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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: Ætheleflæd—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.

A gripping story of love, deceit, and violence, Sword Song is set in an England of tremendous turmoil and strife—yet one galvanized by the hope that Alfred may prove an enduring force. Uhtred, his lord of war and greatest warrior, has become his sword—a man feared and respected the length and breadth of Britain.

Topics: Medieval Period, London, England, Vikings, Mixed Race People, War, Military, Paganism, Priests, Christianity, Series, and First Person Narration

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061798252
List price: $10.99
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Another quick read from Cornwell featuring Uhtred, the anti-hero, so to speak, of this Saxon historical fiction series. Nothing really spectacular here except some general early London background info. London and the Thames estuary is the key setting. I think I would benefit greatly from reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and some other nonfiction books about King Alfred the Great. I do appreciate that Cornwell stays true to his theme of depicting King Alfred as sort of weakling, not to mention most of the Christians and monks. Then again, the Danes aren't all that nice either, but they aren't really pretending to be in the first place. Danes = brutal but mostly honorable. Christian Saxons = brutal and manipulative. I'm interested to see how this series gets wrapped up with its flashback narrator still going.more
Most excellent..plenty of blood and guts..sure would like Uthred to get home though!more
Given to me to read by HMcD. The author is a neighbor of hers. Even though this is part of a series (kind of like skipping to the end of a book to see how it ends) I found it not a problem at all to jump into this take of England during the time of Alfred the Great (9th Century). From what I've gathered, half Saxon,half Dane Uhtred was done out of his inheritance, raised by Vikings and is now sworn by oath to Alfred. In a time when Vikings and Saxons are at war (as well as Christianity and Paganism) Uhtred's warrior skills are of great service.The main part of the tale revolves around the battle for the city of London. The battle scenes are some of the best I have read, clear and grittily (is that a word?) realistic, extreme attention to detail. (I've recently read some really crummy battle scenes, so the difference was quite apparent.) There are plots and subplots (a man arises from the dead to help convince Uhtred where his loyalties need be, friendships, family ties, the complexities of marriage, and love) woven around the battles. Uhtred manages to keep both his integrity and his oaths, even when the two conflict. A good tale.Loved the USA Today quote on the back of the book: 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."more
Probably my least favorite Cornwell novel so far but still very enjoyable. Utred continues to be mocked by fate while at the same time gaining the power and prestige that he craves.Really the story didn't hold that emotional punch that most of the other novels do (except toward the end where there was a bit of tragedy) and this made it feel like "filler". But never fear there's plenty of battle, shield walls and naval battles.more
Good conclusion to the Alfred seriesmore
More of the usual rollicking, blood and thunder (especially the former) stuff, endless gleaming sword thrusts and whirling axe blades, plus some treachery and even the odd attractive character here and there. Typical Cornwell series stuff.more
Alfred has sent Uhtred to capture Lundane from the Norsemen. He has also sent his somewhat useless but arrogant son-in-law, Aethelred, who will claim the victory he doesn't deserve. Aethelred's wife, is kidnapped by the Norse and a ransom is demanded. Uhted will try and rescue her and save Alfred's kingdon at the same time - as the ransom would be used to field an army for the Norse.While Uhtred is fictional, a lot of the story is historical and very well done and to be continued.more
In the fourth installment of the Saxon Tales series, Alfred the Great captures London via the fictional hero of the series. Drama ensues when the displaced Northmen win a battle against the Lord of Mercia, capturing Alfred's daughter in the process. In the Norse camp. however, is a traitor with a history of breaking oaths. The final battle eliminates the Northmen threat, returns the daughter to her father, and still leaves the traitorous nemesis on the loose to be a protagonist in future novels.more
