Book Review: War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell

WotW_BC

Rating:  ★★★★

I realize I’ve been talking about this series a lot lately (I’m sorry!) but it’s only because I’m so excited for the next book, Sword of Kings, due out in November.  I had put off reading this one, scared it was finally going to be over, but with another book scheduled for release it felt like it was finally time to put my fears aside.

I read a handful of other reviews on GoodReads when I finished, and multiple times I saw this series accused of being formulaic, and perhaps it is, but I’m not one to mind formulaic when the formula works.  What I love about these books is the characters.  This late in the game I do find myself missing some of the older characters, Alfred, Brida, Ragnar… and Aethelflaed, but aside from being Uhtred’s story, this is really the story about the making of England, and in a story that epic the characters will inevitably change.

Uhtred is in his 60s for this book.  He’s more cautious, superstitious, he’s less impulsive, less confident, anger doesn’t control him the way it used to.  I found myself missing some of his other qualities as a younger man, but his wit is still fully intact and there were several parts of this book that made me laugh out loud.

I found myself tripped up again and again by the names.  Specifically the Aethelhelms, Older and Younger, (or was it the Aethelweards? seriously I can’t remember).  Then there seems to be a whole slew of other Aethel-somethings..  sigh.  I remember Svein of the White Horse and Ubbe Lothbrok, and the Ivars and Haesten and Odda… I can’t remember where the heck the Aethelhelms came in.

Anyway- this book actually felt less formulaic than the previous 10.  I think it had a lot to do with Uhtred’s character development, but also, this is the weakest he has ever been physically.  His victory in this book never feels guaranteed.  There are no last minute, evil genius save-the-day plans (like bee-bombs, although there is a hysterical smiting).  A looming dread blankets the whole book, from beginning to end.

The other elements of a Saxon Story are all there: the fun action scenes, the witty comebacks, the general disdain towards Christianity from Uhtred.  Most of all – the laughs.  It’s what generally what keeps me coming back, so I’ll end this review with a little pagan humor:

“You’ve got dirt on your forehead,” I said, “so has he,” I pointed to the other priest.
“Because it’s Good Friday, lord.  The day our Lord died.”
“Is that why they call it good?”

War of the Wolf can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

24 thoughts on “Book Review: War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell

  1. I’ve never read anything by Bernard Cornwell, but the last thing I would expect would be humor. I don’t know why, I always thought of him as a stuffy old writer, lol. But I’m glad you’re talking about his books, otherwise I’d still be in the dark!

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    • Lol- he’s actually pretty funny. Some of it can be pretty juvenile… but there are moments where Uhtred cracks me up. Also the scene with the “priest” smiting Uhtred’s enemies was too funny.

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  2. Wait. “Previous 10?” How many books are in this series? (I just checked, and it looks like 12-and-counting. Wow.) Long series can be fun, but also daunting. Though I see why other reviewers might call it formulaic — it’s hard to write a series that long without falling into patterns. The problem is, if the author tries to stick to the pattern it’s “formulaic”, but if they try to break free from the pattern they’re not “giving the fans what they want”. It’s a hard situation to win.

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    • Eh- I’m just here for Uhtred! Formulaic, not formulaic, as long as Uhtred remains Uhtred I don’t care if he Time travels 10,000 years into the future as a Pagan Viking missionary. LOL

      But Formulaic is not something I have ever personally complained about with any series.

      And yes Sword of King’s will be the 12th book! To me this doesn’t feel like an overly long series. Most books are only 300 or so pages long and easily read in just a couple days. If I put my mind to it I could probably read all of them in a month, and someday plan to. Maybe when they are completed or when the last book is due out.

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      • I mean, I know there are long series and I have read some of them. Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series was 13 books long, plus a couple of spin-off YA trilogies, and I read them all. I’m also currently reading Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books, with #13 released this month and many more planned. But it still seems like a lot longer when you talk about the numbers of a long series even if the books are short-ish.

        I hear you about the formulaic thing, though. There are not many series where I will complain about that either.

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      • Haha- that’s sort of a relief to here. Sometimes I feel like the only reader ever who doesn’t mind formulaic.

        And I guess it doesn’t seem long to me because I stuck with Laurell K Hamilton’s series for probably 18-20 books, and read most of the Stephanie Plums… Also most of the Fever novels… so series and such.. nothing new. I tend to think of trilogies as being too short! Lol

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      • As long as it stays interesting I don’t mind formulaic! Just don’t get boring and I’m fine. 🙂

        I couldn’t stick with nearly that many of LKH’s books, though I have many friends who did. But, I did read a LOT of the Pern books. They feel different, though, because many of them were technically separate trilogies even though they were really all one big series.

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      • Yeah. But only the original side characters. I’m still salty about Richard. I really don’t know why LKH insisted on going the way she did with it. If she wanted to write erotica… that’s what pen names are for. I’m sure she would have had no issue getting published. Let Anita be a vampire hunter!

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    • Uhtred is very clever!! But he’s always been that way. Wiser is something he’s definitely had to become in his old age. If you get a chance please check this series out! It’s one of my favorites and i think there’s something in there for everyone.

      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Have you read King in the North? It’s a non-fiction book about Oswald of Northumbria, and the profusion of Aethel-somethings in Britain is well explained (Aetheling is a term for any member of a ruling dynasty with the potential to be the future king)
    I need to read something by Cornwell, you’re selling his books so well! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have not read that one- but I’ll check it out! I don’t often read a lot of non-fiction, for some reason I have it in my head that it’s just really dry even though I know it’s not all that way.

      And yes please do! Especially since it seems like you’re familiar with the period!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Month in Review: September 2019 | Hamlets & Hyperspace

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