This is the story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.

The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands) Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides. By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the enchanting fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.

This thrilling adventure—based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors—depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England.

My rating: *****

My Review: This is the first book in a historical series of epic proportions. I was fascinated by the story of Uhtred, a saxon boy who is raised by the Danes, and will one day be forced to choose who his loyalty will lie with. In this chronological series Uhtred is around ten years old and progresses to his twenties. The story begins in England in the 9th century with young Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Uhtred is Earldorman of Babbenburgh by birthright. He grows into a fierce warrior who’s only ambition is revenge, and to gain back his homeland that is his by right. His steps to getting back his birthright is packed with action and adventure.

I am Uhtred, son of Uhtred, and this is the tale of a blood feud. It is a tale of how I will take from my enemy what the law says is mine. And it is the tale of a woman and her father, a king.

He was my king and all that I have I owe to him. The food that I eat, the hall where I live, and the swords of my men, all come from Alfred, my king, who hated me.

This epic historical novel is full of real historical characters. Guthrum the Unlucky, Ubba the Horrible, and Ivar the Boneless, all fearless Dane warriors’ intent on taking over the English kingdoms. They arrive in their magnificent ships outfitted with rich colorful shields, finely carved prows, sterns with ominous dragons and serpents, and mastheads painted with bold eagles. I loved, loved, loved this novel! I warn you though, you need to read this story with your full attention as it is packed with adventure you don’t want to miss any of. I highly recommend this historical novel as I believe it is one of the best ever written. I will be reading the next book The Pale Horseman.