The Burning Land
Harper, Jan 19 2010, $25.99
As the ninth century begins to wind down, King Alfred of Wessex is old and dying. The Danes feel the opportunity to conquer Wessex whose great leader has foiled them before is now. Warlord Harald Bloodhair leads the Viking horde invasion by sea and land Mercia and Wessex.
Alfred turns to his oath-bound loyal Saxon pagan warrior Uhtred of Bebbanburg; the warlord defeats Harald, but also breaks his pledge of fealty. Deciding enough of England and its treachery, the warlord and his warriors head home to reclaim his family land. They confront other war parties and a witch’s curse only to take another spin back in the world of Alfred and his increasingly Christian nation as the he Danes from East Anglia and the Vikings from Northumbria head once again towards Mercia and Wessex.
The fifth Saxon saga (see Sword Song).affirms once again that Bernard Cornwell is one of the best, if not the top warrior, of pre William the Conqueror Dark Ages historical fiction. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of bloody action. However, it is an ailing dying Alfred nearing the end of his “Great” reign and the Saxon pagan warlord Uhtred who bring the period alive as the barbarians are at the gate, but it takes a barbarian to prevent them from entering. Fans will relish this deep tale as The Burning Land is increasingly Mercia and Wessex as Alfred no longer can defend them.