Death of Kings is the sixth book in The Saxon Stories.
The master of historical fiction presents the iconic story of King Alfred and the making of a nation. As the ninth century wanes, England appears about to be plunged into chaos once more.
For the Viking-raised but Saxon-born warrior, Uhtred, whose life seems to shadow the making of England, this presents him with difficult choices. King Alfred is dying and his passing threatens the island of Britain to renewed warfare. Alfred wants his son, Edward, to succeed him but there are other Saxon claimants to the throne as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the north.
Uhtred's loyalty - and his vows - were to Alfred, not to his son, and despite his long years of service to Alfred, he is still not committed to the Saxon cause. His own desire is to reclaim his long lost lands and castle to the north. But the challenge to him, as the king's warrior, is that he knows that he will either be the means of making Alfred's dream of a united and Christian England come to pass or be responsible for condemning it to oblivion.
This novel is a dramatic story of the power of tribal commitment and the terrible difficulties of divided loyalties. This is the making of England magnificently brought to life.
Alfred the Great is dying, rivals for his succession are poised to tear the kingdom apart. The country that Alfred had worked for thirty years to build is likely to disintegrate. Uhtred, a Saxon born warrior, who has been raised by the Danes, wants more than anything else to go and fight to reclaim his stolen Northumbrian inheritance. But he knows that if he deserts the King's cause, Alfred's dream - and the very future of the English nation - might vanish immediately.
At the outset of the story, Uhtred is attacked by bandits, but defeats them. He is then summoned to go to the King of East Anglia to negotiate a treaty on behalf of Alfred. Uhtred takes precautions that allow him to catch a force of East Anglia soldiers by surprise and he captures them. He then turns to face a Danish force led by Sigurd at a bridge on the River Use. Uhtred defeats Sigurd’s men because they recklessly attack over the bridge without regard for their safety. Uhtred then goes home without ever negotiating a treaty.
Uhtred is not satisfied with the outcome of the battle because he believes that another attack will happen soon. He travels to Ceaster because Hæsten's force is surrounded by a Mercian Army. Uhtred leaves some of his men under the command of his loyal follower Finan. His goal is to travel to see the prophetess Ælfadell and determine if she can see the future. Uhtred hears her prophecy, but is tied up by her and then two monks attempt to kill him. Uhtred escapes and kills the two monks, but leaves Ælfadell and her young assistant untouched. Uhtred then goes to Sigurd’s Winter Quarters at Snotengaham and burns their fleet of ships, taking one and sailing for Lundene.
Upon returning to Lundene, Uhtred is reunited with his children for a short time. He decides to go see the ailing Alfred in Wintanceaster. Uhtred arrives just before Alfred dies. Before his death Alfred gives Uhtred a large rich estate in Mercia at Fagranforda. Upon the death of Alfred, Æthelflaed is kidnapped by Æthelwold, but Uhtred saves her. Edward is now king and Uhtred expects an attack from the Danes any day, but it does not come soon.
Uhtred’s goal is war so he creates a Christian trinity of angels to give prophecy of their own to match the words of Ælfadell, to inspire the Saxons, and to upset the Danes. It works; the Danes raid his estate and kidnap two of the “angels". Uhtred then follows the group of raiders as they head toward Hæsten, encamped at Ceaster. As Uhtred nears Ceaster he meets messengers from the Mercian force that had besieged Ceaster. A Danish invasion had come from Ceaster and they are in full retreat. Uhtred retreats to a rotten fort at Cracgelad only to be surrounded by the Danish Invasion force led by Hæsten. Hæsten never attacks him and retreats in the night because this force is meant to distract the Mercian Army. Uhtred, now reinforced with Steapa and Æthelflaed, pursues the larger Danish force to find out where the main part of the invasion is taking place.
Uhtred finds the Danish invasion and attacks it with a hit-and-run attack that stops the whole Danish Army. Uhtred begs King Edward to come and attack, but he refuses and commands Uhtred to retreat to Lundene where his army is gathering. Uhtred arrives at Lundene expecting to move quickly, but Edward has been convinced by his advisers to wait, so they wait for months.
The Danes finally move toward East Anglia so Edward follows with his army. The Danes' plan is to lure King Edward into East Anglia and capture him. A portion of Edward’s army led by Sigelf plans to turn on Edward when the battle starts. This Danish ploy fails because Uhtred figures out the plot and attacks the turncoat Saxons. Uhtred does this at night and pretends to be Danish. He retreats and returns in his Saxon armor and tells the confused Saxons that the Danes have betrayed them. When Sigelf comes to investigate, Uhtred kills him and then convinces the turncoat Saxons and the men of Sigelf to fight for him. The real Danes attack Uhtred’s force and a major shield wall battle ensues. The Danes overpower and surround Uhtred’s force at a high cost. Steapa arrives at the crucial moment and pushes the Danes back, thus ending the battle with the Saxons leaving and the Danes holding the battle field. Edward marches his army back to Lundene at the conclusion of the story.
- Battle of the Holme
- (To Be Added)