Reviewed by David Maclaine
Warriors of the Storm lives up to its name - warriors do emerge from a storm to deadly effect - but this ninth installment of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales could just as easily have been called "Pledge of Allegiance." Just as important as all the clever maneuvers, risky rescues, ambushes and bloody bouts of hand-to-hand combat are crucial decisions about allegiance, where the nature of oaths and the rationale for breaking them become paramount. This is the third straight volume in the series in which much of the action swirls around the upper corner of Saxon Mercia where the crucial port of Ceaster (Chester) is again under threat. But this time the plot also takes the series' hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg on urgent journeys by sea and land. The endgame for the long Danish War is on his mind, and Uhtred's unlikely son-in-law may play a crucial role. There are other unlikely turns in the game, including a Christian clergyman who earns the still-pagan Uhtred's grudging affection, a popular whore who mostly sows trouble, and some unhappy family reunions for both the hero and his Irish sidekick Finan. Saddest of all is a confrontation between very old friends whose bonds, forged in the very first book of the series, have long since broken, and whose fated paths now lead to a bloody collision.
Much of the action in Warriors of the Storm takes place in the margins of the sparse historical record of the years between 910 and 920 when Uhtred's old lover Aethelfled strove to preserve her Mercian realm while her brother Edward fought to expand his into Danish-held East Anglia. As always, the author makes the ancient battlefield come alive, but here he also probes deeply into the very personal nature of medieval leadership. In a time when the idea of a nation was still very vague, the root of all power was the oath to an individual leader, and a leader's character was laid bare by dire tests. (2016, 299 pages)More about Warriors of the Storm at Powell's Books or Amazon.com