Itís an unconventional partnership to say the least. King Alfred is humorless, tidy-minded, and a fervent believer in Christianity; the strapping hero Uhtred is noisy, aggressive, and a fervent believer in Thor. The two regard each other with exasperation, mystification, and sometimes downright loathing, but the King needs Uhtred if he is ever to push the Vikings out of England, and Uhtred keeps fighting for him although his own sympathies often lie with his Viking friends. Sword Song is the fourth installment in Uhtredís adventures, and things are looking up for him. Heís no longer chained to an oar as he was through much of the previous book (donít ask), and heís settled down happily with a wife he adores and a never-ending supply of battles to fight. Trouble comes in the form of Alfredís daughter Aethelflaed, a teenage princess who has long been a pet of Uhtredís. Now grown into an appealingly steely girl (the scene where she blackmails an oath of loyalty out of Uhtred is priceless), Aethelflaed is newly and unhappily married to an idiot who promptly manages to get her kidnapped by Vikings. Uhtredís job, like any heroís, is to rescue the princess. But what if the princess doesnít want to be rescued?
Uhtred gets better and better: confident, aggressive, humorous, vital. Alfred is a pious little prat in comparison, and Aethelflaed despite her impossible name is a girl with a bent for adventure whom even Uhtred canít push around. Start at the beginning of this marvelous Saxon Stories for the full adventure, and give yourself far more than a weekendís worth of reading.