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The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Last Kingdom (Book #1 of 13)
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 353 pages (UK Kindle edition)
Published: 4th October 2004 by HarperCollins
Uthred, son of Uthred, it’s finally time for me to read your story in its prose form.
I am no stranger to Bernard Cornwell’s work, ever since John Gwynne recommended me The Warlord Chronicles trilogy—which I finished and loved—to read, I was already a fan of his books; even though I haven’t read any of his other books yet. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten the chance to read his other books. Seeing that I’m fully caught up with The Last Kingdom TV series adaptation, one of my favorite ongoing TV series right now, and I’m super impatient to wait for the next season to come out, I figure this year is the right time for me to read the series.
“I had the arrogant confidence of a man born to battle. I am Uthred, son of Uthred, son of another Uthred, and we had not held Bebbanburg and its lands by whimpering at altars. We are warriors.”
The Last Kingdom is the first out of thirteen books in The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell. The plot revolves around Uthred of Bebbanburg, an orphaned English boy who is captured by the Danes, and then he’s taught the way of the Vikings. Surprisingly, Uthred grows to love the Danes’ way of living, and things became more difficult for him because Alfred’s life is also intertwined with him. This first book showcases a few years within Uthred’s younger life, and it is certainly an interesting one. I’ve mentioned earlier that I loved the TV series adaptation, but I will clarify that I loved the TV series since its second season, not immediately from its first season. Fortunately, it seems likely that I’m going to love the books even more because I loved this one right from the start. Leadership, loyalty, faith, family, and the thirst for battles are prominent themes within this book—and the series—and everything about them was executed wonderfully.
“What do we look for in a lord? Strength, generosity, hardness, and success, and why should a man not be proud of those things? Show me a humble warrior and I will see a corpse.”
No offense to Alexander Dreymon, but one thing that, in my opinion, the first season failed to capture was Uthred’s fascination and thrill for battles. Reading this proved to be quite an intriguing experience, I think Cornwell did a much better job on Uthred’s characterizations. To be fair, though, this is one of the biggest benefits of reading the book instead of the adaptations. It was also great to see the first appearances of the major characters again. Alfred, Father Beocca, Brida, Ragnar, Leofric, and many more to come are all great characters, and I loved reading Uthred’s interaction with each and every one of them. If you love the characters within this book already, believe me, the two best side characters of the series—Finan and Sithric—haven’t even appeared yet, and I myself am so looking forward to meeting them in the books.
“War is fought in mystery. The truth can take days to travel, and ahead of truth flies rumor, and it is ever hard to know what is really happening, and the art of it is to pluck the clean bone of fact from the rotting flesh of fear and lies.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve read the Warlord Chronicles trilogy, and reading this once again reminded me just how good Cornwell is at writing battle scenes. Not only that, there’s something about Cornwell’s prose and the drama he weaved that just seemed to clicked with me incredibly well. For some reason, I didn’t know that the books will be narrated by an older Uthred that retells his life from the beginning, and Cornwell simply excels at doing this type of storytelling.
“What happens to you, Uhtred, is what you make happen. You will grow, you will learn the sword, you will learn the way of the shield wall, you will learn the oar, you will give honor to the gods, and then you will use what you have learned to make your life good or bad.”
The Last Kingdom covers only a small section of Uthred’s life and adventure. It is a great start to one of the most historical fiction series right now, and I’m so looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Due to the episodic nature of the series, I’m going to read only one or two books in the series per month to avoid feeling burnout. That’s what I did with The Expanse and The Dresden Files and it worked incredibly well for me. But yes, this is one of my priority series to finish this year. Destiny is all.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)
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