Four Stars for The Last Kingdom Books, 1 – 8, by Bernard Cornwell,
which kept me reading for about five weeks. I also completed the 9th book in the series, and wait with bated breath for what I am hoping will be the end of Uhtred’s journey to the place of his birth, to his birthright.
The first eight books: The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, The Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, The Empty Throne, and the ninth book, Warriors of the Storm create a saga of blood lust, love, hate, religions, loyalty, disloyalty – a saga of life at the dawn of the tenth century.
The story is told through the eyes of Uhtred as he reminisces in his old age. He was a Lord, the Lord of Bebbanburg; however, his home was stolen from him by his uncle when his father was killed in a battle against the invading Vikings. Despite the loss of his father, Uhtred, at the age of ten, was taken in by a Viking warrior, Ragnar, who had been impressed with the young boy’s spirit. At first, he was a slave but eventually became like a son to Ragnar. Uhtred, who had been born into a Christian home, learned the ways of the Viking gods, and he never gave up that faith, even though he fought on the side of the Christian Saxons.
Uhtred’s story, because this is what the Last Kingdom books are about, will leave you turning the pages. It will give you an insight into the early times as Engaland tried desperately to become one country under the one almighty God, fighting against the pagan invaders. However, it also made me think about religion as a whole, how so many battles and wars have been fought in the name of God, or in the name of gods, burying the lowly people in the red-green sod.
I cheered for Uhtred, but I wept for him, as well, for, despite being a mighty warrior who continually saved the Saxons, he suffered so many personal losses. He was a man who was used by the kings, betrayed, ridiculed by the priests, lost the love of his life, fought for the Christians while wearing Thor’s hammer, and whose only real ambition was to return to Bebbanburg, his home. Uhtred commanded loyalty from his men, but not through threats, through respect. His most faithful companion is Finan, an Irishman who had shared an oar with Uhtred when he was betrayed and enslaved.
As you can imagine, there is much one could say after reading nine novels; however, I want you to read these books. Despite being fictional, there is a lot of truth in them. They will enlighten you about a time when the world was in turmoil – ah, but it still is, isn’t it? The books use actual historical individuals – ex., Alfred, the Christian Saxon king – and battles fought to maintain control of the country; but the story places a very likable, fictional character in the middle of the turmoil. Having said that – is Uhtred actually fictional?
Each book refers back in time, occassionally, to past incidents, which sometimes bored me because I read them so quickly. However, for someone who wishes to take their time completing the series, the flashbacks are beneficial. The books are also not for the faint of heart, because war is not for those individuals. If you are looking for a “nice” story, these books are not – they are raw, and in your face with the realities of what war really is. I actually wondered, at times, while reading through each book, how there were even any people left with all the killing and destroying that went on.
But, I digress. I am not here to preach to you about war – the glory and non-glory of it. I just want you to enjoy the series as much as I have. Take care, fellow readers … your, Writer on the Run, Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour