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The Burning Land [Hardcover]

Bernard Cornwell
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 2010 Saxon Tales

In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.

At the end of the ninth century, with King Alfred of Wessex in ill health and his heir still an untested youth, it falls to Alfred's reluctant warlord Uhtred to outwit and outbattle the invading enemy Danes, led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair. But the sweetness of Uhtred's victory is soured by tragedy, forcing him to break with the Saxon king. Joining the Vikings, allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—Uhtred devises a strategy to invade and conquer Wessex itself. But fate has very different plans.

Bernard Cornwell's The Burning Land is an irresistible new chapter in his epic story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Review

“Cornwell, a master of martial fiction, makes history come alive with his rousing battlefield scenes.” (Margaret Flanagan, Booklist)

“Cornwell (Agincourt) has been described as a master of historical fiction, but that may be an understatement. Cornwell makes his subject material come alive. Better, his major protagonist is totally believable and human.” (Robert Conroy, Library Journal)

“Slathered in blood and gore, Saxon warlord Uhtred of Bebbanburg hacks his way through the ninth century in the exciting fifth installment to bestseller Cornwell’s Saxon Tales series. . . . Vivid descriptions of merciless battlefield slaughter, rape, and destruction are artfully related by a masterful storyteller.” (Publishers Weekly)

From the Back Cover

In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.

At the end of the ninth century, King Alfred of Wessex is in ill health; his heir, an untested youth. His enemy, the Danes, having failed to conquer Wessex, now see their chance for victory. Led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair, the Viking hordes attack. But Uhtred, Alfred's reluctant warlord, proves his worth, outwitting Harald and handing the Vikings one of their greatest defeats.

For Uhtred, the sweetness of victory is soon overshadowed by tragedy. Breaking with Alfred, he joins the Vikings, swearing never again to serve the Saxon king. Instead, he will reclaim his ancestral fortress on the Northumbrian coast. Allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—he aims to invade and conquer Wessex itself.

Yet fate has different plans. The Danes of East Anglia and the Vikings of Northumbria are plotting the conquest of all Britain. When Alfred's daughter pleads with Uhtred for help, he cannot refuse her request. In a desperate gamble, he takes command of a demoralized Mercian army, leading them in an unforgettable battle on a blood-soaked field beside the Thames.

In The Burning Land, Bernard Cornwell, "the reigning king of historical fiction" (USA Today), delivers a rousing saga of Anglo-Saxon England—an irresistible new chapter in his thrilling Saxon Tales, the epic story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointed! Nov. 12 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I love the series and the storyline but I was very disappointed with this audio book because they not only changed the narrator, but they also changed an important place name. The publisher took creative liberty and changed Bebenberg to Bramba; this place name was synonymous with the lead character as he was known as "Uhtred of Bebenberg" throughout all of the previous novels. The narrator would be wonderful I'm sure with another story but his lower tone was very different from the rough and gruff voice used on all other audiobooks. It was in opposition to the character that had developed in my mind from the previous books. Very disappointed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Fate is inexorable.' March 25 2010
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Alfred of Wessex has won many victories but now, in the last years of the 9th century, he is in failing health. These are dangerous times: Alfred's likely successor is an untested youth, and the Vikings who have failed so many times to conquer Wessex seize the opportunity to attack.

Uhtred of Bebbanburg, Alfred's unwilling warlord, leads the enemy into a trap at Farnham, and inflicts one of the greatest defeats the Vikings have ever suffered. Uhtred is caught in the conflict caused by his oath to the Christian King Alfred, which he feels obliged to honour, and his own pagan beliefs. However, after the victory at Farnham, Uhtred is tested both through personal tragedy and an attack by some of Alfred's henchmen who are jealous of his standing and offended by his foreignness. This causes Uhtred to break with Alfred and to travel north where he hopes to recover his ancestral home, Bebbanburg, from his uncle.

The fates intervene, as they so often do, and Alfred's daughter Aethelflaed is able to induce Uhtred to return south to take control of the Mercian army for another desperate battle with the Vikings.

This is the fifth book in the Saxon Tales. While Uhtred is the central character, Mr Cornwell has peopled this novel with characters that bring the conflicts of the times to life. The series depicts both the conflicts between the Saxons and the Vikings and the conflicts between Christians and pagans. The tale may be Uhtred's, but the story is of England in the making. I am looking forward to the sixth novel: I'm hoping that at some stage Uhtred will recover Bebbanburg.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Waiting for the sequels to come! Feb. 22 2010
Format:Paperback
I love historical novels, so I enjoy very much this little known period described in Bernard Cornwells' Series called "the Saxon Stories". Very well researched and so well written, you can almost feel yourself there and visualize the landscape and the people living more than 1000 years ago.It brings me to the eager read of the books of Alexander Dumas, the same energy eventhough Cornwell is much more gory and less romantic.I like the description of battles and the roughness of the people and the way he describes the religion(s) of the time.
Hope the next book or books in the series will not lose the same quality; provide the same amount of historical knowledge, being fun to read without being boring.
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Predictable Cornwell Oct. 31 2009
By Prairie Pal TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bernard Cornwell's literary sausage maker is again in action as the author returns to his Anglo-Saxon adventure series starring Uhtred of Bebbanburg. In 'The Burning Land' we see our hero a few years older but no less resentful of his oath to serve Alfred of Wessex and no less hostile to Christianity. To no one's surprise the plot involves Uhtred's desire to return north to recover his lost lands and the necessity to defend southern England from a series of Danish incursions. A rogue's gallery of villains -- Vikings, witches and traitors -- complete the cast.

Predictably, most priests are an unsavoury lot. In the first two pages we are treated to a description of 'miserable-looking' monks, one 'slack-faced with fat lips and a fatter goitre', one copying a forged land grant and the other penning a fable robbing a decent pagan of his rightful share of glory. Alfred, the only English king to deserve the title of 'the Great' is depicted as priest-ridden, superstitious and a master conniver. Christianity itself is described as 'a disease that spreads like the plague.'

Predictably, the battle scenes are exciting and the gore is described in great detail -- spurting blood, crunching bone, spilled entrails are inevitable when the seemingly invincible Uhtred smites invading Danes, treacherous Saxons or greedy Frisians. Betrayal, as usual, is on every hand and beautiful women, as usual, make their way to Uhtred's bed.

Though we have seen it all before, Cornwell's story-telling is still decent entertainment value. One wonders just how much better he could be if he recycled his old material less and created some fresh scenarios but if you're stuck in a line waiting for a flu vaccine or cooling your heels in an airport terminal you could do worse than be reading 'The Burning Land'.
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