Bernard Cornwell’s The Flame Bearer is the tenth book in the Saxon Tales series. It is as well-written as the previous nine books.
Here is a summary from the publisher:
Britain is in a state of uneasy peace. Northumbria’s Viking ruler, Sigtryggr, and Mercia’s Saxon Queen Aethelflaed have agreed a truce. And so England’s greatest warrior, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, at last has the chance to take back the home his traitorous uncle stole from him so many years ago—and which his scheming cousin still occupies.
But fate is inexorable and the enemies Uhtred has made and the oaths he has sworn combine to distract him from his dream of recapturing Bebbanburg. New enemies enter into the fight for England’s kingdoms: the redoubtable Constantin of Scotland seizes an opportunity for conquest and leads his armies south. Britain’s precarious peace threatens to turn into a war of annihilation.
But Uhtred is determined that nothing, neither the new enemies nor the old foes who combine against him, will keep him from his birth right. He is the Lord of Bebbanburg, but he will need all the skills he has learned in a lifetime of war to make his dream come true.
Throughout the series, Uhtred has been focused on getting Bebbanburg back. Despite this focus, for one reason or another Uhtred was never able to recapture it – whether from insufficient manpower or other more pressing threats. Finally, he has a real chance of taking it, but there is a catch.
Cornwell is considered either one of the greatest or the greatest male-centered historical novelists of today. He proves his mastery again by the character development, story line, and battle descriptions. Each book in the series seems to get better.
Cornwell captures the visceral nature of battle during the unification of England, but he does not do it in a gratuitous manner. He also thoroughly explains the different battle tactics.
Regarding the characters, I look forward to seeing how Cornwell deals with Uhtred’s age. In this book, Uhtred is in forties or fifties and he appears to be slowing down. Although Cornwell still has him leading from the front in the pivotal battles, I can’t imagine this can go on much longer – after all Uhtred is human, even if he is a great fighter. In fact, the believability of the books would be become less so if Uhtred continue to be a hard-charging fighter into his sixties – just not possible.
The Flame Bearer continues Cornwell’s excellent pedigree for writing.