Rich’s of the Past: The Lords of the North Audiobook 

A new-to-me Richard Armitage character has just joined the ranks of my all-time favourites. And this character is not seen, but only heard! In the words of his boast asserting his warrior status, he is:

Uhtred of Bebbanburg…
The man who killed Ubba Lothbrokson by the sea…
The man who spilled Svein of the White Horse from his saddle at Ethandun

The Lords of the NorthThe Lords of the North is the third book in the Saxon Stories series of historical novels by Bernard Cornwell. It follows the story of noble warrior, Lord Uhtred Ragnarson, through three years of his saga beginning when he is 21 years old in the year 878. A Saxon who was raised by Danes, he has been a key force in helping King Alfred overpower the Danes and regain his kingdom in Wessex. Feeling underappreciated, Uhtred travels with his lover, Hild, to the North to try to avenge his adopted father’s death and reclaim his own lands at Bebbanburg. But as he himself repeats many times, fate is inexorable, and the three spinners laugh at our attempts to mold it to our wishes.

Sceadugengan

Cover art from The Lords of the North audiobook

The story is exciting and well-written, with descriptions that easily transport the listener to the black night on the rock face or the terrible storms on the sea. There are memorable characters and stories of love, betrayal, honour, fighting, and death. There is a lot of violence, as you might expect, and while some of it is shocking, the lack of visuals make it a bit less graphic for the listener.

The audiobook was released in 2007 and is an early example of a Richard Armitage narrative, but it is an exceptional performance. Over the 12 hours, he brings Uhtred to life in all of his wonderful strength, ruthlessness, and arrogance, which hide an honourable and even kind man. Uhtred is cynical and sees things with an offbeat sense of humour, with observations delivered in just the right tone by Armitage. When the Abbot Eadred mistakes the face of someone apparently shown to him by Saint Cuthbert in a dream, Uhtred observes that “either Cuthbert had shown him the wrong face or … Eadred was a lying bastard — or, perhaps, Saint Cuthbert was a lying bastard!”

Audiobook Recording

RichardArmitageNet.com (RA while recording a different audiobook, “Hamlet”)

There are 30 or so additional characters that are voiced by Armitage with unique accents and delivery that leave the listener with no problem in identifying the character who is speaking. My favourite is perhaps the single-minded and destructive Father Hrothweard, who shouts his continual fury at all within earshot.

I should mention that this audiobook is unavailable as a new product, as the company that was selling it no longer exists. Happily, Snowyjo pointed me to eBay Australia, where an apparently used MP3 CD was being sold. The quality is excellent and the seller apparently has more. I also noticed this weekend that the complete 12 hours have been uploaded to a site called archive.org. Just mentioning these, but I make no promises as to copyright issues.

While listening, I was so wrapped up in the story, read to me so convincingly by Richard Armitage as I drove in my car, that I was quite surprised when the end came! I was left wanting more! I listened to it a second time, which I enjoyed a lot. In fact I had an easier time because by now the unfamiliar names of people and places had become familiar.

But now what? I really love this character and want to know what happens to him. Given that Richard Armitage only recorded the third book in the series and there are now ten books (with another currently being written), I wonder what the best way is to continue with Uhtred’s story?

For any of you who have explored beyond the Richard Armitage audiobook, what have you explored and what do you recommend?

  • Bernard Cornwell’s Books – If I were to read them, I would probably now hear the voice of Armitage in my head, which would be good. Have you read them? Are they all just as good? Should I start with number one? Or pick up the story at number four?
  • The Last Kingdom poster

    IMDb

    The Last Kingdom TV Series – This is a BBC/Netflix production and from what I understand is filmed in Hungary. There are two seasons so far, covering the first four books, with speculation that the show will be renewed for a third seasonAlexander Dreymon certainly looks the part of Uhtred, but I haven’t watched it or read any reviews. Looking at the episode descriptions, it may deviate a fair bit from the books, so I’m not sure about this. Have you watched it?

  • Jamie Glover Audiobooks – Looks like these are abridged and he read only the first four. I tried a sample and am not sure I can get into his voice after Armitage’s.
  • Jonathan Keeble Audiobooks – These are unabridged, but again there are only the first four. I tried a sample, and since he sounds like a much older man, it might be that I could be convinced that this is Uhtred at 80 telling his story. But what about the rest of the books? Looks like Stephen Perring took over for books 5 and 6 (with some less than stellar reviews) and then it has been Matt Bates for the last four.

