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Book Review of The Last Kingdom (Saxon Chronicles, Bk 1)

The Last Kingdom (Saxon Chronicles, Bk 1)
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I discovered this book thanks to my book loving friend Emma and now I cant wait to continue reading the rest of the Saxon Series by Bernard Cornwell. Historical novels about England have always enchanted me but this one goes back further than I usually go -- way back to the 9th century during the time the Danes were on the rampage and King Alfred (later to be dubbed the Great) was struggling to hang on to Wessex the only kingdom that hadnt been defeated by the invaders. The story is told through the eyes of Uhtred an English boy born to be a lord but orphaned and captured at the age of 10 by the Danish warrior Ragnar who raises him like his own son. As Uhtred grows into manhood, he is quickly assimilated into the wild and war-loving pagan world of his surrogate father whom he grows to love and emulate. But at heart he is still English and much of the books conflict centers around Uhtreds uncertainties when it comes to deciding where his loyalties lie. Naturally, a book whose central characters are 9th century Danish warriors is going to be full of blood and gore. The battle scenes are extremely graphic and so are the descriptions of what happened when the Vikings raided villages and settlements. Cornwell is a great story teller and as far as I can tell he researches his subject matter quite thoroughly. It was interesting to learn for instance that the term "viking" referred to the Danes only when they were raiding and not when they were engaged in battle. And I was fascinated by the descriptions of the Danish ships that struck terror into the hearts of the English, and the kind of battle strategies that were used at the time. It reminded me of an old Irish poem said to be written by a monk: "Bitter is the wind tonight/It ruffles the deep seas grizzled locks/I do not fear a crossing of the clear waves/By a band of greedy warriors from the North" Those greedy warriors from the North are front and center in this book that had me hooked from the first chapter. I couldn't wait to get back to it each time I had to put it down, and now I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in the series.