Series: Saxon Tales,
Published by Harper Collins on January 22nd 2008
Genres: War & Military, Historical, Fiction, Action & Adventure
Reading Challenges: 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
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. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord--warrior by instinct, Viking by nature--has finally settled down. He has land, a wife, and two children, and a duty given to him by King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames. But then trouble stirs: a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have arrived to occupy the decayed Roman city of London. Their dream is to conquer Wessex, and to do it they need Uhtred's help.Alfred has other ideas. He wants Uhtred to expel the Viking raiders from London. Uhtred must weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning tide of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles. And other storm clouds are gathering: AEtheleflaed--Alfred's daughter--is newly married, but by a cruel twist of fate, her very existence now threatens Alfred's kingdom. It is Uhtred--half Saxon, half Dane--whose uncertain loyalties must now decide England's future.
Like Bernard Cornwell’s earlier Saxon Stories, Sword Song, is full of action. In this novel, Uhtred is forced to take London back from the Danes. King Alfred sends him with his cousin, Aethelred, who has just married Alfred’s daughter Aetheleflaed and taken over control of Southern Mercia. Uhtred is sent as one of his cousin’s advisors, but the their extreme dislike for one another causes major problems for Uhtred. The majority of the novel is about the various battles Uhtred wages at Alfred’s behest to capture and maintain control of London. Aside from the numerous battles, the novel also focuses on the relationships between the core characters.
I really enjoyed this book. As I stated, it was nonstop action from beginning to end. I really love Uhtred and his relationship with his wife Gisela. Cornwell did a fantastic job juxtaposing Uhtred’s fierce warrior nature with the loving husband and father he’s become. Not only do Uhtred’s actions towards his wife show his love for her, but the 80 year-old narrator still recalls Gisela fondly. I hope the two get to live happily for a while, as I thoroughly enjoy their relationship. One relationship I didn’t enjoy was the one between Uhtred’s cousin and Aetheleflaed.
“Love is a dangerous thing. It comes in disguise to change our life… Lust is the deceiver. Lust wrenches our lives until nothing matters except the one we think we love, and under that deceptive spell we kill for them, give all for them, and then, when we have what we have wanted, we discover that it is all an illusion and nothing is there. Lust is a voyage to nowhere, to an empty land, but some men just love such voyages and never care about the destination. Love is a voyage too, a voyage with no destination except death, but a voyage of bliss.”
― Bernard Cornwell, Sword Song
Aethelred is a horrible, pompous man. My hatred for him has managed to surpass mine for Alfred. I guess because while I don’t like Alfred, I respect who he is. Alfred’s a smart man with a dream, who knows how to manipulate the right people into falling in line with his vision like pieces on a chessboard. Aethelred, however, just thinks he’s smart. He’s not. I’m hoping that somewhere down the line Uhtred and Aethelred come to blows. Even though I hate Aethelred, I still enjoying seeing what nonsense he’s going to pull, and watching Uhtred try to figure a way around him.
Despite my feelings for Aethelred, I love Aetheleflaed, Alfred’s daughter. She’s a strong female character, and her friendship with Gisela was a nice addition to the manly battle scenes. I can tell that she will grow to do many great things, and can’t wait to see how her actions affect the story down the line.
One thing I didn’t particularly care for was the time jump in this novel. Books 2 and 3 pick up right after the previous book within a short period of time. Sword Song, however, begins five years after The Lords of the North end. This kind of threw me for a bit. For some reason I felt like I had walked in the middle of a discussion. Once I got acclimated to what was happening, everything was wonderful. Something like this may seem like a minor issue, but it was a bit of a problem since there was so much action, the impetus of which happened in the five-year gap between books 3 and 4.
Do I Recommend?
Yes! Cornell’s Saxon Stories continue to captivate me. The further into the series I go, the more addicted I seem to become. Uhtred is a wonderful character that appears to grow wiser in each book, moving closer to the elder version narrating the series. Since it took me longer to get into the book due to the five-year time jump, I rate Sword Song 4 out of 5 stars.