I’ve been reading Bernard Cornwell’s historical novels for approximately two years now and it never ceases to amaze me on how well written, profound, robust and deadly his stories can be and his latest is no exception. “Sword Song” his fourth book in Mr. Cornwell’s Saxon chronicles featuring Uhtred on Bebbanburg, Alfred the Great and the origins of England were an incredible read. I took my time reading this book savoring it like a fine wine during a scrumptious repast. As an aperitif Mr. Cornwell begins the novel with our hero Uhtred recounting one of the most brutal battles I’ve read. For the main course he gives us the sack of London. And as a final dessert a love story –akin to Tristan and Isolde- coupled with a mêlée to end all mêlées. Needless to say I will definitely be picking up Mr. Cornwell’s next Saxon novel, fate is inexorable.more
I really enjoyed this one. It did sort of follow a Bernard Cornwell pattern but, like it says on the blurb it is really well researched (actually, how do I know that? I'm no historian, it could be really poorly researched and I'd be none the wiser!). The characters are well drawn. Like Cornwell's most famous work (Sharpie!!!) the hero does have his faults but it's really clear who you're supposed to like and who you're supposed to hate. I can't help feeling a bit sorry for Uhtred's missus. I was expecting her to meet an untimely end all the way through this book but she made it, there's just a sort of sense of doom about the way that she's written though that makes me think she won't make it to the end of the series. All in all a really good, easy read and I know a bit more now about the politics of King Alfred's time. I'll definitely be getting the rest of the series.more
I love this series - but this particular book (aside from the lovely cover art) was a bit of a disappoiintmentmore
I can't get enough of this saga. He cannot write these fast enough.more
Good book, in the same vein as Volumes 1-3, lots of bloody battle scenes, read in Maui 1/08more
Note: This is a review of an ARE I received from Harper Collins. Given that the book has been published in the UK, I assume it is essentially a finished product and it read that way.“Doom [Judge] very evenly! Do not doom one doom to the rich; another to the poor! Nor doom one doom to your friend; another to your foe!” King Alfred in the Doom Book or Code of Alfred.Bernard Cornwell has given us another smashing tale of war and love from 9th century “England”. The year is 885 CE and King Alfred of Wessex struggles to consolidate his control of the Saxon lands as defined in the treaty with Guthrum that divided the island between Saxon and the Danelaw. Cornwell’s once again uses the narrative voice of Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg as he reflects on his life in extreme old age (probably around 940 CE). Uhtred, now 25, is a Saxon raised as a Dane, pagan serving a most Christian king. Uhtred worships the old Norse gods and looks forward to long days of battle and nights of song, drink, and women at Odin’s Death Hall (Valhalla). In Uhtred’s eyes, Alfred worships the ‘Christian nailed god’, a god who fences men in with laws and rules so limiting that a man is not allowed to lust after his neighbor’s wife!Alfred needs Uhtred because as Lincoln said of Grant, ‘he fights’ and exceedingly well. Alfred seeks to reclaim Mercian Lundene (London) and that battle forms the centerpiece of the first half of the book. The latter half centers on battles on the lower Temes (Thames) at Beamfleot (Benfleet), including some crashing marine assaults. Sword Song does not lack for ringing swords, shield walls, smashed skulls, splintered oars, battle fear and death – and also broken hearts.Uhtred requires assistance and Cornwell supplies with him familiar friends from earlier volumes: Steapa, the warrior priest Pyrlig, and most necessary of all, Uhtred’s wife Gisela.Uhtred is a simple man, violent in battle, bound by his sense of honor, an esteemed and rightly feared warrior, and a loving and loved husband. Gisela and Uhtred have a relationship that struck this reader as perhaps a bit too modern in its mutual respect. Uhtred never seems to be fighting for his own interests. He longs to return and take Bebbanburg in Northumbria, but cannot or will not break his oath to Alfred. (One hopes that Cornwell will keep the Saxon stories going until Uhtred fights that battle.) The heroic Uhtred is offset by Alfred’s son-in-law Aethelred, a cowering and grasping little weasel who Alfred elevates to Earl of Mercia precisely because he wants a weak ruler there – Alfred’s aim is to be King of the Anglo-Saxons, King of ‘England’, a place that doesn’t even exist yet. Aethelred also turns out to