Drama, blood, gore, and a few maimings are all a part of best-selling author Bernard Cornwell’s series (the Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories) dealing with the birth of England in the 9th century. “Sword Song” is the fourth in the series and continues the story of Uhtred, a renowned and respected warrior of King Alfred the Great. Uhtred, a dispossessed Northumbrian Lord who was raised by Vikings, shifts allegiances as war and his ambition require. We are never quite sure where Uhtred’s sword will wind up, but we know it will be a rousing good read while the battles unfold.
Cornwell is a master of making historical fiction come alive, by writing interestingly flawed central characters who must live by their wits and skills in a time when nice guys died early. Each of his books is thoroughly researched to ensure authenticity, but the reader feels as if the details are part of the story, not minutiae to fill the page. Battles are for the most part historically accurate and only altered when needed to fit a particular storyline. It is one of the fascinating aspects of reading the series that one can come away with a strong understanding of the chronological changes in the nature of war. 9th century strategies are explained, weaponry both large and small is described and ancient armor can be easily envisioned. In my case, a visit to an exhibition of 12th-14th c. armor at the Met in NYC was enhanced by having read Cornwell’s books.
“Sword Song” (2007) was followed by “The Burning Land,“ (2009) and “Death of Kings” (2011). A friend of mine, a student of the ‘art of war’ in both non-fiction and fiction platforms, has purchased every title in the series, disappointed only by the fact that he had to wait between each publication for the next.
If you don’t yet have your own copies, go forth and seek some. The gauntlet has been thrown!
For more information about Bernard Cornwell and his many internationally famous books and series, visit www.bernardcornwell.net
Read the review of "Agincourt" here.