The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Last Kingdom (Book #8 of 13)
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 353 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 23rd October 2014 by HarperCollins
The Empty Throne was an improvement over The Pagan Lord, and it somehow felt refreshing despite its formulaic structure.
“I wondered why the gods no longer came to earth. It would make belief so much easier.”
This is the eighth installment in The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell. This means that I’m fully caught up with the novels that have been adapted into the TV series adaptation. I was genuinely worried entering this book; The Pagan Lord was the weakest book of the series so far for me, and I was afraid that this would be even worse. Fortunately, this ended up being better. As I mentioned earlier, Cornwell still follows the formulaic structure of the entire series; if you’ve read two or four books of the series, you’ll know how the story goes. But in The Empty Throne, the prologue is told from a different perspective for the first time. And also, for almost the entirety of the novel, Uthred is heavily injured. Then there’s also the hunt for a “magic” sword. These brought a refreshing feeling to the narrative, and I was more engaged with it.
“We live in a world where the strongest win, and the strongest must expect to be disliked. Then I am a pagan, and thought Christians teach that they must love their enemies, few do.”
Uthred is not young anymore; he’s old now. The themes of faith, loyalty, life, legacies, death, and afterlife still dominate the series, maybe even more now. I will have to admit that every time I read a book in The Last Kingdom, the discussions on what’s going to happen to us after death made me worry. There’s a lot of food for thought, but more importantly, it also made me grateful for my life. My favorite element of the story in The Empty Throne, however, was seeing Uthred teaching Aethelstan the meaning of strength, responsibility, and what it takes to be a leader.
“You’re the son of a king… and one day you might be a king yourself. Life and death will be your gifts, so learn how to give them, boy.”
Admittedly, I didn’t like some of the character’s thoughts and decisions regarding their daughters, especially with Uthred and Aethelflaed. But I have to remember, these characters were living in a totally different time in history than us. These actions may have been born more out of necessity than wants, and it’s not always an easy decision.
“It takes a weak man to prove his strength by striking a woman.”
The Empty Throne was a great read; the plot mostly revolved around a political dispute, and it was handled incredibly well. Although Cornwell’s iconic battle sequences were mostly missing in this volume, the tensions and character developments were still evident. I’m moving into uncharted territory now. I’ve heard that the final five books in the series contained some of the best volumes within the series. I’m looking forward to reading Warriors of the Storm soon.
“Pride, I suppose, is the most treacherous of virtues. The Christians call it a sin, but no poet sings of men who have no pride. Christian says the meek will inherit the earth, but the meek inspire no songs.”
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