In the sixth book of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales, he makes it clear with the title that this is the most important book of the series, as it’s the one where Alfred the Great finally passes from this world, leaving this torn country with an uncertain future, and it will be up to his successor to decide what to do.
King Alfred dreamed of a united England, but now as he lies on his death bed, time is running out and this reality seems like it won’t be happening anytime soon. The Danes to the north are still not giving up, controlling a considerable proportion of the country and hungry for more. It comes down to who has the more soldiers and the stronger alliances. Also, even though Alfred’s son Edward is the heir apparent, there are some other Saxons who have aims of taking the throne. The Saxon-born, Viking-raised Uhtred who still believes strongly in the Norse gods will be the leader to once again make things happen; he has already sacrificed much for Alfred, and now finally receives a just reward, but he will have to fight to keep it from the attacking Danes, as well as swear fealty to the new king, Edward.
Fans will quickly gobble up Death of Kings, as they pay witness to the passing of an important character that was inevitably going to happen, but the good news is that Cornwell makes it clear in his afterword that while Alfred’s part in this story may now be over, there is still more to tell, and Uhtred still has an important part to play.
Originally written on February 6, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.
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