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War Lord: Saxon Tales #13    by Bernard Cornwell order for
War Lord
by Bernard Cornwell
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2020 (2020)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though this is one of my all time favorite series, I have to admit that I opened War Lord with some reluctance, it being the thirteenth and last (following Sword of Kings) in Bernard Cornwell's enthralling Saxon Tales.

The saga follows the action-packed life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (born a Saxon but raised a Dane). After many adventures in the service of King Alfred and his daughter Athelflaed, he reclaimed the northern fortress of Bebbanburg, stolen by the uncle who sold him into slavery. The kingdom of Alfred's son Edward eventually encompassed all British lands south of Northumbria and east of Wales.

In Sword of Kings, Uhtred fulfilled his oath to aid Prince Aethelstan (falsely rumored to be a bastard) in the succession war on Edward's death. With Aethelstan on the throne, he has retired to enjoy life in Bebbanburg alongside fiery Italian Benedetta (snatched from her home into slavery).

As War Lord opens, signs and wonders accumulate, the overall message being that 'evil would come from the north.' But the first trouble comes from the south, with a message carried by Father Oda. Aethelstan is in Northumbria to meet with its king, Gurhfrith, and demands Uhtred's help.

When Aethelstan summons kings and lords to a 'Witan of all Britain', Uhtred must go. He finds a changed Aethelstan, one who revels in the trappings of royalty and is surrounded by sycophants, who tell him that Uhtred can no longer be trusted. Aethelstan needs Bebbanburg. He offers Uhtred rich lands in the south in exchange, but will he betray the man who was like a father to him when he refuses?

Uhtred returns to Bebbanburg, with 'no allies and an island of enemies'. Will this be his final fight? You'll have to read this last episode for the answer. As always, Cornwell gives fans an enthralling read, with violence and betrayals at every turn. He also gives Uhtred a satisfying reconciliation with the eldest son whom he disowned after he turned to Christianity. Don't miss War Lord!

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