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This is an ARC which by now is not terribly advanced at all But anyway, I won it here on Goodreads and I thought I should mention that but now that I think about it, why should I mention that I mean, I m going to give my honest opinion of the thing no matter how I came about my copy, so what the hell This is the worst disclosure statement ever In this latest episode of his Saxon series, Bernard Cornwell proves again that he is the modern master of action packed historical fiction.The story, in all its mud, guts and glory, is delivered via first person narrative in the simple, gritty language of his leathery, warrior hero Uhtred of Bebbanburg We trudge up and down England with him and his tiny though loyal crew of cast offs as he searches for a place to call his own Implementing his tried and true technique, Cornwell makes Uhtred out to be a bloody minded tough thug with a heart of gold who has been wronged This author is fantastic at drawing sympathy from his readers, regardless of how repulsive he paints his protagonists In my fairly extensive experience of having read him, Cornwell has always been good about tailoring his words to fit his story and the action there in He doesn t use flowery language when describing a gory battle Instead, he uses quick jabbing phrases, explosive verbs or creative adjectives that shove the stench right up your nose Uhtred is not an overly educated man He is a brutal warrior and his narrative reflects that No, it s not all grunts and curses not all of it anyway Also, with this series Cornwell colors his pre England country with use of the old Anglo Saxon terms for the place names Glad he didn t also use period appropriate dialogue My Old English is a bit rusty.Certainly The Pagan Lord is loaded with a good deal of action, but it s not packed from cover to cover, and occasional scenes drag a bit, but just a few And honestly, if you re a history buff, you ll actually enjoy some of these down times, because Cornwell does his research and uses it So, the reader is treated to some lively scenes of life in what were once known as the Dark Ages for good reason Some of you may even find yourself asking, how did people live like this I ve only read three of the seven books that comprise this series to date, and while the other two I read prior didn t thrill me, this one made me want to go back and read the other four I skipped over Rating A strong 4 stars It s fate, isn t it One moment we re in the sunlight, and the next every dark cloud in Christendom is pissing all over us Uhtred of Bebbanburg is getting old and cranky Ten years of relative peace in the kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia don t do much to improve his temper, despite having good sons, a young wife, lands and liegemen and a reputation as the fiercest warrior in all the Saxon lands The hot blooded Uhtred digs his own grave when he accidentally kills one of the local Bishops, and finds himself an outcast, a renegade, a pauper something that actually happens in every single installment of Bernard Cornwell Saxon Chronicles His hero is bred for war and not for peace, and the tenth century England provides ample opportunity to indulge his passions.Speaking of passions, Uhtred at the start of his fifth decade is a bit slower in his drinking and skirt chasing, but his hatred of Christian duplicity is as strong as ever, and his readiness for adventure is unchanged over the decades In every disaster thrown at him, Uhtred finds an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start life anew In this episode he goes back to his roots to the quest of regaining control of his father s castle at Bebbanburg and to his love for raiding the sea lanesI love the whale a path, the wind flecking the world with blown spray, the dip of a ship s prow into a swelling wave and the explosion of white and the spatter of saltwater on sail and timbers, and the green heart of a great sea rolling behind the ship, rearing up, threatening, the broken crest curling, and then the stern lifts to the surge and the hull lunges forward and the sea seethes along the strakes as the wave roars past I love the birds skimming the grey water, the wind as friend and as enemy, the oars lifting and falling I love the sea I have lived long and I know the turbulence of life, the cares that weigh a man s soul and the sorrows that turn the hair white and the heart heavy, but all those are lifted along the whale s path Only at sea is a man truly free From the very first book of the Saxon series I was captivated not only by the historical recreation of a turbulent period in history, but also by the spiritual struggle for men s souls between the Pagans and the Christians The author s sympathies are clearly skewed towards the warrior culture of the Norsemen, but Cornwell is a subtle enough writer who doesn t shy away from the seeing the good points of the priesthood and the disastrous results of total war In the tenth century, the