The Pagan Lord (Warrior Chronicles 7) by Bernard Cornwell

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The Pagan Lord (Warrior Chronicles 7) by Bernard Cornwell

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Bernard Cornwell's Warrior Chronicles' guy, Lord Uhtred, is back with a bang. Book 7 and there's no sign of either author or hero running out of steam: well researched, exciting and thought provoking. Classic Cornwell in fact.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: September 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0007331901

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Lord Uhtred is outlawed and evicted from his land as he continues to niggle the Saxon clergy. However this time it's in a big way: he murders an abbot while trying to reclaim his eldest son. As a punishment he's evicted from his land so Uhtred does the only thing he can: he follows his destiny and travels north to reclaim Bebbanburg (Bamburgh) from his usurping uncle, Aelfric. There's a chasm between his dream and reality, but Uhtred is determined. Perhaps it's just as well because his choice of strategy will shape a nation.

Prolific and talented, Bernard Cornwell could transcribe the phone book and have me hooked. Fortunately for those of you who aren't as smitten, while he has adventures like this leaping from his pen he won't need to.

Warrior Chronicles (one of the many series that the author has delighted us with) started in The Last Kingdom and Uhtred's Saxon birth and forced Danish adoption, progressing through stories witnessing King Alfred's rise to power and, in Book #6 Death of Kings, his demise. Therefore when we start Pagan Lord we join a country in disarray and a power vacuum waiting to be filled.

Uhtred is an ideal guide for us onlookers. Having been born Saxon and raised Dane he can see both sides culturally and, as carnage approaches, strategically. We witness the magic of an author who inhabits the minds of his creations and knows how to season with research, enabling us to see and feel the era rather than just view it from a distance. Indeed fear not any who were victim to bad history lessons at school; the only dry thing in this book is Uhtred's sense of humour. We can even envisage him raising a wry eyebrow sometimes as he marvels at the less than useful ideas of those around him.

Uhtred's not a bundle of laughs though, and nor should he be. Protective of those who deserve it but brutal to those who cross him (mid-level gore warning) he may not be the sort of guy we take home to mother, but we'd still love to see her reaction when she meets him!

To my mind this series disproves those who believe that Bernard is a one-style-author. He changes to match the mood and period so here we have an earthy narrative for an earthy era, occasionally drifting into the mystically lyrical as Uhtred explains his polytheistic beliefs and how they protect him. Indeed this is time when faith divides as much as politics and nationality so perhaps it was always thus?

I don't want to make this book sound like a treatise on religion; it's not. There are some wonderfully researched moments surrounding Danish and Saxon sea-going and even how to tell the difference between fresh and sea water from a distance. (Not one to try it in front of the children!)

The novel's blurb likens it to a real Game of Thrones. Uhtred himself may be partially fictionalised (there was a Uhtred from whom Bernard gained some inspiration) but this is proof that history provides some of the greatest, most exciting adventure stories of all, especially when they emanate from the mind of a master. Rave over, as long as you promise to read the book.

If you love Mr C and you love Uhtred's world then we think you may also love The Bone Thief: (Wulfgar 1) by V M Whitworth.

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