The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories 1) by Bernard Cornwell
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. (Goodreads)
Uhtred is the heir to Bebbanburg in Northumbria but after his father and brother is killed he is taken by the Vikings that killed his family. In time he comes to see Ragnar, his Danish captor, as a father figure and learns to fight with them. While he loves the Danish way of life, he dreams of retaking his lands from his uncle who usurped them after Uhtred’s father died.
The story is told from first person perspective but it works here. It balances nicely young and rather arrogant Uhtred with the older and wiser one who remembers back the events.
I’ve read one of Cornwell’s books before and didn’t finish it so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this. But I liked much more than I thought I would.
I haven’t read much about this era and I spent some time googling and I had some trouble keeping all the strange names in order.
I haven’t read books about Alfred so I can’t say much about him but I had some trouble with the portrayal. He is portrayed as a weakling who spends his time womanizing and then praying for his sins and too devoted to church. I do hope he changes because I really don’t see a man anyone could call “the Great”.
I had one issue with Uhtred because he kept flipping between Danish and Saxons; first he’s Danish, then he’s Saxon, then he’s Danish again… Just make up your mind! Doesn’t make me wanna follow someone who can’t commit to either side. But I enjoyed the battle scenes and how those were written.
I’m looking forward reading the next book and seeing how these characters develop. I hope we meet more the women in Uhtred’s life since now we just met them briefly but never got to know them.
Published: HarperCollins (2005)
Source: my own