The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell was my second foray into the world of historical fiction, the first being Death of Kings, a book from later on in the same series because it has a cool title and I’m an idiot.
George R.R. Martin has crowned Bernard Cornwell as writing “the best battle scenes of any writer I’ve ever read, past or present.” This praise is well earned. His battles feel both vast and personal. There is also a sense of realism that is absent from many series, yet they are still exhilarating. It is no small feat to chronicle the growing up of a young warrior but it is very well paced and never seems slow or rushed. The political intrigue maybe a way off Game of Thrones but Uhtred’s split loyalty between the warring Danes and Saxons is plenty enough to keep you turning the page, even if you have an unnatural aversion to well written action.
The thing I took away most from reading The Last Kingdom was how easy it was to read. As it happens, I do have an interest in medieval England but that is far from a requirement and it would be just as accessible to someone who thought the UK popped into existence with Henry VIII. As with most good fiction, the setting facilitates the story and the characters rather than taking over the book itself.
I devoured this book, more so than any I have read outside of the Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire series, finishing the thirteen and a half hour audiobook in a little over two days. My exciting social life aside, I would thoroughly recommend The Last Kingdom as an entry into historical fiction. Cornwell’s easy reading prose, exciting battles, and the complex character of Uhtred of Bebbanburg will surely have you wearing Thor’s hammer around your neck and shouting of shield walls in no time. Just be sure not to get in between him and his rightful lands; a lot of people have died that way.
As a side note, both the latest two series I have read: this one and the Discworld series (specifically the books about the City Watch) are being adapted into TV series and that is just awesome with me.
Speaking of the great man, we have also reviewed Pratchett’s first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic. and many other fantasy novels, old and new alike. To stay up to date, you can always subscribe or follow us on twitter. While you’re at it, why not give our fiction a look.