The Flame Bearer is the tenth installment of the Saxon Tales from bestselling historical fiction master, Bernard Cornwell. Is it the final tale in the series? No one knows except Mr. Cornwell himself, and I suppose in a year or so readers will find out. But this volume may be the most important of the series, even over King Alfred’s reign and death, as our fearless and now aged hero, Uhtred, returns to his beloved Bebbanburg.
Uhtred is not a young warrior anymore, and may not be able to perform some of the feats he used to, but he is still perhaps the smartest and most cunning man in all of the lands that King Alfred one day hoped to unite as a single Englaland. For now the land remains divided, with Sigtryggr, a Viking, ruling in Northumbria, and the Saxon Queen Aethelflaed ruling from Mercia. However, they are at a truce; so for the first time in many a year, Uhtred has some free time and he knows just what he wishes to do.
Bringing together his people and those who will fight for him, he heads to Bebbanburg, his home, the land of his father, and the land that rightfully belongs to him, even though he hasn’t set foot on it since he was a child. But this is a Bernard Cornwell novel after all, so nothing will ever go as planned. This is also the Middle Ages also, meaning there are many out there wishing to take lands and make them their own. Such is the way of things, and as Uhtred likes to keep reminding us in the Old English, “Wyrd bið ful aræd,” or “Fate is inexorable.”
Originally written on January 4, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.
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The ninth installment of the Saxon Tales doles more riveting historical fiction that gives Martin’s Game of Thrones a run for its money, plus a lot of the events in this series actually occurred.
King Alfred’s dying wish was to unite the kingdoms of his lands into a single nation that would one day be known as England, but things seem more dire then ever as the Norsemen continue to chip away and gain more ground. One important man stands in their way: Uhtred of Bebbanburg controlling the fortified city of Chester in the great kingdom of Mercia. He has fought long and hard to help and protect Alfred’s children, Edward and Athelflaed, and keep their lands intact. Kidnapped at a young age by Norsemen, he is seen as a traitor by them and a heathen by the Christian Britons, but without him Alfred’s children wouldn’t be alive.
Now he must turn his sights to Ragnall Ivarson, a formidable Norseman who possesses a mighty army, soon joined by the Northumbrians to bolster their numbers, as well as being allied with the Irish. There is also the detail that makes it a lot more personal for Uhtred: his daughter is married to Ivarson’s brother. Uhtred will have to do what he does best – made the hard decisions and ignore what everyone else wants – if he is to make it through alive and unscathed.
Originally written on March 4, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.
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The Battle of Waterloo is one of the most documented events in history; it’s also one of those times in history that’s very close to Bernard Cornwell’s heart. The bestselling author is known for his medieval historical fiction and is definitely a master of the genre, but now, for the first time, Cornwell has created a work of nonfiction in Waterloo.
The subtitle encapsulates the book: the history of four days, three armies, and three battles. The book is divided into relatively short but riveting chapters, each ending with a selection of photos and artwork – in color where available – making Waterloo a wonderfully illustrated edition for any history buff. Cornwell spends little time with the first two battles, Ligny and Quatre-Bras, providing a detailed step-by-step report of the battles in Cornwell’s talented way, and using detailed formation maps to make things clear for the reader.
The last third of the book is dedicated to the battle of Waterloo and perhaps what makes the book so fascinating is how much Cornwell uses from letters and diaries and other primary sources that give the book life, taking the reader back to the historic time.
Originally written on June 4, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.
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In the eighth installment of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales, with King Alfred now gone and buried, readers might think the series would be winding down, but it is quite the opposite. Æthelred, the current ruler of Mercia, lies on his deathbed with no legitimate heir, and an empty throne sits awaiting a new ruler.
Uhtred of Bebbanburg was thought mortally wounded at the end of The Pagan Lord, and now he is still alive, but not necessarily well. His grievous wound is very slowly healing, meanwhile he has to work with his son and men to make sure the church and those in power don’t elect who they want to rule. Uhtred has a powerful leader, Æthelflaed, in mind not just because she is a lover, but also because she is well liked by Mercia and is sister to King Edward of Wessex.
In addition to elect new rulers, Uhtred is also on the hunt for his sword that was taken from him and is purported to be in the hands of Bishop Asser who is somewhere deep in the heart of Wales. And then at some point he’s going to end up in a big battle with some Vikings.
In true Cornwell fashion, The Empty Throne has it all for a gripping historical fiction novel and fans will rejoice while new readers will have no problem getting hooked as the author keeps them clued in to everything going on.
Originally written on January 28, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.
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Medieval historical fiction extraordinaire, Bernard Cornwell, is back with the next installment of the Saxon Tales. The Pagan Lord is the seventh in the series, with King Alfred gone and the land is on the eve of war between the Saxons ruled by Alfred’s son, Edward and Wessex; while in the north, the Danes led by the Viking Cnut Longsword looks to take more land.
Our hero, Uhtred, has had his ups and downs in the series, but now wishes to bring what men he can together and take back his inheritance in the distant north land of Bebbanburg, but he will have to fight his uncle and progeny to do that. The Christian faith is also growing in this place that will one day be called “Angeland,” and when Uhtred kills an important bishop, he finds those of the faith also warring against him.
The Pagan Lord pushes Uhtred to the very edge and beyond, bringing the reader along with him. It shows Cornwell doing what he does best, moving his characters around and pitting them against each other in magnificent battle scenes. No one Cornwell book is like the other, which is what makes him such a great writer.
Originally written on January 27, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.
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The Black Prince is one of those enigmatic figures shrouded in mystery, superstition and rumor from the medieval period of the fourteenth century. In 1356, bestselling historical fiction author Bernard Cornwell provides his take on it by bringing back a popular and main character from his Grail Quest series, in Thomas of Hookton.
Thomas has created quite a name for himself and his small band of men, known as Le Bâtard, traveling through France and fighting for the English. But he is now charged with a new quest by his lord, to recover the ancient and lost sword of Saint Peter, known as Le Malice, a relic from the past that will provide a great symbol and power to whichever nation possesses and wields it. The French want it to get rid of the English; and the English want it to subdue the French.
1356 is another great example of Cornwell writing at his best, and it’s not necessary to have read the earlier series, as he fills you in where necessary. His action scenes are written with skill, putting the reader right there, culminating with the great battle of Poitiers.
Originally written on January 7, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.
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