Thursday, February 17, 2011

Internal, external conflict ignite Cornwell’s The Burning Land

“Our gods prefer feasting. They live, Uhtred. They live and laugh and enjoy, and what does their god do? He broods, he’s vengeful, he scowls, he plots. He’s a dark and lonely god, Uhtred, and our gods ignore him. They’re wrong.”

–Bernard Cornwell,
The Burning Land

Conflict — internal to fictional protagonist Uhtred of Bebbanburg, and external to blood-soaked, fire-ravaged Britain — burns brightly in The Burning Land, the fifth and latest entry in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories, a partially fictionalized chronicle of the real-life Viking invasions that swept Dark Ages Britain.

A Saxon-raised-Dane, Uhtred is a microcosm of the rough mixing of Christianity and pagan culture that occurred in war-torn ninth century Britain. Uhtred is a Saxon whose father was killed in a Danish raid. Taken prisoner as a thrall to the Dane Earl Ragnar and raised hard, he nevertheless grows to love the Danes. Although they’re ferocious raiders, the Danes drink deep of life, scorn Christian virtues of humility and pity, and worship the pagan gods of Thor and Odin (they expect less of their followers than the one God, and leave more leeway for fun).

But Uhtred’s loyalties are torn. His hereditary home is the Northern kingdom of Bebbanburg and his peoples are Saxon. Over the course of the series he comes to respect the coldly pious and serious, but brilliant and fair King Alfred of Wessex (Alfred the Great) and at times reject the occasionally murderous habits of the Danish warlords.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Black Gate website.


Lagomorph Rex said...

perfectly decent.. but I just haven't been able to enjoy his Medieval historicals like I have been able to enjoy his 1700's ones..

Brian Murphy said...

Whereas I have not read any of his Sharpe books. Yet. I mean to one day.

I like the Saxon Stories but I still prefer The Warlord Trilogy.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I guess part of my problem with the Warlord books is exactly what made it unique.. my first experiences with King Arthur were "The Sword in the Stone" from Disney, and "Monty Python's Holy Grail".. so I expect knights and chargers and so forth.. the whole experience.. and anything else I just dislike for some reason.