The Last Kingdom (Saxon Chronicles, Bk 1)
The Last Kingdom - Saxon Chronicles, Bk 1 Author:Bernard Cornwell From Bernard Cornwell, the New York Times bestselling author whom the Washington Post calls "perhaps the greatest writer of historical adventure novels today," comes a saga of blood, rage, fidelity, and betrayal that brings to center stage King Alfred the Great, one of the most crucial (but oft-forgotten) figures in E... more »nglish history. It is King Alfred and his heirs who, in the ninth and tenth centuries, with their backs against the wall, fought to secure the survival of the last outpost of Anglo-Saxon culture by battling the ferocious Vikings, whose invading warriors had already captured and occupied three of England's four kingdoms.
Bernard Cornwell's epic novel opens in A.D. 866. Uhtred, a boy of ten and the son of a nobleman, is captured in the same battle that leaves his father dead. His captor is the Earl Ragnar, a Danish chieftain, who raises the boy as his own, teaching him the Viking ways of war. As a young man expected to take part in raids and bloody massacres against the English, he grapples with divided loyalties -- between Ragnar, the warrior he loves like a father, and Alfred, whose piety and introspection leave him cold. It takes a terrible slaughter and the unexpected joys of marriage for Uhtred to discover his true allegiance -- and to rise to his greatest challenge.
In Uhtred, Cornwell has created perhaps his richest and most complex protagonist, and through him, he has magnificently evoked an era steeped in dramatic pageantry and historical significance. For if King Alfred fails to defend his last kingdom, England will be overrun, and the entire course of history will change.« less
Need to confess this is the first Bernard Cornwell book I've read and this is not an era I know anything about. Felt the story was interesting enough to not get upset about the graphic details of warfare. Although the main character Uhtred is fictional, many characters, situations, and locations are factual.
Uhtred is the sole narrator in the book and his perspective about the events is very dominate in this story. He switches between narrating as an elder about the past or his present life and as a young boy and man while he was raised by Danes after he was captured.
His younger, often immature or childish perspective dominates the book and you might question whether this story has the potential to be a cross-over book for a mature young adult.
Enjoyed this book enough that I'm moving on to the second book in the Saxon Chronicle series, The Pale Horseman.
My Rating: B+
The story of Uthred amazes me. The first night I opened the book, it took me in completely.
The many twists and turns kept me guess all the way to the end, and the historical facts were put in a way that made them interesting, not at all like I was being force fed history. To tell this story correctly, the author needed to do a lot of land description, but did it in a way that you didn't even really notice, it was just part of the story as it should be.
At time, it felt as if the characters were a little flat, and like the main character was very distant from the events affecting his life. Though the farther I got into the book, the more I realized why he was so distant.
All in all this was an excellent read, I can't wait to read the next two!
This is only the second book I've read by this prolific historical fiction
author. The first, The Winter King, impressed me with its grittily
believable portrayal of a possible King Arthur.
The Last Kingdom gives us another Very Manly Man in the person of Uhtred,
a 9th-century English heir who is captured by Danish Viking invaders and
raised as one of their own. Conflicted between his own heritage and the
culture of the Danes, whose warlike, hearty religion and lifestyle appeals
to him, he grows to become a bold and violent leader of men. But he never
loses sight of his goal, which is to reclaim the fortress that was to be
his inheritance, no matter who might stand in his way.
Uhtred is not a very likable person, but he is believable for his time
period and background, and the English and Danish cultures and attitudes
of the time are vividly and believably rendered. Highly recommended for
any fans of Vikings!
Uhtred's saga already continues in three more novels (boy, Cornwell writes
fast - the first one just came out in 2004!)
This book was my first experience with Bernard Cornwell, and I can assure you that it won't be my last. He has a true talent for writing engaging and compelling historical fiction on a level that is nearly impossible to match.
This is the first book in a series that follows the life of Uhtred, the heir to Bebbanburg, a fortified earldom in the land of Northumbria. The time is set in the late 800s. The brutal Danes have begun to invade the land of Britain and have taken one kingdom after another until only one remains: Wessex. And its ruler is a man who will become known to history as King Alfred the Great.
This is an amazingly well written book. Cornwell does a masterful job of creating a main character that is as likable as he is flawed. Uhtred is a Britain by birth who becomes a Dane by adoption, and to watch him struggle with his own sense of identity, national loyalty, and purpose is truly an adventure to read.
The battle scenes are expertly drawn with a stunning sense of reality. There is no shortage of blood, gore, death, and dismemberment, nor is there a lack of the raping, pillaging, and overarching brutality that was war in these dark and difficult times. Cornwell also does not shy away from the power and corruption of the Medieval Church and the role it played in the political environment of the day.
This is a book about the fate of Britain hanging by a thread, and Cornwell puts that thread directly in the hands of a very conflicted Uhtred of Bebbanburg. This series is amazing, but it is also incredibly violent. For anyone who is squeamish about reading such things, I suggest that you pass this series by. But for everyone else who wants an expertly crafted tale with the perfect balance of fact and fiction, stop wasting time on my review and go read this book!
I discovered this book thanks to my book loving friend Emma and now I cant wait to continue reading the rest of the Saxon Series by Bernard Cornwell. Historical novels about England have always enchanted me but this one goes back further than I usually go -- way back to the 9th century during the time the Danes were on the rampage and King Alfred (later to be dubbed the Great) was struggling to hang on to Wessex the only kingdom that hadnt been defeated by the invaders. The story is told through the eyes of Uhtred an English boy born to be a lord but orphaned and captured at the age of 10 by the Danish warrior Ragnar who raises him like his own son. As Uhtred grows into manhood, he is quickly assimilated into the wild and war-loving pagan world of his surrogate father whom he grows to love and emulate. But at heart he is still English and much of the books conflict centers around Uhtreds uncertainties when it comes to deciding where his loyalties lie. Naturally, a book whose central characters are 9th century Danish warriors is going to be full of blood and gore. The battle scenes are extremely graphic and so are the descriptions of what happened when the Vikings raided villages and settlements. Cornwell is a great story teller and as far as I can tell he researches his subject matter quite thoroughly. It was interesting to learn for instance that the term "viking" referred to the Danes only when they were raiding and not when they were engaged in battle. And I was fascinated by the descriptions of the Danish ships that struck terror into the hearts of the English, and the kind of battle strategies that were used at the time. It reminded me of an old Irish poem said to be written by a monk: "Bitter is the wind tonight/It ruffles the deep seas grizzled locks/I do not fear a crossing of the clear waves/By a band of greedy warriors from the North" Those greedy warriors from the North are front and center in this book that had me hooked from the first chapter. I couldn't wait to get back to it each time I had to put it down, and now I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in the series.
What a swash-buckling book this is! I was hooked from the start and couldn't wait to read what would happen next. If you like the TV show "Vikings" you will love this book. Our hero is taken at only 10 years old and grows up loving his adopted Viking life yet cannot let go of his original English heritage. His inner struggles, joys, growth and basically learning to "go with the flow" attitude allow him the life all young men dream of - overcoming all obstacles and loving the rough world around him. Weaving history with a lovable protagonist and action packed story, this is simply great writing!