country that was to become England was slowly coming under the control of the Church, but this process was only made possible by the military developments of walled cities burhs and by the valiant efforts of the despised professional killers like Uhtred Yet, looking at the centuries that preceded and at the centuries that followed the rule of Alfred the Great, the reader is reminded that these particular times came to be known in history as the Dark AgesThe remnants of Rome always make me sad, simply because they are proof that we slide inexorably towards the darkness Once there was light falling on marbled magnificence, and now we trudge through the mud Both the Church and the Norse Gods promise reincarnation and life eternal for their chosen ones, but while one creed advocates meekness and submission, the other rewards the fighting spirit and the joy of life My favorite passage is a fragment of the Norse Sagas that acknoledges the terrible Fate the Gods have decreed for mankind through the threads woven by the Norns without advocating resignationSo Uror, Veroandi and Skuld would decide our fate They are not kindly women, indeed they are monstrous and malevolent hags, and Skuld s shears are sharp When those blades cut they feed the well of Uror that lies beside the world tree, and the well gives the water that keeps Yggdrasil alive, and if Yggdrasil dies then the world dies, and so the well must be kept filled and for that there must be tears We cry so the world can liveThe Pagan Lord may be a late installment in the Saxon Chronicles, but for me it is one of the best episodes, mostly for its extensive action sequences a storm at sea, an attack against a fortified castle, the sacking of a major fortress, the glorious final battle Uhtred can be found each and every time in the midst of the carnage, where he rules over the battlefield like a true Lord of WarA battle is the shield wall It s smelling your enemy s breath while he tries to disembowel you with an axe, it s blood and shit and screams and pain and terror It s trampling in your friend s guts as enemies butcher them It s men clenching their teeth so hard they shatter them Have you ever been in battle Cornwell has taken some liberties with the source material, an unavoidable decision, given the scarcity of historical detail about the people and the battles that shaped modern England But his books are the kind of novels that I would have loved to learn my history from in my school days, same as I used Alexandre Dumas or Victor Hugo to get interested in French history I know the series is unfinished and that it is in danger of becoming drawn out and unfocused, but I will keep buying them Uhtred yarns as long as Cornwell continues to write them. Exciting because I was there I d gone to these battles sites an d seen the castles of Wales last year Oh I love to read this stuff too Historical fiction of course Wessex then becomes the springboard for the campaigns that will reconquer the north and create a unified country of the English speaking tribes England By the time of Alfred s death in AD 899, the north, all but for impregnable Bebbanburg, is under Danish rule, while the center of the country is split between Danes and Saxons Yet slowly, inexorably, West Saxon armies advance northward That process was far from over in 910, but by winning the decisive victory at Tettenhall, the West Saxons drive the Danes out of the Midlands New burhs in the conquered territory will consolidate the gains Yet the Danes are far from beaten They will invade again, and their hold on the north is still powerful, but from this point on they are mostly on the defensive Edward, Alfred s son, and thelflaed, Alfred s daughter, are the driving forces behind this process, yet neither will live to see the final victory, which results, at last, in a country called England That victory will be won by thelstan, Edward s son, and Uhtred will be there to witness it But that is another story. If you ve gotten this far in the series you know the pattern Uhtred threatens priests, leaves Wessex in a tizzy, returns to save the day because of Ethelred, priests proclaim it s the nailed god, Uhtred does a facepalm These are an easy read and guilty pleasure. I was sent to Hel and heard her dark cockerels crowing They announced my coming and the Corpse Ripper came for meThe Corpse Ripper all rotted flesh peeling from his yellow bones and his eyes like fire and his teeth like horns and his claws like gelding knives And there was a bone on the floor, a thigh bone, and I picked it up and I ripped it to a point with my own teeth and then I slew himI am the dead come to collect the living Uhtred of Bebbanburg is back with a vengeance Clothed in mail, clad in steel and leather, slapping down the cheek pieces of his wolf crested helm, flexing gauntlets gripping his sword, Serpent Breath, When Uhtred is dressed in his war glory it is not hard to imagine that even the corpse ripper trembles.Uhtred is a lord of war A pagan who fights for the