Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell

The Flame Bearer:  Novel by Bernard Cornwell --- 284 pages

The tenth volume in Cornwell's Saxon Tales series, continues to interweave the ninth and tenth century history of how the Saxons under Alfred the Great and his successors drove out the Dane and Norse invaders and united all the petty kingdoms of Britain into one united Christian Englaland, with the imagined tale of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, the fierce pagan warlord pledged in an uneasy fealty to Alfred, whose victories made Alfred's dream a reality.

Alfred's son Edward now rules Wesses and East Anglia, his daughter AEthelflaed rules Mercia. The Saxon's are now eyeing Northumbria, where Uhtred's Danish son-in-law Sigtryggr rules from his stronghold in the old Roman city of Eoferic (York).  And Uhtred, after years of serving the dreams and ambitions of others, is preparing at long last to follow his own dream and win back Bebbanburg, the great sea hold of Northumbria, that is his, by right of blood and birth.

Bebbanburg was stolen from Uhtred when his father died and his uncle, his father's brother, usurped his place. His uncle wanted Uhtred dead and tried more than once to kill him. Now the usurper's son, Uhtred's cousin, sits in Bebbanburg. This crucial fortress, almost impregnable on its high rock overlooking the North Sea, commands all that section of the coast, and the lands around it, including the sacred island of Lindesfarena.

If Uhtred can claim his brithright and win back Bebbanburg, he will have the power to provide sanctuary for his daughter and her Danish husband, and all those who follow the old gods, when inevitably, the Saxons reconquer Northumbria.  He can hold the north for the Saxons against the predatory Scots king Constantin, who would like to establish the old Roman wall south of Bebbanburg as the boundary between Alba and Northumbria.  If he can take Bebbanburg, he can reclaim his patrimony for himself and his son and his son's sons. He can keep his promise to AEthelflaed, to protect her daughter after she is gone; and to protect Edward's inconvenient eldest son AEthelstan from Edward's conniving queen and her powerful clan.

Uhtred will need all the skills and all the cunning of a lifetime of warfare, and all the favors he can wring from gods old and the new, and from cold-hearted Fate, to make his dream a reality.

ɯƴrd bið ful ãræd.

Click HERE to read a review from Kirkus.

Click HERE to read a feature story from the York Press about Cornwell and the inspiration for The Saxon Tales.

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