Sunday, January 31, 2016
Book Review: WARRIORS OF THE STORM
HARPERCOLLINS – @HarperCollins
AUTHOR: Bernard Cornwell
ISBN: 978-0-06-225094-0; hardcover (January 19, 2016)
320pp, B&W, $27.99 U.S.
Warriors of the Storm is a 2016 historical novel by author Bernard Cornwell, a popular British author of historical novels. This is the ninth book in Cornwell’s “Saxon Tales” series, and it continues the story of Saxon warlord, Uhtred of Bebbanburg. “The Saxon Tales” series is also known as “The Last Kingdom” series, and the first novel in “The Saxon Tales,” The Last Kingdom, has been adapted into a British television series.
As Warriors of the Storm opens, a fragile peace reigns in the Saxon lands of Britain. Edward, son of King Alfred, rules from Wessex and is slowly chasing the Danes from East Anglia. Edward's sister, Aethelflaed, rules from Mercia, but Mercia borders Northumbria, a land of Northmen – Norsemen and Danes. These Northmen, restless and eyeing the rich lands and wealthy churches to their south, are increasingly mounting raids into Mercia.
Now, the Northmen have allied to a fierce warrior named Ragnall Ivarson. He leads a band of ruthless Irish, and his union with the Northumbrians has formed a threat may overwhelm Mercia. The “Pagan Lord,” Uhtred of Bebbanburg, the Saxon kingdoms’ greatest warrior, controls northern Mercia from the strongly fortified city of Ceaster. It is up to Lord Uhtred to stop Ragnall, who apparently relishes facing the Pagan Lord in battle. Edward and Aethelflaed are reluctant to invade Northumbria, and further complicating matters, Ragnall's brother is Sigtryggr, who is now Uhtred's son-in-law because he married Stiorra, Uhtred's daughter. Even if Uhtred is the man to stop Ragnall Ivarson, he will need to be at his best, with only a small band of loyal warriors at his side.
Bernard Cornwell has received praise from George R.R. Martin, the author of A Game of Thrones, who says that Cornwell writes the best battles scenes he has ever read. USA Today says that Cornwell is “the reigning king of historical fiction.”
Warriors of the Storm is only the fourth Bernard Cornwell novel that I have read, and only the third of the nine “Saxon Tales,” books, which are a fictional chronicle of the making of England. However, I can agree that Cornwell writes the best battle scenes that I have ever read, and he is also my reigning king of historical fiction. Still, half-way through Warriors of the Storm, I started thinking that I had read this novel before and that it was more of the same.
I was wrong. In subtle ways, Uhtred is changing, as a father, a lover, and a friend, and also as a ruler and leader of men. Is he more human, or is it that with age comes wisdom and more knowledge, which Uhtred applies judiciously? Near the end of Warriors of the Storm, Uhtred's reaction to another person's grief shocked and surprised me. No, Warriors of the Storm is not more of the same, and, after three books, I can say that the king still reigns and is getting better with age.
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux
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