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on 22 March 2017
I am not normally a fan of historical novels which are heavily wieghted towards a male readership, containing as it does many descriptions of battles and having an antagonistic hero as its central character. However, Uhtred has captured my imagination and I want him to return to his home and the castle at Bebbanburg. Because these are real places in Northumbria, York, and Wessex, it is easy to relate to them as they all still exist in our world. The shifts of power and the fluctuations of the fortunes of the Christians and the monks, and the Danes with their Norse Gods, echo many of our conflicts today across the world.
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on 27 January 2016
I read book 1 - 8 of the Last Kingdom series back to back as if they were one omnibus through a wet and miserable January. I had seen the BBC 2 series which covered book 1 and book 2 and found The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman such good reads I was glad that I had not read them before seeing the series. I was impressed by the explanations of the internal struggle Uhtred has to establish his identity,, and the uniqueness into which he forges his experiences , philosophy and education into the warrior and man he grows into. I was also impressed by the historical integrity Conwell brought to the background of Uhtred's adventures. Definite page turners all the way through. Loved every minute spent reading 1-8.
Although one should not bring 21st century thinking, morals and mores to 10th century life, one could not help thinking that 'everything changes and nothing changes.' Cornwell does encourage the reader to stop and think beyond the swashbuckling thoughout.
I am not sure whether Uhtred's forewords are a good or bad thing - whether they telegraph the ultimate outcome of the scrapes and adventures or whether they enhance the enjoyment of the finer points of the tale...
I was disappointed at the Kindle price of book 9- Warriors of the Storm, which at the present time is more than the hardback edition. Although I am hooked enough to want to read it very badly, principle prevents me following on at this time.
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on 25 April 2013
DEATH OF KINGS - Bernard Cornwell 25/04/13

I have long been a fan of Mr Cornwell's work since and have faithfully collected each of his new books as published after receiving Sharpe's Gold as a gift in 1981. I really enjoyed this book even though there does bring the series of Saxon novels closer to a close.

A précis of the tale has been the subject of many other reviews and so I will not repeat it here, except to say that as usual Cornwell's novel is full of action and as usual the authors research gives the story a believable grounding in historical fact. I think that the King Alfred books are possibly my personal favourites from Cornwell's historical novel stable.

Another top rate novel from Bernard Cornwell, packed with action, believable characters and historic personalities and a good story line woven around historical events.

I already owned the hardback but purchased Kindle edition of this book to read on the move. The Kindle version is excellent, I could find no real faults 5/5.
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on 26 January 2013
I love Bernard Cornwell's books. I have read all the Sharpe series, in chronological order, and all the Warrior Chronicles he has published so far.

I love the way he writes and draws you in. This is not, of course, a love story, although Uhtred certainly does love a series of women throughout the saga. The battle scenes are brilliantly written and easy for me to understand. I have read fight scenes by other authors where I felt I needed a pictorial graph to follow the action: Not so Cornwell. His descriptions of shield walls are fascinating. You can imagine vividly what it must have been like to have been in the centre of one.

Uhtred was an excellent strategic leader who was frustrated by Alfred's reticence when it came to fighting the Danes and although tied to Alfred by an unbreakable oath, he managed to manoeuvre his way through what was to become England, causing damage where he could.

He is a rogue, in the cast of Sharpe, but he, personally, gets a chance to change the landscape of England when he is not dealing with greedy and jealous priests and courtiers.

He never abandons his Norse gods, wears a hammer amulet around his neck and prays to Thor in times of stress. His best friend and most trusted lieutenant is an Irish Christian called Finan who was with him in the slave galleys of the Danes when they were both young boys. He has great friends who are Christian priests but conversely Christian Bishops are his greatest enemies. He understands the Danes better than the people he is fighting for.

His lifelong aim is to win back his home of Bebbanberg (Bamburgh, Northumberland) from his usurper uncle and I look forward to reading how he achieves that in a future novel.

