I love Bernard Cornwell. I love him in that unseemly fan-boy way that makes me go all “gosh-wow!” whenever I see him online. I dare not approach him, despite all I’ve heard of his generosity and openness, because surely I will come away from such an exchange looking like an ignorant wretch who could only stare and make funny noises. Heck no! I’d rather stare at him from afar and devour everything the man writes!
Though best-known for his Richard Sharpe series, my favorite cycle of Bernard Cornwell tales are those of the Saxon, Uhtred. Not since Robert E. Howard’s Conan has a character stalked from the page to capture my imagination so fully. And Uhtred is a character REH himself would have appreciated: a Saxon raised by Vikings, torn between two worlds — the Christian kingdom of Alfred of Wessex and the roaring, pagan world of the Danelaw. It is in no small part thanks to the influence of the Saxon Tales that I decided to take my Orc book into the shadowy realm between Norse history and myth, to steal — if I may — a measure of the richness and savagery of that milieu.
So, give Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales (The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, and the forthcoming Death of Kings) a try: they are unmatched in their vision of the birth of England and the twilight of the Viking world!
And now, back out to the shrubbery with my binoculars . . .