Bernard Cornwell, your Uhtred of Bebbanburg has utterly charmed me once again! With the latest book in The Saxon Tales, I am once again enthralled with the courage and pure chutzpah of my favorite warrior, and once again left waiting anxiously to find out what he's going to get up to next.
Death of Kings begins with Uhtred at home, but that doesn't remain the case for long. Never one to sit back and let events slide by, Uhtred soon finds himself chasing elusive Danes and Saxons who change loyalties more often than the wind changes direction, and he is never reticent to use his formidable battle prowess. The death of Alfred the Great, ruler of much of England around 900 A.D., sets the stage for many to try to take a throne; while Uhtred never particularly liked Alfred, he admired him and as a sworn man, vows to uphold his son Edward's claim to the throne. What follows is one of the greatest battles on English soil as men of varying degrees of integrity attempt to roust Edward, and Cornwell sews Uhtred seamlessly into the mix of actual events--so much so that I often forgot that Uhtred is a fictional character and could actually imagine him having led the armies just as written here.
Cornwell's research is awe-inspiring, and his use of language is authentic as well, if sometimes confusing. From a dark, often unchronicled period of history, Cornwell weaves a tale that is often gruesome, brutal, and yet ultimately thrilling. I will admit that a few times the story seemed to drag a bit as Uhtred--and the reader--waited for the "big" battle between Danes and Saxons. But Uhtred's genius and arrogance saves the day once again, and this reader always finds time spent with him satisfying. This novel rates a strong 4.5-4.75 stars and a deep loyalty among those of us who just cannot get enough of Uhtred and his pre-Conqueror swagger. Highly recommended.