The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwall was published 2004 and is the first book in The Saxon Stories series. It follows the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a high-born lord from Northumbria during the ages of the Viking Raid in Britain.
When the Northumbrians fail to defeat an army of bloodthirsty Danish Vikings, Uhtred is taken hostage where he learns to fight, talk and act like a Dane. As he grows into a battle hardened man, he faces the internal conflict of fighting alongside his English countrymen and his affinity towards Danish ways and customs. However, he never loses sight of his true destiny; the taking back of his Northern lands.
The unrelenting drama and action never falters until the very end. I was immediately captivated by this tale, although my partiality towards historical fiction and more so fantasy fiction drew me to the story from the outset. I loved the stark foreboding tone of the story-telling though at times it felt overly prosaic, and seemed to drone on towards the end into an underwhelming ending.
I enjoyed the symbolism that was prevalent throughout the story such as the shield wall, a common battle formation in those days, to connote manhood. Despite the sometimes lengthy prose, the pace moves with haste. Uhtred ages very quickly as many events are exposited with cursory detail. His characterisation is one of hot-blooded bravado and unyielding determination.
I definitely enjoyed this book as a whole and I can’t wait to read more from this series, and follow Uhtred on his epic journey to pursue his birthright.
Thanks as always for reading this review! Let me know in the comments whether you’ve seen the 2018 Netflix adaptation on this series and for more reviews like this, please vist the Book Reviews page.