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Saxon Stories

Sharz
Reader
Location: Chicago

Postby Sharz » Fri October 9th, 2009, 2:56 pm

I seldom buy fiction in hardcover--too expensiv and takes up too much space, both on my shelves and to tote back and forth during commute. My exceptions are Sharon Kay Penman, Diana Gabaldon, and George RR Martin. But I must admit, Bernard is becoming more and more tempting with each book in this series. And at least his aren't the mammoth tomes of the other three (from the perspective of weight and space in my tote.)

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Sat October 10th, 2009, 4:12 am

I still can't get over the craziness of being able to buy a hard-cover copy of a new Bernard Cornwell from BD at a price NZ$10.00 cheaper than I would be able to get it in p/b from a local bookshop in a couple of months' time. Not that I'm complaining, mind!

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Tue October 13th, 2009, 1:15 am

I did mention this in the October reading thread, but thought I'd add it here, seeing CindyInOz was asking if anyone had read Burning Land.

Have just finished Bernard Cornwell's Burning Land, the latest installment in the Saxon Chronicles. (Had to hurry because my son is hassling me for it-- my fault for introducing him to BC :) ) Is this Uhtred's chance to break free from the chains of Wessex? Fast-paced, bloody and action-packed as ever. Interested to discover that one or two things I predicted earlier in the series have come to pass, but to say what they are would spoil the story for others. Uhtred again encounters the wily Viking chieftain Haesten, first met in Sword Song. Haesten was a real character, one of the most successful Viking raiders of all time.

As Uhtred is still only in his mid-thirties here, I'm guessing that there must be a least another two stories left in the series before we catch up to the cantankerous old-wolf Uhtred who is the narrator throughout.

Cornwell has managed to fit Thundersley into this tale- it's the scene of a savage skirmish between Saxons and Danes. Cornwell has commented that his interest in the Vikings started when he was young (and living with his "Peculiar" family, and if anyone wants to know about the Peculiars- there's a link here to the story about Bernard Cornwell's adoption by them) He says, "I grew up in a little village with a C13th church and a big standing stone in the churchyard which is much older than that. They call it the Devilstone and the village is called Thundersley, which is from Thor, the Norse god. We know that the Vikings were here and certainly the stone goes back to that period, if not older."
Thundersley was originally Thunresleam (Thor's Grove).
Last edited by annis on Tue October 13th, 2009, 2:40 am, edited 5 times in total.

chuck
Bibliophile
Location: Ciinaminson NJ

Postby chuck » Tue October 13th, 2009, 3:58 pm

Annis....BC should give you a stipend.....I can't wait to read "The Burning Land".....I wonder if he is planning a sequel to "Azincourt".....

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Tue October 13th, 2009, 6:43 pm

,Hi Chuck

I’m pretty sure that Cornwell sees Agincourt as a one-off. Did I see mention here somewhere of a movie in the offing?

I notice a pattern starting to show up with the Saxon Stories - they seem to be developing along the lines of the Sharpe books, shorter, and with each episode based around a particular significant battle. In Sword Song it was the battle for London, in Burning Land it’s the battle of South Benfleet.

Uhtred gets a chance to go i-viking himself in Burning Land. In his author’s note BC has some derisory comments to make about current revisionist theories which would have us see the Vikings as big cuddly blond bears just in need of a bit of land to farm and a good Saxon woman to set them straight, rather than savage warriors :) He also admits to playing fast and loose with the characters of King Alfred’s daughter, Aethelflaed, and her husband, Aethelred of Mercia. BC cheerfully confesses that there is no evidence that Aethelred was the weak and devious snake depicted in BL. I guess one advantage of setting your stories in a relatively obscure period is the chance to use some artistic licence!
Last edited by annis on Thu October 15th, 2009, 7:28 am, edited 5 times in total.

Kallithrix
Scribbler

@ CindyinOz

Postby Kallithrix » Mon May 17th, 2010, 1:30 pm

Cindy, I totally agree with you - I want to love this series, and have read the first 4 hoping love will grow in time, but I just can't seem to generate any enthusiasm for the characters. Uhtred is, in my opinion, a pale and somewhat cardboard cut out imitation of Derfel from the Warlord Chronicles (which I absolutely rave about to anyone who never asked!) He is just your standard, off-the-shelf, child-hostage-turned-warrior driven by the need for revenge, like any other historical or fantasy warlord you can name (Conan, for example). And Alfred is just a bit too bland to inspire any act of bravery or loyalty. I appreciate what BC is trying to do with him, considering his penchant for mischievously turning our perceptions of legendary characters inside out, but unlike his characterisation of the sly and self-serving Lancelot, you can't hate Alfred. But because he has few endearing qualities and no unequivocal virtues, you can't love him either. You just end up resenting him for not being a more worthy figure in the story.

