"The Pagan Lord" by Bernard Cornwell

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The very prolific Bernard Cornwell continues his Saxon Chronicles series with The Pagan Lord, the seventh entry. Now, main character Uhtred of Bebbanburg, warrior chief for the Saxon cause against the Danish invasions, is showing some age. He's past 50, which for a warrior in the year 910, is pretty remarkable. In this entry he's on the outs with the church and his devout son, and he fails in his attempt to recapture the castle that is rightfully his. He spends most of the book a leader without followers, a man-at-arms without a cause.

But never fear, causes seem to find Uhtred whether he's searching for them or not. While he and his ragtag troup are laying low in coastal Frisia, a captured woman helps Uhtred understand the designs and desires of kings and warlords across the British Isles. He finally decides what he must do, and promptly leads his forces, such as they are, on a harried chase of destruction and kidnappping across the Mercian Midlands to the Welsh border. And at the end, Uhtred faces likely death at the hands of a ruthless Danish force which outnumbers him at least 20-to-1.

Mr. Cornwell delights us and enthralls us with several
features in this series. First is the perfrect verisimilitude to tenth-century Saxon England. Second, he has chosen this epoch because it is a crucial juncture in the history of the British Isles. Uhtred's fictional exploits help to steer it toward English (or at that time, Anglo-Saxon) and away from Norse. Specifically also, I have seen his battle scenes praised, and deservedly so. They are shown in all their frightful and action-packed ferocity, and are the result of scrupulous research. I anticipate the next installment impatiently, because I know it will not disappoint. They never do.
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