The Pagan Lord is the seventh book in Cornwell’s Saxon series, and, finally, our hero Uhtred makes it back to his old home Bebbanburg. At last!
I’ll begin by saying this author is one of my favourites, and this particular series has given me a lot of reading pleasure in recent years. Before that, his King Arthur series were what really inspired me to try and write Wolf’s Head: 1 (The Forest Lord).
For that reason, I’m probably being harder on The Pagan Lord than I would be if it had been written by almost anyone else. You see, the thing is, Cornwell is such a fantastic writer that I’ve come to expect real greatness from him every time I pick up one of his books. Anything less is something of a disappointment.
I was disappointed with The Pagan Lord.
That’s not to say it’s not a great book – it certainly is. Beautifully written as always, with little nuggets of historical information that constantly prove the depth of knowledge the author has for his subject and characters that are familiar yet always interesting. But, for a novel about a warlord, there’s really not a lot of fighting, or action in it. Much of the book is taken up by Uhtred travelling about the place pretty aimlessly and the long-awaited return to Bebbanburg was a real anti-climax. I’ve waited years for that?
The ending is excellent though, and very nearly had tears forming in my eyes. It certainly had me, as usual, looking forward to the next book.
For a while now I’ve felt that this series has gone on too long. I assume Cornwell’s agent or publisher thought it would be a good way to make money by keeping things going and, while I still enjoyed the book, and the previous six too, I feel we’re rather treading water with the story now. If the entire series had been condensed into three or four books, total, I think we’d have been looking at a truly seminal historical fiction series.
Instead, what we have is just a great series. Which really isn’t too bad, I suppose. Like I say, though, I hold Bernard Cornwell in such high regard that even a really good book like this feels a little disappointing.
Overall, a great read, showing a master of his craft at work. Not, however, quite at the top of his game, as he was in the first few books of this series. You still need to read it though!