Waiting on Wednesday – Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.

Sword of Kings Cover.jpg

In this week’s Waiting on Wednesday I check out the latest books from one of my favourite authors, the master of English historical fiction novels, Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell is one of the leading authors of historical fiction in the world today, with over 55 novels to his name, including his massive Richard Sharpe series and his compelling Grail Quest novels. I have been a massive fan of Cornwell for years, having a huge number of his books, and he is an author whose works I will automatically grab as soon as they come out.

Sword of Kings, which is currently set for release in the next few months (Harper Collins Australia currently lists a release date of 24 September 2019), is the 12th book in Cornwell’s impressive The Last Kingdom series. The Last Kingdom series of books has been Cornwell’s primary body of work for the last 15 years and is currently the focus of a major television series of the same name. The Last Kingdom books were among the first historical fiction books I ever read, and I am always excited to see how the series continues, especially after last year’s awesome addition to the series, War of the Wolf.

The Last Kingdom series is set in late ninth and early 10th century England, which was in a state of constant warfare between the Christian Saxons and the pagan Danes who were invading England from Europe. The series follows the life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon lord who is captured and raised by the Danes as a pagan. While happy to live as a pagan outside the rigid rules of the Christian Church, Uhtred is forced into the service of the Saxon kings of Wessex, and finds his loyalties constantly tested as he has to choose between the Danes who respect him and the Saxons who despise him. The series has so far followed 60 years of English history (roughly 866 to 924 AD) and Uhtred is now an older man, although he is still a feared and deadly warrior. The new book should be another cool addition to the series, and I like where the revealed plot synopsis for the book is going.

Harper Collins Plot Synopsis:

It is a time of political turmoil once more as the fading King Edward begins to lose control over his successors and their supporters. There are two potential heirs—possibly more—and doubt over whether the once separate states of Wessex and Mercia will hold together. Despite attempts at pulling him into the political fray, Uhtred of Bebbanburg cares solely about his beloved Northumbria and its continuing independence from southern control.

But an oath is a strong, almost sacred commitment and such a promise had been exchanged between Uhtred and Aethelstan, his onetime companion in arms and now a potential king. Uhtred was tempted to ignore the demands of the oath and stay in his northern fastness, leaving the quarrelling Anglo-Saxons to sort out their own issues.  But an attack on him by a leading supporter of one of the candidates and an unexpected appeal for help from another, drives Uhtred with a small band of warriors south, into the battle for kingship—and England’s fate.

There are a lot of cool things that I like in that plot synopsis, especially as it sounds like Uhtred is once again going to war. One of the things that I like the most about this plot synopsis is that it looks like Cornwell is going to wrap up several storylines that have been featured in several of his previous books. Ever since Uhtred’s original Saxon benefactor, Alfred the Great, died in Death of Kings, Uhtred’s connection with Wessex has been disintegrating, especially as Uhtred does not have the same loyalty to Alfred’s son, King Edward. During the period since Alfred’s death, Uhtred has built up a number of enemies among the Wessex court, including Edward’s powerful in-laws, who hope to inherit the throne when Edward dies. However, Uhtred has maintained a close relationship with Edward’s first-born illegitimate son, Aethelstan, protecting him from several attempts to kill him and training him as a warrior.

With Edward fading even more, it looks like the battle for the throne is about to begin. It will be interesting to see Uhtred finally go into open conflict with the Wessex nobles who have been trying to kill him and Aethelstan for the last several books in the series. I also look forward to seeing the progression of Aethelstan’s character arc, as we have seen him advance from a small child to a brave leader of men, and now we may get to see him become king. All of this sounds pretty awesome, and I really look forward to seeing how Cornwell continues all the incredible storylines surrounding Uhtred.

I honestly have no doubts that Sword of Kings will be another amazing entry in this outstanding historical fiction series. There is honestly nothing in this world that will stop me buying this book, as I have really enjoyed all of the previous novels in The Last Kingdom series. The plot synopsis for this 12th book sounds pretty amazing, and I know that Cornwell will deliver another incredible piece of fiction. I cannot wait until this book in released and I look forward to enjoying this in a couple of months.