This is Book 1 of the Saxon Chronicles.
This book was my first experience with Bernard Cornwell, and I can assure you that it won't be my last. He has a true talent for writing engaging and compelling historical fiction on a level that is nearly impossible to match.
This is the first book in a series that follows the life of Uhtred, the heir to Bebbanburg, a fortified earldom in the land of Northumbria. The time is set in the late 800s. The brutal Danes have begun to invade the land of Britain and have taken one kingdom after another until only one remains: Wessex. And its ruler is a man who will become known to history as King Alfred the Great.
This is an amazingly well written book. Cornwell does a masterful job of creating a main character that is as likable as he is flawed. Uhtred is a Britain by birth who becomes a Dane by adoption, and to watch him struggle with his own sense of identity, national loyalty, and purpose is truly an adventure to read.
The battle scenes are expertly drawn with a stunning sense of reality. There is no shortage of blood, gore, death, and dismemberment, nor is there a lack of the raping, pillaging, and overarching brutality that was war in these dark and difficult times. Cornwell also does not shy away from the power and corruption of the Medieval Church and the role it played in the political environment of the day.
This is a book about the fate of Britain hanging by a thread, and Cornwell puts that thread directly in the hands of a very conflicted Uhtred of Bebbanburg. This series is amazing, but it is also incredibly violent. For anyone who is squeamish about reading such things, I suggest that you pass this series by. But for everyone else who wants an expertly crafted tale with the perfect balance of fact and fiction, stop wasting time on my review and go read this book!
Just a quick note, they have now put this into a series on television, titled "The Last Kingdom"