878 A.D. England. After defeating the Danish Army in Wessex while in the service of King Alfred, Uhtred Ragnarson-the Saxon born and Danish bred warrior of the previous two installments, heads home to Northumbria to rescue his stepsister Thyra and to Bebbanburg to finally try to claim his birthright from his usurping Uncle. While en route, Uhtred encounters the forces of his enemy Sven the one-eyed, son of Kjartan and rescues a group of slaves, one of which is Guthred who proclaims he is King of Northumbria. Uhtred joins forces with the fledgling King and guides him as best he can-until he is betrayed by Guthred and faces a horrible ordeal as a result. Two years later he is rescued by his friend Steapa at the request of King Alfred and Uhtred returns to Wessex where Alfred requests he set off to Northumbria in support of King Guthred. Uhtred heads off to the final showdown with his biggest enemies-Ivarr Ivarson, Sven the one-eyed and Kjartan the Cruel to rid Northumbria of them once and for all and get one step closer to reclaiming Bebbanburg.
Uhtred is a man who doesn't take crap from anyone. He is also a man that is deeply conflicted. Born a Saxon but raised by Danes, he can never quite decide where his loyalties lie. He has fought for King Alfred on numerous occasions because he is a fair King but he is also very pious and Uhtred is of the old religion. Again here Uhtred must decide who he will cast his lot with and he fights for whomever he swears an oath to-sometimes to his detriment. Uhtred has got to be one of my favorite historical fiction characters ever. He is loyal, brave, and not afraid to tell it like it is. In this installment he ventures to Northumbria, a place that is his home but where he also has many enemies.
I love these books because they have the best battle scenes and because they are all action. There is never a moment where you are waiting for things to happen. There is always something exciting going on. I think Lords of the North is the best of the Saxon series that I've read so far because you get to know all the characters better and because it delves deeper into what is behind the battle for England-not just Dane against Saxon but also Christianity against the old ways. I was really amused by how the kings put so much store in relics from saints and how everyone so willingly believed the priests because they had visions of what course of action should be taken given to them by what else? A saint! I also loved the build up to the battles where both sides exchanged insults before engaging in the fighting. Take this gem when Uhtred and Earl Ragnar are getting ready to fight Ivarr Ivarson:
Ivar: "I watched a goat vomit yesterday, and what it threw up reminded me of you."
Uhtred: "I watched a goat shit yesterday, and what it dropped reminded me of you."
Ivar (to King Guhtred): "Go away. Go far away and I will forget I ever knew you."
Uhtred (not willing to let the insults stop): "The goat turd reminded me of you, but it's smell reminded me of your mother. It was a rancid smell but what would you expect of a whore who gives birth to a thief?"
Apparently, they even had mama jokes in the 800's! Uhtred is full of such "witticisms" and we get to see many sides of him here that we haven't before, especially during his two year long ordeal. The only negative for this book is that it got really annoying how Uhtred would announce before every single fight how he was the one who killed Uba Lothbrokson by the sea and unhorsed Svein of the White Horse. I understand his need to let his enemies know exactly who they were dealing with but it got old reading it over and over again. That being said, I really love these novels and if you have not read anything by Bernard Cornwell yet I recommend picking up The Last Kingdom, the first book in this series. You will not be disappointed.
This book is from my own personal library