(Review) The Pagan Lord (The Saxon Stories #7) by Bernard Cornwell
Publication Date: 2014
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 5 stars for excellent
It is Anglo-Saxon England, the early 900s. Alfred the Great died in 899. His son, Edward the Elder reigns as king of Wessex.
The main character of the story is Lord Uhtred. He is not in favor with the new king.
Uhtred wants to reclaim his family home in Bebbanburg, Northumbria.
The Danes are controlling all of the northern areas of England. Uhtred will have to win battles just to get to his home in Bebbanburg and reclaim.
In the opening pages, Uhtred is accompanied by his youngest son Osbert, and Aethelstan, the illegitimate son of King Edward of Wessex. He has other men riding with him and they are placed a mile back, while Lord Uhtred takes care of business of a personal nature. His eldest son is going to become a priest. Lord Uhtred wanted to stop his son, also called Uhtred, from becoming a wizard Christian priest.
Lord Uhtred is not a Christian, he is a pagan, he favors the ancient ways. He is a battle hardened man. In a fit of rage, he renames his sons. Demonstrating his hate of Christianity and anything that is not harsh. He renames this eldest son, Judas.
While Lord Uhtred is gone, the Danes raid his home.
Bernard Cornwell tells a dramatic story through Lord Uhtred. This is the second novel I've read from Cornwell. I loved it!
Several things led me to give this book an excellent rating.
- The description of scenery to increase the drama of a scene's moment. For example: "A dark sky. The gods make the sky; it reflects their moods and they were dark that day. It was high summer and a bitter rain was spitting from the east. It felt like winter." Page 3.
- Word usage encouraging tension and excitement.
- Lord Uhtred is not a likable fellow. He is though exactly what I'd expect from a warrior who lived in Anglo-Saxon times. I love strong characters. I don't have to like them, but I do want them to have strong attributes that give them flesh and bone in the story.
- Small moments in the story that seem insignificant, but on second thought they are readable and breathable. For example: Lord Uhtred is watching Finan at the prow of a ship. It is remarked he has "the best eyes of any man I ever knew...." Small moments like this in a story show me the humanity of the characters, it is also a breather in an action adventure story. Example from page 150.
- Lord Uhtred is a pagan. I am shown through the story how pagan's felt about Christianity. Uhtred's feelings are more about his own inability to understand what he believes is weak. I love seeing through another person's lens the growing religion of Christianity.
- Page 285 is expressed from Uhtred's feelings of "the joy of a battle." This seems to be an odd statement, but his perspective is fascinating.
The Pagan Lord is number seven in the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell. I highly recommend this book!