Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Last Kingdom #8

The Empty Throne

Rate this book
This eighth entry in New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell's epic Saxon Tales series brings to life the harrowing and turbulent tale of a nation torn apart by sectarian and religious strife, a political struggle dominated by dynastic rivalries, and the remarkable strength that elevates some characters above their time.

“My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred . . .”

Britain, early tenth century AD: a time of change. There are new raids by the Vikings from Ireland, and turmoil among the Saxons over the leadership of Mercia. A younger generation is taking over.

Æthelred, the ruler of Mercia, is dying, leaving no legitimate heir. The West Saxons want their king, but Uhtred has long supported Athelflaed, sister to King Edward of Wessex and widow of Aethelred. Widely loved and respected, Athelflaed has all the makings of a leader—but could Saxon warriors ever accept a woman as their ruler? The stage is set for rivals to fight for the empty throne.

Uhtred is still suffering from the wounds he received in battle. To recover his strength he needs to find the sword that caused the injury, but lost amid the battle’s blood and mud, how could it be traced and who among the Vikings or Saxons might be holding it?

In the end it is one champion, one hero, who will destroy the new Viking threat to Mercia and ultimately decide the fate of England.

302 pages, Paperback

First published September 16, 2014

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Bernard Cornwell

333 books16.1k followers
Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother, who was English, a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted and brought up in Essex by the Wiggins family, who were members of the Peculiar People, a strict Protestant sect who banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine. After he left them, he changed his name to his birth mother's maiden name, Cornwell.

Cornwell was sent away to Monkton Combe School, attended the University of London, and after graduating, worked as a teacher. He attempted to enlist in the British armed services at least three times but was rejected on the grounds of myopia.

He then joined BBC's Nationwide and was promoted to become head of current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland. He then joined Thames Television as editor of Thames News. He relocated to the United States in 1980 after marrying an American. Unable to get a green card, he started writing novels, as this did not require a work permit.

As a child, Cornwell loved the novels of C.S. Forester, chronicling the adventures of fictional British naval officer Horatio Hornblower during the Napoleonic Wars, and was surprised to find there were no such novels following Lord Wellington's campaign on land. Motivated by the need to support himself in the U.S. through writing, Cornwell decided to write such a series. He named his chief protagonist Richard Sharpe, a rifleman involved in most major battles of the Peninsular War.

Cornwell wanted to start the series with the Siege of Badajoz but decided instead to start with a couple of "warm-up" novels. These were Sharpe's Eagle and Sharpe's Gold, both published in 1981. Sharpe's Eagle was picked up by a publisher, and Cornwell got a three-book deal. He went on to tell the story of Badajoz in his third Sharpe novel, Sharpe's Company, published in 1982.

Cornwell and wife Judy co-wrote a series of novels, published under the pseudonym "Susannah Kells". These were A Crowning Mercy, published in 1983, Fallen Angels in 1984, and Coat of Arms (aka The Aristocrats) in 1986. (Cornwell's strict Protestant upbringing informed the background of A Crowning Mercy, which took place during the English Civil War.) In 1987, he also published Redcoat, an American Revolutionary War novel set in Philadelphia during its 1777 occupation by the British.

After publishing eight books in his ongoing Sharpe series, Cornwell was approached by a production company interested in adapting them for television. The producers asked him to write a prequel to give them a starting point to the series. They also requested that the story feature a large role for Spanish characters to secure co-funding from Spain. The result was Sharpe’s Rifles, published in 1987, and a series of Sharpe television films staring Sean Bean.

A series of contemporary thrillers with sailing as a background and common themes followed: Wildtrack published in 1988, Sea Lord (aka Killer's Wake) in 1989, Crackdown in 1990, Stormchild in 1991, and Scoundrel, a political thriller, in 1992.

In June 2006, Cornwell was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's 80th Birthday Honours List.

Cornwell's latest work, Azincourt, was released in the UK in October 2008. The protagonist is an archer who participates in the Battle of Agincourt, another devastating defeat suffered by the French in the Hundred Years War. However, Cornwell has stated that it will not be about Thomas of Hookton from The Grail Quest or any of his relatives.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
11,562 (50%)
4 stars
9,021 (39%)
3 stars
2,096 (9%)
2 stars
239 (1%)
1 star
113 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,136 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
664 reviews41.2k followers
August 6, 2021
The Empty Throne was an improvement over The Pagan Lord, and it somehow felt refreshing despite its formulaic structure.

“I wondered why the gods no longer came to earth. It would make belief so much easier.”

This is the eighth installment in The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell. This means that I’m fully caught up with the novels that have been adapted into the TV series adaptation. I was genuinely worried entering this book; The Pagan Lord was the weakest book of the series so far for me, and I was afraid that this would be even worse. Fortunately, this ended up being better. As I mentioned earlier, Cornwell still follows the formulaic structure of the entire series; if you’ve read two or four books of the series, you’ll know how the story goes. But in The Empty Throne, the prologue is told from a different perspective for the first time. And also, for almost the entirety of the novel, Uthred is heavily injured. Then there’s also the hunt for a “magic” sword. These brought a refreshing feeling to the narrative, and I was more engaged with it.

“We live in a world where the strongest win, and the strongest must expect to be disliked. Then I am a pagan, and thought Christians teach that they must love their enemies, few do.”

Uthred is not young anymore; he’s old now. The themes of faith, loyalty, life, legacies, death, and afterlife still dominate the series, maybe even more now. I will have to admit that every time I read a book in The Last Kingdom, the discussions on what’s going to happen to us after death made me worry. There’s a lot of food for thought, but more importantly, it also made me grateful for my life. My favorite element of the story in The Empty Throne, however, was seeing Uthred teaching Aethelstan the meaning of strength, responsibility, and what it takes to be a leader.