be a vicious husband. (By the way, Cornwell’s Aethlered is based on an historical figure, but is not to be confused with the later Aethelred unfairly tagged the Unready.)Uhthred’s worthy battle opponents are Danes with their pagan amulets (like his own), their shields and battle axes. He understands these Danes, respects them, is comfortable with them. Some of the Danes do prove to be a bit treacherous, but what do you expect from a bunch of 9th century pagan warriors?!Cornwell’s historical note admits that he has probably been very unfair to Aethelred. The fact is the historical record for this era is thin indeed. Cornwell’s telling captures a plausible feel for the era, mostly limited to the perspective of a warrior lord. A small quibble: The image on the book cover shows warriors heaving lighted spears from a broken stone bridge over the Temes, an image unsupported by the historical record in at least one detail. The first stone bridge over the Thames at London was not completed until the early 14th century. Cornwell might have explored why the Christian god with all his rules and restrictions had broader appeal than the free-spirited Norse gods. Indeed, Alfred’s Christian religion eventually prevailed more effectively than warfare in uniting England. Why? Was this because the nailed god’s church offered some salvation to every man whereas the Norse gods really only appealed to the warrior class? Or that the Christian church had organized proselytizers? The nailed god seems to have not only demanded more, but also offered more and to more people than Odin. Sword Song is a compact, exhilarating tale of historical adventure that entertains a lot, informs a little, and won’t overtax your noggin. Stoke the fire in your hearth and settle in for a good story. A fine addition to the Saxon Stories and Cornwell promises that “Uhtred and his story will continue.”more
Bernard Cornwell does an amazing job of weaving great historical detail into a captivating story of a warrior torn between loyalties. There is plenty of action, but battle scenes are never drawn out, and there is human drama throughout: love, jealousy, cunning, and striving to do the right thing in the face of a difficult situation. Even minor characters have fully realized personalities and the narrator is just the man you would want on your side. The prose is never dry though the book is full of interesting information, and fortunately the characters never seem to do anything anachronistic. The antagonism between the pagans and the Christians was especially believable and fascinating.more
Although a little less enchanting the the previous books of the series. It was still gripping and well wrotemore
Read all 18 reviews

Reviews

Another quick read from Cornwell featuring Uhtred, the anti-hero, so to speak, of this Saxon historical fiction series. Nothing really spectacular here except some general early London background info. London and the Thames estuary is the key setting. I think I would benefit greatly from reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and some other nonfiction books about King Alfred the Great. I do appreciate that Cornwell stays true to his theme of depicting King Alfred as sort of weakling, not to mention most of the Christians and monks. Then again, the Danes aren't all that nice either, but they aren't really pretending to be in the first place. Danes = brutal but mostly honorable. Christian Saxons = brutal and manipulative. I'm interested to see how this series gets wrapped up with its flashback narrator still going.more
Most excellent..plenty of blood and guts..sure would like Uthred to get home though!more
Given to me to read by HMcD. The author is a neighbor of hers. Even though this is part of a series (kind of like skipping to the end of a book to see how it ends) I found it not a problem at all to jump into this take of England during the time of Alfred the Great (9th Century). From what I've gathered, half Saxon,half Dane Uhtred was done out of his inheritance, raised by Vikings and is now sworn by oath to Alfred. In a time when Vikings and Saxons are at war (as well as Christianity and Paganism) Uhtred's warrior skills are of great service.The main part of the tale revolves around the battle for the city of London. The battle scenes are some of the best I have read, clear and grittily (is that a word?) realistic, extreme attention to detail. (I've recently read some really crummy battle scenes, so the difference was quite apparent.) There are plots and subplots (a man arises from the dead to help convince Uhtred where his loyalties need be, friendships, family ties, the complexities of marriage, and love) woven around the battles. Uhtred manages to keep both his integrity and his oaths, even when the two conflict. A good tale.Loved the USA Today quote on the back of the book: 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."more
