Lords of the North (Saxon Tales #3)

( 135 )


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, ...

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in A.D. 878, Cornwell's splendid third Saxon novel (after The Pale Horseman and The Last Kingdom) chronicles the adventures of 21-year-old Saxon warrior Uhtred of Bebbanburg, who believes "my swords could win me the whole world." Uhtred, who despite his Danish upbringing supported King Alfred of Wessex in the fight against the Danes in The Pale Horseman, helps free Guthred, an enslaved Dane, who proclaims himself king of Northumbria. "Fate is inexorable," Uhtred constantly bemoans as he attempts to destroy such enemies as Kjartan the Cruel, Sven the One-Eyed and lfric (Uhtred's thief of an uncle) and woos his beloved Gisela, Guthred's Valkyrie-like sister. Uhtred must overcome many challenges, notably King Guthred's shocking betrayal that leads to Uhtred's spending two years as a shipboard slave. Cornwell, best known for his Sharpe series (Sharpe's Battle, etc.), breathes life into ancient history with disarming ease, peppering it with humor and even innocence. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

This third volume in Cornwell's "Saxon Chronicles" opens with its young hero, Uhtred, leaving King Alfred to return to his homeland in Northumbria. He hopes to regain his birthright in Bebbanburg but is betrayed and made a galley slave on a Danish trading ship. His struggle to regain his freedom and exact vengeance drives what may be the most intense and thrilling story yet in what Cornwell originally intended to be a trilogy. It is now clear, however, that more adventures await the intrepid Uhtred. As with all of Cornwell's historical novels, Lords of the Northis a relentlessly compelling narrative that makes for excellent listening. Tom Sellwood's reading contributes to this can't-miss acquisition for libraries with patrons who like historical adventures.
—R. Kent Rasmussen

Library Journal
In this third title in "The Saxon Chronicles" series (after Last Kingdom and Pale Horseman), Cornwell continues the saga of Uhtred, a ninth-century Saxon warrior. At the end of the second book, King Alfred released Uhtred from service and sent him north to claim a meager patch of land. But the hotheaded warrior had made far too many enemies, and his retreat from the battlefield proves short-lived. When Alfred needs Uhtred's services to solidify the Christian Saxons' hold on Britain, Uhtred once again finds himself at the frontlines of battle with the land-hungry Danes. This battle culminates in a midnight raid on an impregnable Danish stronghold, thus establishing Saxon rule in the north, as well as the south, of Britain. Once again, Cornwell proves himself a master of historical fiction, weaving a tale of bloodthirsty warfare, honor, and occasional unexpected moments of laugh-out-loud humor. With the cliffhanger ending, fans can expect yet another title in this wonderful series. Recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/06.]-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School - This third novel that focuses on Uhtred is filled with plenty of action, betrayal, and bloodshed, along with a healthy dose of religion and superstition, as Saxons, Christians, and Scots battle for the ground that will become Great Britain. Set amid actual historical events and people, the story picks up where The Pale Horseman(HarperCollins, 2006) left off and is told by Uhtred; his tone is straightforward in a manly, congenial way. Going from an honored warrior of King Alfred to a slave and back, he is tested again and again as he fights not only for the king, but also for the woman he wants. The knowledge that his fate is set by the gods is a constant reminder that, although he is a mighty warrior, he is, in the end, only a man subject to their whims. A blood feud has charted his course, and his outlook on life is only to make a good accounting of himself before he takes up his rightful place in the corpse-hall. Although it may be difficult for newcomers to the series to grasp the characters' tangled relationships, historical fiction lovers and those who want a good old-fashioned action tale should enjoy this book.-Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Cornwell continues The Saxon Novels with further rowdy adventures in the Northern kingdoms (The Pale Horseman, Jan. 2006, etc.). Alfred, the great but cranky Saxon monarch, is largely offstage in this particularly choice segment of what is turning into a satisfyingly long look at England in the ninth century. Returning to Cumberland, where the series started, Cornwell pairs his Saxon-turned-Danish-warrior Uhtred of Bebbanburg with another young hero Guthred, king of-well, king of not very much. Yet. But Guthred, a Dane with a claim to territory around the future city of York, is a charmer, and he is one of the chess pieces in the game Alfred is playing back in Wessex. Although he has the blood and the charisma (and a gorgeous sister for whom Uhtred falls hard), Guthred is not an instinctive warrior, but as he rides around the wild countryside trying to put together a small army, Guthred learns a lot from Uhtred-not just battle skills, but also political skills. Uhtred, who can barely tolerate the cerebral, constipated, stingy King Alfred, to whom his oath has bound him, perceives that Alfred knows kingship better than anyone in England, and he constantly provides Guthred with examples of Alfredian realpolitik. The young king is such a good student that he doesn't hesitate to sell Uhtred into slavery when that action is needed to clinch an important deal. So Uhtred, still in his early 20s, spends a couple of years pulling an oar for a Danish coastal trader, seeing much of the Baltic and even making it across the Atlantic for a bit. Fortunately, he's not been forgotten by King Alfred, and he is eventually freed to resume working with Guthred and plotting to regain the castle his uncle stolefrom him. Blood, guts, history and horses from the expert. Excellent sport. Agent: Toby Eady/Toby Eady Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061149047
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/2/2008
  • Series: Saxon Tales Series , #3
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 55,487
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Cornwell is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers 1356 and Agincourt; the bestselling Saxon Tales, which include The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne; and the Richard Sharpe novels, among many others.

