Monday, December 29, 2014

Glorious Viking Gore

The Burning Land (The Saxon Stories, #5)The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If reading this series doesn't make you wanna scream like this... ...then I just don't know what will!

The Burning Land continues Bernard Cornwell's bloodthirsty, battle-heavy and viciously violent viking saga.

England is still broken up into pieces. The Danes are threatening to overrun the land. Saxon King Alfred (later known as Alfred the Great) was holding on to Wessex and holding out hope of one day uniting the entire country under his banner. But needs the help of fighting men like our anti-hero hero Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

Though he's a pagan and acts like a Dane, Uhtred is actually a Saxon, who was raised by those viking Danes. He reluctantly works for Alfred, even if the piously Christian king and all his self-righteous priests get up Uhtred's nose. He's a fierce, skilled fighter who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty and his nose bloodied. It's what he's good at. However, he doesn't like to be anyone's lapdog, so any chance he gets, he heads north to threaten the impregnable fortress at Bebbanburg, his rightful seat of power, currently held by his usurping uncle.

Cornwell is a dab hand at crafting this particular character. You'll find him in the long-running Sharpe series as the titular main character. Cornwell is also quite adept at writing very exciting and highly realistic historical fiction. You're in capable hands on both counts. I especially like that he includes afterwards of real history information at the end of these books to let you know the true story behind the fiction. In this one he admits to falsifying the character of a historical figure to fit his novel and goes on to give a recommendation for further and more correct reading on said figure. That's a conscientious writer for you!

The Burning Lands is a particularly tight volume in this series. Each scene is meaningful and the action feels fast. Any lapse in the forward progress is a joy to read as Cornwell does his best to paint vivid settings and to portray all, from Saxon to Dane, man to woman and peasant to King.

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