Probably my least favorite Cornwell novel so far but still very enjoyable. Utred continues to be mocked by fate while at the same time gaining the power and prestige that he craves.Really the story didn't hold that emotional punch that most of the other novels do (except toward the end where there was a bit of tragedy) and this made it feel like "filler". But never fear there's plenty of battle, shield walls and naval battles.more
Good conclusion to the Alfred seriesmore
More of the usual rollicking, blood and thunder (especially the former) stuff, endless gleaming sword thrusts and whirling axe blades, plus some treachery and even the odd attractive character here and there. Typical Cornwell series stuff.more
Alfred has sent Uhtred to capture Lundane from the Norsemen. He has also sent his somewhat useless but arrogant son-in-law, Aethelred, who will claim the victory he doesn't deserve. Aethelred's wife, is kidnapped by the Norse and a ransom is demanded. Uhted will try and rescue her and save Alfred's kingdon at the same time - as the ransom would be used to field an army for the Norse.While Uhtred is fictional, a lot of the story is historical and very well done and to be continued.more
In the fourth installment of the Saxon Tales series, Alfred the Great captures London via the fictional hero of the series. Drama ensues when the displaced Northmen win a battle against the Lord of Mercia, capturing Alfred's daughter in the process. In the Norse camp. however, is a traitor with a history of breaking oaths. The final battle eliminates the Northmen threat, returns the daughter to her father, and still leaves the traitorous nemesis on the loose to be a protagonist in future novels.more
I’ve been reading Bernard Cornwell’s historical novels for approximately two years now and it never ceases to amaze me on how well written, profound, robust and deadly his stories can be and his latest is no exception. “Sword Song” his fourth book in Mr. Cornwell’s Saxon chronicles featuring Uhtred on Bebbanburg, Alfred the Great and the origins of England were an incredible read. I took my time reading this book savoring it like a fine wine during a scrumptious repast. As an aperitif Mr. Cornwell begins the novel with our hero Uhtred recounting one of the most brutal battles I’ve read. For the main course he gives us the sack of London. And as a final dessert a love story –akin to Tristan and Isolde- coupled with a mêlée to end all mêlées. Needless to say I will definitely be picking up Mr. Cornwell’s next Saxon novel, fate is inexorable.more
I really enjoyed this one. It did sort of follow a Bernard Cornwell pattern but, like it says on the blurb it is really well researched (actually, how do I know that? I'm no historian, it could be really poorly researched and I'd be none the wiser!). The characters are well drawn. Like Cornwell's most famous work (Sharpie!!!) the hero does have his faults but it's really clear who you're supposed to like and who you're supposed to hate. I can't help feeling a bit sorry for Uhtred's missus. I was expecting her to meet an untimely end all the way through this book but she made it, there's just a sort of sense of doom about the way that she's written though that makes me think she won't make it to the end of the series. All in all a really good, easy read and I know a bit more now about the politics of King Alfred's time. I'll definitely be getting the rest of the series.more
I love this series - but this particular book (aside from the lovely cover art) was a bit of a disappoiintmentmore
I can't get enough of this saga. He cannot write these fast enough.more
Good book, in the same vein as Volumes 1-3, lots of bloody battle scenes, read in Maui 1/08more
Note: This is a review of an ARE I received from Harper Collins. Given that the book has been published in the UK, I assume it is essentially a finished product and it read that way.