Wolf began her trilogy on Dark Age England with/he Road to Avalon (1988), an idiosyncratic retelling of the Arthurian legend, and here puts an appropriate coda on the saga with the story of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex in the late 800's. As Wolf explains, ""Alfred holds in real history the place which romance gives to Arthur."" Alfred is the youngest son of King Ethelwulf (there are more Ethel-somethings in this story than Merlin could have shaken his magic staff at), summoned to leadership in the West Saxon realm while still just a lad. But Alfred will turn out to be a lad with mettle, the only English king to make a stand against the Danes, fiercely martial heathens who do all sorts of bloodcurdling things to their victims. Besides the Danes, Alfred's big problems are migraine headaches (at least, as Wolf imagines them) and a fiesty young wife, Elswyth, whom he'll have to wait to bed. Meanwhile, he meets the Danes (under Ivar the Boneless) head on at Ashdown, avoids capture at Chippenham, sniffs out a spy posing as a harpist, and rouses his dispirited countrymen to fight the Norsemen yet again on the Wiltshire downs, scoring a victory that will force the enemy to sue for peace. Though Wolf tries to bring a measure of human interest to the tale in creating Alfred's loving relationships with his wife, this series finale--like its precursors--is chiefly a chain of battles, interspersed with details about Alfred's character, which some will find too speculative to swallow.