Yet again, Cornwell has cracked it! This is exactly as historical fiction should be: bring that history to life.
One cannot help but be swept along as Uhtred recalls his adventures in Wessex and the south west of England. He questions King Alfred and the Christian ideology of the early Saxons, when one could only find favour with the King through demonstrating complete commitment to God. Consequently, his greatest enemies are the priests of Alfred's court. His enemies in battle, no matter what their reputation, hardly seem to bother him at all.
Uhtred is a great character, made even better by his flaws. I kept wanting to yell, "No! You idiot! They've set you up! Go the other way!" But the added danger caused by his naivety and occasional stupidity, just adds more spicy action to his tale.
As his career progresses from an early incarnation of First Sea Lord, to roaming general, his loyalties are always divided between his spiritual home with the Vikings, and his physical home as an Englishman. His upbringing amongst Vikings definitely saves his skin on several occasions.
As with The Last Kingdom, there is plenty of blood and gore, some very graphic descriptions of battle and single combat, and a smattering of sex, but not too much, or enough, of the latter, depending on your point of view.
This is a fast-pace, action-packed book, and it is highly entertaining. There are many amusing scenes in the book , the best of which, by far, is Cornwell's, Uhtred's, take on the famous King Alfred's burnt cakes episode. It is just wonderful! If he hadn't been so wrapped up in telling Uhtred about his strategy to regain Wessex from the Danes, King Alfred the Great would never have suffered the indignity! What did the woman do to him? Well, whatever she did, it made me roar with laughter!
Enough said. Read it!