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166 of 174 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE LAST KINGDOM Delivers!
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...
Published on December 3, 2004 by Kimberly Gelderman

versus
65 of 82 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A pretty good Cornwell book
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...
Published on July 7, 2007 by Denny Gibbons


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Kick-Off to New Series -- Here Come the Danes!, May 23, 2005
By 
Scott Schiefelbein (Portland, Oregon United States) - See all my reviews
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Bernard Cornwell's "The Last Kingdom" sees our favorite spinner of rollicking historical fiction turn his clever eyes to the historical mists surrounding England's King Alfred the Great and his defense of England against the invading Danes (known to you and me as the Vikings). For those familiar with Cornwell, there are few surprises here, and that is a major plus.

This tale of 9th-century England is told by Uthred, a fictional character (while many of the other characters in the novel are real-life historical figures). A Northumbrian, Uthred is captured in battle by the Danes as a child and raised as a Dane, learning their mythology and values. Yet Uthred remains English at heart, and knows that even while he has learned to honor (and even love) Danes, his destiny will see him fighting in the shield wall against their invasion. Uthred's inner conflicts make him one Cornwell's more compelling heroes.

9th-century England is really four separate kingdoms, and over the course of the novel the Danes sweep over three, leaving Wessex to stand alone as the Last Kingdom of the title. Wessex is led by the scholarly, sickly, pious, and reluctantly randy Alfred. Uthred has little affection for this man, particularly when placed alongside Uthred's favorite reckless Danes, but Alfred remains a player to be reckoned with. Alfred has the talent to see Uthred's military prowess, and Uthred rises to become a leader of the English forces.

As one can expect from Cornwell, battle scenes pepper the novel, and Uthred finally gets the chance to satisfy his dream of standing in the front of a massive shield wall against hundreds of foes. Fortunately for the reader, Uthred is a man of humor as well as might, and Uthred spends a lot of his time bedeviling Christian priests by pointing out the inherent weaknesses of their faith when compared to the noble (and relatively reasonable) worship of Odin and the other Norse gods. Uthred also has a remarkable ability to be able to tell folks what they want to hear -- while most of Cornwell's heroes have a tendency towards brutal honesty, Uthred has a refreshing talent for mendacity.

Since this is clearly the first novel in a series, the climactic scenes are relatively reserved but are nevertheless satisfying. Several juicy plot lines remain unresolved, and there are still Danes aplenty in England at the conclusion of the novel. One can hope that this series will progress in the same fashion as Cornwell's other medieval trilogies, the Grail Quest series and the King Arthur series. In "The Last Kingdom," Cornwell has taken a lean, mean first step with plenty of thrills and a surprising amount of humor. One heck of an enjoyable read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bernard Cornwell at His Brilliant Best, February 11, 2005
Bernard Cornwell is back to his brilliant best after what I thought a slight stutter with Stonehenge. This book is excellent and it is difficult to give a brief synopsis of it without giving too much of the plot away, but here goes.

The book begins in the late 9th century AD. The Vikings are seen in the coastal water of Northumbria. The news comes through to the Ealdorman of the major stronghold in Northumbria that the Vikings have captured Eoferwic (York) and he marches with his army and his ten year old son to join forces with the other English forces to retake the city.

The battle is a resounding success for the Vikings and the young boy is captured and taken into the family of Ragnar one of the senior Vikings. Ragnar likes the boy Uhtred and treats him as his own son.

The struggle between the English and the Danes and how the boy grows up not knowing where is true loyalties lie is the background to the book. His eventual marriage moves him closer to the English cause, and when he is drawn into a battle against one of the greatest Viking chieftains he realises at last his true allegiance.

This really is a blood and guts novel and a really good read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Work Yet!, February 8, 2005
Great depiction of Danish/Viking life and their invasion of England, juxtaposed against that of the English defenders fighting desperately to hold on. The hero has a foot in each fascinating, vividly drawn world. This book is very similar to but IMO surpasses his Arthur trilogy in terms of characterization and plotting. The climactic battle will blow you away. Impossible to stop reading.

