BookBrowse Reviews The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

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The Last Kingdom

by Bernard Cornwell

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2005, 333 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2006, 368 pages

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A ripping good yarn set in the time of Alfred The Great. Historical Fiction

From the book jacket: The first volume in a new saga set in the 9th century. The Norse have gone 'a-viking' and are rapidly overwhelming the land later to be known as England.  Three out of the four kingdoms are already in their control, only Wessex, under the leadership of Alfred, remains undefeated.  

Comment: In the words of Katherine Powers writing for the Washington Post, "The Last Kingdom caters to those of us whose appetite for rehashed legends was satisfied long ago. In addition to providing thrilling combat action and satisfying details of material life, military accoutrement and battle tactics, Cornwell's best historical fiction pleases us mightily in the way his renditions of the great actors and events of yore stray from received versions. Such contrariness is partly the product of meticulous research and partly of a mischievous sense of humor. Happily, both inform The Last Kingdom throughout."

In a 2005 interview in Publishers Weekly, Cornwell explained that his decision to write a series set in the 9th century was partially spurred by personal events.  Cornwell was a 'war baby' - the result of a liaison between a Canadian airman and an English woman - he was adopted and suffered a particularly unhappy childhood.  Although he'd always had access to information about his parents he had never chosen to look them up until recently when, on tour in Vancouver, he decided to see if his father was alive, and found that he was. They met for the first time when his father was 84 years old. Cornwell found that his family name was Oughtred, which traced back to Bebbanburg Castle in Northumbria, now known as Bamburgh Castle.  This triggered him to create a Northumbrian hero, Uhtred, who was forcibly adopted by the Danes, grew up among them, learned their ways and eventually helped Alfred defeat them!

The next book in the series, The Pale Horseman,  was published in the UK in October 2005 and in the USA early this month.  Booklist describe it as a 'crackerjack adventure tale from a master of the craft.'

This review was originally published in March 2005, and has been updated for the January 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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