Genre and Author
I’ve already mentioned The Last Kingdom briefly in another post listing the Best Viking Novels. It’s historical fiction by the bestselling author Bernard Cornwell (link to his Goodreads profile), famous for his Sharpe series.
Here’s what the blurb says:
“Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of ninth-century Northumbria. Orphaned at ten, he is captured and 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 only English kingdom to survive the Danish assault.
The struggle between the English and the Danes and the strife between christianity and paganism is the background to Uhtred’s growing up. He is left 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 still to the West Saxon cause but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of the Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea. There, in the horror of the shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance.
The Last Kingdom, like most of Bernard Cornwell’s books, is firmly based on true history. It is the first novel of a series that will tell the tale of Alfred the Great and his descendants and of the enemies they faced, Viking warriors like Ivar the Boneless and his feared brother, Ubba. Against their lives Bernard Cornwell has woven a story of divided loyalties, reluctant love and desperate heroism. In Uhtred, he has created one of his most interesting and heroic characters and in The Last Kingdom one of his most powerful and passionate novels.”
Bernard Cornwell is an expert in military history and this is certainly apparent in his writing. He creates vivid battles in which every detail is accurate and considered. This allows him to weave a rich plot through which the reader can become immersed in the historic setting and events.
His prose is creative and vivid, plunging you into Medieval England and engaging you with characters that are both historically believable but also whom the reader can relate to (I’m assuming none of us are medieval Saxon warriors, but correct me if I’m wrong).
One possible negative point is that Bernard Cornwell writes for a very particular genre. His historical novels draw heavily on his strengths as a military historian and they appeal to those with an interest in war and battle in the past.
The Last Kingdom is a sword, shield, ship and fire sort of novel, targeted towards a reader who likes to see a bit of blood on the pages. There is nothing wrong with this, I’m all for a bit of battle and mayhem, but I understand that not every reader feels the same way.
Something very exciting which I discovered today is that the BBC are currently working on a TV adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s Warrior Chronicles entitled The Last Kingdom. It is being set up as an immersive sword-swinging epic TV series like Game of Thrones and we can look forward to its release this year. You can find out more here.
Buy The Last Kingdom on Amazon Kindle here.
To read a review of a similar historical novel, click here.
You can also read an introduction to my novel, Vikingr here.