The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
(With spoilers from the two first (of thirteen) chapters.)
Bernard Cornwell is a master of his craft. He writes well, he knows how to tell an exciting story; he weaves his tales of Uthred of Bebbanburg nicely into Saxon history.
In The Pagan Lord Uthred comes home to Fagranforda and finds his hall in flames and his woman missing. Uthred rides to the Danish warlord Cnut Longsword and gets Sigrunn back on the condition that he will find Cnut's wife and only son, who are also abducted.
Home again, the rest of Uthred's homestead is burning, and Uthred is threatened by a Christian mob that is raging over his killing of a holy abbot. Beaten and cursed, Uthred rides to Lundene with his people and the rest of his warriors. Here he buys a warship and sets out with his men on a northerly voyage - to regain Bebbanburg Castle, his inheritance.
For readers it's only to board the ship, sit down on a thwart, and enjoy the ride. Cornwall will do all the steering and at regular intervals the conflicts (and almost everything else) will be repeated and difficult elements explained. No intellectual efforts needed. Everything is just right. Cornwell must think that his readers are stupid.
And stupid we are, sitting on the thwart or riding a horse, feeling Cornwall's hands holding the reins, enjoying every minute, very well knowing there's no need to turn off the television. Well done!
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