Tag Archive: Bernard Cornwell


According to my account on Goodreads I’ve read 32 books this year, well 33 as I’ve just finished one that is not currently listed on the site. So that’s 2.75 books a month, and I wonder sometimes what I spend all my time doing!

So this year, for the first time, I decided to look through what I had read and list my top 10. I’m not usually a fan of best of lists purely because tastes change on a regular basis. What might be the best today may not be tomorrow simply because something better comes along. But seeing as 2013 is in its last few hours, and the books I have read during the last 12 months will not be repeated, I thought it was fairly safe to put a list together, because even if something better does come along tomorrow, it’ll be 2014 by then.

I should point out this is a list of books I have read in 2013, not a list of books published in 2013.

So to kick things off…

No. 10: Ace Of Skulls by Chris Wooding – whilst I was not totally blow away by this final instalment in the Tales Of The Ketty Jay series it gets a placing simply because it is the final instalment. The series as a whole has been brilliant, with a mix of fantasy, horror and steampunk it was something different and entertaining. The  mixed crew of misfits were instantly likeable and grew on you with each book. Was it original, maybe not. A lot of people likened it to Firefly, but having never seen the show I had no comparison to make.

No. 9: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig – a mix of organised crime, fantasy and horror, this is the story of Mookie Pearl. Pearl is a hard man, an enforcer, a killer. He is also privy to the knowledge of the dark forbidden underbelly of the city where monsters lurk and death is ready for the unwilling. Along with Wendig’s trademark no-holds-barred style of story telling this is a great tale full of wit, blood and kick-ass action.

No. 8: Exit Kingdom by Alden Bell – the sequel/prequel to the excellent The Angels Are The Reapers. Set in a post apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen to the zombie hordes. But unlike your run-of-the-mill zombie tale here the walking dead are mere bit part players. Carrying on the tale of Moses Todd this story flashes back to his days on the road with his psychotic brother Abraham,  as he tries to find some form of peace in a broken world. Along the way they encounter a gifted woman who may very well be the cure everyone has dreamt of.

No. 7: Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell – Ack-Ack Macaque is a cigar chomping, whisky swilling one-eyed spitfire pilot, he is also a Monkey. Fighting the hordes of ninja-Nazi paratroopers is what he does, but he is beginning to think everything is not as real as he thinks. This is a unique tale of a sentient ape and his part in the saving of a prince and battle against the coming apocalypse. There is a twist, and its a very inventive twist that allows Ack-Ack to bridge the gap between the 1940s war and the 21st century workd where most of the story is set. Look out for the sequel Hive Monkey due out soon.

No. 6: Age Atomic by Adam Christopher – this is the follow-up to the brilliant Empire State and carries on the story of the Pocket universe that is the mirror of Manhattan. This time round the Empire State is in danger of being destroyed as earth tremors and a freezing winter threaten to tear the fabric of the Pocket apart. On top of that someone is building an army of nuclear powered robots and plan to invade New York.

No. 5: The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell – this is the latest in the Saxon Stories and continues the tale of Uhtred. King Alfred is dead, Edward now sits on the throne and his advisor’s and the church have distanced him from his fathers greatest warlord, the pagan Uhtred. After an ill advised trip to punish a wayward son, Uhtred finds himself banished from Wessex, penniless and with only a few faithful warriors still at his side he heads north to finally retake his ancestral home. But the long peace between Wessex and the Danes is about to come to a crashing end, and when the Danes strike, and blood is spilt, Wessex as always will only have one man to turn to to save them.

No. 4: The Split Worlds Trilogy (Between Two Thorns/Any Other Name/All Is Fair) by Emma Newman – the Nether is home to the Fae-touched and is a mirror to Mundanus (Earth). There is a treaty in place that forbids the Fae and their puppets from interfering in the lives of the Mundanes, a treaty enforced by the Sorcerers and their Arbitors. But someone has corrupted one of the Chapters and Mundanes are being snatched from the streets of London. This trilogy is a debut fantasy series and if you didn’t know that you’d be hard pressed to notice. Emma’s writing is pitch perfect, her characters vibrant and three dimensional. The story is one of adventure, conspiracy and rebellion. But in amongst this there is also dark subjects including murder, marital rape and slavery.

 

No. 3: The Copper Promise: Let Sleeping Gods Lie by Jen Williams – I reviewed this in the previous post to this, so most everything I have to say can be read there. But I will say this is a debut fantasy novel that breathes life into the pulp style of story telling that I grew up reading. brilliantly paced, great characters and a plot that carries you through a breathtakingly imagined fantasy world.

