The Last Kindgom (The Last Kingdom #1)
By Bernard Cornwell
Blurb from Goodreads:
This is the exciting—yet little known—story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.
The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands) Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides. By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the enchanting fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.
This thrilling adventure—based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors—depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England.
The story begins in England during the 9th century with young Uhtred of Bebbanburg. He’s born a Christian Saxon, but from a young age is raised by pagan Danes. This dispossessed Ealdorman grows into a fierce warrior and eventually is torn between two identities. His main goal is to regain his father’s homeland, but there are many steps to be taken on his journey.
“The law says I own that land, and the law, we are told, is what makes us men under God instead of beasts in the ditch. But the law does not help me take back my land. The law wants compromise. The law thinks money will compensate for loss. The law, above all, fears the blood feud. But I am Uhtred, son of Uhtred, and this is the tale of a blood feud. It is a tale of how I will take from my enemy what the law says is mine. And it is the tale of a woman and of her father, a king.”
Reluctantly, I agreed to start watching the Netflix series with my husband before getting to the books, but then stopped after season one to catch up. It’s wonderful that, for the most part, the series is following the book so far with only minimal changes as far as events and characters. There were a few changes that I actually liked more about the series, and then a few things that I liked better about the book.
The writing, story, characters—I pretty much loved everything about this book. It’s fantastic, thrilling, and full of action and adventure. Historical fiction isn’t one of my most favorite genres, but this book was awesome and changed everything. The history during this period of time and location is something I haven’t learned that much about, and now I’m inspired to learn more about King Alfred and others in the story.
To be honest, I love a good revenge story, and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be plenty of it in this series. Seeing Uhtred get his revenge is something to look forward to. He’s a favorite character that you simply can’t get enough of, and it’s perfect that he narrates this entire book. There were other likable characters too, and of course some you just can’t help but hate.
Something really stuck in my mind when reading though: how much of this was actually true? The author included a much appreciated historical note at the end which answered the majority of my questions. It was interesting learning in the end which characters and events were real.
Moving forward now to The Pale Horseman after a short break.
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Harper; F First Edition edition (January 25, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060530510
- ISBN-13: 978-0060530518
Thanks for reading my review. Have you read this series or other books by Bernard Cornwell? Feel free to leave thoughts or suggestions below.