Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review: The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom #1) by Bernard Cornwell

5 stars for The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom book 1) by Bernard Cornwell.

This series come highly recommended by a colleague without whom I doubt I will ever come across this novel, and needless to say, read it.

At the time of recommendation, I have yet to meet this newfound colleague, but our love to read and appreciation of good writing make me feel as if I have known him for years, not days. Best of all, he understands my unusual quirks on books and reading. Like it or not, everyone has their own reading quirks. They may be cultivated over time or happened overnight, but they will not go away and they are ours to keep. I am very happy indeed to have found another booklover, especially one who shares the same quirky habits as me.

I am not familiar with and have never before read stories related to the Anglo-Saxon period which lasted from 410 to 1066. I am equally clueless that by the ninth century, Anglo-Saxon England was divided into four main kingdoms - Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex. Because of my ignorance, I am not aware that the story in The Last Kingdom is in fact very much based on real events until I read the Historical note at the end of the book. Only then do I realise that the ealdormen in this historical novel whose names begin with Æ (a vanished letter, called the ash) and many of the Danes and their kings all existed at one time.

Two sentences into the prologue and I have a good feeling that I will like this story; Uhtred's story. Born an Englishman of England but brought up a Danish of the Viking way, this is his story where destiny is everything, where men are bound by duty, loyalty, pride, passion, love and land.

"My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred and his father was also called Uhtred."

True to my intuition, I have a whale of a time seeing the world through the eyes of Uhtred, from a pagan childhood right up to the fight in his first great shield wall. The author has certainly done his research well and consequently, a fantastic job feathering English history with fiction and topping it off with small doses of humour every now and then.

Thank you for the recommendation. If you are reading this, you know who you are. No? Don't make me spell it out.. Okay. Yes buddy. Sean, thank you! ..And I agree. Destiny is everything. It brings you to this series and now, it is my turn.

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: 2 Apr 2005

*** Favourite quote ***

I found another uncle, this one called Ealdorman Æthelred, son of Æthelred, brother of Æthelwulf, father of Æthelred, and brother to another Æthelred who had been the father of Ælswith who was married to Alfred, and Ealdorman Æthelred, with his confusing family, grudgingly acknowledged me as a nephew.

~ The Last Kingdom
Bernard Cornwell


‘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.

That war, with its massacres, defeats and betrayals, is the background to Uhtred’s childhood, a childhood which leaves him uncertain of his loyalties, but a slaughter in a winter dawn propels him to the English side and he will become a man just as the Danes launch their fiercest attack yet on Alfred’s kingdom. Marriage ties him further to the West Saxon cause, but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of a Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea, and there, in the horror of a shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance.

*Blurb from author's website*

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