“You’re the son of a king… and one day you might be a king yourself. Life and death will be your gifts, so learn how to give them, boy.”

Admittedly, I didn’t like some of the character’s thoughts and decisions regarding their daughters, especially with Uthred and Aethelflaed. But I have to remember, these characters were living in a totally different time in history than us. These actions may have been born more out of necessity than wants, and it’s not always an easy decision.

“It takes a weak man to prove his strength by striking a woman.”

The Empty Throne was a great read; the plot mostly revolved around a political dispute, and it was handled incredibly well. Although Cornwell’s iconic battle sequences were mostly missing in this volume, the tensions and character developments were still evident. I’m moving into uncharted territory now. I’ve heard that the final five books in the series contained some of the best volumes within the series. I’m looking forward to reading Warriors of the Storm soon.

“Pride, I suppose, is the most treacherous of virtues. The Christians call it a sin, but no poet sings of men who have no pride. Christian says the meek will inherit the earth, but the meek inspire no songs.”

You can order the book from: Blackwells (Free International shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions | I also have a Booktube channel

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Dylan, Edward, Element, Ellen, Gary, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Jennifer, Joie, Luis, Lufi, Melinda, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Samuel, Sarah, Sarah, Shaad, Summer, Wendy, Wick, Zoe.
Profile Image for Terri.
529 reviews252 followers
November 28, 2014
I will never forget the day I turned those initial pages and started the very first book in the Warrior Chronicles (Saxon Stories in the US) for the very first time. It was many years ago now and was the beginning of a wonderful journey for me.

I had always been an avid reader. Since I learned to read really, but I had never found my niche fiction genre. I dabbled in fantasy fiction, I dipped my toe in horror, absorbed myself in crime thrillers, but it was not until I forged my way through the historical pretenders quagmire to this series that I finally discovered what I wanted as a reader. I wanted history. Brutal, honest, raw historical tales that smacked of reality. And so, thanks to Bernard Cornwell, I found my love of the historical fiction genre.
I have never looked back. Cliche I know, but true none the less.

There have been eight books in this series (including this one) and while the Warrior Chronicles is one of my two favourite series' of all time, I had started to feel a little jaded with it. To me, the two books preceding The Empty Throne had little originality. They felt like the same story and the same formula done to death.
The Empty Throne broke that monotony for me. It was completely unique to all the books that went before it. We delved new characters, got to know evolving characters, and observed relationships between certain characters like we never have before.
We saw Uhtred, not as the brutish and diabolical warrior many of us know and love, but as the victim of that which felled him so bloodily in book seven, The Pagan Lord.

With possibly only one or two books left in this series (from the lips of the author) you know you have come to a milestone with this book as soon as you open it and start reading.
The first book in the series, The Last Kingdom, has one of the most memorable opening chapters of all the books I have ever read. I may not recall it word for word, but I will always remember that first line and the tone of what came after.
To save you getting out your copy of The Last Kingdom to reread it, I shall hand it to you on a platter:

The Last Kingdom (published 2004)

Prologue - Northumbria, AD 866-867
My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred and his father was also called Uhtred. My father's clerk, a Priest called Beocca, spelt it Utred. I do not know if that is how my father would have written it, for he could neither read nor write, but I can do both and sometimes I take the old parchments from their wooden desk and I see the name spelled Uhtred or Utred or Ughtred or Ootred. I look at those parchments, which are deeds saying that Uhtred, son of Uhtred is the lawful and sole owner of the lands that are carefully marked by stones and by dykes, by oaks and by ash, by marsh and by sea, and I dream of those lands, wave beaten and wild beneath the wind driven sky. I dream, and know that I will take back the land from those who stole it from me.
I am an ealdorman, though I call myself Lord Uhtred, which is the same thing, and the fading parchments are proof of what I own.

The Empty Throne starts in a similar vein. Which brought back all those wonderfully nostalgic emotions that have stayed with me since that long ago day when I first began this series:

The Empty Throne (published 2014)

My Name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred, and his father was also called Uhtred. My father wrote his name thus. Uhtred, but I have seen the name written as Utred, Ughtred or even Ootred. Some of those names are on ancient parchments which declare that Uhtred, son of Uhtred and grandson of Uhtred, is the lawful, sole and eternal owner of the lands that are carefully marked by stones and by dykes, by oaks and by ash, by marsh and by sea. That land is in the north of the country we have learned to call Englaland. They are wave beaten lands beneath a wind driven sky. It is the land we call Bebbanburg.

But that is where the similarities between the two books start and finish.

This book is nothing like those before it. The author did not stick to that time worn formula. This is a story more about the setting of chess pieces than the following of a well beaten path.
It was not without its risks for the author no doubt. There will be a truck load of fans out there who will be disappointed by the lack of formula in this one.
Many pick up these books thinking they are going to get the same thing each time and they take comfort from that. For me though, I wanted the strategic meanderings that weave in and out of this one's storyline. From the confusing beginnings (make sure you pay attention to the opening chapters, and that opening paragraph, or you will be completely lost for the first thirty pages...as I was) to the interesting ending, this book will not tread in the footsteps of others.

For example, some of Uhtred's children play a large part in this book. And I found that delightful. To have treasured this Uhtred character for so many years, and now to see how much like their father these children have become. I was reminded of Gisella and how she really was his one great love, even though I spent a few books thinking that title belonged to another. I think as this series comes to a close, it was important for Uhtred's relationship with Gisella to be dug up and clarified. To remind us who this woman was that Uhtred fathered such headstrong and beautiful children with.