I've had The Burning Land ever since Christmas, and as yet have had no inclination to pick it up and read it. Does someone want to give me 3 reasons why it's worth me doing so?

CindyInOz
Reader
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Postby CindyInOz » Tue May 18th, 2010, 12:17 am

"Kallithrix" wrote:Cindy, I totally agree with you - I want to love this series, and have read the first 4 hoping love will grow in time, but I just can't seem to generate any enthusiasm for the characters. Uhtred is, in my opinion, a pale and somewhat cardboard cut out imitation of Derfel from the Warlord Chronicles (which I absolutely rave about to anyone who never asked!) He is just your standard, off-the-shelf, child-hostage-turned-warrior driven by the need for revenge, like any other historical or fantasy warlord you can name (Conan, for example). And Alfred is just a bit too bland to inspire any act of bravery or loyalty. I appreciate what BC is trying to do with him, considering his penchant for mischievously turning our perceptions of legendary characters inside out, but unlike his characterisation of the sly and self-serving Lancelot, you can't hate Alfred. But because he has few endearing qualities and no unequivocal virtues, you can't love him either. You just end up resenting him for not being a more worthy figure in the story.

I've had The Burning Land ever since Christmas, and as yet have had no inclination to pick it up and read it. Does someone want to give me 3 reasons why it's worth me doing so?


I have to agree with you about Uhtred and Derfel. I started reading the Saxon Chronicles straight after the Warlord Chronicles (which is one of my favourite series of books of all time) and I would have to say that it was difficult not to compare the two - and lets face it, Uhtred doesn't comes close. Derfel is, however, in my top three greatest characters of fiction, so Uhtred never really had a chance with me :)

Whilst I didn't find myself caring much for Alfred, I did like reading the different take on him. I did have to keep reminding myself that we're seeing Alfred through Uhtred's eyes only, and he was very young and immature throughout much of the series. I don't think we were ever going to love Alfred, simply because Uhtred didn't - we didn't get a chance to get to know him as anything more than the 'dweeb' that Uhtred thought he was.

I didn't enjoy Burning Land as much as the earlier books in the series, and I'm hard pressed trying to give you three reasons to read it, but hey, you've read the first 4, you might as well finish the series!

Sharz
Reader
Location: Chicago

Postby Sharz » Tue May 18th, 2010, 7:50 pm

I love this series and the Arthur, both, although I agree that the two narrarators are a bit too similar. I've actually confused them in conversation.

I've never "bought into" this take on Alfred. At all. The things Alfred accomplished required that he was a superb leader on and off the battlefield and that he inspired utter devotion and faith and confidence in his people. The Alfred of this series couldn't have done any of that. But I can overlook it because we are seeing Arthur only through Uhtred's disapproving and sometimes hostile viewpoint, and thus, is not even remotely a "fair" take on him. And it doesn't really pretend to be.

I will, however, hold it against BC if by the end of the series, a more realistic and favorable viewpoint doesn't come out somewhere.

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N. Gemini Sasson
Reader
Location: Ohio
Contact:

Postby N. Gemini Sasson » Thu July 1st, 2010, 1:04 pm

The Burning Land is my favorite in the series so far. I have about 40 pages left to read and was glad to have the book during a 10-hour drive this past weekend. More than anything, I see Uhtred's depth, his ability to look beyond his own concerns and engage in deeper relationships, grows enormously. Often, it's been the women in some of Cornwell's other books that I felt were more one-dimensional, but in this one Aethelflaed really grabs me. Yes, Uhtred does begin as a somewhat shallow, spiteful, reckless, impulsive, bent-on-revenge sort of antihero with the first book, but here he definitely begins to use his experience to think further ahead and weigh his actions. Lots of twists and turns in The Burning Land and old characters re-introduced.

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Rissa
Scribbler
Location: Germany

Postby Rissa » Sat June 25th, 2011, 6:23 pm

I've started reading this series in May, last week I've started Swordsong.
I really love the books, they are so different to most of the HF novels available.

Only thing I'm not so happy with is that there's no conclusion to the series yet and that not even the author himself knows when he'll end it.


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