Enjoy!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Historical Adventure, February 15, 2007
This review is from: The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1) (Paperback)
This is the first book I've read by the author, but I really liked this book. It's a highly readable, entertaining historical adventure. The tale is narrated by Uthred, a pagan Northumbrian, who's abducted by the Danes. He's a very likeable warrior and has a strong voice. I am looking forward to reading his continueing story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britannia + Middle Ages = Bernard Cornwell, January 9, 2007
This review is from: The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1) (Paperback)
"Wyrd bið ful aræd."

(Uthred Uthredson)

In the year AD 865 a never seen before number of dragonships, with about 2000 - 3000 northmen appears at the eastern coast of the island, that in later times will be called England. The Commanders of this armed force, which chroniclers call "The Great Heathen Army" are Ivar the Boneless, Ubbe and Halfdan, the sons of legendary Vikingsheroe Ragnar Ragnarr Loðbrók. As before, this time their activities should not confine on "Víkingr" (old nordic.: robbing, plunder, taking booty) only. Rather this time ist is the start of an invasion to colonize. After conquering Eastanglia, Northumbria with it's capital Eoferwic (Jorvik/York) and Mercia, the Danish occupying forces are finally attacking Wessex, the last remaining anglo-saxon kingdom.....

....from this historical background Bernard Cornwell develops his story about the second germanic invasion of the Britannia, that was called "Lloeggyr" (the lost Land) by the celtic-roman people, who had been driven out of it to Wales and Cornwall. The novel focusses the fate of the (fictional) Northumbrian nobleman Uthred Uthredson, who sometimes unintentional, sometimes deliberately has to change front and loyalty between his anglo-saxon relatives and his scandinavian friends. On this occasion his interests come into conflict with the intensions of King Ælfreds of Wessex, who will (as the only sovereign of the islandkingdom) get later the epithet "the Great"...

After his "Warlord Chronicles" about the Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain in the "Dark Age" (at the End of the 5th Century), with the trilogy "The Winterking", "Enemy of God" and "Excalibur") Bernard Cornwell with "The Last Kingdom" succeed again in a first part of a new novel series. Again a central topic is the conflict between the (meanwhile) christian "inhabitants" und pagan "invaders", who are oppositing in shieldbarriers. But some descendants of the former anglosaxon conquerers countinue worshipping the old gods. Because of the numerous battle- and other rough scenes the novel could not be recommend readers with tender natures. The same applies for the peculiar humor of the northmen, particular in relation to Christianity and it's priests, who comes "still more black" in the english way, but meets the historical background.

In his "Historical Note" Bernard Cornwell makes a clear separation between historical facts and literary fiction. With the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" und "Asser's Life of King Alfred" he reveals the important sources for his novel. Already at the beginning of the book the readers can find interesting and helpful materials, as a map of Britain at the end of the 9th century an a synops with the anglo-saxon names of towns, villages etc., as well as their danish an today designations.

The thrilling and informative novel scores 5 Amazonstars and forces the reader to purchase it's sequel "The Pale Horseman" and "The Lords of the North" immediately....
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wooden Ships and Iron Men, November 26, 2006
By 
Gary Griffiths (Los Altos Hills, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1) (Paperback)
Britain in the 9th Century is a tough place. Raiders from the north and east take the short hop across the Northern Sea in their dragon boats to rape and pillage coastal villages. It's a time when a man of 40 is considered elderly, and a woman not married with two or three births by 16 is considered an unmarriageable old maid. And by the second half of that century, the Danes, finding Britain's fertile valleys more suited to raising families than the rocky crags of their homeland, decide to stay. Starting in the northeastern kingdom of Northumbria, the raiders become invaders and finally occupiers, relegating the local nobility to figureheads, and reawakening the ancient pagan culture practiced in Britain before the Romans ruled the land. Uhtred, the fictional 10-year-old son of a Northumbrian earl, sees his family slain at the hands of the invading Danes, and is captured and taken into slavery by the warlord Ragnar. After the kingdoms of Mercia and East Anglia fall to the Dane swords and battle-axes, only Alfred's kingdom of Wessex stands between Britain and total domination by the Danes.

