The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell (Book 1 of the Saxon
What It’s About:
10 year old Uhtred loses his father and inheritance as alderman of Bebbanburg, when the Danes attack their land in 9th century England. Uhtred is captured and taken prisoner. One of the Dane leaders, Ragnar, adopts him into his family and raises him as his own son. After a horrifying event, Uhtred decides to go to Wessex and appeal to King Alfred to help him return to Bebbanburg and restore his title as alderman. Alfred has his own plans for Uhtred as the threat of the Danes invading Wessex looms nearer. The story unfolds as Uhtred experiences the development of Saxon England under the rule of Alfred and his future heirs.
The Last Kingdom is the first book of the 10 books series, The Saxon Stories. It has also been turned into a tv series that you can watch on Netflix. I saw season one before I read the book. There was a long period in between so I didn’t remember much from the show. Check out my review on the TV series here.
What I liked:
The plot, characters, and setting of the story were all well developed and balanced. I had never read one of Bernard Cornwell’s books but have seen them often at the bookstore. From the covers and brief descriptions of the the story, I normally wouldn’t read a book like this one. I assumed it was only about men, war, and battles. I was pleasantly surprised. There is a diverse cast of characters among the Saxons and the Danes. Epic battles do occur, but are written in a precise and swift manner. It also impressed me that many of the characters in the story are based off of real people in history, which I did not realize until I got to the end of the book where the author gives some information about his research and the historical people that appear in the book.
What I didn’t like:
The names! This is the first book that I have read that takes place in this location and time period. The Saxon and Danish names were difficult for me to keep straight at first, but I finally got used to them about halfway into the story.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable book and I do not regret taking a chance on it. I’m not sure if I plan to read the rest of the series because I’m more of a stand alone book reader. I probably would have continued if I had found this series in my college years or before having a baby. I still have only seen the first season of the show as well. Continuing the tv series is on my watch list!
I would recommend this book for readers who:
- have an interest Saxon English and/or Viking history
- have an interest in early Christianity
- like to read the books before watching the show/movie adaptations
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