Christianised Saxons of Wessex and Mercia who he hates against the pagan Danes who he likes So is the pleasure of the three Norns who sit at the root of the great tree and weave his life s threads according to their own amusementWyrd bi ful r d Fate is inexorable.In times of war, Uhtred is the Saxon s hero But in times of peace, nobody wants a murdering, priest killing, nightmare inspiring demon from hell living in a land of abbots and bishops and churches To be fair, the priest was an accident, he only meant to knock him out how was he supposed to know the cross he ripped out of the abbot s hand had a pointy end on the bottom.Still, Uhtred soon gets himself in enough trouble to be declared outcast and kicked out of Merciabut Uhtred knows something in his gutThe peace is ending, I said They ll be crying for you to return, Finan said They can kiss my pagan arse first But priests can t lead armiesHave you ever fought in a battle I know you burned down my barns, but that isn t a battle, you stinking piece of rat gristle A battle is the shield wall It s smelling your enemy s breath while he tries to disembowel you with an axe, it s blood and shit and screams and pain and terror It s trampling in your friends guts as enemies butcher them It s men clenching their teeth so hard they shatter them Have you ever been in a battle I listened to this on Audible and really enjoyed Matt Bates Audio narration I loved his varying accents between the Saxons and the Danes and he really brought the book to life Bernard Cornwell is still my favourite historical fiction writer, and the Saxon Tales are still one of my favourite all time series even seven books in Cornwell researches his stuff well from armour to weaponry to battle tactics of the late ninth century Britain The battle scenes in these books are second to none and he really gets across the dirty business of war from the POV of a soldier You can literally feel the battle fever and the terror and smell the blood and sweat and shit churning in the mud where the shield walls clash.I don t know how much further this series can go Uhtred never gets old for me but really, he is getting on now, and his dream of taking back his birthright, Bebbanburg, seems to be getting further and further away Will this be the book where he assaults the unassailable walls and takes back his inheritance from his uncle You ll have to read and find out For now all I can say isWyrd bi ful r dFate is inexorable.5 stars This may sound odd coming from a woman, but I identify with the main character of this series in many ways and as long as Bernard Cornwell doesn t mess with that character too much then he will always hit true with me as each new book in the Warrior Chronicles officially known as the Saxon Stories in the US, France and some other countries is released The lowest I have ever rated a book in this series is 3 stars out of 5 and I believe, of all seven books so far in this series, I have only done that once With Sword Song Book Four The Pagan Lord, number seven in the Warrior Chronicles, was one I had been practically foaming at the mouth to read The name alone got my guts churning The Pagan Lord A violent kiss of a title that had most Uhtred of Bebbanburg fans clamouring to pre order Would this be the book in which he won back his ancestral right His beloved Bebbanburg Would he be able to usurp his Christian uncle, Aelfric, and take back his home We know it happens eventually After all, from book one he is narrating as a very old man happily ensconced in his Northumberland fastness Safeguarded from the flagrant whims and judgements of Christians Kings and their nobility A pagan lord of Northumberland in his twilight years Only, what age he gains it all back has been a secret the author has been reluctant to share Maybe Cornwell did not know himself when it should happen Who knows But it is an act of revenge the fans have longed for since the very first book, The Last Kingdom If he takes Bebbanburg or not, is up to you to discover If you are a fan of this series then you would know it is the greatest of prizes and the surprise should be yours to stumble upon I hate ruining surprises so I will only speak of how this book made me feel, and of the non spoiler elements The plot itself, it is all yours So go get it when you are ready Considering the churning guts and the clamouring to preorder, it seems wrong to give the book less than a perfect score, but I had to give it 4 stars out of 5 It is a great story and Uhtred is back in force Age has not overwelmed him yet He is as strong and as forthright as he has ever been, only he is probably a lot grumpier He was always a grumpy and condescending sod of course, only now his grumpy is erring to the side of old man grumpy You know the sort Bullish, quick to temper, short of tongue, a form of irascible that only age or pain can make you And, if that were not enough, he is a father to boot Of adult sons What a treat that was To see Uhtred in a whole new light Portrayed in a way we