Uhtred helped Alfred win his last war against the Danes, but now, Uhtred is bored and tired of Alfred and his priests. Feeling unappreciated — Alfred rewarded him for his war efforts but minimally at best — Uhtred buries his hoard and leaves for the north with plans to capture Dunholm, a northern stronghold. After he inadvertently frees slaves, he also frees the region’s king, Guthred, and he now the men he needs to help him win Dunholm. Except, the gods are no longer smiling on Uhtred and his life, which had been running relatively smoothly, once more takes a strange turn when Guthred sells him into slavery. In an odd twist of fate, his only ally in the north, Hild, a former nun, convinces Guthred she must return to Alfred in Wessex and her nunnery. Upon returning to Alfred, she becomes Uhtred’s only hope for rescue.
Uhtred is a bastard in many ways, except when he’s not, and that can be a lot of the time. He’s a lord in his own right, except he has no land and the land that is his is being ruled by his uncle who usurped Uhtred’s father. Uhtred wants his land back and going north is his way of signaling to Alfred that he’s done with the war. Alfred isn’t ready for that to happen yet, and while he won’t admit it, he needs Uhtred more than Uhtred needs him. While Uhtred might be unreliable, when he makes an oath he won’t break it and Alfred keeps using that one very loyal part of Uhtred. Uhtred knows it but keeps letting it happen because he knows it’s the only way. To be fair though, Uhtred keeps using the oaths to his advantage as well so it’s fair play on both sides.
This is the third book in the Saxon Tales and I have a huge lag between books. Not because I wasn’t enjoying the series, I have been, but I forgot about the series until my last visit to the library when I decided to pick them up again. Cornwell is a favorite when I need some historical fiction, even though he can be a bit on the brutal, bloody side. Then again, he is writing about a very brutal time in history so it all fits. Besides, I like Uhtred. He’s surprising in that he’s extremely loyal, can be a very good guy when he wants to, which happens more often than he cares to think about, and he’s a bit of a softie, especially when it comes to the ladies. I swear, this man is always falling in love. It never gets mushy though which is what I like.
Here’s to the fourth book — Sword Song.
Lords of the North
By Bernard Cornwell