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Sword Song: The Battle For London Hardcover – January 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Cornwell's fourth entry in the popular Saxon Tales (following Lords of the North) is a rousing romp through the celebrated ninth-century reign of Alfred the Great. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a 28-year-old pagan Saxon lord of war, has pledged to serve Alfred by commanding the defensive frontier forts (burhs). Trouble arises when the Norse Viking brothers Sigefrid and Erik Thurgilson capture and occupy London, threatening Alfred's border and his control of the Thames River port. The Christian Alfred directs Uhtred to raise a Wessex army, expel the pagan Thurgilsons and resecure London. Commanding Uhtred is his vain, abusive cousin Ethelred, who is married to Alfred's eldest daughter, Ethelflaed. Plying his swords Serpent-Breath and Wasp-Sting, Uhtred is a stirring, larger-than-life action hero conflicted by ambition, fidelity and thirst for violence. All the major characters are well drawn, and the London battle scenes unfold quickly and vividly. A deft mix of historical details and customs authenticates the saga. And Cornwell drops in a slick twist precipitating the climatic battle to wrest control of London for the Saxons, paving the way for the story to continue. (Jan.)
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“Bernard Cornwell ranks as the current alpha male of testosterone-enriched historical fiction…. As usual, Cornwell offers dramatic battle scenes with big swinging swords. There is also treachery, male bonding, plenty of historical nuggets and a skillful examination of the powerful role played by religion in the Dark Ages. Sword Song also has something new: a really terrific and moving love story…. All in all, this satisfying tale leaves you hungry for more of Uhtred’s adventures.” (USA Today)
“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)
“Cornwell tells Alfred’s story with wit, intelligence and absolute narrative authority.... Like its predecessors, Sword Song offers a generous display of Cornwell’s characteristic virtues: larger-than-life characters, direct, uncluttered prose and a precise evocation of the harsh realities of the distant past. As always, the battle scenes are particularly vivid, opening a window on the utter chaos of hand-to-hand combat among heavily armed bands of men. 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)
“Cornwell tells Alfred’s story with wit, intelligence and absolute narrative authority.... Like its predecessors, Sword Song offers a generous display of Cornwell’s characteristic virtues: larger-than-life characters, direct, uncluttered prose and a precise evocation of the harsh realities of the distant past. As always, the battle scenes are particularly vivid, opening a window on the utter chaos of hand-to-hand combat among heavily armed bands of men. Cornwell remains in full control of this colorful, violent material, and his steadily deepening portrait of Alfred’s nascent England continues to enthrall.” (Kirkus, starred)
“The fourth installment of the acclaimed Saxon Tales series resonates with the same masculine vigor as the first three volumes. Cornwell’s stylistic verve extends to main character Uhtred, a marvelously complex figure…. In typical Conwellian fashion, the battle scenes are magnificent, but the author also deserves points for incorporating a healthy dose of romance and intrigue into the rousing plot. Even readers unfamiliar with the series will be able to catch on, but devoted fans will devour this volume while eagerly anticipating the next one.” (Publishers Weekly)
“The direct heir to Patrick O’Brian.” (The Economist )
Top customer reviews
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There are so many great things to say about this book, actually the whole series so far and just to think I’m only into the 4th book. First let me say though, this author knows how to capture his readers. Every sentence is a cling on to the next great action. The drama and war action just constantly unfolds throughout the whole book.
Here are a few of my notes and thoughts on different things I found interesting.
Alfred has Uhtred’s oath of loyalty and obedience which drives me insane because Alfred though he is king is in my opinion not worthy of Uhtred’s loyalty. I really don’t like Alfred the Great in this novel, no I believe He owes everything to Uhtred, as without him he would have lost his kingdom long ago, yet time and time again he rewards him with punishment. I cannot comprehend why Uhtred still fights for this man.
Aethelflaed, Alfred’s daughter – beautiful daughter but I can see she will be used as a tool for Alfred. Her story is beyond interesting already as he marries her off only for a gain and then the idiot she is married to is an abusive pig. Yet she is the Kings daughter and the King accepts this action and does nothing – Using the reasoning from the book that Uhtred explained -
“The message certainly matched Alfred’s philosophy, for he believed that a kingdom could only thrive if it was ruled by law, was ordered by government, and was obedient to the will of God and the king. Yet he could look at his daughter, see her bruises and approve? He had always loved his children. I had watched them grow, and I had seen Alfred play with them, yet his religion could allow him to humiliate a daughter he loved?”
Onto more cheerful things, I really like Uhtred’s beloved friend Ragnar Ragnarson, he’s the type of guy who is strong and fierce when he wants to be.
My favorite part of the book is the battles and the understanding of the battles by Uhtred. Here are just a few of his philosophy if you will or planning techniques that I really admired.
“the joy of battle was the delight of tricking the other side. Of knowing what they will do before they do it, and having the response ready so that, when they make the move that is supposed to kill you, they die instead.”
“In battle a man risks all to gain reputation. In bed he risks nothing. The joy is comparable, but the joy of a woman is fleeting, while reputation is forever. Men die, women die, all die, but reputation lives after a man”
Here is one scene I really liked:
“You told us it was death to leave the shield wall.” “You left the shield wall, lord,” Osferth said, almost reprovingly. I straightened and touched my arm rings. “You live,” I told him harshly, “by obeying the rules. You make a reputation, boy, by breaking them. But you do not make a reputation by killing cripples.”
I liked his take on Lust & Love:
“Lust is the deceiver. Lust wrenches our lives until nothing matters except the one we think we love, and under that deceptive spell we kill for them, give all for them, and then, when we have what we have wanted, we discover that it is all an illusion and nothing is there. Lust is a voyage to nowhere, to an empty land, but some men just love such voyages and never care about the destination. Love is a voyage too, a voyage with no destination except death, but a voyage of bliss.”
“perhaps love is friendship more than it is lust, though the gods know the lust is always there.”
LETS NOT FORGET THE LOVE WITHIN THE BOOK
I am so glad Uhtred and Gisela are together and I think I like her better than the women he has been with so far. I loved the fact that he has 2 children. Here is the description from the book.
“My son. He was four years old with hair as golden-colored as mine and a strong little face with a pug nose, blue eyes, and a stubborn chin. I loved him then. My daughter Stiorra was two years old. She had a strange name and at first I had not liked it, but Gisela had pleaded with me and I could refuse her almost nothing, and certainly not the naming of a daughter. Stiorra simply meant “star,” and Gisela”
The thing I enjoy most about this series is the way it is narrated by an Uhtred who is looking back on his life.
EXCELLENT READ! I highly recommend reading the series in order so you can follow the war and growth of each character.
I love historical fiction and this series meets my needs.
The story line in the first 4 books flows great......you pick up the next book and it takes right off.......no time gaps...which I LOVE.
Cornwell does an great job of keeping the characters consistent. As I flow through the story line each character grows and develops yet I have yet to be surprised by the changes........the character growth makes sense and it consistent with each person.
I truly feel like I am in the audience listening to Uhtred tell his tale. Those Rangersons sure know how to tell a yarn........
The narrator/protagonist is about as bad as anyone. His greatest virtue in this reader's eyes is that he doesn't try to mask his actions under a guise of piety or loyalty to a ruler. What he cares about is his reputation, mainly as a warrior and that he dies with his weapon in his hand.
However, the action scenes and the plots and treachery that swirl from page to page make the series fascinating. Also, the author makes one aware that the armies of the time were divided between the almost useless militias and the professional soldiers that made up the fighting force of the great leaders.