From Bernard Cornwell, the New York Times bestselling author whom
the Washington Post calls "perhaps the greatest writer of
historical adventure novels today," comes a saga of blood, rage, fidelity,
and betrayal that brings to center stage King Alfred the Great, one of the most
crucial (but oft-forgotten) figures in English history. It is King Alfred and
his heirs who, in the ninth and tenth centuries, with their backs against the
wall, fought to secure the survival of the last outpost of Anglo-Saxon culture
by battling the ferocious Vikings, whose invading warriors had already captured
and occupied three of England's four kingdoms.
Bernard Cornwell's epic novel opens in A.D. 866. Uhtred, a boy of ten and the son of a nobleman, is captured in the same battle that leaves his father dead. His captor is the Earl Ragnar, a Danish chieftain, who raises the boy as his own, teaching him the Viking ways of war. As a young man expected to take part in raids and bloody massacres against the English, he grapples with divided loyalties -- between Ragnar, the warrior he loves like a father, and Alfred, whose piety and introspection leave him cold. It takes a terrible slaughter and the unexpected joys of marriage for Uhtred to discover his true allegiance -- and to rise to his greatest challenge.
In Uhtred, Cornwell has created perhaps his richest and most complex protagonist, and through him, he has magnificently evoked an era steeped in dramatic pageantry and historical significance. For if King Alfred fails to defend his last kingdom, England will be overrun, and the entire course of history will change.
The Danes were clever that day. They had made new walls inside
the city, invited our men into the streets, trapped them between the new walls,
surrounded them, and killed them. They did not kill all the Northumbrian army,
for even the fiercest warriors tire of slaughter and, besides, the Danes made
much money from slavery. Most of the slaves taken in England were sold to
farmers in the wild northern isles, or to Ireland, or sent back across the sea
to the Danish lands, but some, I learned, were taken to the big slave markets in
Frankia and a few were shipped south to a place where there was no winter and
where men with faces the color of scorched wood would pay good money for men and
even better money for young women.
But they killed enough of us. They killed Ælla and they killed Osbert and they killed my father. Ælla and my father were fortunate, for they died in battle, swords in their hands, but Osbert was captured and he was tortured that night...
Wessex was one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in what is now England. With the reign of
Alfred (871-99) and the halting of the Danes, the King of Wessex became
the King of England. In the 10th century Alfred's descendents gradually acquired firm control over all England,
including the Danelaw (parts of north and east England).
However, in 1016 the Danish Canute (Knut) took over as ruler (partly due to military strength and partly by invitation). After he died in 1042 the Wessex line was re-established by Edward 'The Confessor' (most famous for building parts of Westminster Cathedral). He died in 1066 and was succeeded by the unfortunate Harold, the last ...
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