The Last Kingdom Review
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The Last Kingdom is definitely not chick lit. This is a classic tale of adventure, set in the time before England became a nation. There are bloody battles in the shield wall, storms on the high seas, palace intrigue, and the passions of a young man. The Saxons (English) were being attacked on a regular basis by the Danes (Vikings), and the years of battles provide the backdrop of this tale of a young man’s life.

Bernard Cornwell weaves the more or less true story of Alfred, the first “good king” of England, with incredible detail. He stays away from the over-hashed reworking of Alfred’s legend and gives readers a fresh look by using a fictional boy named Uhtred. Born as the second son of Uhtred, Earl of Bebbanburg, he is captured when the attacking Danes kill his older brother and father in battle.

Uhtred is raised by the leader of the Danish force, Rangar, who killed Uhtred’s father. He’s treated as a slave until he rescues Rangar’s eight-year-old daughter from an attempted rape. His first act of bravery earns him the respect of his captor, who now raises him as a son. It also earns him his first enemy. Uhtred grows to become a warrior, and he loves it.

His fate is complicated by his Saxon bloodlines, and he crosses back and forth between camps several time during this tale. He manages to maintain close ties with both sides, which complicates his choices about which side to remain loyal to.

The Last Kingdom is a great story of a young man growing up as a warrior, told from the perspective of an older Uhtred, looking back on a grand life. He clearly loves the simple life of being a warrior and fighting in the shield line with his friends. He forges deep friendships and goes toe-to-toe with his enemies. His years have given him an understanding of how foolish and lucky he was as a young man, and in his latter years he is yearning for the young man he once was.

I recommend this book to anybody who’s looking for a good adventure story. But be warned: this is just the first in a series about Uhtred and Alfred. If you read the first one, you’re going to want to read them all.

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