Book Review: THE LAST KINGDOM and engrossing characters and story

After years of watching the show and hearing from my father-in-law that I would love Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories series — now more famously known as The Last Kingdom series — I finally listened to the first story, The Last Kingdom, on Audible.

This was my first introduction to Cornwell’s writing, having watched all of the TV adaptation of “The Last Kingdom” previously. Even though I came into this book with inflated expectations, I was definitely not disappointed.

The Last Kingdom follows young Uhtred, the son of an English noble, from the time he is kidnapped by a Danish earl, Ragnar, until he becomes a man. This first installment is effectively a coming-of-age story, where Uhtred learns how to live like a Dane and how to be a true warrior. He learns early on that he has a strong lust for battle and killing, and he chooses the warrior’s path for himself, becoming caught between his Saxon heritage and his Danish upbringing.

Cornwell’s story is exciting, and his plot is punctuated by thrilling action sequences and scenes of dialogue that do most of the heavy lifting in revealing the characters. Many of the names would be familiar to those who had watched the titular Netflix show, but the story is far more in depth.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing more of Uhtred’s early years, which are largely glossed over in the show. The reader gets to see more of the relationship between Uhtred and Ragnar, which truly becomes a father-son bond as the young Uhtred grows. This story lays a strong foundation for Uhtred to constantly be pulled between the two halves of his heart — the half that wants to help Ragnar the Younger in avenging the death of their father, and the half that wants to reclaim his birthright as lord of Bebbanburg.

This story also sets up what is sure to be a fiery relationship/rivalry between Uhtred and King Alfred of Wessex, as Alfred ensnares Uhtred deeper and deeper in the politics of Wessex (and his liege-ship), and Uhtred tries to angle for a chance to see his homeland in Northumbria reclaimed. The dialogue scenes between Uhtred and King Alfred crackle with tension.

If I had one gripe against this story, it’s that I don’t know if I would enjoy it as much if I didn’t already know the characters. Being able to see the actors’ faces in my mind as I listened brought this story to life in a way that many others cannot be.

Can’t wait to start the next one.

Steve D

#Review: BRIGANTIA – an excellent part 3 to the Vindolanda saga

Brigantia by Adrian Goldsworthy, historical fiction, Roman Britannia, war, military

Brigantia is the third novel in the Vindolana saga, Adrian Goldsworthy’s epic historical fiction set in Roman Britannia during the early years of Trajan’s reign.

The third installment of the Vindolanda saga is as compelling and full of twists as the first two. New characters are introduced who bring renewed depth to the story, but the mainstays all have their part to play.

The plot also uncovers even richer and more intricate details about Ferox’s past and his dueling identity as both Roman Centurion and Silures Prince. Continue reading “#Review: BRIGANTIA – an excellent part 3 to the Vindolanda saga”

#Review: Netflix’s ‘OUTLAW KING’ Falls Flat

While I was on paternity leave, I had a lot of time to binge-watch Netflix, so I was excited to get to some of the films that had been piling up in my list.

Outlaw King, Netflix’s historical fiction about Robert the Bruce’s rebellion against the English crown, was a natural pick for me.

  1. I like Chris Pine
  2. I love Scotland
  3. And I’m interested in Scottish history. I nearly wrote my very first history paper on William Wallace when I was 14, mainly because I had watched Braveheart a thousand times and read about some of the historical battles depicted there.

Unfortunately, while this movie did a lot of things well, it didn’t resonate with me the way I anticipated it would. Continue reading “#Review: Netflix’s ‘OUTLAW KING’ Falls Flat”

Exploring Úr’Dan: The Arrowhead

I’ve managed to fall into a monthly rhythm with this series without even trying. However, I may do an extra one this month in honor of NaNo.

For today’s journey, I’d like to take you to a small region that wields significant influence in the Uplands — some might even say disproportionate influence. Continue reading “Exploring Úr’Dan: The Arrowhead”

Exploring Úr’Dan: Brief History of the Northern Migration

I’ve spent the last several installments of this series talking about the various peoples who inhabit Úr’Dan. Now I think it’s time to start giving bits of the history of this subcontinent.

Continue reading “Exploring Úr’Dan: Brief History of the Northern Migration”

ROGUE ONE Re-Affirms Disney’s Commitment to STAR WARS

[Spoiler-free review]

I saw Rogue One on Saturday morning with Present Wife.  I have been excited for this film ever since it was first announced shortly after the release of The Force Awakens last year. It was amazing. Continue reading “ROGUE ONE Re-Affirms Disney’s Commitment to STAR WARS”

Haiku Sunday NaNo 2016 Edition: Everstrong

“Everstrong”

Seeing from his Keep
the self-reliant Feldings.
Can he unite them?

Author’s Note: Emeril Everstrong is the first ever Falden of Everfeld. Most of the largest wards in Everfeld have supported Everstrong ever since he led the Felding militias to victory over the Redskael Clans at the Battle of Ever’s Edge, the decisive battle of the Second Redskael War. His quest is to unite the disparate Felding communities under one leader, but he has plenty of opposition. Can he hold the Felding wards together amidst internal rivalries and threats from outside Everfeld? If he wants to protect Everfeld, he may not have a choice.

Steve D