Friday, January 16, 2015

The Empty Throne-Bernard Cornwell

The Empty Throne
Bernard Cornwell
Harper, Jan 6 2015, $27.99
ISBN: 9780062250711

Although a dozen years have passed since his father King Alfred the Great died, in 911 King Edward the Elder still hopes to achieve his dad’s dream of uniting all the Saxons under his rule.  However, achieving his aspirations seems impossible as Danish invaders and Viking raiders plague the land.  Adding to his fears of failure is learning that his staunchest supporter, his brother-in-law Mercia ruler Lord Æthelred, died in combat. 

Æthelred left no heir so several individuals claim his throne.  However, Æthelred’s widow Lady Æthelflaed has the most support to include that of her brother and many Mercians though whether the warriors will follow a female into war remains questionable.  She persuades the ealdormen lords to back her assertion though they fail to crown her.  Still with her greatest ally, her lover Uhtred the Pagan having her back, Æthelflaed leads the Mercian forces in combat against several adversaries.  However, the biggest threat to the Lady of Mercia’s rule comes from a betrayal from within.  At the same time wounded Uhtred falls in love with his healer Eadith.

The eighth Saxon Tale (see The Pagan Lord and Death of Kings) is a great entry as Bernard Cornwell transports his audience to early tenth century England.  The storyline is filled with action yet also brings to life the tumultuous times (is there any era not tumultuous?) through a fully developed deep cast; as once again Mr. Cornwell makes a strong case that the island could easily have become Scandinavian instead of Saxon.

Harriet Klausner

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