Lords of the North

The Last Kingdom 03: Lords of the North

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The third instalment in Bernard Cornwell’s King Alfred series, following on from the outstanding previous novels The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman, both of which were top ten bestsellers. The year is 878 and Wessex is free from the Vikings. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, helped Alfred win that victory, but now he is disgusted by Alfred’s lack of generosity and repelled by the king’s insistent piety. He flees Wessex, going back north to seek revenge for the killing of his foster father and to rescue his stepsister, captured in the same raid. He needs to find his old enemy, Kjartan, a renegade Danish lord who lurks in the formidable stronghold of Dunholm. Uhtred arrives in the north to discover rebellion, chaos and fear. His only ally is Hild, a West Saxon nun fleeing her calling, and his best hope is his sword, with which he has made a formidable reputation as a warrior. He will need the assistance of other warriors if he is to attack Dunholm and he finds Guthred, a slave who believes he is a king. He takes him across the Pennines to where a desperate alliance of fanatical Christians and beleaguered Danes form a new army to confront the terrible Viking lords who rule Northumbria. ‘The Lords of the North’ is a powerful story of betrayal, romance and struggle, set in an England of turmoil, upheaval and glory. Uhtred, a Northumbrian raised as a Viking, a man without lands, a warrior without a country, has become a splendid heroic figure.

Goodreads, Synopsis

Review

Lords of the North is the third book in the series and is where season 2 of the show kicks off. For those familiar with the show there is more similarity between the show and this book than with the previous two books. Again, the book is more detailed, and the characters are as Cornwell intended them and not change to fit the narrative of the show.  

The story begins after the Danes have been defeated (a battle considerably different in the book than the show) and with Uhtred frustrated by Alfred’s lack of generosity and acknowledgement for his achievements. Uhtred goes north, towards both Bebbanburg and Kjartan, who is in Dunholm. He travels with Hild and they have a different type of relationship than in the TV show, which changes the dynamic.  

Along his journey, Uhtred knows he will need an army, and after he rescues Guthred, who is then proclaimed king in the region… Uhtred has access to an army, though betrayal and broken promises are again rife. An aspect very different in the show compared to the book is the strength of the ‘Lords of the North’ and the dynamic. In the show Uhtred’s uncle is portrayed as weak and at the behest of the Danes, however, in the book he is painted a somebody of strength with Bennanburg being impenetrable. Furthermore, Ivar’s son, Ivar Ivarsson, is a lord of strength in the region, alongside Kjartan who completes the trinity of powerful lords. This adds another layer of intrigue that the show doesn’t have.  

Without giving away events that happen in the book, again the role of various characters is different, as are the reasons for some actions, such as Alfred’s reason to rescue Uhtred at a certain point.  

This is another fine instalment and highly recommended. In my review of book 2 I mentioned I may decide not to read all 12 books because the TV show is only up to book 8, and I’ve decided I will only read to book 8. The reason being that the books have far more detail, therefore, if I watch future seasons of the show having already read the books, I think the shows will be a let-down. Therefore, I plan to watch the future shows before reading beyond book 8.

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