Death of Kings
Frequently the courageous person is the one who makes a decision and then is responsible for that choice. Uhtred wisely makes decisions quickly but does put himself in another’s place and does learn from past mistakes, both his own and others.
Death of Kings is the sixth book of Bernard Cornwell’s ‘The Saxon Stories’ and can be read as both a standalone or part of this series. Please recognize that if it is read as a standalone, Cornwell does quickly summarizes the previous events that impact this particular book.
Beginning in the year 898 A.D., England is divided between the Danes and the English, as well as the Norse gods and Christianity. King Alfred has the dream of having a united Christian England with one language. Unfortunately, the numerous rulers trade loyalties all too easily and it is difficult to know about alliances that are constantly changing. With Alfred dying, many view this as an opportunity for their personal gain even though Edward, Alfred’s son, is to be the next king.
Bernard Cornwell brilliantly demonstrates the problems of the times with the divided loyalties of leaders as well as divided religious tensions that prevent unification. Added to that Uhtred has a serious relationship with Æthelflæd, Edward’s sister who is married to another.
Being that I had not read the first five in this series, I found the first pages overwhelming with names that are extremely similar to each other. Granted these were real people, but the similarity of their names without prior knowledge took time to really differentiate.
The character of Uhtred, was a bit over the top in that he seemed to succeed in everything and that he was hated for his brashness. (Imagine Rambo in the year of 898 A.D.) The conflicts of the time were the strength in novel. The reader feels that they are making the history with the characters as the story is revealed.
I would recommend this to everyone. This history was long ago but seems to be repeated with different weapons and there are just different names and places. Unfortunately, there are lessons to be learned that we seem not to comprehend. Learn from the past. Read Death of Kings.