The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
The Saxon Stories #1
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full length (333 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Poinsettia

The first installment of Bernard Cornwell’s New York Times bestselling series chronicling the epic saga of the making of England, “like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer, London)—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit Netflix series.

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.

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Which side will Uhtred choose?

The story of Uhtred’s life is captivating. Up until the time he was ten, he lived a relatively peaceful life in Bebbanburg. When the Danes invaded, everything changed. Ragnar, Uhtred’s captor, treats him as a son, and Uhtred finds he rather likes living as a Dane. However, as he grows older, he isn’t so sure where his loyalty should lie. Should he fight with the Saxons he was born to, or the Danes who raised him? Uhtred has friends among the Saxons and Danes, and as the struggle for control of England intensifies, he feels the pull to join either side. He is truly a man caught in the middle. As I read, I couldn’t wait to see what he would do next and where his decisions would lead him. I must mention that this book contains some intense battle scenes and graphic violence. Readers sensitive to this material are forewarned.

Uhtred is a fascinating character. He is strong, smart, and brave, but he is also very flawed. He is a bit too proud, and selfish at times. He also has the tendency to act before fully thinking things through. His pursuit of Bebbanburg has caused him to make hasty decisions which end up putting that very goal further from his reach. However, I can’t help but like him. He is also very charming, and he is loyal to those he loves. All of this serves to make Uhtred one of the most wonderfully rounded characters I’ve ever come across.

I love the way Mr. Cornwell has chosen to tell this tale. Uhtred narrates his story speaking as an older man looking back on his life. Even though I know Uhtred survives his adventures, I want to take that journey with him. As I read, I shared his joy, laughter, sorrow, and regret as he reflects on the people he’s known and the decisions he’s made over the course of his life.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the historic detail woven throughout the story, the map, and the historical note at the end of the book. Many of the characters were real people who lived during this time. Of course, Mr. Cornwell has taken some liberties for the sake of the story, but the tale he’s created feels very real. It is easy to imagine that Uhtred really existed.

I absolutely loved reading The Last Kingdom. I was completely immersed in Uhtred’s story and found it extremely difficult to put the book down. I can’t wait to continue reading about his adventures in the next installment of the series!

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