Posted by: markfender | August 12, 2015

The Last Kingdom

Yeah, more Anglo-Saxon stuff.

BernardCornwell_TheLastKingdomBernard Cornwell wrote all those Sharpe’s books, so when he turned his eye to the Anglo-Saxons, I was interested. And this doesn’t disappoint, as it’s his patented military style story with well-realized characters. The series (because of course it’s a series – Have you seen how many Sharpe’s books there are?) details the rise of Alfred the Great in building the kingdom of England. The first book starts long before these events as Uthred is captured by the Danes who have invaded the nascent England and learns to “go Viking.” Eventually, Alfred comes to the throne and begins to push back the Vikings.

The problem, of course, with a never-ending series like this is sure to be is that events happen pretty slowly. By the end of the first book, Uthred has switched allegiances to Alfred, but the major battles that defined Alfred’s reign have yet to happen. Yet, Cornwell has a deft touch with characterization so even this slow pace doesn’t feel slow. He is able to establish character with just a few lines, already moving this series above the Oathsworn stuff I talked about last week. While his prose can’t match Kay’s, it’s better than most never-ending-series-of-military-adventures (which might explain the popularity of that Sharpe stuff).

It’s interesting to compare Cornwell’s depiction of Alfred vs. Kay’s analogue. Cornwell’s Alfred comes across as far more conniving and ruthless, whereas Kay’s story was primarily about Alfred’s weaknesses and how they defined him. While Cornwell touches upon some of Alfred’s religiosity and the seizures that dominated his life, Kay spends more time on the latter aspect of Alfred. Cornwell depicts Alfred as much more kingly – manipulating his vassals for the good of the realm.

This was pretty good. I would read more books in this series…if it weren’t being turned into a television show even as we speak. The writing’s not spectacular, but better than most authors in this genre. I’d definitely be interested in seeing how a television show of this book translates (Those Sharpe’s things seem to have done well for themselves).



  1. […] remember when I talked about The Last Kingdom and how it was being made into a television […]

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