zondag 17 juli 2016

"The Last Kingdom" by Bernard Cornwell

"That was in the year 867, and it was the first time I went to war. And I have never ceased."

Last year, a new BBC series was shown on television, hailed as an answer to the massively popular "Game of Thrones". I haven't seen it yet, and I take these advertising slogans with a large grain of salt. For one, this isn't fantasy, it's historical fiction, so don't expect dragons, giants and creatures raised from the dead. The series is based on Bernard Cornwell's "Warrior" series (or "Saxon Chronicles" in the USA - now, in "Game of Thrones" fashion, retitled as "The Last Kingdom", the title of the first book), about King Alfred the Great.

It is the 9th Cenury AD. The Danes are invading Britain. The young Uthred of Bebbanburg is captured by Earl Ragnar the Fearless, one of their leaders. Uthred grows up among the Danes, being adopted as a son by Ragnar, and participates in the Vikings' conquests in Britain. Against his will, he is 'rescued' by a priest and taken to Wessex, where he meets Alfred for the first time. He joins Alfred in his defense of Britain against the Danes. Having to choose between his country and the people he has learned to see as his family, Uthred's loyalties will be tested time and time again.

There are quite a few similarities between this series and Cornwell's "Warlord" trilogy (about King Arthur), which I read last year. The voice of the narrator, Uthred, is very similar to that of Warlord's Derfel and the characters of Alfred and Arthur are also quite alike. The "Warlord" trilogy was one of the best things I've ever read, so was expecting a lot from "The Last Kingdom". I wasn't disappointed, although it doesn't reach the hights of the Arthur books. Still, I'm definitely going to read the next parts of this series (which has grown to 9 books by now; number 10 to be published in October).

Author: Bernard Cornwell
Title: The Last Kingdom
Publisher: Harper, London
Year: 2015 (orig. 2004)
Number of pages: 333 p.
ISBN: 9780008139476

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