In Lords of the North (coming January 23rd), the wonderful writer of great historical periods and characters brings us the third in his increasingly popular Saxon Chronicles series, as he tells the story of King Alfred the Great’s life and his work in unifying the many kingdoms into the country we know today as England.
We continue with our hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, who has just helped Alfred save and maintain control over the land of Wessex, therefore preventing the complete invasion by the Danes. Angered with Alfred’s piousness and making every decision according to God, Uhtred flees north to Northumbria, still hoping one day to defeat his uncle and take back his beloved Bebbanburg. It is here that he meets old Danish friends and before he realizes what’s going on, a deal has been brokered to maintain peace in Northumbria in return for Uhtred’s enslavement. Without his blood-stained blade – Serpent-Breath – the many lords of the region are happy to get rid of this formidable warrior.
Uhtred, stripped of his title and power, then spends most of the book suffering abuse and torture as a slave on a trading vessel traveling along the Flemish coast, and back and forth between Britain and the mainland. On a number of occasions they face off again this “red ship” that is a trader like them. Upon returning to the original place where Uhtred was sold – so that more slaves can be bought – the red ship appears out of nowhere and beaches the shore. Foreign Danes stream out and Uhtred soon finds himself face to face with an even older friend who raised him.
Eventually he discovers that it is thanks to Alfred’s help that he has received his emancipation. With his title, weapons, and armor restored, along with more allies from the south forming a considerable army, they set out to defeat these lesser heathen lords and regain control of the kingdom of Northumbria. The book ends with the reader contemplating what is next for Uhtred in the further Saxon Chronicles: Will he regain control of his land? Will he remain a lone pagan among the many determined Christians? Sadly, we will have to wait another whole year before we can read more about Uhtred of Bebbanburg, slayer of the great Ubba Lothbrokson, and his adventures with the pious Alfred the Great.
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Originally written on December 9th, 2006 ©Alex C. Telander.