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Read an Excerpt

Lords of the North

By Bernard Cornwell

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Bernard Cornwell
All right reserved.

Chapter One

Thorkild let the boat drift downstream a hundred paces, then rammed her bows into the bank close to a willow. He jumped ashore, tied a sealhide line to tether the boat to the willow's trunk, and then, with a fearful glance at the armed men watching from higher up the bank, scrambled hurriedly back on board. "You," he pointed at me, "find out what's happening."

"Trouble's happening," I said. "You need to know more?"

"I need to know what's happened to my storehouse," he said, then nodded toward the armed men, "and I don't want to ask them. So you can instead."

He chose me because I was a warrior and because, if I died, he would not grieve. Most of his oarsmen were capable of fighting, but he avoided combat whenever he could because bloodshed and trading were bad partners. The armed men were advancing down the bank now. There were six of them, but they approached very hesitantly, for Thorkild had twice their number in his ship's bows and all those seamen were armed with axes and spears.

I pulled my mail over my head, unwrapped the glorious wolf-crested helmet I had captured from a Danish boat off the Welsh coast, buckled on Serpent-Breath and Wasp-Sting and, thus dressed for war, jumped clumsily ashore. I slipped on the steep bank, clutched at nettles for support and then, cursing because of the stings, clambered up to the path. I had been here before, for thiswas the wide riverside pasture where my father had led the attack on Eoferwic. I pulled on the helmet and shouted at Thorkild to throw me my shield. He did and, just as I was about to start walking toward the six men who were now standing and watching me with swords in their hands, Hild jumped after me. "You should have stayed on the boat," I told her.

"Not without you," she said. She was carrying our one leather bag in which was little more than a change of clothes, a knife and a whetstone. "Who are they?" she asked, meaning the six men who were still fifty paces away and in no hurry to close the distance.

"Let's find out," I said, and drew Serpent-Breath.

The shadows were long and the smoke of the city's cooking fires was purple and gold in the twilight. Rooks flew toward their nests and in the distance I could see cows going to their evening milking. I walked toward the six men. I was in mail, I had a shield and two swords, I wore arm rings and a helmet that was worth the value of three fine mail coats and my appearance checked the six men, who huddled together and waited for me. They all had drawn swords, but I saw that two of them had crucifixes about their necks and that made me suppose they were Saxons. "When a man comes home," I called to them in English, "he does not expect to be met by swords."

Two of them were older men, perhaps in their thirties, both of them thick-bearded and wearing mail. The other four were in leather coats and were younger, just seventeen or eighteen, and the blades in their hands looked as unfamiliar to them as a plow handle would to me. They must have assumed I was a Dane because I had come from a Danish ship and they must have known that six of them could kill one Dane, but they also knew that one war-Dane, dressed in battle-splendor, was likely to kill at least two of them before he died and so they were relieved when I spoke to them in English. They were also puzzled. "Who are you?" one of the older men called.

I did not answer, but just kept walking toward them. If they had decided to attack me then I would have been forced to flee ignominiously or else die, but I walked confidently, my shield held low and with Serpent-Breath's tip brushing the long grass. They took my reluctance to answer for arrogance, when in truth it was confusion. I had thought to call myself by any name other than my own, for I did not want Kjartan or my traitorous uncle to know I had returned to Northumbria, but my name was also one to be reckoned with and I was foolishly tempted to use it to awe them, but inspiration came just in time. "I am Steapa of Defnascir," I announced, and just in case Steapa's name was unknown in Northumbria, I added a boast. "I am the man who put Svein of the White Horse into his long home in the earth."

The man who had demanded my name stepped a pace backward. "You are Steapa? The one who serves Alfred?"

"I am."

"Lord," he said, and lowered his blade. One of the younger men touched his crucifix and dropped to a knee. A third man sheathed his sword and the others, deciding that was prudent, did the same.

"Who are you?" I demanded.

"We serve King Egbert," one of the older men said.