If you look for them, this book holds codes to unlocking what will happen in the last book/s as this unforgettable and unique series finally winds up the cliffs of Bebbanburg to its unavoidable swan dive..
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.2k followers
July 19, 2016
Has Uhtred finally ran out of fight?

Uhtred was severely injured at the end of the last novel. It is a wound that would kill off a lesser men. But Uhtred is stronger than that. Even in his old age he retains the courage of a warrior. He seeks the blade that pierced his flesh in order to cure his ailment. His pagan superstition demands that this will save his life; thus, most of the novel is given over to an injured Uhtred trying to find a sword amongst the backdrop of a few nobles fighting over the throne of Mercia.

As far as these novels go, this plot was a little weak. It didn’t really head towards a fulfilment or epic conclusion. It was just a man looking for a sword whilst dealing with some minor politics. The throne of Mercia doesn’t really speak of conquest or grand achievement. It is the ruling seat of a minor kingdom, one that has long been a vassal of a greater power: Wessex. So it just wasn’t that exciting. Uhtred was too physically weak to carry of his fiery temper and spontaneous violence; he was like a shadow of the warlord we know. His son carried off most of the action.

Perhaps this is the start of a shift between characters. Uhtred isn’t getting any younger, and eventually he’ll be too old to lift his sword. Perhaps we will see more of the young Uhtred in the next book. Personally, I’d prefer this to remain one man’s story, and end with his eventual death but only time will tell. Hopefully the next book will throw some heavier punches. For once, I’m in no rush to read it.
Profile Image for Markus.
470 reviews1,519 followers
April 26, 2017
Coming back to Uhtred after reading tons of mediocre literature across all genres is like finding an oasis in a desert. I was engrossed from the first sentence, and The Empty Throne brought back the joy of reading that I always lose a bit of when reading too many dreary books.

However, there is no doubt that Bernard Cornwell is running out of plot and has to turn to half-and-half improvisation and rehashing of old storylines to keep the series going until the two inevitable final goals: Uhtred's recapture of Bebbanburg and the final unification of Anglo-Saxon England.

This eight book was thoroughly enjoyable; a Cornwell book always is. However, it doesn't add anything to the tale of Uhtred and is pure filler material. Nevertheless, one step closer to the completion of this epic.
Profile Image for Justo Martiañez.
361 reviews134 followers
February 19, 2022
3/5 Estrellas

Aunque seguimos teniendo los mismos mimbres que en entregas anteriores, este libro me ha dejado menos satisfecho. A ver si puedo explicar las razones:
-Lord Uhtred arrastra secuelas de la batalla de Tettenhall que cierra el libro anterior, y en la que resultó gravemente herido. No me cuadra demasiado esto de la herida supurante, la espada mágica y la curación milagrosa. Aunque tiene que ceder protagonismo a sus lugartenientes y a sus hijos, sigue estando en el centro de la acción y para un tipo medio tullido, es un poco increíble.
-Es el libro en el que los hechos históricos sobre los que se basa son más endebles y escasos: la muerte de Etelredo, señor de Mercia, y el ascenso al poder de su mujer, Etelfleda, hermana de Eduardo de Wessex y hecho contrastado históricamente, por extraño que parezca que una mujer pudiera alcanzar el poder en un reino germánico, donde la iglesia ejercía mucho poder y en plena guerra despiadada con los invasores daneses. Entiendo que estaba estrechamente tutelada y apoyada por sus vecinos de Wessex. En cualquier caso la trama que urde Cornwell, es surrealista, confusa y, por momentos, poco creíble.
-Seguimos teniendo grandes dosis de acción, pero han faltado los episodios bélicos de importancia, con que nos ha deleitado en entregas previas. Muchas escaramuzas y poco más. Además, este tipo de peleas, se están haciendo un poco repetitivas.

Aún así, sigue teniendo mucho mérito lo que escribe Cornwell, interesante, documentado y disfrutable......ahora que llega el gran momento de Etelstano, la creación de lo que hoy conocemos por Inglaterra, no se puede abandonar esta saga. Entiendo que se trata de un interludio necesario entre acontecimientos trascendentes, que están por llegar.
A por el siguiente
Profile Image for Edward.
335 reviews891 followers
July 19, 2020
The Empty Throne is one of Bernard Cornwell’s best. Uhtred is written so well here, and he has such a strong voice and personality, I am constantly chuckling to myself at his downright rudeness - he’s becoming an impatient grey-bearded man!

“I wondered why the gods no longer came to earth. It would make belief so much easier.”

I have found that the deeper I delve into the Saxon Chronicles the more I enjoy them. There is a typical format for a Cornwell book, but there’s a reason why he is considered to be one of the greatest historical fiction writers ever. As the reader you can see his passion and enthusiasm for this time period on each page.

“It takes a weak man to prove his strength by striking a woman.”

Uhtred has amassed a loyal band of warriors and family around himself. There are superb characters, such as the much loved Irishman Finan, as well as Uhtred’s fearsome daughter Stiorra and his son growing in stature. I loved the dynamics between this band and the epic politics surrounding them.

“I shook my head. ‘Killing isn’t woman’s work,’ I said. ‘Why not?’ she asked. ‘We give life, can’t we take it too?”

Uhtred manages to get himself involved in the Norns weave many times, decided the fate of his enemies, friends, even countries. He spends the majority of this book in a state of injury from the end of the previous book, and I loved the difference this made to his character.

