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I've actually started reading this series , by mistake, from the eighth book, than returned to this, the first title.
I would have thought it a great book, but following my experience, I know Cornwell will make them greater still.
Two things bother me a little: The first - Uhtred is somewhat of a Forest Gumption, seeming to be at all the right places at all the right moments, meeting all the right people. This is probably something the author could not have really avoided when taking up the task of telling real history using a single fictional protagonist, but still, it's sometimes felt while reading; The second thing - one of the nicer things about Cormwell's writing, and indeed any good military novelist, is his focus around what drives people, because people make the armies. But, in doing so he sometimes misses on the key point of what make someone the leader of men (or, rather, what makes men follow a person), and sometime misses out by talking about cliché personal drives (we are all lonely, yada yada yada).
Still, Cormwell does very well despite these things, and I plan on reading every title on the series.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
You will have to do the usual hunt and peck to find all the novels in the series. There are several narrators and gaps in the series links. However, they are available if you switch narrators. Jonathan Keeble is fantastic in the first two books. An interlude then comes with the adequate, Tom Sellwood, followed by Keeble and John Lee. You finish up with two more decent narrators that do a good job of holding the tension.
These books seem to be the basis for the "Irish-Canadian historical drama television series (see Wiki)," Vikings. The time period is the same, as is the character focus. The novels are filled with battles, intrigue, double-cross and blackmail. The era is the 9th century…the setting is England.
The antagonists cum protagonists and visa versa are Danes and Northerners, invading England for plunder. Battles are with sword, axe, lance, and shield. Amazing stuff. Realistic without crossing the line to phantasmagoria.
This series is two spears up.
38 of 40 people found this review helpful
At ten years old, in 866AD, Northumbrian Osbert of Babenberg is captured by the Danes and taken on a wild raid down the eastern side of Brittan under what seems the fathership of his main captor, Ealdorman Ragnar the Fearless, with other Viking Ealdormen and characters. Sometimes out of his will and sometimes because he has no choice, the Northumbrian and Dane-loving Osbert, renamed Uhtred, wanderer at heart, forever moves between his Danish captors and the kingdoms of Northumbria, Anglia and Wessex, with female friend Brida, meeting a variety of religious personalities including Beocca, a Christian monk and self-appointed mentor to Uhtred, and Alfred, an ambitious, pious, scared, king of Wessex—the last kingdom. Uhtred learns about cultures, languages, faiths, sailing, swordsmanship, warriors, women and shield walls to name some, all while becoming a sceadugangen, shadow walker: all contributing to a strong coming-of-age theme. I came to love the characters who lived to see the end of the novel and even those who passed on, two favorites being Ragnar and Ragnar’s son, Ragnar. The novel climaxes when he chooses sides with the.. in..
The Last Kingdom left me speechless. Cornwell has a strong command of the English language, forming a unique writing style fitting with historical fiction and this first person narrative he has written. Excessive use of “and” did not bother me and made me feel I was truly listening to Uhtred narrate his early life. Cornwell recreates Dark Age battles with mastery of imagery, describing the filthy and, according to Uhtred, invigorating aspects of shield-wall warfare. He gets into tactics, which I believe is necessary for a good battle scene. In one battle against Welshmen, Cornwell goes out of the way to describe what a warrior felt when an axe fell down his back—only the best historical novelists could think of describing such! Battles were only one of many well-executed facets of The Last Kingdom. Cornwell truly sent me to the past as if I was there, not only watching Uhtred, but also feeling what he was feeling. I ended reading this novel thinking, "I now understand why the Dark Age is called the Dark Age!” Cornwell gives us an understanding of what people thought like in the Dark Age by providing us with inventive, incredibly interesting philosophies and other items of character development. With this comes religion, which Cornwell effectively uses to introduce his atheistic views and dislike, or perhaps, hatred of Christianity. I overlooked the religious babble—there is nothing wrong with this—but I felt the author was replacing what should have been the opinions of characters in these scenes with his. Regardless, it does not stop me from giving The Last Kingdom a five star review and reading the subsequent novel!
The research behind The Last Kingdom is deep and fabulous, making me feel proud of the author’s efforts. The map is useful. Need I say more? Every reader of historical fiction can expect well-researched novels from Bernard Cornwell.
The Last Kingdom is clearly written by an interested, inspired and passionate author understanding of the events, personalities and societies of Dark Age Britain.
As a minor note, I read The Last Kingdom while listening to the unabridged edition of the audiobook via Audible using Whispersync. Because of Jonathan Keeble’s talented, changeable, voice, he really helped me picture scenes and appreciate the novel more. He gives me the goosebumps when he yells “Shield wall!” The only character voice I hated was Brida’s, which sounds overly childish for her age as the novel progresses. Keeble's male voices are spectacular. I am thoroughly looking forward to reading the other novels in the Saxon series. Cornwell sets a standard for other authors of historical fiction and to this day no other historical author I have read from has exceeded it, though a rare few have set a new standard with their unique “writer’s voice”, Iggulden being just one of a small pool of decent Historical Fiction authors.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
It played all the way through and I couldn't tell you about the story. Unfortunately I wasn't captured by the story.