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The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1) Paperback – January 3, 2006
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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.
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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Top Customer Reviews
Cornwell uses the same narrative device as the Warlord Trilogy. The book is narrated by Uhtred when he's an old man in the same way that the Warlord books were narrated by Derfel when he had retired to a monastery. Like Derfel, Uhtred is taken away from his home at a young age, only in this case it's by the Danes instead of Merlin. He similarly meets a girl who's destined to be a sorceress--Brida instead of Nimue. The style of fighting with "shield walls" is identical.
So in short while the players have changed, the song remains the same. Not that it's a bad song, but maybe Cornwell could have stretched himself a bit more stylistically. It just feels lazy otherwise.
That is all.
The narration is first person, and occasionally, throughout the story, the narrator intrudes, addressing the reader directly. While in some books, this doesn't work, in The Last Kingdom, it worked so well, I anticipated when it would happen, and I looked forward to it. Each time, it upped the tension just a knot. Another thing that worked incredibly well was that this entire book is told by Uhtred as an old man, sharing the tale of his life, looking back on events--
An incredibly entertaining stroll through 9th century, English history mingled with a few fictional characters. Outstanding read.
The reasons for 4 stars instead of 5 are: 1) Too many battles. It may be a plus for other readers but once I read about fighting in “shield wall” I did not need to read about it again and again. 2) I had problem placing many people with similar-sounding names starting with “ash” and figuring out how they are related.
There is actually a map at the beginning at the book and list of places and names but I missed it since my kindle opened on first chapter and I just started reading. So my advise to readers, is, do not miss map and list, they are very helpful.
I liked very much author’s Amazon web page that, by itself, is a great story told with a great humor.
I think I will try next a book from different series by this author (hoping for fewer battles).
Books about ancient England and Vikings have always fascinated me so I had high hopes for these books. They immediately checked off two boxes for me: liked the author and liked the subject matter. The thing I enjoy most about Cornwell's books is that he incorporates actual history into them. There are real historical figures and places mixed in with some fictional ones as well. It just makes the stories that more real and interesting for me.
If you are coming to the books because of the BBC series you will not be disappointed. I think this is a rare case where the TV show is almost as good as the books. The events of the series appear to be pulled from the first two books in the book series. Uhtred is a very complex, well developed character that flows well through the entire series. There is a great cast of characters surrounding him that come and go throughout the series as well.
Fans of the TV Show Vikings will meet familiar characters like Ragnar, Ubba, Egbert, Aethelwold, Alfred, etc. This is just a different slant on them.
This is a great book, and series of books, whether you are into this period of history or not. It will make you love it and explore more.
Fate is inexorable.