Tuesday, 22 December 2009

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Burning Land - Bernard Cornwell


The latest in the bestselling Alfred series from number one historical novelist, Bernard Cornwell. In the last years of the ninth century, King Alfred of Wessex is in failing health, and his heir is an untested youth. The Danes, who have failed so many times to conquer Wessex, smell opportunity! First comes Harald Bloodhair, a savage warrior leading a Viking horde, who is encouraged to cruelty by his woman, Skade. But Alfred still has the services of Uhtred, his unwilling warlord, who leads Harald into a trap and, at Farnham in Surrey, inflicts one of the greatest defeats the Vikings were ever to suffer. This novel, the fifth in the magnificent series of England's history tells of the final assaults on Alfred's Wessex, that Wessex survived to become England is because men like Uhtred defeated an enemy feared throughout Christendom.


OK, I’m going to hold my hands up here. I’m a huge fan of Bernard’s writing and I’ve really fallen for this series set in the time of Alfred and told from the perspective of one of Bernard’s ancestors. What you get is full tilt no hold barred combative fiction from the very get go. It’s a cracking series and if I’m honest perhaps my favourite to date. How can I tell?

Well I put this title on the backburner for a while as a novel to cheer me up when I felt down. Not only did it pick me up but it was a tale that I really wished I’d rationed as I just devoured the novel looking up after putting it down to realise the ridiculous time and wondering how best to call in sick for work in a few hours time. Yeah, I know, that’s bad but when a book gets you as much as Cornwell’s writing draws me in, it’s can be painful to put it down especially when you’re right in the midst of battle.

As usual a great offering and one that continues to spread the fame of the warriors from the north. Beautifully told with neither side being portrayed as truly good or evil but the subtle shades of grey it’s a story that will do as much for the Historical Fiction genre as David Gemmell did for fantasy.

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