Death of Kings is the sixth book in the series of a thousand names… The Last Kingdom, The Saxon Stories, The Saxon Chronicles… This book serves as a nice change-up for the series at a point where the general arc of each story starts to feel predictable
- Uhtred clashes with his liege-lord, King Alfred of Wessex and yearns to be free of his oath.
- A Danish lord raises an army an threatens Wessex.
- Uhtred meets his army and kills the Dane in battle, bolstering his reputation.
That’s reductive and not really fair to a series I have greatly enjoyed, but it’s not hard to see how some readers might become bored of that type of formula.
Death of Kings plays with that formula a bit to lull both the reader and Uhtred, our protagonist, into a sense of complacency and end on a bit of a surprise. Yes, Uhtred must confront a Danish army, but he is now trying to do so in league with Edward, the newly raised king of Wessex, who is young and well-liked, but untested and uncertain.
The story proceeds and it feels as though our characters are approaching war… but the war doesn’t come. Uhtred is baffled by this, until he realizes a crucial piece of information, and the confrontational battle we’ve come to expect out of these books comes with a unexpected suddenness and a surprising turn of events.
This book is also an interesting advancement of Uhtred and several other characters. We meet an older Uhtred and walk with him through a changing of the guard, so to speak, among the leaders of both Saxon and Dane. There’s a lot of good character work with Uhtred, Aethelflaed, and Edward, and it’s clear that the relationship between these three will be pivotal going forward.
Steven Perring is a good narrator who brings a somewhat wiser and less intense voice to Uhtred. This feels appropriate given Uhtred’s Old Man Status (he’s 45 and describes himself as an old man with a graying beard), although I do miss Jonathan Keeble’s iconic narration from previous installments.
See reviews of previous installments in this series here.