It is young Uhtred who narrates this lively and authoritative historical novel spanning the decade in which Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, the southern-most kingdom, resists the Danes and lays the foundations for what would become England. Uhtred is a warrior at heart, and is spared death on the battlefield that changes the course of his life as well as that of England. Demonstrating his resourcefulness as a slave, he is eventually virtually adopted by Ragnar, who treats the young Englishman as a second son. Uhtred learns the Norse ways, and finds Ragnar's lust for life and battle a more than fitting substitute for his own late but dour and unloving father. While still consumed with the dream of returning to Bebbanburg to reclaim is homeland, Uhtred finds logic and fairness in God Oden and the pagan ways, confusing his allegiance between country and the occupying Danes who have embraced him.

Cornwell's history, as always, is well researched and easily read. Far, far from the dry and simply factual narrative that often is synonymous with fiction based on historical events, Cornwell's words and characters fly off the pages, spinning a gripping story that is truly a page-turner. The battle scenes, authentic and gloriously gory, capture the true horror of medieval combat and the shield wall, while the political maneuverings of both sides unfold like the best of the pop thrillers. Setting this author ahead of the pack is his dry wit, gently mocking the still-fledging Christian Church and the ribald priests and nuns who prayed and counseled, but were not above the occasional rape and pillaging of their own. Nor is Cornwell afraid to put his own spin on the historical record: the pious and saintly Alfred is rendered with more than his fair share of human foibles - an often sickly leader who spends a great portion of this young adulthood rutting servant girls.

In summary, a spell binding novel, a slice of history painstakingly told with a cast - both historical and fictional - that you'll care about and that will keep you reading well past any prior plans. "The Last Kingdom" is the first in a series of novels of England's Saxon period, leaving more looking forward to "The Pale Horseman". Well done, Mr. Cornwell!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for guys with a sense of adventure, April 23, 2006
By 
Tony C (Washington D.C.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1) (Paperback)
The Last Kingdom is definitely not Chick-Lit. This is a classic tale of adventure set in the time before England became a nation. There are bloody battles in the shield wall, storms on the high seas, palace intrigue, and the passions of a young man. The Saxons (English) were being attacked on a regular basis by the Danes (Vikings) and the years of battles provide the backdrop of this tale of a young man's life.

Bernard Cornwell weaves the more or less true story of Alfred, the first "Good King" of England, with incredible detail. He stays away from the over-hashed reworking of Alfred's legend and gives readers a fresh look by using a fictional boy named Uhtred. Born as the second son of Uhtred earl of Bebbanburg he is captured when the attacking Danes kill his older brother and father in battle.

Uhtred is raised by the leader of the Danish force, Rangar, that killed his father. He is treated as a slave until he rescues Rangar's eight year old daughter from an attempted rape. His first act of bravery earns him the respect of his captor who now raises him as a son. It also earns him his first enemy. Uhtred grows to become a warrior and loves it.

His fate is complicated by his Saxon blood lines and he crosses back and forth between camps several time during this tale. He manages to maintain close ties with both sides which complicate his choices about which side to remain loyal to.

This is a great story of a young man growing up as a warrior. It's told from the perspective of an older Uhtred looking back on a grand life. He clearly loves the simple life of being a warrior and fighting in the shield line with his friends. He forges deep friendships and goes toe-to-toe with his enemies. His years have given him an understanding of how foolish and lucky he was as a young man and in his latter years he is yearning for the young man he once was.

