The Flame Bearer
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
"When we are young we yearn for battle. In the firelit halls, we listen to the songs of heroes.
Then the day comes when we are ordered to fight with the men, not as children to hold the horses and to scavenge weapons after the battle, but as men. ... We are almost men, not quite warriors, and on some fateful day we meet an enemy for the first time, and we hear the chants of battle, the threatening clash of blades on shields, and begin to learn that the poets are wrong and that the proud songs lie."
Before the year 1000 A.D., England was a group of tribal kingdoms. Since the Romans left, there was constant fighting over land and religion with little time for peace. The invasions from the Vikings were constant. Throughout the years many of these kingdoms were merged into larger ones through marriages, battles, or treaties.
Finally, there is some peace due to a treaty between Sigtryggr, Northumbria's Viking ruler and AEthelflaed, Mercia's Saxon queen.
Lord Uhtred has been waiting years for this one opportunity to regain his inheritance of Bebbanburg. Uhtred's uncle stole this fortress when he was only nine-years-old, selling him into slavery while slaying his father. To Uhtred it seems as if the stars are finally aligning for his one chance to regain his inheritance.
In this time, every battle determined whether the land would become Daneland or England. Even though we know the winner today, it was a struggle with a close victory.
The problem for a series of many books is the continuity of the story. Can you read The Flame Bearer and enjoy it without having knowledge of the other books? Being this is the tenth installment, probably not. I do not recommend this as a stand alone book. The reader needs to know the past relationships and experiences to appreciate these sagas.
That said, I relish in delight in reading these books. The reader is with Uhtred with every decision, every battle, every conversation and watching as he learns and evolves in his personal character. Admittedly I did not like Uhtred initially and often wondered if he was supposed to be a protagonist or antagonist. His bullying nature became instantly antagonist but softened throughout the years due to tragedies and loss.
Though always an excellent fighter, now Uhtred relies on intelligence and strategy more while planning his moves as well as his enemies.
The Flame Bearer is historical fiction. Cornwell does play with inventing events to fit the needs of his story while utilizing real events and real people from the year 917 A.D. However; history is not well-documented during this time.
Bringing characters to life in The Flamed Bearer is enthralling as well as allowing the reader to understand the people, the land, and the constant threats of war even from Constantin from Scotland.
Read Bernard Cornwell's story of Uhtred who really existed while envisioning his quest in taking back his home of Bebbanburg.