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The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1) Paperback – January 3, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Cornwell leaps back a millennium from his Richard Sharpe series to tell of the consolidation of England in the late ninth century and the role played by a young (fictional) warrior-in-training who's at the center of the war between Christian Englishmen and the pagan Danes. (Most of the other principal characters—Ubba, Guthrum, Ivar the Boneless and the like—are real historical figures.) Young Uhtred, who's English, falls under the control of Viking über-warrior Ragnar the Fearless when the Dane wipes out Uhtred's Northumberland family. Cornwell liberally feeds readers history and nuggets of battle data and customs, with Uhtred's first-person wonderment spinning all into a colorful journey of (self-)discovery. In a series of episodes, Ragnar conquers three of England's four kingdoms. The juiciest segment has King Edmund of East Anglia rebuking the Viking pagans and demanding that they convert to Christianity if they intend to remain in England. After Edmund cites the example of St. Sebastian, the Danes oblige him by turning him into a latter-day Sebastian and sending him off to heaven. Uhtred's affection for Ragnar as a surrogate father grows, and he surpasses the conqueror's blood sons in valor. When father and adopted son arrive at the fourth and last kingdom, however, the Danes meet unexpected resistance and Uhtred faces personal and familial challenges, as well as a crisis of national allegiance. This is a solid adventure by a crackling good storyteller.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

An acknowledged master of rousing battlefield fiction as evidenced by his crackling Richard Sharpe series, Cornwell also deserves praise for his mesmerizing narrative finesse and his authentic historical detailing. Here he introduces a new multivolume saga set in medieval England prior to the unification of the four Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, and Wessex. Weakened by civil war, Northumbria is invaded by the fearless Danes, and Uhtred, the rightful heir to the earldom of Bebbanburg, is captured by the enemy. Raised as a Viking warrior by Ragnar the Terrible, his beloved surrogate father, Uhtred is still torn by an innate desire to reclaim his birthright. Fighting as a Dane but realizing that his ultimate destiny lies along another path, he seizes the opportunity to serve Alfred, king of Wessex, after Ragnar is horribly betrayed and murdered by Kjartan, a fellow Dane. Ever watchful and ever practical, Uhtred awaits his chance to settle the blood feud with Kjartan and to seize Bebbanburg from his treacherous uncle. Leaving his hero suspended on the threshold of realizing his desires, Cornwell masterfully sets up his audience for the second volume in this irresistible epic adventure. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Repack edition (January 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780060887186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060887186
  • ASIN: 0060887184
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (569 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bernard Cornwell was born in London in 1944 - a 'warbaby' - whose father was a Canadian airman and mother in Britain's Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted by a family in Essex who belonged to a religious sect called the Peculiar People (and they were), but escaped to London University and, after a stint as a teacher, he joined BBC Television where he worked for the next 10 years. He began as a researcher on the Nationwide programme and ended as Head of Current Affairs Television for the BBC in Northern Ireland. It was while working in Belfast that he met Judy, a visiting American, and fell in love. Judy was unable to move to Britain for family reasons so Bernard went to the States where he was refused a Green Card. He decided to earn a living by writing, a job that did not need a permit from the US government - and for some years he had been wanting to write the adventures of a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars - and so the Sharpe series was born. Bernard and Judy married in 1980, are still married, still live in the States and he is still writing Sharpe.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

194 of 203 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly Gelderman on December 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It is Northumbria, England, in the year 866. Uhtred, the son of an Earl becomes an orphan at ten and is captured and adopted by Ragnar the Dane. He is taught the Viking ways and Ragnar becomes more a father to him than his own father ever was. He loves the unrestricted, impious ways of the Danes and learns to become a formidable warrior.

King Alfred, (later known as "The Great") is portrayed as an over pious but clever King of Essex. While Alfred is not a well-liked King, he is an intelligent one and soon comes to bind Uhtred to his cause against the Danes.

The brutally descriptive battle scenes are exciting and repellant at the same time. Battles and wars are not described here as glorious and heroic circumstances but as what they really were, brutal, bloody, and often times fatal.

