The Last Kingdom

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Sublime writing from a true master of historical fiction!

Born a Saxon, raised a Dane – Uhtred, son of Uhtred, is many things to many people.

Usurped lord; pagan; warrior; husband; political spy – but who does Uhtred want to be?

To the viking raiders he is a brother and to his people, hope.

To Alfred he is political pawn and the church, a damned blasphemer.

But to England, he might just be an unlikely saviour.

The Last Kingdom is the first novel in a series of ten written by world renowned historical fiction author, Bernard Cornwell OBE.

Cornwell covers a multitude of time periods across his many publications – from his Arthurian Warlord Chronicles to the Plantagenet The Grail Quest novels to his Starbuck Chronicles set against the American Civil War.

But he is perhaps best known for his first series set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars.

Cornwell published his first Sharpe novel in 1981 and, including short stories and non-fiction, there are 24 in total. These were the basis of the 90s ITV television adaption famously starring Sean Bean.

The latest instalment of his Last Kingdom SeriesThe Flame Bearer, was released in hardcover last month and awaits paperback release in April 2017. The series is known as The Saxon Chronicles in the US.

The BBC aired an eight part adaption of the first two books in October 2015 – also titled The Last Kingdom.

The production proved successful, achieving 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a ten part second series is scheduled to be co-produced with Netflix for 2017.

The plot follows the life of fictional Saxon Uhtred of Bebbanburg throughout his quest to reclaim his homeland.

The Last Kingdom is written in first person narrative from Uhtred’s perspective and chronicles his pagan childhood and journey into manhood.

I must say, I really find it hard to pick a fault with this novel – the characters, story and writing were all so spot on!

I felt that the battle scenes were depicted particularly well and I appreciated the exquisite detail Cornwell provided throughout.

Uhtred is an easily likeable character and his narrative voice was very entertaining and a real asset to the storytelling.

This could so easily have been a novel that unfairly  vilifies one side or the other and, to Cornwell’s credit, I didn’t feel that was something that applied here.

Instead the reader is presented with complexity in the characters. No one character is exclusively good or evil and either side witnesses it fair share of flaws.

Another neat little feature I loved, was his use of the old Saxon and Viking place names – all of which are translated into their modern equivalents at the front of the book.

Whether you are new to Cornwell’s writing or a longstanding fan of his – if you haven’t checked out The Last Kingdom Series yet, I thoroughly suggest you do so.  It’s such an easy book to read and love.

First published by Harper Collins in 2004, The Last Kingdom retails at £7.99. Published in 2006 in the US, also by Harper Collins, the novel retails at $15.99.

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