Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Week in Books: More Bernard Cornwell

In among all the angst associated with us losing our building that Jonathan built last year, I've been immersed in the adventures of Uhtred of Bebbenberg, which has been a lovely distraction.  I've been staying up past my bedtime to see what adventures he'll have next.

The whole premise of the Saxon Tales series is based on Uhtred, who was born Saxon, but in book 1 the Vikings start their invasions, and while they are capturing York, Uhtred's father dies in battle.  Then his uncle usurps Uhtred's inheritance and he was captured by the Danes.  And he was raised Viking.  So when the Danes push south through Mercia (the present day Midlands) and capture East Anglia and Cent, there is just one Kingdom left; Wessex, led by a young and inexperienced king, who would become Alfred the Great.
Throughout the series we see Uhtred torn between his loyalties.  On one hand, he loves the Danes who raised him like a son and trained him to be a great warrior.  He loves their gods, and he loves their lifestyle.  On the other hand, he's a Saxon, and Alfred is his king.  And, what he really wants is to go back and capture Bebbenberg from his thief of an uncle. And what his king, who now respects him above all other warriors (while also keeping him on a tight leash because he questions Uhtred's loyalty) wants is to unite all the English speaking kingdoms into a united England, and repulse the Danes back to their lands of ice and winter.

The best thing about these books is that all the battles he writes about really happened.  Alfred really did want to unite the kingdoms into England.  He really did build the first navy.  He did constantly have to fight battles to protect his lands and his people, and he had to fortify his towns with burghs (walled defenses).  And we just see all this unfold through Uhtred, a fictional character, and what he wants.  

The writing is compelling and pulls you in.  If I didn't have a daughter, I'd devour them in a long day on a weekend.  Alas, Hannah pulls me away, and I go kicking and screaming to change her diaper, or feed her, or pay attention to her rather than Uhtred (the nerve of her!).  

The first six books were all on Oyster.  The seventh, since it's not backlist, isn't yet, and so that's a good enough reason for me to take an enforced Uhtred break.  

Next up I'm reading the writings of Julian of Norwich, a Christian mystic contemporary of Chaucer, whose Revelations of a Divine Love was the first book to be published in English by a woman.  

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