Bernard Cornwell’s War of the Wolf is the latest, but still not the final chapter of The Last Kingdom series. Uhtred is still riding against his enemies. He is now over sixty years old and a bit long in the tooth. Nevertheless, he’s still snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers by relating that.
It’s amazing that Cornwell can pull it off, but he does. The series never gets old. Cornwell makes allowances for his aging hero, putting him in the third line of the shield wall and letting the younger guys do much of the slaughter. But it all rings true.
Now that Uhtred has finally won back his home castle of Bebbanburg in book 10, he is forced to leave his home to defend Northumbria, the last of four countries destined to comprise Englaland. But Northumbria is still independent, and Uhtred plans on keeping it that way.
His new enemy is Skoll, a Norseman and a warrior who wants to take the title of king of Northumbria, now held by Uhtred’s son-in-law, Sigtrygger. Skoll has a scary sorceror whom he uses to frighten the oppostion. He also uses soldiers that consume henbane so they believe they are wolves –thus The War of the Wolf. They are crazed when they attack, and their bloodthirstyness scares off anyone who faces them. Anyone except Uhtred, of course.
Uhtred seems to get more savage as he grows older. This is clearly understandable, as death and fate continue to play with him. He and Sigtrygger form an alliance and together they find a way to keep Northumbria out of the hands of Skoll and King Edward, who wants to dissolve it.
Aethelflaed died in the last book, so this book is a little thin of developed female characters, one of my few complaints about Cornwell. It’s still compelling, however, making a war story interesting for both men and women.
Much has been made of Uhtred straddling two worlds — the English world and the Norse world, as well as the Christian world versus the pagan world. That struggle continues, with Uhtred always a little undecided on which side he falls. He seems to be placing more and more significance on omens as he grows older, so he remains pagan although born Christian. I can also complain this book seemed a little short.
Still, Uhtred sniffs the winds of change and makes allowances in the War of the Wolf, for both his family and his soldiers. The author’s note makes mention of Uhtred’s life span, so we are left to wonder why, and how Uhtred will leave this world. Somehow I suspect he will die with his sword clutched in his hands. But I still can’t guess how many more books there will be.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from Edelweiss. It goes on sale in October, 2018.