“Doom [Judge] very evenly! Do not doom one doom to the rich; another to the poor! Nor doom one doom to your friend; another to your foe!” King Alfred in the Doom Book or Code of Alfred.Bernard Cornwell has given us another smashing tale of war and love from 9th century “England”. The year is 885 CE and King Alfred of Wessex struggles to consolidate his control of the Saxon lands as defined in the treaty with Guthrum that divided the island between Saxon and the Danelaw. Cornwell’s once again uses the narrative voice of Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg as he reflects on his life in extreme old age (probably around 940 CE). Uhtred, now 25, is a Saxon raised as a Dane, pagan serving a most Christian king. Uhtred worships the old Norse gods and looks forward to long days of battle and nights of song, drink, and women at Odin’s Death Hall (Valhalla). In Uhtred’s eyes, Alfred worships the ‘Christian nailed god’, a god who fences men in with laws and rules so limiting that a man is not allowed to lust after his neighbor’s wife!Alfred needs Uhtred because as Lincoln said of Grant, ‘he fights’ and exceedingly well. Alfred seeks to reclaim Mercian Lundene (London) and that battle forms the centerpiece of the first half of the book. The latter half centers on battles on the lower Temes (Thames) at Beamfleot (Benfleet), including some crashing marine assaults. Sword Song does not lack for ringing swords, shield walls, smashed skulls, splintered oars, battle fear and death – and also broken hearts.Uhtred requires assistance and Cornwell supplies with him familiar friends from earlier volumes: Steapa, the warrior priest Pyrlig, and most necessary of all, Uhtred’s wife Gisela.Uhtred is a simple man, violent in battle, bound by his sense of honor, an esteemed and rightly feared warrior, and a loving and loved husband. Gisela and Uhtred have a relationship that struck this reader as perhaps a bit too modern in its mutual respect. Uhtred never seems to be fighting for his own interests. He longs to return and take Bebbanburg in Northumbria, but cannot or will not break his oath to Alfred. (One hopes that Cornwell will keep the Saxon stories going until Uhtred fights that battle.) The heroic Uhtred is offset by Alfred’s son-in-law Aethelred, a cowering and grasping little weasel who Alfred elevates to Earl of Mercia precisely because he wants a weak ruler there – Alfred’s aim is to be King of the Anglo-Saxons, King of ‘England’, a place that doesn’t even exist yet. Aethelred also turns out to be a vicious husband. (By the way, Cornwell’s Aethlered is based on an historical figure, but is not to be confused with the later Aethelred unfairly tagged the Unready.)Uhthred’s worthy battle opponents are Danes with their pagan amulets (like his own), their shields and battle axes. He understands these Danes, respects them, is comfortable with them. Some of the Danes do prove to be a bit treacherous, but what do you expect from a bunch of 9th century pagan warriors?!Cornwell’s historical note admits that he has probably been very unfair to Aethelred. The fact is the historical record for this era is thin indeed. Cornwell’s telling captures a plausible feel for the era, mostly limited to the perspective of a warrior lord. A small quibble: The image on the book cover shows warriors heaving lighted spears from a broken stone bridge over the Temes, an image unsupported by the historical record in at least one detail. The first stone bridge over the Thames at London was not completed until the early 14th century. Cornwell might have explored why the Christian god with all his rules and restrictions had broader appeal than the free-spirited Norse gods. Indeed, Alfred’s Christian religion eventually prevailed more effectively than warfare in uniting England. Why? Was this because the nailed god’s church offered some salvation to every man whereas the Norse gods really only appealed to the warrior class? Or that the Christian church had organized proselytizers? The nailed god seems to have not only demanded more, but also offered more and to more people than Odin. Sword Song is a compact, exhilarating tale of historical adventure that entertains a lot, informs a little, and won’t overtax your noggin. Stoke the fire in your hearth and settle in for a good story. A fine addition to the Saxon Stories and Cornwell promises that “Uhtred and his story will continue.”more
Bernard Cornwell does an amazing job of weaving great historical detail into a captivating story of a warrior torn between loyalties. There is plenty of action, but battle scenes are never drawn out, and there is human drama throughout: love, jealousy, cunning, and striving to do the right thing in the face of a difficult situation. Even minor characters have fully realized personalities and the narrator is just the man you would want on your side. The prose is never dry though the book is full of interesting information, and fortunately the characters never seem to do anything anachronistic. The antagonism between the pagans and the Christians was especially believable and fascinating.more
Although a little less enchanting the the previous books of the series. It was still gripping and well wrotemore
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