‘The Flame Bearer’ is the 10th novel in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxons Stories series (the name of the series has changed several times). I didn’t enjoy the previous few novels in the series very much, but this novel was back to Cornwell’s best.
Northumbria is currently held by Uhtred’s son-in-law Sigtryggr and there is a truce in place between Northumbria and Mercia (held by Aethelflaed). So, Uhtred finally feels that he is in a position to reclaim Bebbanburg in Northern Northumbria from his cousin whose father stole it.
But, as Uhtred is making his plans, the Scots, led by King Constantin, invade Northern Northumbria. At the same time, the West Saxons invade Southern Northumbria. Mercia is no barrier for the West Saxons since Aethelflaed is very ill and King Edward’s father-in-law Aethelhelm has great ambitions for his grandson to be king of a united England.
Aethelhelm would do anything to get Uhtred out of the way and devises a number of treacherous plans. But Uhtred has been fighting for long enough to beat Aethelhelm at his own game.
I thought for a while that this might be the last novel in the series. Uhtred is getting old and while still a brilliant warrior, can’t keep going forever – nor does he need to. But with Britain still divided, the story must continue.
This was one of the best novels of the series and certainly better than the last few. But, there is so much background to the story that I would recommend reading the novels in order.
I’m looking forward to the next novel in the series and another step closer to a united England.
Book published 2016