It is a time of political turmoil once more as the fading King Edward begins to lose control over his successors and their supporters. There are two potential heirs—possibly more—and doubt over whether the once separate states of Wessex and Mercia will hold together . Despite attempts at pulling him into the political fray, Uhtred of Bebbanburg cares solely about his beloved Northumbria and its continuing independence from southern control.
But an oath is a strong, almost sacred commitment and such a promise had been exchanged between Uhtred and Aethelstan, his onetime companion in arms and now a potential king. Uhtred was tempted to ignore the demands of the oath and stay in his northern fastness, leaving the quarrelling Anglo-Saxons to sort out their own issues. But an attack on him by a leading supporter of one of the candidates and an unexpected appeal for help from another, drives Uhtred with a small band of warriors south, into the battle for kingship—and England’s fate.
This is the exciting—yet little known—story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.
The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands) Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides. By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the enchanting fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.
This thrilling adventure—based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors—depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England.
As the ninth century wanes, Alfred the Great lies dying, his lifelong goal of a unified England in peril, his kingdom on the brink of chaos. Though his son, Edward, has been named his successor, there are other Saxon claimants to the throne—as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the north.
Torn between his vows to Alfred and the desire to reclaim his long-lost ancestral lands in the north, Uhtred, Saxon-born and Viking-raised, remains the king’s warrior but has sworn no oath to the crown prince. Now he must make a momentous decision that will forever transform his life and the course of history: to take up arms—and Alfred’s mantle—or lay down his sword and let his liege’s dream of a unified kingdom die along with him.
His blood is Saxon
His heart is Viking
His battleground is England
"Perhaps the greatest writer of historical adventure novels today" (Washington Post), Bernard Cornwell has dazzled and entertained readers and critics with his page-turning bestsellers. Of all his protagonists, however, none is as beloved as Uhtred of Bebbanburg.
And while Uhtred might have regained his family’s fortress, it seems that a peaceful life is not to be – as he is under threat from both an old enemy and a new foe. The old enemy comes from Wessex where a dynastic struggle will determine who will be the next king. And the new foe is Sköll, a Norseman, whose ambition is to be King of Northumbria and who leads a frightening army of wolf-warriors, men who fight half-crazed in the belief that they are indeed wolves. Uhtred, believing he is cursed, must fend off one enemy while he tries to destroy the other. In this new chapter of the Saxon Tales series—a rousing adventure of courage, treachery, duty, devotion, majesty, love and battle, as seen through the eyes of a warrior straddling two worlds—Uhtred returns to fight once again for the destiny of England.
At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward, his son, reigns as king. Wessex survives, but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will not rest until the emerald crown is theirs.
Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.
In The Pagan Lord, loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes: a war that will decide the fate of every king, and the entire British nation.
The year is 878. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has helped the Saxons of Wessex defeat the invading Danes. Now, finally free of his allegiance to the victorious, ungrateful King Alfred, he is heading home to rescue his stepsister, a prisoner of Kjartan the Cruel in the formidable Danish stronghold of Dunholm. Uhtred’s best hope is his sword, Serpent-Breath, for his only allies are Hild, a West Saxon nun fleeing her calling, and Guthred, a slave who believes himself king. Rebellion, chaos, fear, and betrayal await them in the north, forcing Uhtred to turn once more, reluctantly, to the liege he formerly served in battle and blood: Alfred the Great.
A brutal raid on the quiet coastal English village of Hookton in 1342 leaves but one survivor: a young archer named Thomas. On this terrible dawn, his purpose becomes clear—to recover a stolen sacred relic and pursue to the ends of the earth the murderous black-clad knight bearing a blue-and-yellow standard, a journey that leads him to the courageous rescue of a beautiful French woman, and sets him on his ultimate quest: the search for the Holy Grail.
"The greatest writer of historical adventures today."
Richard Sharpe. Soldier, hero, rogue—the man you always want on your side. Born in poverty, he joined the army to escape jail and climbed the ranks by sheer brutal courage. He knows no other family than the regiment of the 95th Rifles, whose green jacket he proudly wears.
At the end of the ninth century, with King Alfred of Wessex in ill health and his heir still an untested youth, it falls to Alfred’s reluctant warlord Uhtred to outwit and outbattle the invading enemy Danes, led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair. But the sweetness of Uhtred’s victory is soured by tragedy, forcing him to break with the Saxon king. Joining the Vikings, allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—Uhtred devises a strategy to invade and conquer Wessex itself. But fate has very different plans.
Bernard Cornwell’s The Burning Land is an irresistible new chapter in his epic story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.
Critically acclaimed, perennial New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell (Agincourt, The Fort, the Saxon Tales) makes real history come alive in his breathtaking historical fiction. Praised as "the direct heir to Patrick O'Brian" (Agincourt, The Fort), Cornwell has brilliantly captured the fury, chaos, and excitement of battle as few writers have ever done—perhaps most vividly in his phenomenally popular novels following the illustrious military career of British Army officer Richard Sharpe during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In Sharpe's Fortress, Ensign Sharpe's adventures in India reach a grand finale at the Siege of Gawilghur during the Maharatta War in December 1803, as Cornwell's hero uncovers a foul treason and seeks a righteous revenge. Perhaps the San Francisco Chronicle said it best: "If only all history lessons could be as vibrant."