Lords of the North (Last Kingdom Series #3) (Saxon Tales)

Lords of the North (Last Kingdom Series #3) (Saxon Tales)

4.6 136
by Bernard Cornwell

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The third installment of Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling series chronicling the epic saga of the making of England, “like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer, London)—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit BBC America television series.

After achieving victory at King Alfred’s side, Uhtred of Bebbanburg is

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The third installment of Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling series chronicling the epic saga of the making of England, “like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer, London)—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit BBC America television series.

After achieving victory at King Alfred’s side, Uhtred of Bebbanburg is returning to his home in the North, finally free of his allegiance to the King—or so he believes. An encounter with a vicious slave trader introduces Uhtred to Guthred, the self-proclaimed King of Northumbria. Curious about Guthred’s astounding claim, Uhtred follows him north. But he soon discovers fate has another incredible surprise in store, and begins an unexpected journey that climaxes in the midnight siege of a city thought impregnable—a dangerous seige that results in the forging of England.

Lords of the North is Bernard Cornwell’s finest work yet—a breathtaking adventure, but it also tells the story of the creation of English identity, as the English and Danes begin to become one people, appropriating each other’s languages and, thrillingly, fighting side-by-side.

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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

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

HarperCollins Publishers
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Last Kingdom (Saxon Tales) Series , #3
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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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Meet the Author

BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes 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 which serves as the basis for the BBC America series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.

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