“A fast-paced novel that's part Wild West, part Indiana Jones, and wholly entertaining, combining high emotional stakes with a deep, good-natured sense of humor.”
“Moning’s world-building is extensive and inspired, and she never fails to keep the action fast and the stakes high. . . . The heroes’ shared danger, victory, loss and turmoil translate into emotional intensity and sexual tension.”
Beyond the sword and shield are interesting themes about political expediency, personal loyalty, and the complicated confrontations between early Christians and worshippers of pagan gods. Cornwell's archaic curses are fun—"a useless lump of self-important gristle"—and there's more than one colorful factoid—bleached skulls on ramparts become a fear-inspiring "ghost fence." As usual, Cornwell's research gives the book veracity, and his rendering of the tale from Uthred's point of view allows immersion into the complex story of how disparate kingdoms became England. Cornwell's latest is often bloody, sometimes ribald, but always smartly done. Fans might be disappointed with this effort's brevity, though, and new readers will be better served by beginning at the start of the series (The Last Kingdom, 2005).