. The history & the culture came to life for me, and I felt absolutely transported as I was reading. Even the battle scenes were so vivid & well-done that I was able to visualize everything so well.

Another thing I really like about this book was that for being the first in the series, it still had a satisfying end. There was a good balance of things resolved versus things left unresolved. I guess what I’m saying is that I have enough questions to make me want to continue reading without feeling like the ending was too abrupt or left hanging too open-ended. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next book!

All in all, if you are interested in Vikings, early England, or romping good historical fiction–you need to read this. I think fans of Vikings (the show) & (I even go as far as to suggest) Game of Thrones will enjoy this. Bernard Cornwell is a master of historical fiction & I’m very much looking forward to reading more of his work!