This historical novel is set in the last year of Alfred the Great's reign and the year after that. The Danes of the North are ready to invade Wessex as soon as Alfred pops his clogs. Alfred's brother's son is ready to challenge Alfred's son for the throne of Wessex. The Ealdorman of Cent wants to be King of Cent rather than Alfred's son Edward. The Mercians want Mercia to be independent of Wessex. And into all this steps Uhtred of Bamburgh, a pagan Saxon born in Northumbria but fighting for Alfred, lord of a poor manor near Buckingham in the part of Mercia the Saxons hold.
Uhtred journeys down the Ouse past Bedford to fight the Danes at St Neots. Then he travels to meet a prophetess and burn Danish long ships in Nottingham. He is a sort of Dark Age James Bond, fighting the Danes and protecting the Saxons, even though they don't much care for him. I didn't like him very much either, he is casually brutal, hanging prisoners without a thought, and he has sex with any women he wants although love is reserved for the King's daughter (much to the annoyance of her husband). He has about as much three dimensionality as James Bond too; he kills and he fucks, he has no personality.
And the plot is complicated by the fat that every other Saxon is called Aethel-something. There is almost too much history and insufficient wonder.
A decent yarn but lacking in depth.
On the other hands, Fools and Mortals, narrated by Richard Shakespeare, Will's brother and set in Elizabethan London, is a great yarn.
June 2012; 335 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57