This title was an excellent read and I just couldn't put it down many times at night. I've read it until the wee hours of the morning. I believe this is the best BC title I have ever read to date, even though I haven't read any of the Sharpe's novels (that era and place settings are not of interest to me). I highly recommend this novel to anyone interested in early English (Saxon) history and/or Alfred the Great (and in the upcoming series, his descendants).
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By a reader on January 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I've read almost all the Cornwell books: the Sharpe series, Civil War series, the archer, and King Arthur--only the 2 or 3 individual novels have been missed. This is my favorite so far. It is similar to the King Arthur books but with less of the mysticism and magic. The hero is a spunky boy who amuses a Viking chief during a battle and is adopted; the Norse life proves to be more suited to his taste and he grows up as a Dane. However, some old business brings him back to the English side. I won't tell more but any lover of historical fiction will find it hard to put this book down.
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66 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Just a few moments ago, I was writing a review of one of Cornwell's American Civil War novels. Now I am writing a review of this Cornwell novel about 9th Century England. That's how good a historical novelist Cornwell is: the era doesn't matter. Cornwell weaves fact and fiction together seamlessly, believably and in a way sure to engage the reader's interest.

The year is 866 A.D. The island is not yet united and the Danes raid and conquer at will. Cornwell's device is Uhtred, the 10 year old son of a minor chieftain, who is taken by the Danes, raised in the Viking ways of war and accepted as a Viking warrior.

A priest becomes the medium through which the boy grows into a man and meets Alfred, the King who will take the first major steps in uniting England.

Cornwell's story is well plotted, his characters are delightfully rich and his history both interesting and fascinating. A wonderful read.

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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Name the Kings of England.

Well, there's mad old George III, who lost the Revolutionary War. That's one. And Henry VII, everyone remembers him. After that, there's King James, who we recall from his version of the Bible, and the one who gave up his crown to marry the American woman, and the one who got his head chopped off.

After them, and maybe Richard III from the Shakespeare play, the collective memory (at least on this side of the Atlantic) goes a bit dim.

But only one of those Kings of England who we really don't know or remember was named "the Great," and that was Alfred, who ruled from 871 to 900, back in the days when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was on the bestseller list, at least for people who could read. Bernard Cornwell thinks we should know more about Alfred and his times, which is why he has written THE LAST KINGDOM. That should be enough of a recommendation for anyone.

Cornwell is the author of the bestselling Richard Sharpe series, which follows the adventures of a hard-charging British soldier during the Peninsular Campaign. Although Sharpe is a great character by himself, one thing he serves to do is to illustrate the greatness of Lord Wellington --- the commander of the British forces in Spain, and Sharpe's own patron. Wellington (at least as portrayed by Cornwell) is far too stiff, aloof and unlikable to ever be the hero of his own tale, and Sharpe ably stands in.

The same trick is tried in THE LAST KINGDOM, with a twist. The first-person narrator here is Uhtred, who is the son of a minor lord of Northumbria. As a child, he is captured by a raiding pack of Danes that are "going Viking," or raiding the coast.
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82 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Denny Gibbons on July 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
I'm a huge fan of Bernard Cornwell, and this book is very well-written and exciting like all of his novels. If you enjoyed the Warlord Chronicles you will be sure to enjoy his Saxon stories. The reason this novel lost stars is because it has a number of problems that make it somewhat inferior to other books Cornwell has written.

First, the main character Uhtred is just a recycled version of Derfel from the Warlord Chronicles. Like Derfel, he is a pagan warrior who narrates the story and has most of Derfel's beliefs and mannerisms. Unlike Derfel, he is highly unlikable because he is arrogant and only shows loyalty to whoever can benefit him at the moment. Despite these traits, Uhtred is made out to be the perfect hero of the book.

Which brings me to another point. In this book and its sequel "The Pale Horseman", Cornwell seems to place far too much historical importance on the actions of his fictional protagonist. After all, these books are supposed to be about Alfred the Great, the Saxon king who drove out the Danish invaders. Yet Cornwell seems content to portray Alfred as an annoyingly pious weakling who only succeeded in defeating the Danes because of the fictional Uhtred. Uhtred is gifted with the hindsight of the author and is therefore able to predict everything that the Danes will do and know exactly how to defeat them in every engagement. For some punk who isn't even out of his teens, this all seems too much to achieve.

Also, Cornwell always has an axe to grind against Christianity and this book is no exception. Like almost all his books, in this story Christian characters are generally portrayed as sniveling and stupid weaklings. He always throws in one token likable Christian character, but this person is usually not a proper Christian at all.
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