"And the dead?" I asked, gesturing toward the river where another naked corpse circled slow in the current, "who are they?"

"Danes, lord."

"You're killing Danes?"

"It's God's will, lord," he said.

I gestured toward Thorkild's ship. "That man is a Dane and he is also a friend. Will you kill him?"

"We know Thorkild, lord," the man said, "and if he comes in peace he will live."

"And me?" I demanded, "what would you do with me?"

"The king would see you, lord. He would honor you for the great slaughter of the Danes."

"This slaughter?" I asked scornfully, pointing Serpent-Breath toward a corpse floating downriver.

"He would honor the victory over Guthrum, lord. Is it true?"

"It is true," I said, "I was there." I turned then, sheathed Serpent-Breath, and beckoned to Thorkild who untied his ship and rowed it upstream. I shouted to him across the water, telling him that Egbert's Saxons had risen against the Danes, but that these men promised they would leave him in peace if he came in friendship.


Excerpted from Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell Copyright © 2007 by Bernard Cornwell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 135 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 136 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 27, 2010

    Saxon Tales continue

    Lords of the North is Book Three in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales series. The series tells of the adventures of Uhtred, the Saxon boy raised among the Danes, who later must make his way in and out of both worlds. Uhtred is an interesting character caught up in the swirl of events as the Saxons and the Danes struggle for supremacy in eastern England at the time of Alfred the Great. Cornwell does a great job of incorporating actual events, with poetic license as to his characters. The book and the series are not just dry recitations of what happened in the 900s in England, but exciting tales of battles and campaigns.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Lords of The North by Bernard Cornwell Book 3 in The Saxon Tales

    Lords of The North by Bernard Cornwell Book 3 in The Saxon Tales

    The third installment of the Saxon Tales opens up in the year of our lord 878 and Alfred has just defeated the Danes at Ethandum. The story is, once again, narrated by Uhtred of Bebbanburg, who is released from Alfred's service after the victory and Uhtred decides to go north to Northumbria, where Uhtred is originally from. He travels with Hild, a nun he rescued from the Danes, and who is now his lover.

    They encounter their archenemy, Sven, son of Kjartan, who killed Lord Ragnar the elder, Uhtred's father figure. Uhtred has sworn to kill both Sven and Kjartan. He goes north escorting Thorkild, a merchant who is fleeing to Northumbria and on the way, they rescue Guthred, son of Hardicnut - king of Northumbria - from Sven's slavery. Uhtred helps the king regain his throne - as abbot Eafred had dreamt that St. Cuthbert ordered him to save Guthred; for he was to lead the Christians to victory in Northumbria.

    However, Guhthed sells Uhtred into slavery and promises his sister, Gisela to Uhtred's uncle, Lord Aelfric - a man who wanted Uhtred dead so he could claim Bebbanburg as his own. So Uhtred spends two years as a a slave in The Trader, Sverri's ship. He's rescued by The Red Ship (Dragon Fire) commanded by Ragnar the Younger - Uhtred's blood brother.

    Together, Ragnar, Uhtred, and Steappa must then help Guthred regain Northumbria, defeat Kjartan and Ivarr - the two Danes of power in Northumbria. The book ends as both Dane captains are defeated and Guthred is back in Dunholm - leaving Uhtred's final revenge against his uncle in Bebbanburg for the next volume.

    The book is well written and is an easy read. However, I would have preferred that Mr. Cornwell would just write one big book rather than several volumes, because he keeps referring to earlier parts of the story to make the book stand alone on itself - and it gets boring after a while.....

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:


    I was told that Lords of the North (book 3 of the Saxon Tales) was very dry and that I most likely will not like it. I can honestly say that was not confirmed. I absolutely LOVED this one. All the action settles down for a bit comparative to The Pale Horseman where there was more battle type action that kind of dried out the end a bit. But this book was very much about Uhtreds breaking point when the new Northumbrian King Guthred sell him into slavery. Or was it his breaking point? The same old Uhtred is rescued out of slavery and joins Ragnar the elder's son whose name is Ragnar as well, and they both avenge their enemies Kjartan the cruel and his son Sven the One-eyed who raped Ragnar's sister Thyra. Ivar the feeble also meets his demise and Uhtred lets him die with respect and dignity. Putting his sword in his hand so he could go to meet Thor in his Corpse Hall.

    The book ends very well with Uhtred and his new wife Gisela riding south to finish Alfred's oath.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2011

    lords of the north- AMAZING!

