Dull and bereft of any exciting incidents, this is a poor novel from Cornwell, who is normally so solid.
Based in the Dark Ages this novel focuses on the formation of Alfred the Great's kingdom and the early days of England. The story is told from the first-person perspective by Uhtred a warrior caught between the warring factions of Danes and Saxons. It is this division that occupies the central line of the book with Cornwell merely stringing together a series of incidents to form a weak and vague plot.
The most apparent thread running through the novel seems to be about religious differences, with new found Christianity replacing the old Norse gods. Cornwell seems somewhat fixated by this and frequent references are made to the various character's religious convictions and which is a superior lifestyle. This seems to have little relevance in a book of this nature and serves merely to pad-out the plot. Uhtred's continuous idle boasts about his own physical prowess and general smugness, make him an unlikable boorish character. Cornwell also disappoints in the fight sequences, something he did so well throughout the Sharpe series.
This book seems just to be a poor attempt at a history of the formation of England, with Cornwell focusing too much on trying to highlight the social and economical issues rather than the plot.