Highly recommended.
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on 25 April 2013
Cornwell has to be admired as a writing (and no doubt money making) machine. He turns out these annual novels to his adoring fans with very little drop in quality. I have to say if this had been my first foray into his writing I would be giving this at least 4 stars. It's well written, it's well researched, it's very interesting but it is also so familiar. It is archytypical Cornwell writing writing Uhtrsharpe.

I suppose what frustrates me is we know he can really turn it on when he wants to the classic Arthurian trilogy and the first book in this series were quite special I think but this was Cornwell giving his wife a peck on the cheek and popping into work for the day.

A bit of Spoilering from here on -

There were other disappointments too the chapter in history chosen was not the most action packed, though of course the Death of Alfred the Great deserves attention but then the book covers three years of hesitancy from both the Saxon's and the Danes and as that other excellent review points out gives the book a 'waiting for the kettle' feel and when it did boil it was not quite with the big finish we are accustomed to.

Last time I read an Uhtred book I thought it would be my last but then I read this so who knows..but I am getting a bored of the ' I am Uhtred of Bebbanburg!!!' routine. Let him get his castle back and bring in some new blood to talk us through the Edward / Athelstan years I say Bernard.
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on 7 May 2016
One more star for those who wouldn't expect more. Bernard Cornwell tells a great yarn. He does it concisely. His sentences are short and to the point. His characterisations are more implied than described. He focuses on the battles. His protagonist is fairly one dimensional. This is not a character known for insight or mindfulness. Cornwell is the Ernest Hemingway of historical fiction. As always the story moves and carries us along with it. This is simple fiction focusing on short periods. It is effective for those readers who just want to get on with it.
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on 23 June 2012
Having commenced reading this series of books I find that I want to know what happens to Uhtred, even if he is frankly rather irritating. If you have read the previous 5 books then this is really just more of the same. I am getting a bit bored with this character now, even if he has mellowed a little with age, and all the battles are getting a bit tedious. However, you cannot fault Bernard Cornwell's research and I am a great deal more interested in Anglo Saxon history now than I was before I started to read this series of books. The writing really brings the era to life and I can easily picture the scenes that Bernard Conrwell paints. As the title indicates, this story deals with the aftermath of the death of King Alfred the Great and does have one or two twists and turns that I didn't see coming. Bishop Asser still turns up to rain on Uhtred's parade as usual, but once again, his friends in high places save him and of course, Uhtred then gets to save them. Again. Uhtred and Asser may be a tad one-dimensional but the cast of supporting characters are well drawn and I particularly like the portrayal of the Lady Aethelflaed, who, like most of the female characters, is surprisingly feisty. She continues to disobey both her husband Aethelred and the new king, her brother Edward, and plays her part in saving the day.
I thought this was the last book in the series, but in the epilogue it does say that England is still not safe and that Uhtred will have to fight again.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 6 October 2011
I read this one in less than 36 hours, between Tuesday evening and Wednesday early morning, and just HAD to finish it as quickly as possible. The title I've given to my review sums it up, more or less. This would be true regardless of whether you love Uthred's personality and adventures or whether you are starting to get fed up with him and his story, as a few commentators seem to be. I happen to be part of the former bunch of people. I am still just as interested in the character, the story he tells and the events he lives through as I was when I read the very first book on Uthred, some years ago. I also find that each installment of Uthred's adventures is top quality (and a real treat and pleasure to read).

This is because of the author's talent. To me, this is historical fiction at its best, and it has consistently been so from the very beginning.

First, the period and events have, as usual with Cornwell, been well researched. Fortunately, some of his competitors can do as well as that, although there may only be a few of them.

