Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Warriors of the Storm" - a review

Spotted this in Tesco's of all places at the "stop and buy me, stupid" price of only £10 - it was on the Christmas list anyway but at that price I thought it foolish not to get it..Book 9 (!) of the "Last Kingdom" series which is currently being dramatised by the BBC (first two books, anyway... ) and continues the story of Uhtred of Bamburgh..


So what do we get?? Typical Cornwell, which will either delight you, or not..  I'd say he's at that stage of his writing career where he is well into his specific style, and no need to change it thanks very much... I approach his books in the same way I do my slippers of an evening - you know they're going to be warm and comfortable...  he writes (in my view) some of the best Dark Age military fiction going... he's always been good on the depiction of close quarter battle but there's something about the nature of warfare in this age that seems to resonate with him..  "mud and the blood and the beer" as Mr Cash would say..

So in the 9th book - Alfred is long dead, but his son Edward and, far more 'forthright', daughter AEthelflaed, rule Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia (which they have settled and conquered with Uhtred's help in the previous several books)

Uhtred has been given command of northern Mercia - the frontier of the kingdom, where he has garrisoned the modern day city of Chester. To the north lies Northumbria which is in the control of the Danes who rule from the modern day city of York, but which is a collection of kings and lords rather than a cohesive kingdom.

Enter then, the splendidly tattooed warrior Ragnall Ivarson, who lands an army of Danes and proceeds to march into Northumbria with the intention of carving himself a proper kingdom. He is soon joined by disenchanted Northumbrian's and has a considerable army.

AEthelflaed tells Uhtred he'll have to defend Chester as she won't invade Northumbria without her brothers consent (which is not forthcoming as he is busy keeping his own kingdom under control) so Uhtred starts a guerilla operations against Ragnall and the Danes are forced to march north for York, before turning to start laying waste to the unprotected parts of Mercia.

Things are further complicated for Uhtred as his daughter is married to Ragnall's brother, but he then finds that the brothers are at war with each other - the secret to his problem of how to pacify Northumbria lies in this relationship.

I'll not spoil the story any further as I don't doubt some of my other readers may well be getting it - but it is an absolutely cracking story from the master story teller..  I like Uhtred, he's torn every which way and rarely if ever seems to make decisions based on rational choice, but usually on instinct, heart, or honour...

Not a spoiler to say there'll be another Uhtred book - but you sense he is reaching denouement...  Steve the Wargamer rates this one 8 out of 10..

9 comments:

  1. I'll look forward to it! Thanks Steve :-)

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    1. Paul - no problem - sure you'll enjoy it...

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  2. I've just started on this as well (also found for half price - in Sainsburys). Like you, Steve, I couldn't believed it's number 9 in the series! I wonder how many he's got left to go...

    Best wishes

    Giles

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    1. Giles - I seem to remember reading in his afterword that he'd outlined/planned for 10 or 11 in the series right from the beginning... so at least a couple more yet... I'd like him to go back and add some volumes to the Starbuck series, or better still the one-off he wrote for the American War of Independence..

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  3. I recently finished this. " I approach his books in the same way I do my slippers of an evening - you know they're going to be warm and comfortable"...couldn't agree more.

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    1. Gordon - never been a Booker Prize kind of fellow, I find "clever" fiction to be mostly boring if not a little pretentious.. Cornwell is right up my street, as he writes stories well... 'nuff said.. :o)

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  4. Steve,
    I attended a historical book day at Harrogate this year, where for the princely sum of £10.00! you could listen and question Bernard Cornwell about his writing and his latest book. Waterloo. He is a first rate speaker, and well worth a tenner of anybodies money. He was asked about the Starbuck series, and stated quite categorically he would not do anymore in the series, simply because he was getting too old and couldn't afford to do as much research as he would need. He did confirm that he was aiming for ten Uthred books. Also at the same event was Conn Iggulden and Harry Sidebottom also doing a talk. This was a cracking event which I hope is repeated next year.

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    1. Robbie - you're a lucky bugger! Had the fortune to meet Simon Scarrow last year, (nice fellow and clearly enthusiastic about his metier), I had the even better fortune to meet the late Richard Holmes on a couple of occasions (hugely interesting and charming bloke), but I have yet to meet Bernard Cornwell... and Conn Iggulden would be on my list as well... but most of all, if I'd had the chance. I'd have loved to have had a chance to hear the late Patrick O'Brian speak

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  5. I have just started on the first book again, thanks to the TV serial. I now remember my problem with the series in that, for reasons I cannot explain, I do not enjoy first person narratives.

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