Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell HarperCollins, HK$112 Sean Bean was the ideal choice to play Bernard Cornwell's most famous creation, the British soldier Richard Sharpe. Bean almost has 'I am a no-nonsense testosterone machine' tattooed across his hairy knuckles. When he turned up in The Lord of the Rings, I half expected him to refuse the mission saying: 'All this fuss over a hairy midget and a girly ring?' Part four of Cornwell's Saxon Series, Sword Song is possibly the author's most masculine story to date. It may also be his most hairy. Set in a divided Britain during the ninth century, this is a time when men are real men - and so are most of the women. Our hero is Uhtred Ragnarson. When a man's name sounds like a grunt you know he is a tough nut and Uhtred (part Viking, part Northumbrian Hell's Angel) is one hard pistachio. Here he comes over all Macbeth. Told by a dead seer he is to be king of Mercia, Uhtred is torn between ambition and his oath to King Alfred, who has the thankless task of uniting England. There are battles, plots, violence and lots of violent battles. And I mean lots. This is a world, let it not be forgotten, where this sentence exists: 'A poet should have written the tale of that fight. That is what poets are for.' Sword Song is enjoyable, macho stuff.