My review #40 of: Sword Song

Sword Song:

The Battle for London

(Saxon Chronicles #4)

by

Bernard CORNWELL

311 pages

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

I found this 4th volume in the series very exhilarating, as it seems Uhtred is pushed to the utmost in his inner struggle between his allegiance to King Alfred and his friendship for the Danes. The battle scenes are excellent, as usual. Cornwell has really a knack for description. I enjoy also Uhtred’s humor and sarcasm. I’ve never bored a second in the series.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

The year is 885, and England is at peace, divided between the Danish Kingdom to the north and the Saxon kingdom of Wessex in the south. Warrior by instinct and Viking by nature, Uhtred, the dispossessed son of Northumbrian lord, has land, a wife and children-and a duty to King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames. But a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have invaded the decayed Roman city of London with dreams of conquering Wessex…with Uhtred’s help. Suddenly forced to weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning side of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles, Uhtred-Alfred’s sharpest sword-must now make the choice that will determine England’s future. [goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother was English, a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted and brought up in Essex by the Wiggins family, who were members of the Peculiar People, a strict Protestant sect who banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine. After he left them, he changed his name to his mother’s maiden name, Cornwell.

Cornwell was sent away to Monkton Combe School, attended the University of London, and after graduating, worked as a teacher. He attempted to enlist in the British armed services at least three times, but was rejected on the grounds of myopia.

He then joined BBC’s Nationwide and was promoted to become head of current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland. He then joined Thames Television as editor of Thames News. He relocated to the United States in 1980 after marrying an American. Unable to get a Green Card, he started writing novels, as this did not require a work permit.

As a child, Cornwell loved the novels of C.S. Forester, chronicling the adventures of fictional British naval officer Horatio Hornblower during the Napoleonic Wars, and was surprised to find that there were no such novels following Lord Wellington’s campaign on land. Motivated by the need to support himself in the U.S. through writing, Cornwell decided to write such a series. He named his chief protagonist Richard Sharpe, a rifleman involved in most major battles of the Peninsular War.

Cornwell wanted to start the series with the Siege of Badajoz but decided instead to start with a couple of “warm-up” novels. These were Sharpe’s Eagle and Sharpe’s Gold, both published in 1981. Sharpe’s Eagle was picked up by a publisher, and Cornwell got a three-book deal. He went on to tell the story of Badajoz in his third Sharpe novel Sharpe’s Company published in 1982.

Cornwell and wife Judy co-wrote a series of novels, published under the pseudonym “Susannah Kells”. These were A Crowning Mercy, published in 1983, Fallen Angels in 1984, and Coat of Arms (aka The Aristocrats) in 1986. (Cornwell’s strict Protestant upbringing informed the background of A Crowning Mercy, which took place during the English Civil War.) He also published Redcoat, an American Revolutionary War novel set in Philadelphia during its 1777 occupation by the British, in 1987.

After publishing 8 books in his ongoing Sharpe series, Cornwell was approached by a production company interested in adapting them for television. The producers asked him to write a prequel to give them a starting point to the series. They also requested that the story feature a large role for Spanish characters to secure co-funding from Spain. The result was Sharpe’s Rifles, published in 1987 and a series of Sharpe television films staring Sean Bean.

A series of contemporary thrillers with sailing as a background and common themes followed: Wildtrack published in 1988, Sea Lord (aka Killer’s Wake) in 1989, Crackdown in 1990, Stormchild in 1991, and a political thriller called Scoundrel in 1992.

In June 2006, Cornwell was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s 80th Birthday Honours List.

Cornwell’s latest work is titled Azincourt and was released in the UK in October 2008. The protagonist is an archer who participates in the Battle of Agincourt, another devastating defeat suffered by the French in the Hundred Years War. However Cornwell has stated that it will not be about Thomas of Hookton from The Grail Quest or any of his relatives. [Goodreads].

To know more about Bernard Cornwell and his work, there’s an excellent article on wikipedia, and great interviews and book trailers on his own website.

REVIEWS BY OTHERS

Bernard Cornwell ranks as the current alpha male of testoterone-enriched historical fiction….This satisfying tale leaves you hungry for more of Uhtred’s adventures.” USA Today

Cornwell’s fourth entry in the popular Saxon Tales (following Lords of the North) is a rousing romp through the celebrated ninth-century reign of Alfred the Great. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a 28-year-old pagan Saxon lord of war, has pledged to serve Alfred by commanding the defensive frontier forts (burhs). Trouble arises when the Norse Viking brothers Sigefrid and Erik Thurgilson capture and occupy London, threatening Alfred’s border and his control of the Thames River port. The Christian Alfred directs Uhtred to raise a Wessex army, expel the pagan Thurgilsons and resecure London. Commanding Uhtred is his vain, abusive cousin Ethelred, who is married to Alfred’s eldest daughter, Ethelflaed. Plying his swords Serpent-Breath and Wasp-Sting, Uhtred is a stirring, larger-than-life action hero conflicted by ambition, fidelity and thirst for violence. All the major characters are well drawn, and the London battle scenes unfold quickly and vividly. A deft mix of historical details and customs authenticates the saga. And Cornwell drops in a slick twist precipitating the climatic battle to wrest control of London for the Saxons, paving the way for the story to continue. (Jan.) [Publishers Weekly]

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1 thought on “My review #40 of: Sword Song

  1. Pingback: Read in May 2011 « Words And Peace

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