One of Britain’s most cherished authors of historical fiction, Bernard Cornwell is back in good form with The Flame Bearer, the latest addition to the celebrated The Last Kingdom series.
Starting back in 2004, the popular series follows the perils of Uhtred, rightful heir to his father’s castle of Bebbanburg on the Saxon shores of Northumbria. As a young boy he was taken away from his home and birthright, after a Danish raid wreaked havoc on his homeland, witnessing the killing of his father the Ealdorman. Having been taken by Danish lord Ragnar back to the land of the Danes, his captor takes an interest in the lad. Ragnar raises Uhtred as a slave in his own household, where the boy befriends Ragnar’s son and starts to live live as a true Viking raider, unwittingly embroiled in the tribal intrigues surrounding the warlord’s throne.
In earlier installments, we saw Uhtred return home as part of renewed raids on the English coast, eventually getting deeper and deeper involved in the struggle between the Danes and the Saxon, a child of neither world, standing his ground as a man determined to reclaim his rightful heritage, as well as embattled earloom as disparate powers vie for dominance over the entire island.
The tenth book in The Last Kingdom series sees a determined Uhtred fighting to retake Bebbanburg Castle once and for all. However, not only does he face resistance from his cousin in Bebbanburg; other forces surrounding the territory of Yorvik, controlled by his new son-in-law, are conspiring to thwart his plans.
Some of the previous books in this series – whilst proving to be a good read – lacked some of the detail and pull of the story felt in the earlier books. Thankfully this latest one has come out guns blazing. A lot has happened since we last joined Uhtred in the Warriors Of The Storm and things are changing still. Erstwhile allies are now working against him, and unlikely alliances are being formed in the darkest of times.
In order to succeed, Uhtred will have to be both cunning and shrewd in the execution of his plans, having to resort to deception as well as bravery to realise his one true dream.
A concern of mine while reading this novel – what with being a long time fan of Bernard Cornwell – was that you start to notice patterns of how a writer works; such as the build up to a significant death or other important event, which can make the novel seem somewhat monotonous and in the worst case predictable. Thankfully that hasn’t happened with this book. Hopefully the adventures of Uhtred will continue seeing the ultimate dream of Alfred the Great come to fruition, the forming of Englaland – England!
“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd”