Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Last Kingdom

With the latest draft of my novel put to bed, I’ve started researching my next work. This one involves Vikings, so for the foreseeable future I’ll be immersing myself in a world of dragon-prowed longships, Norse gods, fierce warriors, beer, and plunder! All of which call to mind my favorite novels about Vikings.

This was not a welcome sight back in the Ninth Century!
While I’ve read many Viking-related novels that I’ll try to share on this blog, my favorite series is Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Tales, which tells the story of how the Vikings nearly conquered all of England in the Ninth Century. The first novel in the series is The Last Kingdom, where we’re introduced to Cornwell’s protagonist, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, one of my all-time favorite characters. 

Uhtred, the ten-year-old son of a Saxon lord, is captured by Danes when his father is killed during an attack on the Viking stronghold of York. His captor, Earl Ragnar, ends up raising Uhtred to manhood as a Viking, a life Uhtred adores. But Uhtred is still a Saxon by blood, and after treachery strikes his Viking family, he finds himself in the service of Alfred, the Saxon King of Wessex. Uhtred’s loyalties soon become torn between his new king and the Danes he loves like a brother. Yet as war between the Saxons and Vikings threatens to determine the fate of England, Uhtred must discover where his true allegiance lies.  

Cornwell’s masterful storytelling has the reader rooting for both sides in this conflict. The Danes are happy, life-loving people, while Alfred and his Saxons are quite dour. But still, Cornwell has us sympathizing with the Saxons’ plight. In the end, Uhtred’s decision is as difficult for the reader as it is for the main character, which is why this novel works so well. As far as novels about Vikings go, this one’s hard to beat!

This is a must-read Viking tale


Richard Campbell said...

(wrong thread again)

On the Viking front, there was a recent article asserting the claim that the Viking invasion of England may have been up to 50-50 men and women:

I'm not sure what this might say about other raiding parties, but interesting nonetheless.

And don't forget the bridges on the Seine!

Joseph Finley said...

Great links Richard! I loved the article about the Viking siege of Paris. My next novel will take place about 100 years after that, but the siege of Paris would be a cool scene in a Viking novel. Bernard Cornwell wrote about a Viking attack on London in Sword Song. Though London wasn't much to talk about back then.