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War of the Wolf: Saxon Tales #11    by Bernard Cornwell order for
War of the Wolf
by Bernard Cornwell
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's hard to believe that War of the Wolf is the eleventh entry (following Flame Bearer) in Bernard Cornwell's extraordinary Saxon Tales, which just keep on getting better.

The series follows the violent, adventurous life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (born a Saxon but raised a Dane). He had long dreamed of reclaiming Bebbanburg, the impregnable northern fortress treacherously taken from him by the uncle who sold him into slavery. Uhtred finally achieved that life goal in Flame Bearer. Also in that episode his beloved Athelflaed (Queen of Mercia) died and her brother Edward added her lands to his kingdom, now encompassing 'all the British lands south of Northumbria and east of Wales'.

As War of the Wolf opens in the early 920s, Uhtred's daughter Stiorra is married to Sigtryggr, King of Northumbria. Uhtred (now over sixty) has been called south to relieve a siege on Ceaster by rebels. Why does he go? To honor the oath he made to Athelflaed. In the city, Uhtred reunites with Prince Aethelstan, but learns that he had never sent the request for help. A trap?

That proves to be the case. Norsemen, defeated by the Irish, have swarmed into northern England and Scotland. Led by Sköll, his sorcerer and his wolf-warriors, they attack Sigtryggr, hoping to win Northumbria. This results in tragedy, leaving Uhtred believing that he has been cursed by the gods. He seeks revenge, and kings die. Uhtred also makes an oath to Aethelstan, that he will be expected to fulfill on King Edward's death, which is nigh.

I can't wait for more of this brilliant series. Don't miss the Historical Note at the back, which informs us that England's 'birth, in blood, slaughter, and horror, is close.'

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