“Wyrd bið ful āræd. Fate is inexorable. We are given power and we lose it.”

5/5 - I completely loved The Empty Throne. It was full of defining moments for Uhtred and his followers. There was incredible duels - of swords, words and minds, as well as brilliant battle sequences. In my opinion it is far superior to the second half of Season 4 of The Last Kingdom, which is based on this book.
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
344 reviews1,326 followers
March 12, 2023
“I'm in pain all the time,' I said, 'and if I gave into it then I'd do nothing.”

The Empty Throne immediately became distinctive when compared to the previous seven instalments because Uhtred's relationship with his children has a far heavier role than they have before, as they directly interact with our awesome protagonist and influence the direction of the story far more. There are some hilarious moments, but also those of great emotion that show how much Uhtred has grown since being a child himself in the first book of the series. It is a book that illustrates his character growth, and how times have worn him down.

As Uhtred recovers from wounds of the past, we see how he is coming to terms with not being a youth who can spring back from battles as quickly. As a man who everyone looks to as a warrior first and foremost, The Empty Throne grapples with the idea of identity, and how Uhtred is being forced to change, and use his cunning far more.

“You’re the son of a king,’ I told him, ‘and one day you might be a king yourself. Life and death will be your gifts, so learn how to give them, boy.”

This maintains the formulaic elements of a self-contained story with some wider arcs running through multiple instalments, which a new enemy to face. But, whilst those elements are the same, the way Bernard Cornwell executes them in this eight instalment makes the story feel fresh and unique all the same. I've now read twelve books of this series, and The Empty Throne ranks amongst the top three in my opinion. Very distinctive new characters, huge character growth, brilliant action sequences and the introduction of Uhtred's children as major players in the story. What's not to love?

Profile Image for Nate.
483 reviews20 followers
April 19, 2015

These are all characters in this book. You fucking with me, Uncle Bernard? An actual 10th-century Anglo-Saxon would have trouble telling all these names apart. It's almost jarring when a character pops up whose name DOESN'T start with an ash, like Edward or Brice. Given that only one or two of these people probably actually appear in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle this reliance on the ash has to be a Cornwell thing, and it became distracting and ridiculous by the end of the book. Thankfully, it STILL didn't dim the casual awesomeness of these books! This is the 8th book in the series I have given four stars, which might make it THE most consistent series I've read. Of course, I haven't seen a single other person who had the same reaction to all of the books so that means basically nothing to you.

We catch up with our hero Uhtred who's suffering from a near-mortal wound received at the battle at Tettenhall, the climax of the previous book. Given that historically Tettenhall was the last major beatdown the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms laid on the Danes I was kind of wondering where exactly Cornwell was gonna go with the next one. Well, the title is certainly a hint--the majority of the book has to do with who's gonna sit the Mercian throne. This is certainly a bit of a pleasant departure, as most of the book specifically has to do with Saxon familial/dynastic drama and not the usual (awesome) struggle against the Danish tide. Readers who love their viking action still get it, though, except this time it's mostly Irish Norse who are doing the reaving, burning, pillaging, etc.

So the usual atmospheric dark-ages drama is all there, but this has to be one of the funniest Uhtred books yet. The dude is old and fucking crotchety at this point and is constantly cracking inappropriate one-liners and talking about humping and tits and whatnot. Cornwell has been playing a variety of foils against Uhtred's irreverence since Alfred (and in a lot of ways he was the best one because he would get so fucking upset and bitchy) but he still finds new ways to make me chuckle with the scenes of Uhtred talking shit to his enemies, whether they be fellow pagans or of course, priests. He is really just an eminently likable main character, especially since now that he's an old man he's ditched all of his youthful arrogance and egotism.

But Uhtred is not the only person doing much awesome in this novel! I absolutely loved Æthelflaed and her place in the story. Needless to say, there were not many female warrior-leaders at this point in time so she is the ultimate underdog, only made cooler by her patent goodness as a person and strength and wisdom as a leader. This is the kind of thing I cite when people say that these books are too rabidly anti-Christian. Okay, it's pretty easy to see that Cornwell himself sees Christianity as ridiculous and thusly felt more comfortable and free with a fervently pagan protagonist like Uhtred. But there are good Christians in these books, and they have influence and get undeniably GOOD shit done. Alfred was one of them and Æthelflaed is firmly in this mold. She is extremely pious, yet is never unlikable and does brave and awesome shit. In a lot of ways Æthelflaed's struggle against the institutionalized patriarchy of this place and time reminded me a lot of Sharon Kay Penman's excellent When Christ and His Saints Slept, which is basically about a cataclysmic 20-year war started because the prior king's chosen heir was his daughter Maude.

So yeah, Cornwell tries some new stuff in this one (like the jarring prologue) but let's be real, this is still Bernard Cornwell so you get the usual stuff you'd expect, like lots of historical detail on places, people and events, and plenty of gory viking-era plotting and struggle. It's all done well and will probably continue to be done well because Cornwell is his usual solid workmanlike self, never truly fucking with the formula (although he might occasionally trick you into thinking he is) and always focusing on the stuff he's good at. I still think that the Arthur books are his mightiest effort, but every year when these books come out on the same MONTH I have to be glad that this guy is still writing these books (and hopefully will continue to for a long, long time.)
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
307 reviews1,313 followers
September 14, 2020
Some really good standout moments again, and I like where the story may be heading with characters like Athelstan and Stiorra. Favourites such as Finan and Osferth are always a pleasure to read about still. On to the next one...
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,209 followers
May 31, 2016
Like books four and five in the GoT series, much of this book feels like housekeeping. Perhaps I should say, hallkeeping or castlecleaning.

