Review of The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell

The Burning Land by Bernard CornwellThe Burning Land is the fifth installment in Cornwell’s Saxon Stories. Set in late 9th century Britain, King Alfred the Great is close to death, and Uhtred breaks his oath to Alfred to ride north to Northumbria in order to reclaim his ancestral home of Bebbanburg from his uncle. To reclaim his land, he needs money and soldiers, and after seeing the the defenses of Bebbanburg, he decides to journey across the sea to Scandinavia to steal the treasure of local lord. The local lord is the former husband of a Danish woman who joins Uhtred’s company, at the disapproval of many of Uhtred’s men who claim she is a witch.

Uhtred returns to Northumbria with a small treasure, and there he rejoins with his life-long friend Ragnar, son of Ragnar, the man who captured Uhtred as a boy and raised him as his own son. Uhtred and Ragnar make plans to attack Bebbanburg, but the Norns who determine the fates of men have other plans for Uhtred.

Once again, Uhtred is pulled south by his oath, not his oath to Alfred but rather his oath to Alfred’s daughter, Ethelflaed.

As usual, Cornwell does a a fantastic job with depicting battle scenes, and his dialogue is gritty, sharp, and earthy. He is an excellent storyteller, always on point with his historical research (with a bit of artistic liberty taken here and there) and recreation of the medieval setting. He also does a nice job of keeping the reader guessing where the story is going next.

Where he has taken criticism in the past has been his use of women characters and their lack of development in his stories. Most of his women characters come off as being fairly flat. Personally, I felt in The Burning Land, Cornwell did some of his best work in developing characters like Ethelflaed and Skade, to make you love the one and hate the other. Ethelflaed is in my opinion one of his best female characters, and I hope he continues to flesh her out more in the next novel in the series, Death of Kings, which is supposedly coming out this year.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Steven

My life has been pretty simple. I grew up in Alabama and graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor's in Advertising. I have spent about the last ten years in web development. In 1998, a friend of mine and I started a web design company we ran for three or four years before deciding to close it due to the demands of school. Since then, I stayed in the web working with various companies in Alabama. I worked for a brief period with Southern Progress, namely with Southern Living magazine and Health magazine, in their web departments. While there, I also wrote for Southern Living magazine, Health.com., and the company's internal newsletter. I write as much as I can. For the last five years, I have been working on my first novel. I am on the third revision now and hope to be finished with this draft by the end of the year. I also write short fiction, though not as frequently as I used to due to the time I spend on the novel. My goal is to have my novel published in the next three years. Other interests include: History (particularly medieval and ancient civlizations), Reading, Foreign Language (I currently speak Spanish but plan to learn as many as I can), Landscape Photography, the outdoors, sports (especially college football), and Travel.

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