Sunday, August 20, 2017

Review: Sword Song (The Last Kingdom #4) by Bernard Cornwell

5 stars for Sword Song (The Last Kingdom book 4) by Bernard Cornwell.

... and so I set out to unravel the unknowns that await me in this book 4 Sword Song. Truth be told, before I start out on this perilous journey I have no inkling of what this book encompasses except that it continues to be one of Uhtred's adventures.

The previous Book 3 Lords of the North draws to a close in the Year 880 with a twenty-three-year-old warrior setting off from Dunholm in the North to Wessex in the South. Fast forward five years and this warrior, Uhtred, is now twenty-eight years old. Older and wiser, Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg, has become a builder, a trader, and a father. He still serves Alfred, King of Wessex, because he has given Alfred his oath, and not because he wishes to.

Much of Sword Song is set in Lundene (presently known as London) which stands where Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex meet. Lured by the promise of bright gold and shining silver, the Danes, the Norsemen, the Scots and the Britons, have all flocked to this city of merchants, tradesmen, and seafarers. And there, the new Viking leaders plot to hire these men, buy weapons, raise warriors, assemble armies, all with the ultimate goal to invade and conquer Wessex.

A title beautifully chosen, Sword Song is the song of the blade wanting blood. It is a story of bloodshed, of battle, of war cry, of Uhtred, a lord of war, fighting for his land, his family, his home and his country.

Once again, the battle scenes are magnificent with axe hacks, spear throws, swords thrust, shield walls, battle songs, male bonding, breaths of ale for courage (this one is contributed by buddy Sean), brute strength, sheer numbers, and a much needed dash of luck for survival. In addition to the power struggles, the author introduces something new: a disturbing yet powerful sad love story. Author Cornwell knows exactly how to tug at readers' heartstrings for I am overcome by emotions - anger, sadness, pity - so strong that I feel as if my heart is torn asunder in this new heart melting romance.

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bið ful āræd.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Lords of the North (The Last Kingdom #3) by Bernard Cornwell

5 stars for Lords of the North (The Last Kingdom book 3) by Bernard Cornwell.

Perhaps I am ambitious or maybe just overly enthusiastic, the truth is, I have been looking forward to reading this book way before I am even done with book 2 The Pale Horseman. The reason is simple; this is obviously a tale about the lords of the North. And Uhtred, who sways between his love of the Danes and his loyalty to the Saxons, is from the North, which means that he will very likely be returning from Wessex to Northumbria in this book for that is where Bebbanburg lies. And I am so looking forward to his return.

This third instalment of The Last Kingdom series packs a hefty punch. At twenty-one years of age (Year 878), with the belief that his swords can win him the whole world, Uhtred continues his adventure. There is certainly no lack of excitement in Uhtred's sword-path for there are ups, and there are downs, and they never fail to invoke a maelstrom of feelings that swirled within me as I read along. Courage, fear, anxiety, dread, anger, despair, relief, love, compassion, need, pride and hope all come into play, all in the name of upholding majesty and honorability in the story.

On top of the above, I have come to love the Historical Note that the author provides at the end of each book. And once again, author Cornwell promises that Uhtred's wars are far from over and that he will have need of Serpent-Breath again. So, right now, I am tingling with excitement. I am going to slowly uncover what lies in store for Uhtred in the next book, Sword Song.

Before I end off my review, I will like to give a shout-out to book buddy Sean who recommends this series to me. Speaking of which, have you started on the latest book 10 The Flame Bearer? Enjoy the read. Wyrd bið ful āræd

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom #2) by Bernard Cornwell

5 stars for The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom book 2) by Bernard Cornwell.

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bið ful āræd.

The Pale Horseman calls out to me even as I am writing and wrapping up my review of The Last Kingdom. That is when I know I am destined to read this book.

Book 2 The Pale Horseman pretty much picks up from where book 1 The Last Kingdom leaves off, with Uhtred - at the age of twenty - recounting the mistakes he makes as an arrogant, foolish and headstrong young warrior following his battle with the great Danish leader, Ubba Lothbrokson. From then on, it tells of Uhtred's plight and fight where an adversary of today may turn into an ally on the morrow and vice versa. And finally, central to the story, events that lead to the King of Wessex being reduced to the King of a few square miles of swamp and how that is expanded on subsequently.

Taken verbatim from the book "The kingdom of Wessex was now a swamp and, for a few days, it possessed a king, a bishop, four priests, two soldiers, the king’s pregnant wife, two nurses, a whore, two children, one of whom was sick, and Iseult."

The story is phenomenally well written. There are twists and there are turns, and they catch me unaware. The author does a remarkable job in developing Uhtred's character here for there is no lack of action on his part that leads to heart-stopping moments. Yes, I cannot help but worry for Uhtred. Then, there is the ever-present humour, as sharp as ever, perhaps even more so than that of Uhtred's sword, Serpent-Breath, for words have power.

Once again, I have a great time immersing myself in The Saxon Tales, so much so that I stay up the night to finish up the last chapter culminating in the great shield wall battle yet again. As I read, I am ever thankful to buddy Sean who suffers through not one but two seasons of The Last Kingdom - crappy - TV series because he feels the need to refresh his memories and not be a book spoiler for my sake. Buddy, your binge-watch is duly noted and greatly appreciated!

Destiny is everything. I believe at the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree of life, the three women spinners are at work again, and now, they are spinning me towards The Lords of the North. I know it because..

Wyrd bið ful āræd. Fate is inexorable.