I thought maybe in The Empty Throne our half-Dane, half-Saxon hero Uhtred of Bebbanburg might finally regain his lands and castle, but instead the story veers away from what it seemed to be leading up to and turned its focus on the bigger picture. That's annoying, but perhaps it's for the best. The get-my-castle-back storyline was getting stale. Besides, if he got the castle back, that would be the end. In the very least, it would take a lot of wind of out this series' sails.

Like any and all Bernard Cornwell novels, there's fighting and at least some skirmishes, but this one was low-key compared to others in the series. There's a lot of discussion. Hell, there's essentially what adds up to a court room drama at one point. The fighting that does take place feels inconsequential to the bigger picture.

The book starts with a narration by Uhtred's son, which is done to keep up the suspense created at the end of the last book. However, I think Cornwell might've had a two-fold reason. I believe he wanted to give the son a try-out in the lead role. After all, Uhtred's no spring chicken. If Cornwell wants to keep this series rolling, sooner or later he's going to need a replacement for his hero. I know I'm ready for a change.
Profile Image for David Sven.
288 reviews445 followers
June 25, 2015
If you've already read the other 7 books then this is more of the same AWESOMENESS!!!

But I can't keep gushing every instalment.If you haven't read any of these books then all I want to say about this series is in my review of the last book here

To be totally fair, the first few books were probably better as they were Uhtred's coming of badassery and from 4 or 5 onwards is just Uhtred being badass.

Also, the series is now pretty episodic. I'm now convinced that Uhtred's never getting to Bebbanburg. I was thinking that Uhtred son of Uhtred and grandson of Uhtred is getting too old now for Cornwell to hold off on his dream of taking back his birth right. But now he has a son also called Uhtred, strangely enough, and we got that Uhtred's POV for the prologue. So I think Cornwell doesn't need Father Uhtred to live because he can now keep the series going through the son. Bastard!

Anyway, Bernard Cornwell has ruined me for historical fiction set in this era with this series coming a close second to his Warlord Chronicles - only because the Warlord Chronicles are a finished trilogy and one complete story over three books while this is, as I said before, more episodic.

Matt Bates was excellent as the audio narrator and I can recommend the audio version as an excellent way to experience the book.

5 stars
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
801 reviews2,521 followers
December 5, 2018
This is another gripping story in The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell. He is such a fantastic story-teller! He brings his believable characters to life. His main character, Uhtred, is a nobleman and sometimes an outcast, even an outlaw, and is respected as a great warrior throughout the kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia. King Alfred has died, and has been succeeded by his son, King Edward.

In this book, Uhtred is older now, and is suffering from a serious wound in a battle. He is on a quest to cure his wound before he dies from it. And, the cure is based on superstition, that only by finding the sword that inflicted his injury can he be healed. The degree to which superstitions are believed, and the degree of investment in the supernatural--both Christian and pagan--is quite remarkable. But, during the Dark Ages, I suppose that most people really did have these beliefs that seem so strange to modern people.

And one place where the book truly excels, is the imaginative cleverness of Uhtred. He thinks out the political and military situations with a probing logic. He sometimes finds himself in desperate situations where he is out-numbered, and develops clever strategies for winning. It amazes me that his strategies are never duplicated from one book to the next--they are always fresh, and interesting.

And the best aspect of this novel, is that I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Matt Bates. It is fantastic! I enjoy how he reads, and breathes life into each character. My recommendation is to listen to the book, if you can, because the excellent narration energizes the story and makes you feel like you can reach out and touch the characters!
Profile Image for Vagner Stefanello.
119 reviews77 followers
May 17, 2017
Review in Portuguese from Desbravando Livros:

Essa resenha foi feita a partir da versão britânica, intitulada The Empty Throne, em outubro de 2014, data de lançamento do e-book estrangeiro. Depois, foi atualizada com imagens e nomes em português em 12/06/2015, quando foram anunciadas a capa e a sinopse da nossa edição brasileira.

Com a morte de Æthelred pedindo para chegar após ser ferido gravemente na batalha final do último livro, muitas artimanhas se desenrolam para definir quem será o próximo comandante da Mércia. Todo mundo sabe que um trono vazio é sinal de guerras se aproximando, e aqui não é diferente, ainda mais se tratando de um trono tão importante e primordial para que um dia os reinos se unam e formem a tão sonhada Inglaterra almejada por Alfredo, o Grande. Quem deve tomar o seu lugar? Qual pessoa tem mais direito a herdar o trono? Será que uma mulher dará conta do recado? São questões que permeiam todo o livro e trazem alguns debates muito interessantes.

Uhtred ainda está muito (!) machucado depois de ter matado Cnut e quase ter morrido na luta, precisando ficar de repouso sempre que possível e mal conseguindo cavalgar. Um dos objetivos desse 8º livro é fazer Uhtred recuperar-se dos ferimentos e voltar às batalhas, mas o desenrolar eu vou deixar pra vocês descobrirem, não quero estragar a alegria do leitor contando tudo tão cedo.

O livro começa diferente dos demais, com o prólogo sendo narrado pelo filho de Uhtred, provando que é realmente filho de um guerreiro e mostrando um pouco dos seus pensamentos e do seu medo em relação a Æthelflæd, esposa de Æthelred. Aliás, esse livro parece ter sido feito para ela. Æthelflæd torna-se aqui uma das grandes protagonistas para a formação da Inglaterra, num tempo onde mulher nenhuma conseguia se diferenciar e participar tão ativamente das batalhas. E é por ser assim que ela consegue o apoio dos seus subordinados, tornando-se esperança para muitos deles.

