The Burning Land

Written by Bernard Cornwell
Review by Tamela McCann

In The Burning Land, the fifth book of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales saga, our hero Uhtred of Bebbanburg is back with his mighty sword Serpent-Breath, his dagger Wasp-Sting, and all the arrogance and bravado one man can exude as he fulfills his oath of allegiance to King Alfred the Great. But the arrangement that binds Uhtred to Alfred has begun to chafe, and when the presence of the Christian priests forces his hand, Uhtred’s eye returns to his lost inheritance of Bebbanburg. The retaking of the lands will not come easily, however, and Uhtred must look to the Danes for help, a situation that puts him at odds with not only his sworn king but also with another oath long forgotten. How these scenarios play out fills The Burning Land with action, lust, treachery, and battles of the bloodiest nature. In short, it brings the period to life in all its goriest glory.

Uhtred is everything a reader wants in a hero: he’s strong, he’s canny, he’s lucky, and he’s a natural leader. Cornwell never has Uhtred shy away from difficult situations and thrusts him often into roles our combatant tries to avoid. Uhtred is a conflicted man; a Saxon raised by Danes, sworn to a man he hates, he somehow remains true to his integrity, refusing to compromise himself, yet fiercely loyal. The action is bloody and frequent and immerses the reader thoroughly throughout the tale.

The Burning Land continues the tradition of this well-crafted series, taking the reader on a wild, violent ride through the early years of Britain. It is filled with diabolical characters as well as those with strong hearts, and Uhtred remains an audacious hero of epic proportions. I’m ready for his next adventure! Highly recommended.