King Alfred is on his death bed at the opening of the sixth part and though we expected the king to die in the previous part but he survived giving Uhtred a reason to fight for England. Bernard Cornwell keeps the king alive for the sixth part even to tell us more about the dream that he carries for the unification of England.
The dream seems to be weakening along with the health of the king and now he thinks that it is time to make someone else realize the importance of his dream. His son of course not a worthy warrior or successor and daughter cannot fight for the cause at all. His son does not appear to have the potential to remain on the throne for a long time and the Vikings coming from the north are not in a good mood at all. Uhtred from the previous part The Burning Land seems to be torn by doubts and issues of his own does not want to take an oath for the crown prince any more.
He took an oath for King Alfred and now he is dying which means after his death Uhtred would be a free man who could select his own course. His own course however support the Vikings purpose and thus he can destroy what he has been protecting for a very long time.
Never have we seen a man with such a confused state of mind, his visions are not clear at all he dreams big and then the oath stands in the way and now with the oath gone perhaps we would see a clear picture of this war lord. Stephen Perring loses grip on narration in war scenes but the rest is dealt with extreme caution and accuracy.