have not seen before Giving Uhtred some age and some grown sons gave the book a freshness that I appreciated I did not neccesarily like every plot turn and perhaps I did wish for originality out of the plot turns I did get There was also some odd repetition Events described or relayed in the narration that were repeated nearly word for word a few chapters on was that always the case Did I just not notice this happening in previous books in the series I also felt that Cornwell may have blown a perfectly good chance to hit the market with a crisp and shiny new formula that would excite fans for the books still to come There was some newness to the formula in the form of, as expressed, an older main character with adult children, but it wasn t entirely what I was after in this book All that aside, it was terrific to be back in Uhtred of Bebbanburg s head and while the plot had it s flaws for this rabid fan, I was positively glowing as I joined my old kindred spirit once on his life journey There is no character like Uhtred of Bebbanburg and for that alone I am grateful The formula may follow the same lines in a way and the books are always too short, but my gratitude translates to unashamed joy and I will line up in a couple years, frantically foaming at the mouth once , to feed my unhealthy Uhtred addiction NB I got to interview the author, Bernard Cornwell, about The Pagan Lord and the series in September for the Historical Novel Society of which I am not a member so this is no shameless plug for the HNS. Another great chapter from life story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg I love this series *Kindle ☠ The Pagan Lord ↴ Bernard Cornwell Who Is At His Enthralling Best Conveying One Of The Defining Periods Of English History Wall Street Journal Returns To His Epic Saxon Tales Saga With This Dramatic Story Of Divided Loyalties, Bloody Battles, And The Struggle To Unite Britain 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 Never Rest Until The Emerald Crown Is TheirsUhtred, 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, BebbanburgLoyalties Will Be Divided And Men Will Fall, As Every Saxon Kingdom Is Drawn Into The Bloodiest Battle Yet With The Danes A War Which Will Decide The Fate Of Every King, And The Entire English NationWith The Pagan Lord, New York Times Bestselling Author Bernard Cornwell The Reigning King Of Historical Fiction USA Today Continues His Magnificent Epic Of The Making Of England During The Middle Ages, Vividly Bringing To Life The Uneasy Alliances, Bloody Battles, And Deadly Intrigue That Gave Birth To The British Nation Executive Summary This might be the weakest of the series so far, but I still continue to enjoy it 3.5 Stars Full Review This series is starting to feel a bit formulaic Uhtred pisses off some people, does something stupid, then redeems himself through battle I d like to see some progress to the overarching story than we got I m hoping things start to pick up in the next book.In particular, I found the early part a bit slow Things did pick up as the book went on however and I still flew through the book I still love to read about Uhtred and his exploits He s a fun character to read about The supporting characters, both new and old help to add to his story He is many things to many people, but at his core he ll do anything for those he cares about.The blend of fiction and fantasy continues to be top notch I never know just how much of what I m reading is based on a true story and how much of it comes from the author s imagination.I will say this had a terrible cliffhanger ending, and I m glad I was able to jump right into the next book If I had had to wait for the next book, I d be pretty annoyed It s always a sign of a good book when you re eager to jump right into the next one If you haven t given this series a look yet, I continue to recommend that you do so. In this book in the series, Uhtred is now middle aged Which means, by the standards of the time, that he is becoming an old man However, he is still a very smart warrior, with an uncanny instinct for the motives and intentions of others Two aspects of this series continue to engage me First, in each book, Uhtred devises some neat tricks to out smart his enemies Second, it is amazing how superstitious people are, and in many ways, naive During the Middle Ages, there is no such thing as science , and people are all too willing to believe in just about any supernatural phenomenon The previous book in this series, Death of Kings seemed to lag behind the others in the level of plot and excitement It was just a bit too slow However, This seventh book in the series stepped up the pace somewhat, and I can heartily recommend it.I listened to this book as an audiobook, narrated by Matt Bates He does an excellent job, and I was rarely if ever confused by the dialogs The reason is that Matt Bates is able to differentiate the different characters with different voices and accents As a result, listening to the book is very enjoyable.