Here is an overview of the book from the publisher:
The ninth installment of Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling series chronicling the epic saga of the making of England, “like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer, London)—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit BBC America television series.
A fragile peace reigns in Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia. King Alfred’s son Edward and formidable daughter, Aethelflaed, rule the kingdoms. But all around the restless Northmen, eyeing the rich lands and wealthy churches, are mounting raids.
Uhtred of Bebbanburg, the kingdoms’ greatest warrior, controls northern Mercia from the strongly fortified city of Chester. But forces are gathering against him. Northmen allied to the Irish, led by the fierce warrior Ragnall Ivarson, are soon joined by the Northumbrians, and their strength could prove overwhelming. Despite the gathering threat, both Edward and Aethelflaed are reluctant to move out of the safety of their fortifications. But with Uhtred’s own daughter married to Ivarson’s brother, who can be trusted?
In the struggle between family and loyalty, between personal ambition and political commitment, there will be no easy path. But a man with a warrior’s courage may be able to find it. Such a man is Uhtred, and this may be his finest hour.
As usual, Cornwell puts Uhtred in a pickle and each time he comes out smelling like a rose. Despite sometimes insurmountable odds (it seems), Uhtred works his way out of each difficult situation. Many people may see Uhtred getting out of these situations as trite, but I see it as the ingenuity of a character that is determined to succeed no matter the odds.
Cornwell’s antagonists continue to be despicable – in this case Ragnall. Ragnall is portrayed as heartless with an immense desire to kill Saxons and collect as much land and money as possible. Ragnall is joined by another band of Danes that are determined to capture northern Mercia.
The protagonists – Uhtred, his army, and his Saxon allies – are likeable, but are still fallible. For instance, although it would be safer to kill all of the Danish captives, Aethelflaed is hesitant to so when they express a desire to convert to Christianity (even though some clearly do so to avoid being killed by Uhtred and will quickly disavow their conversion).
The book is another great story that will keep you turning each page to see what happens next.