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The Flame Bearer: Saxon Tales #10    by Bernard Cornwell order for
Flame Bearer
by Bernard Cornwell
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Bernard Cornwell's The Flame Bearer, his 10th Saxon Tales episode is definitely not to be missed. The series tells of the violent, action-packed life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (born a Saxon but raised as a Dane). He has long dreamed of reclaiming Bebbanburg, treacherously taken from him by the uncle who sold him into slavery.

The impregnable fortress is now held by Uhtred's cousin (aided by mercenary Norsemen under Einar the White) and surrounded by many enemies including Constantin, King of Alba. As The Flame Bearer opens, Uhtred is called away from his life goal in the north by a messenger from his daughter Stiorra's husband King Sigtryggr.

As always Uhtred trusts his instincts. This time they help him avoid a very clever trap that aimed to provoke a war he could not win. He has a last meeting with his beloved Athelflaed and takes Prince Aethelstan (whom he loves like a son) under his protection. But Aethelstan has his own ideas and claims a significant role in what follows.

Will Uhtred achieve his goal? It seems both quixotic and impossible, even as he nears the end. And the battle description might well be Cornwell's best yet, which is saying something. Fans do not want to miss this episode or the Historical Note at the end that addresses the background story 'of the making of England'. And, great news, Uhtred's story is not yet finished.

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