Book Review: The Empty Throne

“When a man must choose between nothing and everything he has small choice.” 
― Bernard Cornwell, The Empty Throne

the-empty-throne-coverebook: The Empty Throne
Series: The Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories (Book #8)
Setting: England
Pages: 400 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Date: September 16th 2014
ISBN: 9780007504183
Edition Language: English
The official synopsis according to Goodreads states:

In the battle for power, there can be only one ruler. England is fractured, torn apart more by internal fighting than the threat of Viking invasion. The ruler of Mercia is dying, leaving no legitimate heir. His wife is a formidable fighter and great leader, but no woman has ever ruled over an English kingdom. And she is without her strongest warrior and champion, Uhtred of Bebbanburg. So the scene is set for an explosive battle between elders and warriors for an empty throne. The vacant throne leaves a dangerous opportunity for the rival West Saxons to seize Mercia. But Edward of Wessex is distracted by the succession of his own throne, with two heirs claiming the right to be West Saxon king. And while the kingdoms are in disarray, the Vikings, this time coming from the west, will go on the rampage once more. The very future of England hangs in the balance. A hero is needed, a hero who can destroy the threat to Mercia, a hero who will ultimately decide the fate of a nation…

The Good…:

The Empty Throne contains the same fast-paced battle scenes, political scheming, and surprising twists as the other seven novels in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories. The Novel picks up a few months after the Uhtred fought Cnut and was grievously wounded during the battle. In this book, Uhtred is still suffering from his injuries and once again has to ride to Aethelflaed’s defense. But this time things are a bit different. Aethelflaed is now becoming known as a fighter in her own right. Her fame is almost greater than her brother the King, and Uhtred must help her retain her lands, wealth, and life in the aftermath of her husband Aethelred’s death.

What I liked the most about this novel is that Uhtred and Aethelflaed’s children have grown up, and are now becoming major players in the events of the story. Aethelflaed thinks her daughter “has a head full of feathers,” but I think she’s clever than she lets on. We don’t see much of this cleverness in this book, though, so this is mostly conjecture on my part. Uhtred’s children, Uhtred and Stiorra, are shown to be very crafty, however. Uhtred is a chip off the old block. He appears to have a woman in every city, but his favorite is “The Widow.” Though he’s taken with her, he knows he must marry to advance his family. Stiorra was very surprising. Quiet and moody, I thought she might have picked up lots of Aethelflaed’s qualities having been raised by her, and I was right. Except, Stiorra reminds me of the young Aethelflaed – Mischievous, clever, and adventurous. She also has her mother Gisela’s bearing, and Uhtred’s love of the “Old Gods.”

The Bad…:

Not much politically happened in this book. Aethelred was injured in the same battle as Uhtred, but his wounds were much more severe. As the synopsis states, Aethelred dies, and Uhtred tries to secure the throne for his lover. That’s about it. This problem gets resolved, and then Uhtred & Co. have a skirmish with some Danes (again), someone gains a new spouse, and Uhtred’s (the younger) mystery widow is revealed. We don’t get to see Edward, but only hear about him throughout the book. He was such a likable character, but this novel paints him in a bad light. Now that many of the old characters readers have come to know and love, or hate, have passed on (’tis life!) readers are subjected to meeting lots of new characters. This felt strange so there are some many characters in this world whom have already been developed. Sadly, they sat on the sidelines this time around. I hope they’ll be connected back into the story later on.

The Ugly…:

I actually loved this book. I just wanted to throw in a gripe about how this novel isn’t the end of the series, but yet another series to leave me waiting for the next installment. Boo! *sighs*

Do I Recommend?

I have loved every book in this series, and The Empty Throne is no exception. I think Uhtred will go down as being one of my all-time favorite lead male characters. He’s still arrogant, self-involved, and mischievous, but grows increasingly wiser with each novel. Now his son, Uhtred, is just like him, and we get a double treat. As much as it sucks to have to wait for another novel in this series, part of me is glad the saga hasn’t ended, because I get to spend more time with them. However, since not much happened in the story overall, I only give this one 4 out of 5 stars.


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

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

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