Sword Song: The Battle for London
This is the fourth novel in The Saxon Tales series, which follows the adventures of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Bamburgh) during the wars between King Alfred and the Danes in the late 9th century. As its subtitle proclaims, Sword Song deals with the capture of London from occupying Vikings.
Although a Northumbrian Angle by birth, Uhtred was reared by Danes and remains fonder of them than his own people, preferring their pagan warrior code to the intolerance and greed that he finds in most churchmen. Since he has, however, given his oath to serve Alfred (whom he dislikes), he leads the desperate, but successful, assault upon London and the subsequent daring rescue of Alfred’s daughter after she is captured by the enemy.
Uhtred is a shrewd leader and a formidable warrior, with a fighting man’s scorn for those who shirk their duties and seek to profit from his sacrifices. He is loyal to true friends and generous to brave foes, allowing the latter to die with their weapons in their hands so that they may go to Odin’s corpse-hall to feast and fight in the afterlife. Since he has little time for peaceful pursuits, the story he tells focuses upon warlike deeds: the fierce and confusing struggle in the shield wall, the bitter hand-to-hand fight between crews of warships, single combat between champions. He is protective towards women, but this is typically demonstrated by defending and rescuing them from enemies.
This is a tale of fast-paced adventure, full of vividly described action, and Uhtred’s grim humor and sardonic point of view offer a highly entertaining commentary on people’s conduct. Since the series is ongoing, however, the conclusion leaves many plot threads still to be followed.