Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg and his adopted brother Ragnar take revenge on their father's murderer, Kjartan, and his son, Sven. The year is 878 A.D. and Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg tires of fighting for a king he dislikes. Unhappy with his meager reward after saving Alfred's kingdom at the Battle of Ethandun, Uhtred leaves his family in Wessex and journeys north to Northumbria to retake his home castle of Bebbanburg from his usurping uncle Aelfric.
Uhtred and his ex-nun lover Hild arrive at the town of Ethandun to find a land in disarray. Kjartan the Cruel, who years ago slaughtered Uhtred's adopted Danish family, now rules over much of Northumbria from his stronghold at Dunholm. Even worse, a second Danish army led by Ivarr son of Ivar the Boneless is grouping along the northern border with Scotland.
With enemies on all sides, Uhtred cuts a path for Bebbanburg but is ultimately apprehended by a Viking band led by his childhood enemy Sven. Uhtred escapes from Sven's men by pretending to be a legendary Danish leper. He slaughters Sven's men and frees the other captives, though Sven himself escapes back to Dunholm to warn his father, Kjartan, that Uhtred of Bebbanburg lives.
One of the captives freed by Uhtred is a man named Guthred, a rare Christian Dane who calls himself King of Northumbria. Though Guthred has no army, Uhtred takes a liking to the man and supports his bid for kingship in the northern kingdom against all the other invading forces. Uhtred helps Guthred rally the other Christians in Northumbria to defend themselves against the heathen Kjartan. With his leadership, they repel an assault from Dunholm on Eoferwic and Uhtred begins falling in love with Guthred's sister, Gisela.
With Kjartan safely licking his wounds in Dunholm, Guthred forms a secret pact with Aelfric of Bebbanburg and Ivarr Ivarsson. That pact requires him to doublecross Uhtred, whom both Ivarr and Aelfric hate. Guthred sells Uhtred into slavery.
Uhtred spends two hard years as a slave of a Danish pirate. During his slavery he meets an Irishmen named Finan who becomes his fast friend. When Hild learns of Uhtred's fate she returns to Wessex and pleads with Alfred to save him. Alfred obliges, sending his champion Steapa with a ship of Wessex armed men to free Uhtred from bondage.
Once again in King Alfred's debt, Uhtred agrees to join Steapa as an envoy to King Guthred of Northumbria. Despite his betrayal of Uhtred, the two men set aside their differences to focus on the growing heathen threats from Ivarr and Kjartan the Cruel.
Uhtred makes an alliance with his adopted brother Ragnar Ragnarsson and joins with Ragnar's men in a surprise, nigh time assault on Kjartan's keep in Dunholm. They discover that not only has Kjartan been torturing men with his vicious dogs, but that he has kept Ragnar's sister Thyra for over ten years. At first, Thyra was raped and tortured by Kjartan, Sven and his men, but now many fear that she is a sorceress because she can control Kjartan's killer dogs.
During the battle, those same dogs are set loose on Uhtred and Ragnar, but Thyra appears and turns them against Kjartan's men. Uhtred kills Kjartan and Sven and gives the stronghold of Dunholm to Ragnar. Thyra is rescued and wedded to a Christian priest and close adviser to Alfred, Father Beocca.
Best part of story, including ending:
Lords of the North is action packed. It's a fun chance to leave the relatively serene Wessex and return to the wild northern kingdom of Northumbria.
Best scene in story:
Thyra appears at the height of the Battle of Dunholm and calls Kjartan's wild dogs to heel. She prevents Uhtred and Ragnar from being torn limb from limb and turns the wild beasts against their owners.
Opinion about the main character:
Uhtred is a fascinating malcontent in this book. He feels mistreated by Alfred and so he leaves for Northumbria. You begin to realize that Uhtred's overriding ambition in life is to retake Bebbanburg from his usurping uncle Aelfric.