Now forgive me for this but BERNARD CORNWELL WRITING UHTRED IS SO DAMN GOOD. I really can’t express how good The Pagan Lord is or do it any justice, but I’ll give it a go.
“Five things make a man happy,” I told him, “a good ship, a good sword, a good hound, a good horse, and a woman.”
“Not a good woman?” Finan asked, amused.
“They’re all good,” I said, “except when they’re not, and then they’re better than good.”
The Pagan Lord, Book 7 of the Saxon Chronicles is just over halfway in the saga. Some people say if you’ve read one Cornwell book then you’ve read them all but I will challenge each and every one of these people to a duel in the hazel rods with sword and shield. I cannot implore you enough to pick this series up. There is a mixture and tone here, of Bernard writing Uhtred and it is some of the greatest writing I’ve ever read. This is an author who really knows how to write a story and an author who really knows their characters inside and out. There is an issue in some historical fiction where authors feel the need to force some events but it comes naturally to Mr Cornwell.
“He was watching my eyes. A man who uses a sword with lethal skill always watches his opponent’s eyes.”
Now I’ll not go into the plot for fear of spoilers, but I will say the plot in The Pagan Lord is one of the most unique and original of the series. Things REALLY happen and it is intense, electrifying and brilliant. Cnut is a sublime antagonist, as is Uhtred’s uncle and some other characters that were so much fun. There are new enemies, new friends and most importantly, new shield walls.
“When those blades cut, they cause tears that feed the well of Urdr 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.”
Uhtred is 50 years old and a completely grey and grumpy old grizzled warrior who is feared, loved and respected in equal measures (just mostly feared within the clergy). I loved Uhtred as a young man finding him as relatable as is possible, but this old, savage Uhtred is just even better. His interaction with his sons is so much fun, and he and Finan are getting tired with the constant killing. It was a tonic to find Uhtred realising that he is slowing down and beginning to fear his younger enemies.
“The art of war,” I told him, “is to make the enemy do your bidding.”
The setting of 9th Century Britain is told extremely well, from the combat to the clothing on the characters’ backs, to the ship building and the landscapes. The dialogue is witty and The Pagan Lord really feels like a golden ticket here. I cannot wait to continue this series.
“Serpent-Breath was in my hand and anger in my soul.”
5/5 – There’s absolutely nothing I can say about The Pagan Lord that I didn’t like, I loved it all. Uhtred is a beast and this 7th story of the saga does not slow down. 5 Saxon shields out of 5.
Buy The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell