The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

Published: 2004 in Great Britain, 2005 in the U.S.

Genre: historical fiction

Length: 333 pages

Setting: Great Britain, 866-876

Interest: It was chosen as my book club’s next book.

Summary: The book starts out when Uhtred, our narrator, is ten years old. The Danes are back and it looks like they’re here to stay and not just for plunder. Uhtred’s father tries unsuccessfully to push the Danes out of his land. Instead, Uhtred impresses the Danish chieftain Ragnar with his bravery in battle. Uhtred’s life is spared and he is raised as a Dane. Uhtred lives a privileged life under Ragnar, but he still clings to his identity as English. The Danes quickly defeat the armies of Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. Only Wessex, under the rule of Alfred, holds out against the Danish. When the tide starts to turn against the Danes, Uhtred goes to serve Alfred. Alfred tires to bind Uhtred to him with service (first he has to learn to read) and a wife. Turns out Uhtred is skilled in battle and helps Alfred’s forces to being the process of driving out the Danes.

Final thoughts: It’s been a while since I’ve read adult historical fiction and this was an excellent example of the genre. I’ve read a lot of British historical fiction, but never any from this time period. I don’t think I could have told you the Danes tried to take over Britain and King Alfred saved the British before reading this book. It was definitely an enjoyable book. I’ll put the next book, The Pale Horseman, on my reading list.

Considering the Danes lived to fight, there was lots of action and fighting throughout the book. I found the contrast between the pagan Danes and the Christian English to be striking. The Christians were such kill-joys, it makes me wonder how they were so successful at spreading. Of course, Christians would contend that it was because theirs was the true religion, but in this time period, what was to say one belief was better than another. At least the Danes tended to enjoy themselves more. I guess it all depended on what rank you were in society. At least for the peasants, Christianity offered them hope for after death.

Title comes from: Wessex was the last English kingdom that hadn’t been conquered by the Danes.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 78/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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