war of the wolf

War of The Wolf (Last Kingdom #11) by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

While Uhtred might have regained his family’s fortress, it seems that a peaceful life is not to be – as he is under threat from both an old enemy and a new foe. The old enemy comes from Wessex where a dynastic struggle will determine who will be the next king.  And the new foe is Sköll, a Norseman, whose ambition is to be King of Northumbria and who leads a frightening army of wolf-warriors, men who fight half-crazed in the belief that they are indeed wolves. Uhtred, believing he is cursed, must fend off one enemy while he tries to destroy the other. In this new chapter of the Saxon Tales series—a rousing adventure of courage, treachery, duty, devotion, majesty, love and battle, as seen through the eyes of a warrior straddling two worlds—Uhtred returns to fight once again for the destiny of England.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I dithered about this rating. I did really enjoy it and it’s definitely better than 3 stars but not quite good enough to get 4. It could be that the series had now been going so long that it’s hard to do anything different with Uhtred and his story.

There is a lot of good in this book. The writing, as ever, is excellent and the historical connections really interesting to the point that I’d often divert to Google to learn more about the background and surrounding stories. I particularly liked the political machinations of this book. There’s a lot of twisting and turning as the main characters try to use and manipulate each other for their own good and to see both the successes and failures of these plans.

I also really like how the author is allowing the characters to get older. Although this means he is limiting the length of the story it does create a new perspective as the series develops. I particularly liked how he described the changes in battle for Uhtred, how he struggled to accept his limits and how those around him helped and supported but also restricted him when he was getting carried away.

I am disappointed with two aspects of the story. I thought there was much more scope for Sigtrygger and Stiora’s story and the feeling throughout this book is that they are now relegated to very minor characters. At the end of the book I got the feeling that their stories are both pretty much over.

I am also disappointed with the Bebbanburg element. So much has been invested in securing Uhtred’s family home to have it pretty much disregarded in this chapter. Maybe the author has other plans, possibly involving Sigtrygger, but I haven’t read any future synopsis yet so I’m not sure.

Finally I found the culmination of the battle with Sköll very clumsy. It was a real Hollywood ending and just felt very unrealistic. It was as if the author had painted himself into a corner and created such an insurmountable task that he needed this unbelievable stroke of luck to save our hero. It just didn’t sit right with me, especially as Uhtred is a wiley enough warrior by now to have avoided it all.

I am very much looking forward to the next installment. Hopefully back to Bebbanburg but I feel that time is now running short for Uhtred as he gets older and Saxon Englaland grows in power and turns its eyes towards Northumbria which has now become “The Last Kingdom“.

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