The Last Kingdom
The Saxon Stories, book 1
by Bernard Cornwell
Uhtred of Bebbanburg, born a Saxon and adopted by Danes, navigates conflicting loyalties as he tries to regain what was taken from him.
I watched the show The Last Kingdom without realizing it was based on a book series. Of course, after I found out about the books, I had to add at least the first book to my TBR since I enjoyed the show so much. I love how the story follows a fictional main character, Uhtred, and his life in pre-England England during real historical events alongside real historical figures. It’s a historical fiction novel that showcases a time in England’s history through the eyes of a fictional character, with the author taking some creative liberties to bring it all together.
Reading the book after watching the show was maybe not the best move, but it also didn’t take away from my enjoyment of this novel. There didn’t seem to be too much changed between the book and the TV adaptation, at least from what I recall, so the story was already familiar to me. It’s the kind of show that was interesting and complex enough that I would re-watch it though, so this was an even better alternative to get to experience this story again.
Uhtred has complicated loyalties, with ties to both the Saxons and the Danes. While the two sides are fighting for the not-yet-united kingdoms of England, Uhtred is driven by both his personal relationships and his desire to take back his birthright as heir of Bebbanburg. I like how we get to see both sides of the conflict through a single main character, learning about both the Saxon and Danish figures as Uhtred encounters them. It’s interesting how the battles and alliances aren’t so simple as Dane vs Saxon as the pre-England kingdoms were also rivals of one another at the time. Of course, this isn’t a unique concept since it’s been happening throughout history, but interesting nonetheless.
I would definitely recommend both the book and the TV show if you like historical fiction, particularly early English history. This is a more mature story, however, as it does contain both sexual content and violent battles.