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Death of Kings Hardcover – January 17, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 504 customer reviews
Book 6 of 8 in the Warrior Chronicles Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

George R.R. Martin Interviews Bernard Cornwell

George R.R. Martin sold his first story in 1971 and has been writing professionally since then. He spent ten years in Hollywood as a writer-producer, working on The Twilight Zone, Beauty and the Beast, and various feature films and television pilots that were never made. In the mid '90s he returned to prose, his first love, and began work on his epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. He has been in the Seven Kingdoms ever since.

George R.R. Martin: It has long been my contention that the historical novel and the epic fantasy are sisters under the skin, that the two genres have much in common. My series owes a lot to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and the other great fantasists who came before me, but I've also read and enjoyed the work of historical novelists. Who were your own influences? Was historical fiction always your great passion? Did you ever read fantasy?

Bernard Cornwell: You're right--fantasy and historical novels are twins--and I've never been fond of the label 'fantasy' which is too broad a brush and has a fey quality. It seems to me you write historical novels in an invented world which is grounded in historical reality (if the books are set in the future then 'fantasy' magically becomes sci-fi). So I've been influenced by all three: fantasy, sci-fi and historical novels, though the largest influence has to be C.S. Forester's Hornblower books.

Martin: A familiar theme in a lot of epic fantasy is the conflict between good and evil. The villains are often Dark Lords of various ilks, with demonic henchmen and hordes of twisted, malformed underlings clad in black. The heroes are noble, brave, chaste, and very fair to look upon. Yes, Tolkien made something grand and glorious from that, but in the hands of lesser writers, well ... let's just say that sort of fantasy has lost its interest for me. It is the grey characters who interest me the most. Those are the sort I prefer to write about... and read about. It seems to me that you share that affinity. What is it about flawed characters that makes them more interesting than conventional heroes?

Cornwell: Maybe all our heroes are reflections of ourselves? I'm not claiming to be Richard Sharpe (God forbid), but I'm sure parts of my personality leaked into him (he's very grumpy in the morning). And perhaps flawed characters are more interesting because they are forced to make a choice… a conventionally good character will always do the moral, right thing. Boring. Sharpe often does the right thing, but usually for the wrong reasons, and that's much more interesting!

Martin: When Tolkien began writing The Lord of the Rings, it was intended as a sequel to The Hobbit. "The tale grew in the telling," he said later, when LOTR had grown into the trilogy we know today. That's a line I have often had occasion to quote over the years, as my own Song of Ice and Fire swelled from the three books I had originally sold to the seven books (five published, two more to write) I'm now producing. Much of your own work has taken the form of multi-part series. Are your tales too 'growing in the telling,' or do you know how long your journeys will take before you set out? Did you know how many books Uhtred's story would require, when you first sat down to write about him?

Cornwell: No idea! I don't even know what will happen in the next chapter, let alone the next book, and have no idea how many books there might be in a series. E.L. Doctorow said something I like which is that writing a novel is a bit like driving down an unfamiliar country road at night and you can only see as far ahead as your somewhat feeble headlamps show. I write into the darkness. I guess the joy of reading a book is to find out what happens, and for me that's the joy of writing one too!


“Gripping. . . . Mr. Cornwell’s ‘Saxon Stories’ subvert myths of national origin as few would dare. They are ‘unofficial histories’—and all the more realistic for that.” (Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal)

“[Cornwell] writes morally complicated and intricate stories, and he’s won a following not just among readers but also among fellow writers.” (Gregory Cowles, New York Times Book Review)

“Likely to appeal to anyone who has enjoyed George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series....Cornwell is a master of historical fiction.” (Christian DuChateau, CNN)

“A master of historical fiction has produced another great read.” (Robert Conroy, Library Journal)

“Bernard Cornwell does the best battle scenes of any writer I’ve ever read, past or present.” (George R. R. Martin)

“Compelling.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Cornwell tells Alfred’s story with wit, intelligence and absolute narrative authority.... Cornwell remains in full control of this colorful, violent material, and his steadily deepening portrait of Alfred’s nascent England continues to enthrall.” (Washington Post Book World for Sword Song)

“Bernard Cornwell ranks as the current alpha male of testosterone-enriched historical fiction.” (Dierdre Donahue, USA Today)

“Robustly drawn characters and a keen appetite for bloodshed whip the reader along in a froth of excitement.” (James Urquhart, Financial Times)

“Cornwell is adept at enveloping his fictional characters in British history. His use of geography, instruments of battle, strategy and ancient vocabulary is faultless….No knowledge of early British history or of his earlier Saxon volumes is necessary for a reader to enjoy his dexterous approach to historical fiction.” (Dennis Lythgoe, BookPage)

“[Cornwell] has been described as a master of historical fiction, but that may be an understatement. Cornwell makes his subject material come alive. Better, his major protagonist is totally believable and human.” (Robert Conroy, Library Journal)

“[Cornwell] possesses a gift for narrative flow and an eye of the telling detail that are the main reasons for his primacy in bringing turbulent times to vivid life.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“History comes alive.” (Boston Globe)

“As expected, the warfare is ferociously bloody, the sacrilege pointedly barbed, and the story expertly paced. Heck, we’d even extol Uhtred’s budding spells of sober reflection about life and love—if we weren’t certain he’d slice an ear off for saying so.” (Entertainment Weekly for Sword Song)

“[M]asterful. . . . The surprise is that Cornwell’s love scenes are as deft as his action scenes, though far fewer, of course—all driven by a hard-shelled, sporadically soft-hearted, always charismatic protagonist.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st Us Edition edition (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780061969652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061969652
  • ASIN: 0061969656
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (504 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #240,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Bernard Cornwell is the consummate author. This book, the sixth in the series `The Saxon Stories', is both riveting and enjoyable from start to finish. The author employs the same formula that makes all his books such a great success.