No. 2: The Broken Empire Trilogy (Prince Of Thorns/King Of Thorns/Emperor Of Thorns) by Mark Lawrence – another debut fantasy trilogy, and another breath of fresh aired breathed into a genre stuffed full of grim and dark. Jorg of Ancarth has to be one of the darkest characters I’ve come across in a while. Haunted by a childhood tragedy that saw his brother and mother brutally slain, and treated with scorn by an unloving father Jorg does what many boys have done before and runs away. But in running away he joins a troop of road brothers and embarks on a killing spree that would be seen as bloody by any counts, but is made more so because Jorg is barely into his teens at the time. Through the course of the three books Jorg cuts his way from road brother, to King to the Empire Throne, the body count is countless, no-one is safe, including those who ride with him. Does Jorg have redeeming qualities, yes, he is not a mindless killing machine, he does what he does for a reason. But those reasons are not always as clear as you might think.

No. 1: Sarah Pinborough’s Modern Fairy Tales (Poison/Charm/Beauty) by Sarah Pinborough – the title I made up, not sure this series of three novellas actually has an overall title? But still, Sarah’s re-imaging/retelling/modern interpretation (call them what you will) of classic fairy tales are brilliant and by far the best thing I’ve read this year. These are fairy tales for grown-ups, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all come under the spotlight and are given the Pinborough treatment. These are not suitable reading for children, some adults of a sensible nature may want to steer clear as well. Sarah has taken the core of each story and given it a twist, added ingredients and also brought in elements from other fairy stories to make original stories that intrigued and delight.

 

Bubbling under and worthy a mention…

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough – a fresh new take on the Jack the Ripper legend that isn’t about Jack the Ripper.

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill – twisted serial killer Charlie Manx kidnaps children and takes them off to Christmasland where he feeds off their fun.

The Shinning Girls by Lauren Beukes – another serial killer but this time one that can time travel between the 1920s and 1990s killing girls that show some spark of greatness.

Space Danger by Doug Strider – a series of self published novellas set about a starship captained by Kurt Dangler. To sum this up its a mix of Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Ripping Yarns, in space.

 

 

 

 

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Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Published by HarperCollins

Readily available in paperback RRP £18.99

“Seven Kings will die Uhtred of Bebbanburg, seven Kings and the woman you love.”

It’s the year 899 and King Alfred lies dying, Wessex stands firm against the Danes to the North but they are ill prepared for what may come after Alfred passes. Uhtred of Bebbanburg can see the signs, the Danes are massing an army the size of which has never been seen in Britain before, but with an ailing king and the Church ever tightening its hold in the Royal family; no one is prepared to listen to a Pagan with dubious loyalties.

But Uhtred has sworn an oath to Alfred on his deathbed to be the Sword of Wessex, and despite claims from the Church that God will turn the Danes to the path of light, he sets out on a course that will draw out the Danes true intentions and ultimately lead to the horror of the shield wall.

Death of Kings is the sixth book in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories. It documents the events from the years 899 to 901, covering the death of Alfred and attacks by the Danes attempting to take advantage of a weakened Wessex. Uhtred is a seasoned warrior now, he’s past forty, and despite his fearsome reputation he is starting to show his age; a fact commented by a few younger warriors who think they can make a name for themselves by killing him. But despite his age he is still the best weapon Wessex has against the encroaching Danes.

Unlike the advisors and churchmen who surround Alfred, and Edward after him, Uhtred was raised a Dane. He thinks as they do, worships the same gods as they do, and like them, he is not encumbered by the strict Christian moral code; this enables him to not only dupe the Danes into battle, but use the Christians own religious fervor for his own ends.

Of all the books thus far this one shows Uhtred as a very clever tactician, he is always one step ahead of the game – a fact that saves his life on more than one occasion. But throughout, as with the rest of the series, you see the frustration he feels towards the Church dictating how a war should be fought. Alfred is still tied to the Church; Edward appears more independent and allows Uhtred more leeway in his actions. But the story shows that if left to the Church, Wessex would have fallen to the Danes upon Alfred’s death.

Much of the book is taken up with the prelude to war, the story covers a long period of time and the reader finds themselves jumping months ahead by just reading the next paragraph. Cornwell again shows that he is a master at weaving known historical fact, with rumor and fiction. The historical notes at the end of each book tell what is historically known of the time – that known history fragmented and contradictory – and how Uhtred’s story slots seamlessly into that history.