Essa obra também foca um pouco em Æthelstan, filho do rei Eduardo e neto de Alfredo, designado a um dia ser rei. Quem acaba tomando conta do garoto é nosso grande protagonista Uhtred, que o ensina a tomar decisões bem difíceis para um garoto de apenas 14 anos e comuns para o futuro rei.

“He needed to know it, see it, smell it, and survive it. I was training the boy not just to be a warrior, but to be a king.”

“He’s a boy who must learn to be a warrior and a king,’ I said, ‘and death is his destiny. He must learn to give it.’ I patted Æthelstan’s shoulder. ‘Make it quick, boy,’ I told him. ‘He deserves a slow death, but this is your first killing. Make it easy for yourself.”

Como vocês puderam perceber até agora com essa resenha, Uhtred acaba ficando em segundo plano em praticamente toda a narrativa, mesmo que a história seja narrada sob o seu ponto de vista. Isso acabou tirando um pouco a graça do livro, pois tudo que Uhtred faz é visando outra pessoa, outro ideal, e pouco é desenvolvido a partir das reais necessidades dele. Ah, aqueles juramentos feitos...

Enfim, somos também apresentados a vários novos inimigos nesse oitavo livro da série, alguns deles dinamarqueses, galeses e, a novidade da vez, irlandeses, todos sedentos por mais terras e sempre querendo aumentar os seus domínios. Uhtred e seus aliados acabam tendo que enfrentar alguns e até, digamos assim, torna-se "parente" de um deles. Leia e descubra por conta própria, earsling!!!

O Trono Vazio não mantém de perto o mesmo ritmo de O Guerreiro Pagão, livro anterior da série, pecando em apenas alguns detalhes. Faltaram batalhas mais épicas, mais reviravoltas, mais SANGUE!! Intrigas são vistas ao monte nesse livro, mas elas tomam grande parte do livro (mais de 60%) e tornam a leitura um pouquinho arrastada, não aproveitando o melhor que Cornwell nos dá, que são suas descrições de paredes de escudos e embates singulares. Mesmo assim é uma leitura obrigatória para os fãs da saga e deixa muitas arestas soltas para o futuro, além de explorar outros personagens, sendo esses os únicos motivos para eu não dar uma nota mais baixa para esse 8º livro.

Wyrd biõ ful ãræd: o destino é inexorável.
Profile Image for Andy.
415 reviews67 followers
April 8, 2015
I began this tale with trepidation & fears of it being another filler akin to The Pagan Lord......

And so it starts with a prologue to fill in the gaps from the previous tale & at first you question if Uhtred still lives, then all becomes clear. We have the usual politicking which takes us through the first third of the book & then onto the adventure part where we have to get from A to B before X does..... all sounds very formulaic to those of us that have been here before, especially so those that found Pagan Lord a book to far.... He kills a priest (well not quite him) & goes against the church........ however the addition of Stiorra & Uhtred Junior as well as Athelstan coming to an age, as well as old favourites Finan, Athelfraid & Osferth make it enjoyable enough & the dynamics have changed as Uhtred himself has reached that “age” where the once mighty warrior’s body begins to fail......  can empathise with that bit!

Its got no real surprises in it, some characters have died, others come to the fore, we have a new bad guy to kill, its all good & you know what you are getting. I miss King Alfred & Father Beocca myself who were great foils (and eventually dare I say it admirers) of Uhtred the pagan! We all grow old s’ppose is the message......

Onto the final part & no big battles so far, the politicking is much superior & like the way the Witan outcome was crafted. In the final part we’re on a “quest” to find the Sword Ice-Spite that featured in the Pagan Lord with Cnut who was a right one.... we visit Wales, comes across The Norse & the “Bad Mercian” & then we’re oft to Chester for the finale..... so its all there much akin to the first set of novels & I do really like it but at 299pgs I feel a little short-changed so for that its only a four stars
Profile Image for C.P. Lesley.
Author 17 books77 followers
December 20, 2014
I liked it—which is extraordinary when you consider that Bernard Cornwell's books are miles away from the kinds of books I normally read. I've read several of the Saxon Chronicles (The Last Kingdom, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord) before this one and liked all of them. There's just something about Uhtred, hard-bitten warlord that he is, that makes him an appealing character. His appreciation for strong women, perhaps, or his relentless honesty, including honesty about his own flaws. Or perhaps it's his quality of being the perpetual outsider: a pagan among Christians, a Saxon who fights for a united England even though he loves the Danish raiders who raised and, in their rough and ready way, nurtured him from boy to man. I'm not sure, but some combination of those characteristics certainly explains his attraction.

This book opens, rather disconcertingly, with an exact repetition of the opening sentences of The Last Kingdom—except that after two paragraphs it becomes clear that the character speaking the lines is not "our" Uhtred. I found this clever, both because it hints at a solution to the fundamental problem facing Cornwell as his saga progresses (Uhtred's advancing age) and because it introduces the possibility of a new narrator. At least four characters in this series bear the name Uhtred (it's a family tradition), and the possibility of a new narrator works for me as a writer, because it means that we as readers can't be so certain after all that our Uhtred will make it all the way to the end. More tension = more readers on the edge of their seats, which is a good place for a writer of historical sagas to keep them. And the new Uhtred has many of the same traits that have made the first so appealing.

