This the first book in the Warrior Chronicles, which chart the life story of Uhtred, Ealdorman (a lord) of Bebbanburg (Bamburgh) in Northumbria (now Northumberland). It starts with him as a ten-year-old, shortly before his father is killed and he’s adopted by a Danish Earl as the Danes invade northern England.
Uhtred’s journey through the books becomes linked to that of Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, the only English kingdom not to fall to the Danes (as the title suggests).
The book is fast-paced, with plenty of action and battles, between which are spaced various looks at daily life in the ninth century, which are quite interesting themselves.
I enjoyed it a lot, often finding myself looking forward to getting back to it, though it wasn’t the sort of tale to linger. It’s very much a boys own story of fighting and valour, skirting over many of the day to day issues of life for ordinary folk. While it tries to reflect the time, it’s not a history book.
Bizarrely, I’ve previously listened to the third book in the series. I held off on buying another because the story descriptions didn’t really grab me. Another reason was the reader.
I had an abridged copy of The Lords of the North, which was read by Jamie Glover, who did a magnificent job. This book is read by Jonathan Keeble, in a very different style, much rougher and broader. It’s probably more reflective (Uhtred is from the north after all). To start with it grated a little, but I soon settled into it and he does a good job.
A good read if you like swordplay, the era and a typical hero journey, just don’t expect it to be too historically accurate (though, to be fair, much is in dispute about the period). I’ll definitely be looking out others in the series.