The year is 855, and the country that one day will be known as England is relatively peaceful. The Danes have their kingdom in the north, while the Saxons, under King Alfred, rule Wessex in the south. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon man raised by Danish warriors, lives with his wife Gisela and his children in Wessex, where he is sworn to protect Alfred and his family. It is a touchy alliance, but when rumors about a dead man speaking reach Uhtred’s home, he knows that he must pick up Serpent-Breath once again and make a choice that could change the direction of England as a whole. What do the dead man and new Viking invaders have in plan for Uhtred, and how will it affect Wessex and the rule of King Alfred? Another engaging adventure for Uhtred of Bebbanburg is book four of The Saxon Tales, “Sword Song” by Bernard Cornwell.
As someone who has grown to love the adventures of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, first from the TV show “The Last Kingdom” and now through the books, I wanted to continue the journey through the books. There is something so compelling about this Saxon world that Bernard Cornwell crafted with love and attention.
We join Uhtred and his men, Sihtric and Finan, on a night raid where they come across a brand new batch of Vikings. When Uhtred returns home, Aethelwold tells him how a dead man was brought back to life and says that he would be the King of Wessex and Uhtred would become King of Mercia. A far-fetched tale, but Uhtred decides that he must check it out, even if that means breaking his oath to Alfred. It is when he hears the dead man speak himself that he meets Haesten, and he hears about the Viking brothers Siegfried and Erik, who have lofty ambitions.
Meanwhile, in Alfred’s court, Alfred’s daughter Aethelflaed marries Aethelred of Mercia to form a strong alliance. It looks like it is a perfect match. Behind closed doors, Aethelred is abusive to Aethelflaed when Siegfried and Erik attack. Uhtred and Aethelred must reluctantly work together for the survival of Wessex and England as a whole.
Epic battles, twisted political ploys, and romance all intertwine in this novel as Uhtred works hard to fulfill his oath to Alfred. “Sword Song” is a bit slower in pace compared to the first three books in the series, but I see it as Cornwell showing that not every adventure with Uhtred is going to be fast-paced. There will be times when he has to negotiate and think methodically to ensure his mission is complete and no one he cares about will be harmed. It is a different side to Uhtred of Bebbanburg’s story, but it is one that I appreciate. If you have enjoyed the first three books in the Saxon Tales series, you need to read “Sword Song” by Bernard Cornwell.