Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom #1) by Bernard Cornwell

I admit freely that I'm one of those readers who fell into Bernard Cornwell's writing courtesy of the Netflix series The Last Kingdom. Since I've blown my way through all four seasons, I've now turned to the books for my Uhtred fix, and boy oh boy, I'm happy to report I've been having a treat.

My biggest gripe is that I didn't start reading Cornwell sooner.

First off, the source material is rather different from the TV series. I understand that the screenwriters had to deviate (budgetary constraints, visual vs. verbal storytelling, etc). So there are differences, the biggest being that in book one, we have far more detail about how Uhtred serves King Alfred on the ships that they build to protect the coast from Danish incursion.

And also, the Uhtred in the books is, ahem, a little less squeaky clean than the one portrayed in the series. That doesn't bother me, because I think Cornwell has done an amazing job bringing this period of English history to life. As a narrator, Uhtred is an outsider, and having that perspective allows him a particularly fine position to comment on the culture of both the Danes and Saxons, and Cornwell weaves together an incredibly nuanced and detailed telling that has me completely hooked. I'm a happy reader, who's busy with the boxed set currently, and each chapter feels like I'm right back there in the old days, grime, glory, guts and all.

I know this is an uncharacteristically short review for me, but all I can say is that I'm a really happy reader on a complete buzz with Cornwell's writing. This dude is goooood. So very good. I need more.

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