    The Lords Of The North is an absolutely incredible book, Bernard Cornwall does an amazing job of making the book come alive, there is not a single bad thing I can say about this book, or any of the books in the series, except maybe that they are not movies as well. This book, and the others in the series are must reads for anyone who is into historical fiction or the medieval/dark ages time periods. As with the other books in the series religion is a major theme, both Christianity and paganism in the form of the old Norse gods play major roles in the book, influencing Uhtreds actions as he journey from the south in wessex ever farther north to his ancestral home of Bebbanburg, and back again, more prevailing themes are obliviously revenge and war as in the other books in the series, these books just wouldn't be complete without the good old fashioned Viking slaughter that Uhtred feels so at home at. Two thumbs way up!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2014

    A good read

    This and the other books in the series are very good. A lot of action and battle scenes, but I feel they could be longer.

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  • Posted November 19, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Can't wait to start the next one!

    Can't wait to start the next one!

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  • Posted July 13, 2013

    Addictive series. Great read- entertaining with a touch of hist

    Addictive series. Great read- entertaining with a touch of history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

    Serpent's Breath returns, goes snickety-snick.

    A fine outing in medieval England. Authentic world building, unique characters, and unpredictable plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2012

    loved the book

    Great well written adventure historical fiction. I learned a lot too.

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  • Posted June 26, 2012

    Positively addictive.

    The Saxon Tales, although each book is a complete story, they are very much like potatoe chips. You can't read just one. Excitingly written about an interesting historical period which hasn't been turned into a cliche' by the Romance novelists and Hollywood. This is pre-Robin Hood Briton in the time of Alfred. Historicaly accurate but still spellbinding action and suspense.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    Great historical novel

    I love these historical novels! It makes learning history so much more fun and enjoyable. I'm none too fond of battle scenes, but Cornwell makes it a pleasure!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012


    Bloody good fun.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2012


    Wont be disappointed

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2010

    The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

    The Pales Horseman by Bernard Cornwell is a continuing saga of "Alfred the Great's" kingship, battles and wars during his reign in 878. As part of this historical story, it's main characher Uhtred (which is not the king) is a particular warrior that is not the kind of warrior the king would prefer. The king is a Godly man and very involved in the church. He would prefer a Warrior that leads his men, to be literate and Godly. Which Uthred is neither or mostly neither. He can read a little, but Uhtred is a Pagan. The story continues with these two people working together to save England from the Danes.

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  • Posted March 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Could not put it down

    The saga of Uhtred Ragnarsson continues and is just as spellbinding as the first two books of this series. I love Bernard Cornwell's writing and this series has become my favorite. Mr. Cornwell has the ability to put the reader in the action so that it reads like you are sitting there observing. Phrases like "his sword hissed out of the scabbard" grab at you as you read. My one regret is that there are only two more books in this series but I would like to see it carried on like he did with the Sharpe series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I'd give this 10 stars if I could

    Uhtred has become my favorite fictional hero. He says he is a pagen, but Hild tells him he really is a Christian in his actions when he shows compassion during certain events. Cornwell's detailed descriptions of battles, shield walls, sneaking around fortresses, battle strategies are page turners. Through Uhtred's character, one learns a great deal about 9th century England...you learn about Alfred the Great not by making Alfred the main/center character of the novel, but through his warrier, Uhtred. When Cornwell describes riding through the driving rain storms, the incident with the dogs - the description of events really places the reader in the moment. Long live Uhtred's character.....

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  • Posted November 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Hail to Cornwell

    One of my favorite Cornwell novels; then again,I say that about most his writings. This story, my favorite of the series, follows Utred from his beginings as the heir to Northumbria's Elderman to his Danish upbringing and the brute he becomes. This novel brilliently sets the stage for the thrilling novels that follow. I could not wait put these books down and eagerly await, The burning land.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2008

    Rip-roaring Adventure Tale Continues

    Uhtred, the dispossessed Northumbrian, continues his quest to regain his home and title. Uhtred has a few anger-management problems, and fortunately ninth-century England was an excellent place to act on them. You really can't blame him for his head-bashing ways - in this book he is betrayed into slavery and brutalized in the process. When Uhtred is rescued, everyone who is on his bad side ought to head for the hills. They don't - and his revenge makes for a rousing, if somewhat bloody, finale to this installment of the tale.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2007

    Uhtred Returns

    The third book of this series was, admittedly, slightly below par with the first two, mainly due the anti climactic ending of the story. However, if the reader considers that a fourth novel is set to come out in the fall, and will pick up where this one left off, that should not take away from the interesting twists and turns in the plot, or the remarkable and likeable character Cornwell has created in Uhtred Ragnarson.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007

    Another Page Turner from the Master

    If you like Cornwell, you'll love this one-- vivid scenes, swashbuckling characters, a dash of humor and irony, enough early English history to pique one's curiosity. It's a relaxing read that will take you far away to a land and time nearly forgotten. As a bonus, you learn the old English placenames for Northumbrian hamlets.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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