Uhtred begins his voyage north to avenge Earl Ragnar’s death and recapture his ancestral lands of Bebbanburg. While Alfred seeks to extend his influence beyond Wessex, Uhtred becomes embroiled in a rescue mission and is confronted by an enemy of old.
Uhtred’s enemies are closing in; while training the Cumbraland army he is forced to contend with an unexpected foe. Meanwhile, rumours circle as the attraction between Uhtred and Gisela intensifies and a plot against Uhtred leads to a grave betrayal.
Uhtred’s incarceration brings him to his lowest ebb, but Aelfric will not rest until he is dead. Guthred’s act of betrayal proves to be futile when he loses his grip on the north and is forced to consider the value of Gisela’s hand in marriage.
Uhtred is sworn to Alfred, but has plans to follow his own path. A confrontation with the Northmen brings a shocking turn of events, and Uhtred meets Guthred for the first time since his slavery. The day of reckoning arrives for Ragnar and Kjartan.
News of a prophecy raises questions of fate and duty for Uhtred, while Gisela is wary. Alfred has reason for concern as Danes and Northmen grow in strength and numbers, and Beocca confides in Uhtred on a matter of the heart.
The day of the royal wedding has arrived, but personal and political tensions threaten to overshadow proceedings. As the enemies of Wessex gain power, relations between Uhtred and Alfred reach breaking point and a military mission ends in panic.
Winchester is thrown into turmoil as Aethelflaed’s fate hangs in the balance, while at Beamfleot Erik and Sigefrid celebrate their triumph over the Saxons. The future of Wessex rests on Uhtred’s shoulders when he is faced with an impossible decision.
When King Alfred is told the great sum of Aethelflaed’s ransom - and the horror that will likely befall his daughter if Wessex does not pay – he feels there can be only one way forward. Suspicions at Beamfleot threaten to unravel the lovers’ escape plan, and Uhtred must think on his feet if he is to secure Aethelflaed’s freedom and save Wessex. In a devastating showdown at Beamfleot, there is passion, heartbreak and treachery – if Uhtred survives, will he be free to finally recapture his ancestral lands?