I’m leaning towards reading the books. Let me know if you have any recommendations or if you have tried some of these options for continuing with Uhtred’s stories. And if you haven’t listened to Richard Armitage read The Lords of the North, I highly recommend it.

20 thoughts on “Rich’s of the Past: The Lords of the North Audiobook 

  1. Thanks to you, I went on ebay (US) and found a brand new (never opened) copy of The Lords of The North, read by Richard; it was the last one available! It’s a huge splurge on my part (as the conversion from British pound to US$ makes it expensive) but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. After so many years of waiting, I’m excited to have found it!

    As for the rest of the novels, I’d rather read them than hear another voice that’s not Richard’s, if you know what I mean.

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  2. I saw the first season of ‘The last kingdom’ and really liked it, even if I only knew RA’s audiobook before watching and pictured Uthred really differently. But Alexander Drymon did a great job and I hope I’ll find time to watch season two soon!

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  3. I read the first book in this series and it was excellent. They’re also extremely historically accurate. I just have never followed up, for whatever reason. But it’s true — you do hear Armitage’s voice in your head. For me this is doubly weird because I am not someone who hears books as narrations when I read.

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    • Well that’s interesting. I guess I never really thought about it before, but I guess I don’t really hear narration either. I certainly visualize the characters and maybe with these I’ll hear Armitage’s voice. I think I’ll see if they have the books at the library.

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  4. I read the books (at least 1 – 4 and half of book 5) and remember that I finished each within two or three days and going straight back to the library to get the next. Unfortunately they only had 1 -4 and I had to buy 5 and after that my interest shifted. Thanks to your post I think about a re-read and continue with the rest. Long comment short: I can recommend the books!

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    • Welcome, Luscinnia. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve been looking for something to hold my interest and this might be it, especially if they compelled you to read them within a few days each.

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  5. Great review of the audiobook. To this day, this is the *one* Armitage audiobook that I unreservedly love and which I had no trouble listening to – as in: my mind never once wandered; I was completely absorbed by the story and the amazing narration. I really, really wish that RA would complete the book series and record the other books in the series, too. But well – that’s not gonna happen…
    As for your question: I actually read the book *after* I had listened to the audiobook, and I absolutely loved it. Great historical novel. Cornwell is definitely on my radar – even though I have not snapped up any other of the books in the series. – The TV show is actually really good, too. I watched the whole series a few months ago, and again I was completely absorbed into the story. Sure, I would’ve preferred different ‘visuals’, but RA is half a semester too old for Uhtred at this stage, so I made my peace with Dreymon 😉 – I don’t think I am flexible enough to listen to other narrators performing the other books in the series now. But I feel tempted to follow your example and re-listen to Lords of the North again.

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    • Thanks. Yeah, wouldn’t it be great if someone contracted him to record the rest of them? Ah well. I really only started listening to audiobooks because of RA, so I probably won’t try the others. Good to know the TV series is absorbing … I don’t mind the look of that Uhtred, actually.

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  6. I LOVE LOTN and can’t imagine appreciating any other narrator besides RA, so I went and read the preceding books after listening to LOTN. I haven’t read the later books, but the first several were all really good and I heard Richard’s voice as Uhtred in my mind. As for the TV series… I adore it. I’ve watched both seasons twice and am anxiously waiting to hear if there will be a 3rd series. I’ve recommended the series to quite a few friends and family and everyone has really enjoyed it. Very violent. Alexander Dreymon does a really good job with the role of Uhtred, and it’s really a pleasure to see him mature from a youth into a full blown warrior over the course of the 2 seasons (which cover the 1st 4 books, I believe). And he’s very easy on the eyes, especially in S.2. Very. LOL

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    • I was glad to finally get a chance to get LOTN and hear what everyone was raving about! Glad to hear that the TV series is good even in the second season. I’m not surprised that it’s violent, given the source material. And yes, I would agree that Dreymon is easy on the eyes!

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  7. My CD’s of LOTN are one thing I will never part with – even as a loan to anyone. Too precious to me! I may be wrong but I believe Mezz has read them all IIRC. I’m afraid I have only listened to LOTN and haven’t read any of the books.

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    • I’m so glad I have a copy now! I had almost given up on finding one. I’m thinking that my older son (the one you met) might enjoy it, so I may actually lend mine out!

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  8. Pingback: The Mystery Blogger Award – Thanks! | I'm Feeling This

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