The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The previous book left off with Uhtred dying from a wound he received from Cnut. This book picks up with his son Uhtred (formerly known as Osbert) leading a war band for the Lady of Mercia AEthelflaed. He defeats Haki and AEthelflaed orders him to take the prisoners and plunder to Gleawecestre before Saint Cuthbert's Day. When he arrives at Gleawecestre Eardwulf takes the bounty and prisoners in the name of Lord AEthelred (AEthelflaed's estranged husband). To young Uhtred's surprise he finds his Father, (Uhtred) there in the Inn, since he has been summoned to a Witan, to decide who should rule Mercia after AEthelred dies(From now on any reference to Uhtred will be the elder).
Uhtred uncovers a scheme by AEthelhelm (King Edward's Father in Law) to kill King Edward's eldest son AEthelstan , They also intend to send AEthelflaed to a nunnery, marry AElfwynn (AEthelflaed & AEthelred's daughter) off to Eardwulf and have Eardwulf rule Mercia as King Edward's puppet. Uhtred pretends to be sicker than he is so he can have his men take him home ostentatiously to die. They rush to Cirrenceastre to save AEthelstan. Stiorra (Uhtred's daughter) refused to tell Brice's men where AEthelstan was so Father Aldwyn attacked her. Uhtred gets there in time to save everyone and questions Father Aldwyn who reveals that they planned to sell the twins AEthelstan and Eadgyth to Hrolf. Uhtred then allows Stiorra to kill Father Aldwyn. He sends AEthelstan and most of his household to Ceaster with Osferth (King Alfred's bastard son) where Uhtred believes they will be safe. Uhtred, his son, Finan and Stiorra head back to Gleawecestre to rescue AElfwynn. AElfwynn reveals that her Father is already dead, but that they were trying to keep it a secret until after the wedding.
Uhtred and his party meet up with Osferth's party but they are unable to continue on to safety due to flooding. Eardwulf catches up with them, but before he can kill them AEthelflaed shows up and chases him off. Eardwulf follows them and plans to burn the hall they are staying at and kill them while they sleep, but Uhtred anticipates their plot and easily defeats the conspirators, but Eardwulf (who is now an outlaw) and some of his men escape. Eardwulf leaves his sister Eadith (AEthelred's mistress) behind. She becomes Uhtred's mistress to AEthelflaed's displeasure. With Eardwulf defeated they head back to Gleawecestre where Uhtred plots to put AEthelflaed on the throne of Mercia. Uhtred pretends to become a Christian, and at the Witan points out that he is AEthelred's first cousin and his closest male relative. He also tricks Bishop Wulfheard into saying that the Lord of Mercia's wishes as to who should sit on the throne after him should be followed. Uhtred then makes a deal with AEthelhelm that he will support AEthelhelm's grandson, instead of AEthelstan, to succeed King Edward as long he is on the throne of Mercia when King Edward dies. The Witan promptly names Uhtred Lord of Mercia and he then relinquishes the throne to AEthelflaed with the Witan's approval.
AEthelflaed sends Uhtred to Ceaster and places AEthelstan in his care. Uhtred places AEthelstan and Stiorra in Osferth's care and sends them on to Ceaster. While Uhtred, his son, and Finan take the Drines to Wales looking for the sword Ice-Spite that wounded him. They get to Bishop Asser's grave at Tyddewi only to discover that Rognvald plundered Tyddewi before they got there and took the sword. Uhtred joins forces with King Hywel and they attack Rognvald's men. Ice-Spite is recovered and used to cure Uhtred's wound, Uhtred also ask for the life of the prisoner Berg. Berg reveals that Sigtryggr has Saxon's with him Eardwulf and his men and that they are headed North to attack. Uhtred realizes they are going to Ceaster and rushes to get there before him.
Uhtred manages to get past Sigtryggr's men and sets a trap for them at Ceaster. Sigtryggr's men are defeated but he attacks Uhtred and has the chance to kill him until he see's Stiorra. Uhtred takes his eye but Sigtryggr escapes. Later he surrenders his men and ask that they be allowed to sail back to his Father. He allows himself to be taken as hostage. Uhtred agrees to the deal and allows Stiorra to leave with Sigtryggr as his wife.
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My review of the previous book in the series The Pagan Lord can be found here.