Review: Sword Of Kings – Bernard Cornwell

The Last Kingdom 12

My version: Hardback
Genre: Historical Fiction, England
Harper Collins Publishers
First published: 2019
ISBN: 978-0-00-818389-9
Pages: 331/334
, signed

From the cover:
‘If a man breaks his oath, he has no honour.’
Uhtred of Bebbanburg is a man of his word. An oath bound him to King Alfred. An oath bound him to Æthelflæd. And now an oath will wrench him away from the ancestral home he fought so hard to regain. For Uhtred has sworn that on King Edward’s death, he will kill two men. And now Edward is dying.
A violent attack drives Uhtred south with a small band of warriors, and headlong into the battle for Kingship. Plunged into a world of shifting alliances and uncertain loyalties, he will need all his strength and guile to overcome the fiercest warrior of them all.
As two opposing Kings gather their armies, fate drags Uhtred to London, and a struggle for control that must leave one King victorious and one dead. But fate – as Uhterd has learned to his cost – is inexorable. And Uhtred’s destiny is to stand at the heart of the shield wall once again…

As far as I can see, this is the last but one book in Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Last Kingdom’ series (the series has, as you may well have seen, gone through many name changes down the years, mostly I’m seeing the ‘Saxon Chronicles’ but I’ll call it The Last Kingdom series as that’s what may well have brought it to a wider audience). Now and then, I’ve been a little ho-hum with. I’m not saying anything as cliched as hoping ‘he’s saved the best for last.’ Partly as ‘Sword of Kings’ isn’t the last of course, erm… But! ‘Sword Of Kings’ at least is very good. I can’t really tell if that’s very good on its own, or very good as one of the Last Kingdom series, it’s just good. A rewally entertaining read – especially if you can get past the characters, especially Uhtred, calling each other and themselves fools all the time. BC seems to have conversely reduced the number of last sentences before a new paragraph starting with ‘And…’ as well. He’s clearly tsaken on board some of the how to write good’ pointers I’ve given him down the years.

The back of book blurb there is a little cliched with it’s ‘plunged…world of shifting alliances…’ The book is more than that, more than the standard fare for this period Hist Fic. Uhtred is up against it really, and needing help from wherever he can get it. He has sworn to kill these ‘two men’ and being half-Viking, can not go back on a swearing an oath, even if it was mainly to himself.

He feels quite a lonely character here, he has the close friend Finan with him still, but no real family to speak of. The loneliness is something I felt came through, but it makes him stronger in my eyes, as he is left to follow his own idea of his destiny by his own strength of will. For me to get all deep and thinking in those terms, it must mean that I thought the book was well written, I did.

I’ve seen the first two Last Kingdom series on BluRay, I’m really not sure about seeing the rest, up-to-date anyway, on Netflix, or shelling out for the series’ on BR again, because I have the first two (first world ‘problem,’ I know), but that aside, I can’t say if the series is going to go through all the way to this and the next book, the end. I still seem to remember that originally BC had mentioned something about the series ending when Uhtred re-captured Bebbanburg (sorry if you haven’t got that far in your reading of the series yet), Then he seems to have carried on, probably because that was about the time when TLC TV version was becoming popular (again I have no idea if it really is popular, ratings-wise, but to be nearing series 5 (is it?), there must be a substantial audience).

Anyway, this one is good, subtly good, it delivers all you want from the series and all you want from Uhtred. Though again, for me, it is Finnan who steals it. Him, I think is an excellent character, not a sidekick, an intriguing well thought out foil and a character in his own right.

You can buy Sword of Kings from The Book Depository

Photo by Dave Clubb on Unsplash

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