Book Review: The Last Kingdom

“Pride makes a man, it drives him, it is the shield wall around his reputation… Men die, they said, but reputation does not die.” 
― Bernard Cornwell, The Last Kingdom

The Last Kingdomebook: The Last Kingdom
Series: The Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories (Book #1)
Pages: 368 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
Date: March 17th 2009
ISBN: 9780061760884
Edition Language: English

The official synopsis according to Goodreads states:

In the middle years of the ninth-century, the fierce Danes stormed onto British soil, hungry for spoils and conquest. Kingdom after kingdom fell to the ruthless invaders until but one realm remained. And suddenly the fate of all England—and the course of history—depended upon one man, one king.From New York Times bestselling storyteller Bernard Cornwell comes a rousing epic adventure of courage, treachery, duty, devotion, majesty, love, and battle as seen through the eyes of a young warrior who straddled two worlds.

The Good…:

If you are a fan of History’s The Vikings, then Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom is the book for you! This story takes place after Ragnar Lothbrok has died, and his sons have grown into great warriors in their own right. Seeking revenge for their father’s murder, Ubba and Ivor bring their warriors back to the English shores to raid the land and stake their claim. Uhtred, a young English boy narrates this saga as an old man reflecting on his life. He takes readers from his beginnings as a second son, to a Danish captive, and the warrior he becomes in their care. Like the Danes, Uhtred seeks to gain what was taken from him, get revenge on those who’ve wronged him, and become a great man told about in poems and song.

What I liked most about this book are the characters, the battle scenes, and the political intrigue. Uhtred’s passionate retelling is the perfect accompaniment to the fierce battle scenes. Through him readers view the Danes as great warriors, instead of the merciless savages many early historical texts have painted them. His foster-father Ragnar (fictional character, not the popular historical figure) is a fun-loving man who treats Uhtred like his own son, and teaches him how to assimilate into Danish culture. Their relationship is arguably my favorite part of the novel. Despite how wily King Alfred is, I also really like him. He’s unpredictable, and adds an element of mystery to the story. I never know if I should view him as a hero or villain.

Vikings“What happens to you, Uhtred, is what you make happen. You will grow, you will learn the sword, you will learn the way of the shield wall, you will learn the oar, you will give honor to the gods, and then you will use what you have learned to make your life good or bad.” – Ragnar

The battle scenes are very detailed, and offer up loads of gore. They also give the reader insight into how wars were fought during the time period. In the novel, Uhtred begins as an errand boy cleaning ships, gathering coal, and helping arm the warriors. At only 9 years old he can’t even lift a sword, but has dreams of being fierce and leading men into battle. As the book progresses, Uhtred grows, becomes strong, and learns how to fight and yield weapons. His transformation from an inexperienced young soldier to a battle hardened man echoes throughout the story.

At the time the story begins, England is divided up into small areas governed by men. Kind of like city-states. Then during Alfred the Great’s time, things began to change. In The Last Kingdom, Alfred begins as a whoring brother to the king, into a king in is own right following his brother’s death. A very devout man viewed as weak by his enemies, Alfred is actually very cunning, and has great plans for his and England’s future. Reading about how Alfred manipulates Uhtred at every turn adds to the fun of this novel. It also adds to both of the characters’ development. Even though Uhtred dislikes Alfred, he learns many great lessons from him, that I predict will greatly aid him in his future.

Do I Recommend?

Yes, I do. As I said, if you are a fan of History’s The Vikings, or of the history of the Saxons, then you will love this novel. Great characters, lots of fighting and action, and there’s intrigue aplenty. Plus, despite it being historical, it’s actually a pretty easy read (except for the old English spellings of names and places). Since I enjoyed it a lot, and am looking forward to the second novel in the series, I gave The Last Kingdom 4 out of 5 stars.

starstarstarstar

This is my seventh completed review for the 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

This is my sixteenth completed review for the 2015 TBR Reading Challenge

Vikings Promo

If you haven’t caught The Vikings fever, then it’s not too late. Check out the promo below, and be sure to check in to the History Channel Thursdays at 10 pm EST/PST.

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