Book Review: The Burning Land

“The poets say we fight for glory, for gold, for reputation, and for our homes, but in my life I have just as often fought for a woman. Women have power over men. It is for women that the long fleets cross the salt seas, and for women that the proud halls burn, and for women that the sword-warriors are buried.” – Bernard Cornwell, The Burning Land

The Burning Landebook: The Burning Land
Series: The Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories (Book #5)
Setting: England
Pages: 368 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
Date: March 2nd 2010
ISBN: 9780061966095
Edition Language:English
The official synopsis according to Goodreads states:

In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.At the end of the ninth century, King Alfred of Wessex is inill health; his heir, an untested youth. His enemy, the Danes, having failed to conquer Wessex, now see their chance for victory. Led by the sword of savage warrior HaraldBloodhair, the Viking hordes attack. ButUhtred, Alfred’s reluctant warlord, proves his worth, outwitting Harald and handing the Vikings one of their greatest defeats.For Uhtred, the sweetness of victory is soon overshadowed by tragedy. Breaking with Alfred, he joins the Vikings, swearing never again to serve the Saxon king. Instead, he will reclaim his ancestral fortress on the Northumbrian coast. Allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—he aims to invade and conquer Wessex itself.

Yet fate has different plans. The Danes of East Anglia and the Vikings of Northumbria are plotting the conquest of all Britain. When Alfred’s daughter pleads with Uhtred for help, he cannot refuse her request. In a desperate gamble, he takes command of a demoralized Mercian army, leading them in an unforgettable battle on a blood-soaked field beside the Thames.

The Good…:

The fifth book in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories/The Warrior Chronicles, The Burning Land, picks up about two years after the incidents in the previous book. Uhtred and Gisela are expecting their fourth child, and life couldn’t be better. Until Alfred asks Uhtred to help him fight a new Danish conquer with his sights on Wessex. I love Uhtred the most when he’s in top warrior form, and since he’s been married to Gisela. He’s grown up to be a wonderful man, loving husband and father, and loyal friend. His point of view concerning the people around him and the major events in his country are becoming more accurate, and closer to the 83-year-old narrating the story.

Following a tragedy, Uhtred heads back to Northumbria with his men to see his friend and foster-brother, Ragnar. Ragnar the Younger is one of my favorite characters in the series, so I love it when he and Brida get scenes. The relationship with these three is easy, honest, and born of love. So much different from the majority of the people Uhtred deals with in the south.

Another one of my favorite characters in the series so far is Aethelflaed, King Alfred’s daughter. She seems like a woman “born before her time,” and is a very strong female character. In the beginning of the series, I don’t think Cornwell wrote women very well, but Aethelflaed, Brida, and Gisela have evolved into really strong characters. I also enjoy Aethelflaed’s relationship with Uhtred. The pair have a long history, and can talk to each other without a lot of scheming. In Cornwell’s Britain, this is something hard to come by.

The Bad…:

The tragedy that happens broke my heart. I was worried about what would happen after the event, but now that I’m on to book 6, I’m feeling better about everything. I’m tired of Alfred and everyone in the south trying to tether Uhtred to them. He’s a northerner, and I want to see what happens when he takes back Bebbanburg. However, Alfred’s hold on Uhtred is a good example that shows how important oath making was during this time, and illustrates the repercussions of oathbreaking.

Do I Recommend?

Of course! If you’ve made it this far in the series, you must keep going. Besides, the series just gets better and better. Cornwell’s character development for the secondary and minor characters becomes richer with every novel, and the world’s evolution from a city-state structure of minor tribal kingdoms towards the England we know today is fascinating. Due to the character development, action sequences, and outstanding continuity to the first four novels in the series, I give The Burning Land 5 out of 5 stars.


This is my eleventh completed review for the 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

This is my twentieth completed review for the 2015 TBR Reading Challenge

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