The Flame Bearer
The Flame Bearer is the tenth installment of the Saxon Tales from bestselling historical-fiction master, Bernard Cornwell. Is it the final tale in the series? No one knows except Mr. Cornwell himself, and I suppose in a year or so readers will find out. But this volume may be the most important of the series, even over King Alfred’s reign and death, as our fearless and now aged hero, Uhtred, returns to his beloved Bebbanburg.
Uhtred is not a young warrior anymore and may not be able to perform some of the feats he used to, but he is still perhaps the smartest and most cunning man in all of the lands that King Alfred one day hoped to unite as a single England. For now, the land remains divided, with Sigtryggr, a Viking, ruling in Northumbria, and the Saxon Queen Aethelflaed ruling from Mercia. However, they are at a truce; so for the first time in many a year, Uhtred has some free time, and he knows just what he wishes to do.
Bringing together his people and those who will fight for him, he heads to Bebbanburg, his home, the land of his father, and the land that rightfully belongs to him, even though he hasn’t set foot on it since he was a child. But this is a Bernard Cornwell novel after all, so nothing will ever go as planned. This is also the Middle Ages, meaning there are many out there wishing to take lands and make them their own. Such is the way of things, and, as Uhtred likes to keep reminding us in Old English, “Wyrd bið ful aræd,” or “Fate is inexorable.”