Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review: The Burning Land (The Last Kingdom #5) by Bernard Cornwell

4.5 stars for The Burning Land (The Last Kingdom book 5) by Bernard Cornwell.

It has been a really long while since I read a series in succession, five books in a row. If my memory serves me right, the last was The Walk series by author Richard Paul Evans (book 1 The Walk, book 2 Miles to Go, book 3 The Road to Grace, book 4 A Step of Faith, book 5 Walking on Water), and I remember feeling deeply inspired for starting off the Year 2015 with the Walk series as it has brought along hope, faith and a sense of peace at that time.

Before I rattle off with reviews of old, let me get back to the topic at hand, the gathering of my thoughts and feelings on book 5 of The Last Kingdom series.

More years have passed and Uhtred, the pagan in service to a Christian king, is now in his mid-thirties. He longs to go North, back to his ancestral home besides the Northumbrian sea, to Bebbanburg, a home usurped by his father's brother.

As the title dictates, The Burning Land is mostly about fire and skirmishes. Burn Wessex Burn. Besides the burning, the killing and the plundering, it is interesting to note that the fights and battles are not just about men or food supplies, it is also about the hills and valleys, the rivers and marshes, as well as the places where land and water will help defeat the enemies. To this end, the author has done an impressive job propelling Uhtred to ever-greater heights as a strategist. A scheming man he is not, yet Uhtred has earned the readers' trust to have the best-laid plans.

In a time where a man is judged by his deeds, his reputation, the number of his oath-men, his generosity and his gold, to gain everything a man must risk everything. Dressed in his war-glory, mail and helmet and sword and arm rings, the Uhtred as we have come to know so well so far, is all about hopes, futures and dreams (of freedom).

Once again, the story and adventures of Uhtred, an exile and a warrior who straddles two worlds, the Danish North and the Saxon South, checked all the right boxes.

Treachery checked
Betrayal checked
Inferno checked
Chaos checked
Oath checked
Duty checked
Love checked
Devotion checked
Courage checked
Battle checked
Pride checked
Allegiance checked
Loyalty checked
Honor checked

Notwithstanding the above, I do have one grievance, and that is, I start to see the emergence of a certain pattern to the happenings and it somewhat dries up and slowdown the development of the story by this fifth instalment. Perhaps that is also the reason why I take much longer to finish this book.

Regardless of my grievance, I am still awed by author Cornwell in his choice conclusion of this tale. Indeed, I cannot help but do a double take when I reach the end of this story for the final scene of book 5 The Burning Land and the last act of book 4 Sword Song mirrors each other. How cool is that!

Book 5 The Burning Land

The long oars dipped, the river banks closed on us, and in the west the smoke of Lundene veiled the sky. As I took Æthelflæd home.

Book 4 Sword Song

The long oars dipped, the riverbanks closed on us, and in the west the smoke of Lundene smudged the summer sky. As I took Æthelflaed home.

Uhtred takes Æthelflæd home. The endings are the same but yet they are different. Why? Because the state of Æthelflæd's mind is at odds with each other in both instances. Well.. I'm not going to tell you the details. If you want to know, read this Last Kingdom series to find out for yourself.

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bið ful āræd.

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 27 May 2010

*** Favourite quote 1 ***

Wyrd bið ful ãræd, it says. Fate is inexorable. And wyn eal gedreas. All the joy has died.

*** Favourite quote 2 ***

The three spinners make our threads. Wyrd bið ful ãræd, we say, and it is true. Fate is inexorable.

*** Favourite quote 3 ***

All winter I had felt like a steersman in a fog, tideswept to nowhere, windblown to no harbor, lost, but now it was as though the fog lifted. The Fates had shown me the landmark I had sought, and if it was not the landmark I had wished for, it still gave my ship direction.

~ The Burning Land
Bernard Cornwell


This novel, the fifth in the magnificent series of England’s history, tells of the final assaults on Alfred’s Wessex.

*Blurb from author's website*

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