Tuesday 6 October 2009
The Lords of the North is the third installment in Bernard Cornwell's series of historical novels dealing with the rise of King Alfred in late 9th-century England. Uhtred, at the ripe old age of 23 or so, is again the hero of the story and he continues to enjoy humping and killing, although not at the same time. In fact, he falls in love with Gisela, a dark-haired Dane and sister of a puppet-king, so his humping becomes rather more monogamous than perhaps it's been in the previous two novels.
Someone recently saw me reading The Lords of the North and asked me what it was about. I said it was a boy book, full of killing and fighting and aggression. Full of preposterone, in other words: preposterous amounts of testosterone. Cornwell certainly emphasizes the (literal) blood and guts of how England as we know it now was begun to be brought painfully into being but he doesn't stint on the strategy and cunning and manipulations involved either.
Indeed, what we see here is at heart the development of realpolitik (if I may be permitted to use this term so incredibly anachronistically) in England. The violence is really just the means to the end, and when Uhtred reflects on how fate is manipulating him it's really a larger political system manipulating him, even as this political system is in the midst of being created.
But I'm making this book sound in some measure complicated, but it isn't at all. My husband and I agreed while discussing this novel that what we like about Cornwell is how easy it is to read his stuff. The writing is A+ adequate but it doesn't stand out or get in the way of the story - and The Lords of the North and its predecessors are all story, all the time. So, an enjoyable read but not an extremely profound one. I'll go back to being Incredibly Deep soon, don't worry.