I recommend this book to anybody that is looking for a good adventure story. But be warned, this is the first in a series about Uhtred and Alfred. You are going to want to read them all if you read the first one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating historical/military fiction, March 8, 2005
The Norsemen raided the English kingdoms for decades, but in 866, they attempt outright conquest. Huge armies of Danes descend first on Northumbria, then Mercia, then East Anglia, until only Wessex, the richest Saxon kingdom and the most southern, survives. And the Danes plan that Wessex will be next. After everyone else has fallen before them, few doubt that Wessex will fall--and English culture will be eliminated from the world. But King Alfred isn't willing to give up so easily.

Early in the invasion, Uhtred of Northumbria is captured by the Danes. For his ten-year-old bravery after his father is killed in battle, the Danes adopt him, raise him, and teach him to fight. He adopts their religion--which is the religion of his ancestors although the English had adopted Christianity after their conquest of most of Britain--their fighting ways, and their casual attitudes toward sex. But when his adoptive father is killed in a feud, Uhtred flees to Wessex where he is welcomed by Alfred and put to work. Although his kingdom is under threat, already Alfred plans on a time when the Danes will be defeated. He wants Northumbrian, Angliacan, and Mercian noblemen under his banner--under his control.

Author Bernard Cornwell personalizes a mostly historical tale with the fictional life of Uhtred. Through his eyes, we see the power and ambition of the Danes, the long odds against their invasion's success, but also how close to success they came. Because the Danes were a society of warriors, they were able to put a much higher proportion of their men into battle.

Cornwell's battle descriptions are high points of the story--both vivid and convincingly detailed. It's easy to imagine the shield wall as men fight and die. Because Uhtred is committed neither to the Danes nor to Wessex, Cornwell is able to play with the personalities of the historical figures, letting Uhtred see both their strengths and their weaknesses.

Cornwell is a master of military-historical fiction and THE LAST KINGDOM is a welcome addition to his work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!, February 20, 2005
By 
This book is FABULOUS! Uhtred is but a young boy when his father takes him to battle against the Danes. His spirit and will endear him to Ragnar the Danish war leader and he thus takes young Uhtred hostage. That undeniable spirit and will continue to work for Uhtred as he grows from boy to man through the story of this book and experiences the good and bad of both the Danish and English sides of the battle for England. I liked the description of the Danes and their way of life. It is a side I had not yet explored in my readings of historical England. I found it fascinating and very believable. Cornwall does an amazing job of bringing his characters to life. I felt for Uhtred every step of the way and shared with him his fears, his loves and his losses. The only other account I had read of Alfred the Great, was dramtically different. This Alfred is pious and sickly and his wife is a shrew. I continually found myself hoping Uhtred would chose to remain a Dane and revenge the wrongs done to him. My only criticism of Cornwall in the past has been his over-done scenic descriptions. They continue in this book, but the action and the characters over-shadow any complaints and this book cannot pass with fewer than the 5 stars it deserves. I look very forward to the continuation of this story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cornwell does it again, May 2, 2006
This review is from: The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1) (Paperback)
I've been reading Bernard Cornwell since I discovered (and devoured) the Sharpe series about 15 years ago. He writes a wonderfully fast-paced narrative with great action and enough background where you end up learning all sorts of things about the historical period where the story takes place. After finishing the Grail quest series, I moved on to other writers, notably George R. R. Martin and his excellent series A Game Of Thrones. But am I glad Cornwell's back and writing about a period that interests me to no end. His characted of Uhthred reminds me so much of Derfel from the Arthur series. Heroic, stubborn, fearless, I read this book in 2 days, couldn't put it down. I just picked up the second from this series, The Pale Horseman, and I'm tearing through it. I just wish the third installment was already out in the stores so I could continue the saga. If anyone wants to read an exciting historical novel set in the early Middle Ages, this is the one for you. Absolutely great!
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The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1)
The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1) by Bernard Cornwell (Paperback - January 3, 2006)
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