But no fear, our Uhtred soon makes his appearance and regains his role as the voice of the story. He's not quite up to snuff, healthwise, due to events related in The Pagan Lord, and he uses his disability with his usual aplomb to fight his enemies, assist his friends, and protect those he loves. His daughter Stiorra also comes into her own. To say more would give away too many spoilers, but rest assured that by the end of the book Englaland is just a bit closer to its eventual formation. Cornwell is at the top of his game here, and the only downside for his readers is that we have to wait another twelve months to find out what happens next.

My thanks to HarperCollins, which sent me a free copy of this book for review. If anyone is interested, s/he can hear my interview with Bernard Cornwell for free at New Books in Historical Fiction. (The interview is the reason I received the review copy in the first place.)

Profile Image for Marta.
983 reviews98 followers
December 21, 2021
On second listen, this is probably my favorite for the clever trick Uhtred plays to give the throne of Mercia to Aethelflaed. I knew nothing about this warrior queen, who must have been a very formidable person to be accepted as ruler at the time, since women were so terribly repressed and mostly considered chattle to trade around. She not only ruled but lead successful wars against the Danes.

Original review

The Game of Thrones for real continues, and so do the battles, trickery and intrigue. Uhtred is gravely injured, and has to leave much of the heavy fighting and killing to his son and Finan, but still manages to maneauver Aethelflaed to the throne of Mercia. After this, instead of recuperating, he sets out on a quest to Wales to find the Grail Ice Spite,Cnut’s magical sword, believing the sword that wounded him will cure him. There he runs into the young warlord Sigtryggr (I had to look this name up, congratulations to narrator Matt Bates for pronouncing it). The sight of him gives Cornwell the excuse to relive Uhtred’s young, glory days, reveling in the young man’s battle joy… because, if one has read the series so far, one knows that battle joy must be present and described in detail.

Uhtred makes aquaintence with his daughter, Stiorra, of whom he knows next to nothing, and finds a formidable beauty and intellect like her mother, and a strong will and passion like his own. She is no more peace cow material than her mother was, no matter what Aethelflaed plans.

I waver between four and five stars for these books, and I will round this one up, because of the historic warrior queen, Aethelflaed, and Stiorra. Mr Cornwell is still going strong.
Profile Image for Michelle.
421 reviews15 followers
April 18, 2022
The events of the book take place around 911 AD and culminate in the Battle of Brunanburh.

This was a terrific book! But I expected it to be since Bernard Cornwell wrote it. Fabulous characters, excellent dialogue, great pacing, phenominal battle scenes, and just tremendously entertaining.

I did have a bit of difficulty with the abundance of Aethel- names in this one, though. I'm not kidding! In the story there was:


I can keep Aethelflaed and Aethelred straight, but the rest cause me to stop and try to remember which "Aethel-" is being described/discussed. If we add any more "Aethels-" to the mix in the next book I'm going to be in trouble for certain 😂

Uhtred's parenting skills, or rather the lack, really cracked me up in this one. He's not known for touchy-feels, though, unless he's hacking away at the enemy. It was neat to see him try to be a good parent, and I particularly loved his interaction with his daughter Stiorra. As a matter of fact, she's great character, and I hope she makes another appearance.

I will of course be continuing the series!

Profile Image for Brittany.
842 reviews111 followers
April 11, 2022
5 Stars ✨

“We live in a world where the strongest win, and the strongest must expect to be disliked. Then I am a pagan, and though Christians teach that they must love their enemies, few do.”

One of my favorites so far of the series! The prologue had me shook, and a little nervous at first 😅. 8 down 5 more to the finish.

It’s the dawn of a new Era- a new generation rises to the challenge in this installment. Really enjoyed seeing all the kids growing into their own and figuring out their place in this amazing world Corrnwell has created. Uthred is getting older and weaker that was my least favorite part but it’s going to be time to pass the sword ⚔️ soon! Can’t wait to see how everything unfolds with the rest of the series!
Profile Image for Amanda Hupe.
953 reviews54 followers
June 20, 2020
Eight down and 5 to go! The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell is the 8th book in the Saxon Stories series. England hasn’t been the same since Alfred’s death. Edward rules Wessex now, but King Aethelred of Mercia is now dying. Athelflaed does not want Mercia to be absorbed into Wessex. But who could rule? Even though Uhtred is not healing well from his injury, he is determined to see Athelflaed on the throne, but a woman ruling is unheard of. Uhtred can’t manage much as long as he has his injury so now he is in search of the sword that gave him the injury. Once again, everything hangs in the balance.

This book is an emotional ride. My emotions were all over the place! If you read book 7 (I highly suggest that you do) then you know that it ends on a massive cliffhanger! Bernard Cornwell must have been in a playful mood because he toys with us for a bit. YOU WILL WANT ANSWERS.

Despite the suspense, this is one of my favorites out of the series so far. We have Uhtred being a badass at supporting women. And don’t forget about Athelflaed. She is FIERCE! The historical detail that revolves around her character is perfection.

Here is the thing, we all know Uhtred is flawed. Yes, he is an amazing warrior, but he has a temper. He supports women, but also a terrible father. And when I say terrible, I mean, he is the worst to his sons. He respects his daughter more than his sons though.

This edition is narrated by Matt Bates and I approve. I love Johnathon Keeble but Matt Bates does a stellar job. He really gets Uhtred. This audiobook gets 5 out of 5 stars!
Profile Image for Beorn.
300 reviews54 followers
November 2, 2014
It always pains me a little to write disparagingly about a book by one of the authors who have most mesmerised me with other novels but hopefully as you read this review you'll empathise with why.

Have you ever got the feeling that an author should have quit while he was ahead with a series and ended it at a certain point? In other words, better to leave the audience hungry for more than to keep going and sink, only slightly but noticeably, lower than the previous quality.

