I’m a little depressed after finishing this. I just realized I have to wait at least another year for a new Uhtred book. Also – I think the tone of these books is getting darker.
In Sword of Kings, Uhtred is called upon for help from Edward’s queen, Eadigfu. She believes Aethelhem and her step-son Aelfweard are plotting against her and her children. She sends for Uhtred, seeking his protection against their mutual enemies. And Uhtred, feeling restless, and also suspicious of a plot against him, against his better judgement and the advice of friends, comes to rescue her. At which point, of course, things go terribly, horribly wrong.
Edward dies, leaving Mercia and East Anglia to Aethelstan, his true heir, and Wessex to Aelfweard, the recognized heir. There’s also the matter of the oath Uhtred has sworn to kill Aethelhelm, and others. (I mean really, is there any oath he hasn’t sworn at this point?)
We say goodbye to a couple old friends. I was a little upset by the way those character deaths were handled, which seemed almost thoughtless. It happens off page toward the end, and while Uhtred seems upset by one, he admits that he was relieved about the other, and it bothered me quite a bit.
He’s often painted as a sort of Knight in Shining Chain Mail (he literally saves like 13 orphans in London from misery in this book), and to have that line thrown in so carelessly toward the end felt like a disservice to his character. I didn’t feel like it reflected who he really was or his past actions. It’s hard to really say what it was without spoilers, but it wasn’t a good way to end.
Anyway- I did like some of the new characters (Beneditta). And Finan received a lot of spotlight here, and his friendship with Uhtred is one of my favorite things about the Saxon Stories. The battle scene at the end was fantastic.
Overall – well worth reading if you are a fellow Uhtred fan. My hangups with this one were more personal than anything else. Thank you to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for the eARC for review.