Book Review: Death of Kings

“Every day is ordinary, until it isn’t.” 
― Bernard Cornwell, Death of Kings

death_of_kings-200x307ebook: Death of Kings
Series: The Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories (Book #6)
Setting: England
Pages: 336 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date:  January 17th 2012
ISBN: 9780062097118
Edition Language: English
The official synopsis according to Goodreads states:
As the ninth century wanes, Alfred the Great lies dying, his lifelong goal of a unified England in peril, his kingdom on the brink of chaos. Though his son, Edward, has been named his successor, there are other Saxon claimants to the throne—as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the north. Torn between his vows to Alfred and the desire to reclaim his long-lost ancestral lands in the north, Uhtred, Saxon-born and Viking-raised, remains the king’s warrior but has sworn no oath to the crown prince. Now he must make a momentous decision that will forever transform his life and the course of history: to take up arms—and Alfred’s mantle—or lay down his sword and let his liege’s dream of a unified kingdom die along with him.
The Good…:

I LOVE THIS SERIES! Bernard Cornwell’s Death of Kings is another book in his Saxon Stories series to be essentially chock-full of battle scenes from beginning to end. After Alfred dies, other contenders for the crown come out of the woodwork to try to snatch the crown of Alfred’s son Edward’s head. Edward is young, but he’s seen battle, and is determined to hang on to his legacy. Like Uhtred, I really like Edward. He’s pious, intelligent, and cautious like his father, but he doesn’t try to be a perfect man. Just a perfect king. He wants the best for his people, and is willing to acknowledge that his sister Aethelflaed can help him obtain his goals.

Aethelflaed is still Uhtred’s lover despite being married to his cousin Aethelred. She’s also still awesome, and I’ve grown to love her even more. While Gisela is the love of Uhtred’s life, Aethelflaed is his equal. She thinks like him, and is a good confidante. I also like that she doesn’t hound him about taking other lovers, despite the fact they can’t be together as much as they’d like, and she’s married to another. She accepts him for who he is, and doesn’t try to change him. Uhtred, treats her accordingly.

Uhtred recognizes that Aethelflaed is a strong-willed, intelligent woman, and appreciates her assets. Besides, since Uhtred has become a single father, Aethelflaed has helped him to raise his children. This weird situation threw me a bit at first, but then I came to realize that the limitations on their relationship were due to the roles of women during this time, and the influence of the Catholic church.

Secondary characters like Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric (Uhtred’s closest men) continue to add flavor to the story. Finan has been with Uhtred since they were slaves together, and is one of the few people unafraid of him. He tells Uhtred how things are, and is one of the few people to talk any sense into him. Osferth, Alfred’s bastard, has all of his father’s good traits, and uses them to help Uhtred see manipulations and traps from his enemies. It’s funny how much like Alfred Osferth is, and I love the moments he has with his father this book. They were a long time coming. Sihtric, the son of one of Uhtred’s enemies, has proven to be a great warrior, and loyal friend. It’s been great seeing these three men grow over the course of the series.

The Bad…:

Like the other battle heavy books, Death of Kings doesn’t move the story forward that much. Alfred dies, Edward takes the throne, and enemies attack. That’s basically it, but the battle scenes are so spectacular that it’s like watching an episode of Game of Thrones. However, despite the minimal forward movement, readers get treated to lots of exposition and character development that will hopefully set up the seventh book, and propel the story forward as we near the conclusion. This will be important since there’s like a 10-year time jump in the next novel.

Do I Recommend?

Can’t you tell? Of course, I do! The rich imagery the battle scenes create, the engaging relationships among the characters, and the political intrigue alone makes Death of Kings a worthwhile read. Even though the story probably only took place over the course of a year, or two, readers learn more about the political landscape of what we know call England, and how it came to be. Since the story was mainly a few big battles, and not much happened in the greater landscape of Uhtred reclaiming his birthright, or settling old scores against Haesten and Aethelred, I give Death of Kings 4 out of 5 stars.

starstarstarstar

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

This is my twenty-first completed review for the 2015 TBR Reading Challenge

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