The Warrior Chronicles (1) - The Last Kingdom

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9780007149919: The Warrior Chronicles (1) - The Last Kingdom

The first book in a brand new series, The Last Kingdom is set in England during the reign of King Alfred.

Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of ninth-century Northumbria. Orphaned at ten, he is captured and adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred's fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the only English kingdom to survive the Danish assault.

The struggle between the English and the Danes and the strife between christianity and paganism is the background to Uhtred's growing up. He is left uncertain of his loyalties but a slaughter in a winter dawn propels him to the English side and he will become a man just as the Danes launch their fiercest attack yet on Alfred's kingdom. Marriage ties him further still to the West Saxon cause but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of the Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea. There, in the horror of the shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance.

The Last Kingdom, like most of Bernard Cornwell's books, is firmly based on true history. It is the first novel of a series that will tell the tale of Alfred the Great and his descendants and of the enemies they faced, Viking warriors like Ivar the Boneless and his feared brother, Ubba. Against their lives Bernard Cornwell has woven a story of divided loyalties, reluctant love and desperate heroism. In Uhtred, he has created one of his most interesting and heroic characters and in The Last Kingdom one of his most powerful and passionate novels.

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Review:

Does the fact that the The Last Kingdom inaugurates yet another series from Bernard Cornwell fill you with anticipation--or trepidation? His immensely popular Sharpe novels are, of course, the bedrock of the authorís popularity. But when readers learned that he was to abandon the redoubtable Sharpe for a Grail Quest series, there were those who invoked the Ďif isnít broke, why fix it?í rule. However, when Cornwell proved himself equally adept at conjuring a world of knights and savage combat, his Grail Quest series (the first book of which was Harlequin) soon established itself as another Cornwell winner.

And hereís yet another series from the protean writer. Do we really need it? Yes, we do--itís a safe bet that The Last Kingdom will prove that the author is seemingly capable of beginning an endless run of new novel sequences. As well as the impeccably plotted narrative, Cornwell has other fish to fry here: nothing less than a totally fresh look at a historical figure we think we know: Alfred the Great. Cornwellís protagonist is Uhtred, caught in the conflict between the Danes and the English in the ninth century. He is born into the English aristocracy, but loses his parents at the age of ten and is raised in Viking fashion by a Dane. When massacres reign down on both sides, Uhtred is torn between his loyalties--and when his family disappears, a reckoning with a Viking chieftain is in the offing.

Behind all this is the King, Alfred: complex, conflicted, and by no means the figure that the conventional history books render him. All of the customary Cornwell virtues are fully on display here.--Barry Forshaw

Review:

‘This has all the bloodiness, betrayal, bravery and honour that we’ve come to expect from Cornwell.’ Sunday Express

‘It is stirring stuff, and few writers are better qualified than Cornwell to do justice to the excitement of the times…Ninth-century Britain and a master of straightforward storytelling – it is a marriage made in heaven.’ Sunday Telegraph

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