Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“’I had been given a perfect childhood, perfect, at least, to the ideas of a boy. I was raised among men, I was free, I ran wild, was encumbered by no laws, was troubled by no priests and was encouraged to violence.' Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of 9th Century Northumbria, but orphaned at ten, adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred's fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the last English kingdom when the Danes have overrun Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia.”I have read a standalone Cornwell book in the past and really enjoyed it but this was my first of his books within a series. The Last Kingdom is the first book in his currently ongoing Saxon Stories series. As the story is told from the first person perspective, we get right into the thick of things with Uhtred as he bounces back and forth between being a Dane and being a Saxon.
I enjoyed this start to the series because I haven’t really read anything about this period in history. There is a plethora of battles that we are privy to and with Uhtred changing sides so often we really get to see how both the Saxons and Danes looked at this endeavor. Usually I try to avoid books which are primarily focused on wars and battles, but I have come to love Cornwell’s interpretations and depictions. Cornwell also does a great job at helping the reader to understand a culture that they have probably not had any experience with before.
I did have some minor issues with the novel though – thus giving it my 4 stars. The main character, Uhtred, is the epitome of a flip-flopper. One minute he is a Saxon, then a Dane, and then a Saxon, etc and no one seems to call him on this. It made it hard for me to connect with him because I wasn’t sure who he was going to be from one minute to the next. I also wish that the women in his life were more developed. We hear mention of his wife, but we don’t really meet her. We hear about his implied care and concern for her, but don’t actually feel it. He also has a friend from childhood who we see a little bit and get the allusion that there might have been something between them, but that is where it stops. I would have just liked to have a little bit more details about them.
I am eager to read book two in the series because the ending was so very abrupt. I actually thought that my iPod had died but then realized that the story had actually ended. It didn’t feel like a cliff hanger or make you feel like it had ended – it just stopped.
As always when I read a book set in a place or time that I am very unfamiliar with, I am very glad for audio versions because they pronounce the words for me and I learn something from it. Believe me, I would sit in my car and repeat some of the words over and over just to get the sound of it – I would love to be a fly on the wall sometimes! The narrator’s voice was very fitting to the novel and he would evoke emotions when necessary – such as yelling in a battle scene. The way he would read would suck you into the action – picking up speed when at the heart of an event and slowing down at necessary points too.
Bernard Cornwell has written many, many books. In the Saxon Stories series he also has written The Pale Horseman #2, The Lords of the North #3, Sword Song #4, The Burning Land #5 and Death of Kings #6. You can visit his website for additional information about the book.
You can listen to a sample of the audio from Harper Audio.
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