(This is an ARC…which by now is not terribly advanced at all. But anyway, I won it here on Goodreads and I thought I should mention that…but now that I think about it, why should I mention that? I mean, I'm going to give my honest opinion of the thing no matter how I came about my copy, so what the hell?! This is the worst disclosure statement ever.)
In this latest episode of his Saxon series, Bernard Cornwell proves again that he is the modern master of action-packed historical fiction.
The story, in all its mud, guts and glory, is delivered via first person narrative in the simple, gritty language of his leathery, warrior hero Uhtred of Bebbanburg. We trudge up and down England with him and his tiny though loyal crew of cast-offs as he searches for a place to call his own. Implementing his tried and true technique, Cornwell makes Uhtred out to be a bloody-minded tough thug with a heart of gold who has been wronged. This author is fantastic at drawing sympathy from his readers, regardless of how repulsive he paints his protagonists.
In my fairly extensive experience of having read him, Cornwell has always been good about tailoring his words to fit his story and the action there in. He doesn't use flowery language when describing a gory battle. Instead, he uses quick jabbing phrases, explosive verbs or creative adjectives that shove the stench right up your nose. Uhtred is not an overly educated man. He is a brutal warrior and his narrative reflects that. No, it's not all grunts and curses…not all of it anyway. Also, with this series Cornwell colors his pre-England country with use of the old Anglo Saxon terms for the place names. Glad he didn't also use period-appropriate dialogue. My Old English is a bit rusty.
Certainly The Pagan Lord
is loaded with a good deal of action, but it's not packed from cover to cover, and occasional scenes drag a bit, but just a few. And honestly, if you're a history buff, you'll actually enjoy some of these down-times, because Cornwell does his research and uses it. So, the reader is treated to some lively scenes of life in what were once known as the Dark Ages for good reason. Some of you may even find yourself asking, how did people live like this?!
I've only read three of the seven books that comprise this series to date, and while the other two I read prior didn't thrill me, this one made me want to go back and read the other four I skipped over. Rating:
A strong 4 stars!