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Sword Song:
The Battle for London
The Saxon Chronicles, Book 4

by Bernard Cornwell

      Bernard Cornwell has been lauded by the Washington Post as "perhaps the greatest writer of historical adventure today". The fourth installment in his Saxon Tales, Sword Song: The Battle for London, provides ample proof that Cornwell is more than deserving of the Post's hyperbole.

This long running chronicle of the unification of England during the ninth century under Alfred the Great is narrated with the hindsight of old age by Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a fictional character loosely modeled on one of the author's own ancestors.

Teaming with period detail, this tale focuses on the battle between the Saxons and Danes for control of Lundene, the decayed fortress on the Thames that in another age will be known by a far more familiar name.

With his loyalties divided between the Danes who raised him and his Saxon king, Uhtred travels to Lundene, as the story opens, to conspire with the Danes who occupy the old Roman city. Before he makes a fatal mistake he can never undo, the warrior realizes he is about to attach himself to the wrong camp and returns to Alfred's fold.

Given command of the assault on Lundene against the very men who were nearly his allies, Uhtred leads the Saxon forces in a series of bloody battles that chisel away at Norse power and eventually enable him to lay claim to what will eventually be the capital of England.

The ebb and flow of battle is complicated by the Viking capture of Alfred's daughter and, of course, the valiant Uhtred must also free the noble woman from the invaders.

Along with a riveting story line, Cornwell weaves an intricate social tapestry of ninth century Britain and the tangled allegiances of Saxon and Dane, Christian and Pagan, that make the period so interesting to readers and historians today.

Here's a painless and actually rather enjoyable way of learning something about a period most history books usually give short-shrift to. Buckle on your long sword and join Uhtred as he fights the good fight for honor, king and country.

The Book

January 22, 2008
0060888644 / 9780060888640
Historical fiction / 9th Century
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The Reviewer

Bob Walch
Reviewed 2008
© 2008