Book #8 of The Last Kingdom series, The Empty Throne returns to form after what I felt was a bit of a mid-series lull in The Pagan Lord, the previous installment.
This book started with a point-of-view section of Uhtred, the younger, the son of the Uhtred who carries the series to this point. I really enjoyed this glimpse into the mind of the young man who is trying to follow in his father’s footsteps as a warrior and a future lord.
Uhtred, the elder is older now, wounded, but wiser. Some of the bitterness of the previous story has fallen away, and Uhtred is starting to truly recognize his own limitations. In one battle sequence, Uhtred recognizes to himself, and the reader, that in his younger years he would have been one of the fierce young warriors in the fray of the fighting, but he stays back to be a leadership presence for his, knowing that his wound would make him a liability in the thick of the fighting.
This story focused quite a lot on Uhtred’s relationship with his children, Uhtred and Stiorra, and Aethelstan, the (non-)bastard son of Edward. While Uhtred’s regard for Aethelstan as an adopted son has become clear over the last few stories, his mentorship of whom he believes is a future king is on full display here.
This shift in tone is greatly welcome for a character whose brash decision-making was becoming tiresome, for the other characters, and for the reader. Uhtred is still confident, daring, and courageous, but he seems to have truly come into lordship not just as a warrior, but as a leader, and that transformation continues to be fascinating.
I’m also quite intrigued by the introduction of Sigtryggr. His character on The Last Kingdom TV series was a frightening and admirable, and I look forward to seeing how his character, and the Norse threat overall, develop going forward.
I was never out on this series, but I took a break after the last book. Now, I’m fully back in.