Set in the period around 900 AD, close to the end of King Alfred's reign we observe the events that helped to make and establish modern day England. King Alfred's dream was to lay the foundations of a united `Angelcynn' through military strength, the preservation of the Saxon culture and the English language. His Christian faith was also to be a major driving force in this most ambitious endeavor.

The same dream was passed onto his son Edward who was crowned king after his death. It's in this period that we see some of the most exciting events take place in the novel. The author has an incredible ability to mix historical facts with fiction in ways that both entertain and educate the reader. It's hard to put the book down.

Obviously, this tale has not finished. I'm sure that the seventh book in this series is already being planned and I look forward to its future publication.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I confess to the fact that I am a huge Bernard Cornwell fan. I've read, and own, the entire Sharpe series, which I believe is his best work. I have been a fan of his Saxon chronicles as well, which are interesting and entertaining, giving us a view into the formation of England as a country.

His stories, which follow the life of King Alfred and the battles between the Saxons and the Danes, are well told and loosely based on historical events. Unlike his Sharpe stories, however, the Saxon chronicles are starting to feel a bit formulaic and stale. If you've read one Uhtred story, it feels like you've read them all. Inevitably some Mercian or Saxon switches allegiances, allies with the Danes and declares war. Uhtred is retrieved from retirement, leads the Saxons to a hair-raising but ultimately successful final victory. The stories are well-told and keep the reader engaged, but are starting to feel very similar and are following a theme or formula. After reading this I am interested to know how Edward and Aethelstan finally conquer the Danes and unite England, but I guess I'll have to wait another novel or two to find that out. Hopefully the next one will divert from the formula to spice up the story line.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Right from the start I've got to tell you, I love Bernard Cornwell. I've read The Warlord Chronicles (King Arthur and Co.,) Agincourt, and the previous five volumes of The Saxon Tales, and I have yet to be disappointed.

This sixth volume of the tales takes us to Alfred's death, the ascension of his son Edward, and the inevitable and continuing battle to unite England and defeat the Danes. All the great characters return, first and foremost Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Dane who has pledged allegiance to Alfred, and acted as his sword through a lifetime of battles. Uhtred is the guy you want on your side. He's big, bold, earthy, witty, a brilliant strategist and fighter, a great friend, and does not suffer fools. He can be a battle crazed killing machine and a lover. But, he never seems either corny or out of proportion. Though there are a raft of great recurring characters, they're all second to Uhtred.

The book is written in the first person, and the author's skill is so great that even though you know Uhtred will always make it through - he's telling the story - the tension still rises as you expect for some lucky thrust to make it through the shield wall and cut him down.

Here's what I like about the series: battle, politics, battle, intrigue, authenticity, battle, sex, battle, comedy, battle. Did I mention "battle." I have a feeling the list sums up what most of Bernard Cornwell's readers like. Well, he gives it to us. When I'm immersed in one of these tales I can just about feel the lice, smell the burning thatch, see the eviscerated civilians, warriors, and livestock. I get fed up with the priests, angered by the traitors, and interested in the women. And, I get really excited by the battles, large and small. Mr. Cornwell gives you a good read.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a big Uhtred fan and have avidly raced to the bookstore (Amazon, natch) whenever a new installment comes out, but this latest book left me feeling like I was floundering in the Thames without an oar or a paddle! The author has gotten formulaic and predictable with these Saxon stories and I feel as if Cornwell has gotten bored with his own subject matter. I hope that he goes back and re-reads the first couple of books in the Saxon Tales and rekindles his passion for the story of Uhtred; I don't want Uhtred the Wicked to turn into a Uhterd the forgettable.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bernard Cornwell's "Saxon Tales" series continues to explore the murky origins of England with "Death of Kings." Our hero remains Uthred, Saxon raised as a Dane (Viking) who has reluctantly fought for Alfred the Great for years. But what is he to do when the ailing Alfred finally passes and the Danes stand poised to invade a fractured kingdom?

For those of you who are familiar with this series, you know the answer: fight and kill. Uthred is the ultimate warrior, hiding his strategic mind behind a facade of barbarian fury. "Death of Kings" features more of the same as Uthred tries valiantly to advise Alfred's heir Edward, who is unfortunately surrounded by a cast of advisors consisting largely of Cornwell's favorite villain, the corrupt clergy. This does lead to a most enjoyable scene where Uthred offers his advice on how to run a church service (you have to agree, they'd be both shorter and more entertaining). But through these battles - both political and bloody - we see how the foundations of England were forged. And there is plenty of blood to satisfy Cornwell's fans, even though there is also a dizzying political landscape that makes the reader even more thankful when Uthred decides to solve problems with his lethal swords, Serpent's Breath and Wasp-Sting (as you can see, Uthred's a warrior, not a poet).

Cornwell admits in his author's notes that he's taken more than a few liberties with the historical record in the interests of storytelling. That's fine, because Cornwell tells great stories. But he raises a valid beef with the focus of English history, which generally kicks off with 1066 as the first year of note.
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