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The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

The Last Kingdom (2004)

by Bernard Cornwell

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2,211652,937 (3.95)69
  1. 30
    The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell (Donogh)
    Donogh: As you rooted for the British against the Saxons in Cornwell's 'The Winter King', so shall you root for the Saxons agains the Danes in Cornwell's 'The Last Kingdom'
  2. 20
    Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton (mcenroeucsb)
  3. 00
    The Outlaw Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick (caimanjosh)
    caimanjosh: Elizabeth Chadwick strikes me as providing the female perspective on medieval England, while Bernard Cornwell provides a decidedly masculine perspective. Both authors succeed in writing highly entertaining historical fiction with a strong sense of the time period. If you like one, it's definitely worth trying the other.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
It is difficult for me to not compare Bernard Cornwell's excellent The Last Kingdom to the previous book I read. Primarily because this one is so good and that one was ... well, pretty disappointing.

And I found myself comparing the two as I was reading The Last Kingdom because there are similar techniques at work. Cornwell has a very straightforward and succinct writing style, and he plunks you right down in 9th century England without any real context or development. (Previous author does the same, although not 9th century England, but 17th century Bavaria) And when I say no context or development, I mean nooooo context or development. Cornwell writes like you live in 9th century England and the reality he is portraying to you is your reality.

And in previous books I have read, this tactic hasn't always worked well for me. But it did in The Last Kingdom. And I think the main reason is the sole narrator / first person perspective of the story. Compared to the previous novel - which shall remain nameless here - the entire story of The Last Kingdom is told by Uhtred, the heir and lord who finds himself caught up in the 9th century wars between the then five English kingdoms and the Vikings. Since Uhtred is the only narrator, it became so easy to get engrossed in his story ... compared again to previous novels, which had multiple storytellers, and therefore, too many perspectives to feel really attached to any of them.

And I'm not saying the multi-narrator tactic doesn't work, but I do think more time is needed in creating a context to the individual characters so you can connect with them. I will give an example of a multi-person POV series that I think handles this just swelly: A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin. If you don't take the time to create that context and that connection, then why should I care about the characters or what happens to them? Just my humble $0.02.

I was also surprised to see how much I enjoyed Uhtred's cursory and simple description of the events in his life. It is his story after all, so it was refreshing to read through and see which moments meant more to him as a character than others. And they were surprising selections. I reached certain passages and thought they would drag on for days, but nope. Uhtred plows through them in a couple of pages ... and others that would have seemed insignificant, but Cornwell spends more time describing them through the eyes of Uhtred than it would feel, at least initially, is necessary. As the story will prove, those longer passages do connect to later moments in the novel, but it still felt new and innovative to get so lost in a character's personality.

So yes, I did compare this book to the previous one I read. Because it felt good to connect with that character, to get lost in his story, to see his world through his eyes, and to feel his emotions at his level. And both novels were set in violent and exciting time periods in history - but thanks to my immersion in Uhtred, I felt the world he was living in far more than 17th century Bavaria... ( )
  parhamj | Nov 16, 2014 |
Cornwell takes us into the world of ninth-century Britain and the constant battles between the inhabitants and the invading Danes. A young boy,Uhtred,is orphaned and later adopted by a Danish leader. This first book in the series tells the story of Uhtred's transformation from boy to warrior. ( )
  devenish | Nov 2, 2014 |
An excellent book, especially for those who like historical fiction. ( )
  piersanti | Sep 28, 2014 |
I have become a a real fan of Bernard Cornwell. The Last kingdom is full historical detail without being pedantic. I always assumed his b were "boy" books. However, his characters are nuanced and believable. I look forward to the next book in this series. ( )
  odkins | Sep 15, 2014 |
I wanted to say that I didn't like this book. Really, I did want to say that. But I can't. Yet, at the same time, I can't say I loved the book. It gave me so many mixed feelings that I ended up giving it four stars when I originally wanted to give it three stars.

I wish I could say the overall story was boring and nothing interesting seemed to happen, but I can't. At first you even think that the story never goes forward and all you read is what's going on with the world. It's a world in war and a boy is telling you what he sees and boy, that is annoying. But then one completely unexpected event happens. And the another. And another. And another. And another. That's when you realize that you're halfway through the book and you're... actually enjoying what's going on. Boy, you'll soon notice that you're actually curious to know what's about to happen, even if the story seems to get stuck in the description of the scenarios.

Next, I wanted to say that the characters are plain and not well developed. But then, I started to like the briefness and subtlety of their actions and words. They're not ones to talk too much, but they're actually very easy to like. They are somewhat predictable, yet there is "something" in them that makes you like them, be it Ragnar's fatherly words or Brida's wise-ass replies. After a while, even Uhtred's naïvety started to look kinda charming.

This is a confusing book. So hard and, at the same time, so easy to like. Maybe not something I look forward to re-read, but definitely something that gave me a hell of a good time while it lasted. ( )
  aryadeschain | Aug 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
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The Last Kingdom is for Judy, with love. Wyrd bið ful āræd.
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My name is Uhtred.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In the middle years of the ninth century, the fierce Danes stormed onto British soil, hungry for spoils and conquest. Kingdom after kingdom fell to the ruthless invaders until only one realm remained. Suddenly the fate of all England--and the course of history--depended upon one man, one king.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060887184, Paperback)

In the middle years of the ninth-century, the fierce Danes stormed onto British soil, hungry for spoils and conquest. Kingdom after kingdom fell to the ruthless invaders until but one realm remained. And suddenly the fate of all England—and the course of history—depended upon one man, one king.

From New York Times bestselling storyteller Bernard Cornwell comes a rousing epic adventure of courage, treachery, duty, devotion, majesty, love, and battle as seen through the eyes of a young warrior who straddled two worlds.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:23 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In the middle years of the ninth century, the fierce Danes stormed onto British soil, hungry for spoils and conquest. Kingdom after kingdom fell to the ruthless invaders until only one realm remained. Suddenly the fate of all England--and the course of history--depended upon one man, one king.… (more)

» see all 9 descriptions

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