Don't get me wrong, at this stage in his career, even in his most average Cornwell is still a level above most historical fiction authors. The only problem I have with this book seems to stem from the fact that the first wave of books, and Death Of Kings in particular, blew me away, only for the following instalments - this and it's predecessor The Pagan Lord - have been somewhat underwhelming.

There is still the reliable characterisation, rich detail and expert battle scenes (though in this book they're relatively rare), it just feels a little hollow after having been moved by similar action in the earlier books.

Also, on a purely self-centred note, there is some significant glaring errors for the geography. As a native of Chester, and proud local history enthusiast, it felt a little lacklustre that the author - or at least whoever compiled the map in the front of the book - hadn't even bothered to do the most basic research on Chester.
The map at the front of the book bizarrely places Chester ten miles east of the River Dee, even though the fact that the river flows right outside the walls is specifically mentioned in the story, and the Dee has been flowing through Chester for over two thousand years. There's a slight error in the suggestion that the Danish protagonist introduced midway through the book would come to the south gate of the fortress, when in fact, in doing so, he would sail straight past a gate much closer, more accessible to the river and considerably easier access to the walls; a gate which the Romans built leading to their harbour and which is even now known as the Watergate.

An adequate instalment to the series but one that's distinctly middling along in comparison to the impact that the series initially had on me. Distinctly average.
Profile Image for The Shayne-Train.
362 reviews85 followers
January 20, 2015
You know, it's a severely bittersweet feeling, for me, to finish a story about the incomparable Uhtred Uhtredson. I love this series so much, when I complete the newest novel, it feels like I'm sending my child off to her first day of school all over again.

So why, a sane person may ask, do you read the damn books so quickly when they come out, Shayne old boy? Well, I happen to have an answer to that:


Not a single one has bored me. Despite what I see in the reviews of a few of the installations in this series, no book has never felt like filler. Every single one has its place in the sometimes grand, sometimes disheveled, and sometime blood-spattered tapestry that is the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

This is historical fiction at its absolute finest. Highly recommended to anyone with eyes and literacy.

Will I read the next one? You're damn right I will. And why? Wyrd bi∂ ful ārǣd.

Fate is inexorable.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
347 reviews922 followers
May 4, 2019
Actual Rating: 2.5 Stars

Definitely my least favorite of the series thus far. Was hoping for a bit more since this book focuses on Æthelflæd but alas, it took quite a while for anything interesting to occur & when it finally did it was very dull compared to the action sequences present in prior books.
Profile Image for Rob.
845 reviews532 followers
February 12, 2017
Executive Summary: This might be my favorite book in the series so far. Or it could just be that after what was probably the weakest book, this one was just another solid entry. It's hard to say, as I'm now about a year removed from reading the first few books. Either way, this series continues to be a lot of fun.

Full Review
Uhtred is getting older, and perhaps a bit wiser, but he's still the same old Uthred. After the end of the previous book, I wasn't sure what to expect here. There is definitely a different tone. I think it's helped to rebuild my interest in a series I felt was starting to get a bit formulaic.

The addition of his kids as primary characters add a new element that I quite enjoyed. I particularly liked his daughter. She's far smarter than her father, but no less brave. I can see the series moving to be more about his kids than about him, but I hope I'm wrong about that. That said, I'd likely be interested to read a sequel series that focuses on them.

Overall there is nothing mind blowing here, and the overarching plot is once again taking a backseat to another story where Uthred must save the day with his battle cunning. Yet somehow this one felt fresh.

There were a few times when I laughed incredibly hard, something I don't remember doing as much with the past entries. That might be the magic right there. These books are fun. I'm looking forward to reading the next one, but I'm getting awfully close to being caught up, and I hope he's gotten much closer to wrapping up Uthred's story by then.
Profile Image for happy.
303 reviews91 followers
March 3, 2015
I found this latest entry to Mr. Cornwell’s Saxon Shores series somewhere in the middle of the series in quality. It is formulaic - Uthred hates the Christian Church, has good battle sequences, and Uthred is responsible for saving the Saxons/Mericians from themselves and the Danes.

Let me start with what I liked. The prologue, it is written is his son’s voice and I thought was well done. When I read it, my reaction was that the story was about to change main characters – it doesn’t. In the novel itself, Uthred once again becomes the focus of the story. Another plot point I liked was the Uthred’s politicking to get his love, Athelfaed, appointed ruler of Mercia after her husband dies. In addtion, I don't think anyone else writing historical fiction writes a battle sequence as well as Mr. Cornwell. He can really bring the reader into the Shield Wall.

What I didn’t like – the constant reminding the Uthred was not healing from the wounds he received in the previous novel. I felt is a bit overdone. It seemed it was brought up every other page! As mentioned above, the reversion to Uthred Sr as the main character after the prologue was to me a little disappointing. Finally I thought this novel was a little short. All this sounds almost nit picking and it probably is, but it did bring down the overall rating for me

All that said even mediocre, to me, Cornwell is better than almost anything else out there – 4 stars
Profile Image for Erica.
30 reviews55 followers
February 13, 2015
This book is going to be a hard act to follow. I'm already having a hard time finding another one to read. My words aren't as eloquent as most, but I loved this book! Yes, I loved it. I sleep with it at night and I kiss it before I go to sleep. I think the description does a fine job of telling you what the book's about, but I will say that Uhtred's son and daughter are in the book a lot and so is Aethelflaed. The end left me saying "What the.....", then "No way!"

Do I have to wait another year for the next one??
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,136 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.