This was the August pick of my Goodreads Book Club. It is the second in Cornwell’s Saxon Tales (also called The Last Kingdom) series.
I had some difficulty finding the right version. It looked like there might be different versions. When I looked for it on Audible, there was one version that was about 14 hours, and another about 5 and a half hours. In book listings, there were three different covers, one of which was meant to tie in with the TV series on BBC America, but they are the same book. The short version on Audible is the abridged version. When I knew I had the right book, I started reading.
I was a little worried at first, because the POV character (Uhtred) kept telling how every relationship would progress in the future. Fortunately, he stopped doing that. It’s more fun when you see relationships turn and threats emerge without being forewarned. So once the author focused on each scene as it was happening, I really liked it.
A fascinating story that takes us behind the scenes of one of the most important battles in the history of Britain. I always liked characters who are outsiders like Uhtred. Born a Saxon, raised among Danes, he’s not sure where his loyalties lie. Even when he commits to King Alfred, his paganism still makes things difficult for him. The Saxons don’t completely trust him, Alfred tries to convert him, and it causes tension with his wife. He is brash and sometimes stokes flames of ill will into roaring infernos. But his familiarity with the Danes allows him to gather vital intelligence for Alfred. That and his prowess as a warrior make him indispensable to the Saxons and their emerging king. There are exciting fight scenes and lesser battles, tension and intrigue, loss and heartbreak, leading up to the climactic battle at the end.
As a historical fiction reader, this has everything I could want. I imagine it will appeal more to men than women. Action oriented but with character development. You get an idea of why medieval history was such a rich source of inspiration for George R. R. Martin.