The Lords of the North is the 3rd book in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories and finds Uhtred mostly in the North of England in Northumbria.
At the end of book 2 – ‘The Pale Horseman’, Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg was instrumental in the Saxon (led by Alfred the Great) defeat of the Danes at the battle of Ethandun. Wessex is now once again enjoying relative peace under Alfred. As a reward for his part in the battle, the miserly Alfred has given Uhtred a small parcel of land that he can barely live on. So, Uhtred decides to go to Northumbria with two goals in mind: Defeat his uncle Aelfric and reclaim Bebbanburg; and take revenge against Kjartan and his son Sven for the murder of his foster father Ragnar. He travels with the ex-nun Hild who is now his friend and lover.
Northumbria is now a mix of Saxons and Danes who are starting to inter-mingle and sometimes work together. Uhtred frees a slave – Guthred, who the church has proclaimed will be King of Northumbria. Guthred is a Dane who becomes a Christian, so is able to lead both Saxons and Danes, and finds favour with Alfred because of his Christianity. The vastly experienced (at 21 years old) Uhtred is one of Guthred’s key advisors and Uhtred’s advice is to kill Kjartan, Ivar Ivarsson and Aelfric. But instead, Guthred betrays Uhtred.
After two years, Uhtred is eventually able to return to Northumbria. He makes his peace with Guthred and together with Ragnar Ragnarsson he is finally able to take his revenge against Kjartan and Sven. And claim Guthred’s sister, Gisela, who he has fallen in love with.
Once again the story is a good mix of history and fiction. Not much is known about the late 800s, but Bernard Cornwell has managed to build all the known history into the story.
The character of Uhtred has evolved. He is much more rational than the Murderous teenager of the previous two books, and much more willing to see reason. He has even developed a respect for Alfred.
The next book in the series – ‘Sword Song’ has Uhtred settled (hard to believe) in Wessex and dealing with Viking raids. And, once again questioning whether he wants to be a Saxon or a Dane.
Book published 2007