Author – Bernard Cornwell
Published – 2012
Genre – Historical Fiction
There isn’t much need for preamble to this review – I pressed straight on with this book after finishing The Burning Land. Feeling on a bit of a roll after getting caught up on the action in book 5 of The Saxon Stories I thought I would strike while the iron was hot.
As you might guess from the title this is the book which sees the death of King Alfred, a moment which he and Uhtred have believed would be a catalyst for action by the factions looking to secure the throne for themselves. However, the book is mostly about more political shenanigans, partly as the new King needs to find his feet and figure out which of his many advisors he should trust. The rise of Christianity has been a theme in the series but it feels as if this book may have seen the tipping point in its importance.
Uhtred is frustrated by King Edward’s reluctance to attack the Danes and puzzled by the Danes lack of attack. The lack of action was a bit frustrating for me as a reader too. There are some small skirmishes but it felt like a lot less happened in this book than in its predecessor. The main action is saved until the very end of the book in what is a great set piece with a real feeling of tension.
Not as fast-paced as its predecessor and pleasingly (for me) there was less attention to the memoir aspect of the story – less foreshadowing of future events by Uhtred.