Reviewed by David Maclaine
In Lords of the North, third in the "Saxon Tales" series, author Bernard Cornwell takes on the challenge of finding action for his warrior-hero Uhtred of Bebbanburg during the period of peace following the West Saxons' surprise victory against the Danes which concluded the preceding novel. As Uhtred is a Northumbrian, heir to a lordship now held by his usurping uncle in an all-but-impregnable fortress, it is natural for him to head north to deal with some unfinished business. Affairs in Northumbria are in crisis as the kingdom pursues an ill-planned revolt against the Danes, suffers a major raid by the Scots and copes with the distrust among the region's various lords. When the dust settles, Uhtred finds himself offering crucial aid to a surprising claimant to the Northumbrian throne. A dire series of events involves a betrayal, enslavement, and a new crisis in Northumbria which can be resolved only if a daunting citadel held by a particularly loathsome enemy can be captured.
Because the historical record for Northumbria in these years is sketchy indeed, Cornwell is free to spin his plot with little constraint. Given his experience in crafting action plots, it's no surprise that Lords of the North offers a splendid blend of intrigue and intense combat action. Uhtred gains a new love interest in this series, a royal princess no less. One of the satisfying features of these "Saxon Tales" is that the fascinating women in the hero's life - unlike the succession of lovers who quickly come and go in Cornwell's Sharpe series - often play key roles even after they have left Uhtred's bed; in this novel their roles are more crucial than ever. (2006, 336 pages)More about Lords of the North at Powell's Books, Amazon.com or The Book Depository