Second, and much rarer in my view, is the author's modesty and honesty. Unlike a number of others, you never get the impression that Cornwell is attempting to show off his knowledge, either in the story itself or in his historical note or annexes (map, list of place names in Saxon with their modern day equivalent). Even better, he never hesitates to mention in his historical note where he has introduced fiction or fabrication in the story. Very few do this, either because they do not want to be seen as having taking liberties with the historical "facts" (but aren't these are works of fiction after all?) or because they cannot be bothered and may believe that most of their readers will not notice it or not care about it. Another strong point is that you can in effect read this book (and any others in the series) separately, which is not that frequent and the author is talented and takes enough trouble to insert sufficient information in each installment to make it self-standing without feeling the need to summarize the previous books over some dozens of pages, as some authors sometimes do in a rather boring way. So, thank you Bernard for showing so much consideration for all of your readers, as opposed to just marketing a product...

Third, well, I like Uthred as a character. I find him both credible (including his "kill-first-ask-questions-after" attitudes) and original. He both despises and defies the Church, its clerics, monks and bishops openly. This theme could already be found, in a much milder version, with Lord Derfel in Cornwell's trilogy on King Arthur. He, it is amplified but nevertheless credible in my view. After all, Uthred is a warlord brought up and trained by the Danes, and a pagan to boot. He would have little time and even less patience for the "nailed Tyrant", his mostly hypocritical self-serving servants and his philosophy of "brotherly love" so "unreal" to him. Uthred's mixture of boasting, blustering, bravery and cunning is also an interesting twist. This is not only about showing off. It is, as he alludes to in the book, about creating a reputation, living up to it, and showing that he is fearless (although he is afraid, of course). There are numerous other features that make him somewhat sympathetic, including his sense of loyalty to Alfred and his children.

Fourth, of course, there are the fights and battle scenes, all described in much graphic and gory detail. This is one of the things that Cornwell does best. We have become accustomed to this, and it has been picked up and imitated with various degrees of success by many other authors writing on the same or on other periods (Greeks, Romans, Normans etc...). Nowadays, it sometimes feels like almost a "must". You get the impression that every author writting historical fiction gets told that having a couple of gore scenes is part of the ingredients of a "marketable" historical novel. The difference with Cornwell (and with a very few other authors, such as the late and much lamented Pressfield) is that all this blood and gore makes the story "sound and feel" REAL, as opposed to being a marketing ploy. You just have to close your eyes to imagine the shield walls crashing against each other.

Very few, in my view, have managed to bring both their characters and their period to life as well as Bernard Cornwell.

Waiting for the next installment will seem like a very, very long time...
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on 17 June 2013
Having listened (and eventually bought)all the other audio books in the series, I was looking forward enormously to 'the continuing saga'.
Is it any good ?....Yes....Damn fine, though I can understand some of the more critical reviews regarding the fact that the series HAS become a little bit formulaic.
Very well read by Stephen Perring.
My only slight gripe (and yes, I know, this will sound pathetic) is the packaging for the CDs in a 'larger than normal sized' jewel case with a spindle which holds the discs in a stack, which makes storing and replacing the discs a bit of a pain when you listen to the book all in one go.
To a great extent, I would have been happier to have paid a few quid extra for the larger storage packaging where you can remove and replace one disc at a time, rather than either.....juggling them about by taking them on and off the spindle...or leaving the listened to discs upside down in a stack.
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on 7 July 2012
Bernard Cornwell is one of my favourite authors. If he has a new book out I have to read it. The reason is that they are well researched, fast paced and engaging. It is possible to empathise with the leading characters and understand their doubts and triumphs. Sadly, this book is well below par. It deals with a pretty boring period in English history. not much happens. Our hero, Uhtred has become rather establishment. Most of the main characters are called Ethel or some variant thereof which makes it hard to follow. The problem faced by the author was to place the hero in the centre of historical developments in a plausible way and it doesn't work. In my humble opinion - and I am in no way qualified to advise Bernard Cornwell - the author would have done better to develop a more interesting plot in which our hero was central and to touch on historical events tangentially. The ensuing few years are more interesting historically but it is going to be difficult to involve Uhtred as he will be too old. Time for another Sharpe novel I think. Sorry Bernard - still a fan but please get back to where you excel.
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