Author: Bernard Cornwell
Published: January 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Series: Saxon Tales
Genre: Medieval Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Bernard Cornwell continues the saga of Uhtred of Bebbanburg in the Saxon Tales’ seventh book, The Pagan Lord. Uhtred, now out of favor with Alfred the Great’s son King Edward of Wessex, plans to recapture the fortress of Bebbanburg, which was his childhood home. So begins the Saxons slow progress towards victory against the Danes and the creation of England.
Cornwell’s depiction of the British Isles during the tenth century is a fascinating look into a rarely explored portion of history, and the violent battles that occurred between the Danes and Saxons for supremacy are described in vivid detail. The Saxon Tales are known for violence and gore that provides not only entertainment but a greater understanding of what a Saxon lord and warrior such as Uhtred had to lose.
In The Pagan Lord, the stakes for Uhtred are even higher after angering the Christian priests of Mercia. With most of his village burned and with no help forthcoming from his lover, the Lady Æthelflaed, Uhtred heads north hoping for one last chance to reclaim Bebbanburg. Cornwell continues the theme of dichotomy between the Christianity that many Saxons held dear during this time, and Uhtred’s stout devotion to the Viking gods.
It presents an interesting challenge, since Uhtred’s contempt for the “nailed god” leaves him with few allies among the people he wants to unite. Uhtred’s desperation is palpable in The Pagan Lord and it leads him and his men through many different plots enacted by some of Uhtred’s most prominent enemies from the previous books.
The Pagan Lord is masterfully written in both style and depiction. Cornwell lays out many twists and turns to puzzle through, and the subterfuge culminates in a fantastically bloody battle that leaves the reader breathless for more. .★★★★☆ (B+)