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Bernard Cornwell

I have just finished my first Bernard Cornwell novel "The Last Kingdom". It's an exciting historical novel set in the 9thC when Engand is under constant attack from the Danes and is in danger of becoming a Danish province.  England at this time has four kingdoms, Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia and Wessex.  The latter under King Alfred is the only one that still survives.  The hero of the book is Uhtred, an English boy who, at the beginning of the story is captured by the Danes and grows up with them learning their ways, and especially how to fight.  However, at the end of the book, his allegiances are with the English and he finds himself fighting for Alfred against the Danes.  I was impressed by Cornwell's historical reconstruction, he wears his research lightly,  and, while I was reading the book, believed that this was what life was like at that time.  Cornwell is especially good at battle scenes which are extremely bloody and violent. I was also intrigued by Cornwell's use of the old English names for places like Defnascir (Devonshire), Eoferwic (York), Gewaesc (the Wash), Saefern (Severn). The book has a very uselful glossary. I understand that had Alfred and his descendants not taken a stand against the Danes, England would have been totally subjugated, and we'd all be speaking Danish!  This book opened up a period in English history for me about which I was very vague.  It seems that there are three more books in the series.

Thanks for that Mike, it sounds right up my street and I've put it on my shopping list.
Joe Mac

Thanks for that, Mike. I've read all of Cornwell's Uhtred stories and found them a refreshing return to form for Cornie after the relative aimlessness of his 'Grail Quest' series, set (I think) during the Hundred Years War.

I was also vague, to say the least, on the history of the period of The Last Kingdom. Cornwell certainly brings it to life.

The very best of Cornwell, in my opinion, is his Arthurian trilogy, which if memory serves is called the Warlord Chronicles. He is at his very best there, it seems to me. Somehow he manages to invest the Arthurian tale with a certain magic while debunking each of the popular Arthur myths, one after the other.

Yes, people who know the period do say that Alfred not only saved England but saved the English language, as he employed people to write and wrote himself in English.  I haven't read any Cornwell but this sounds worthwhile.  The trouble with someone like Cornwell is he has written so much and in series that it is hard to know what to start with and often the first of a series is not sitting in the library.  

Cheers, Caro.

My brother was a big fan of the Sharpe series, set in the Napoleonic Wars. He says the stories are a bit formulaic after a while, but they are well done and the historical content is excellent.
Joe Mac

I agree with your brother about Sharpe. But on the whole I really enjoyed, not least because of the easy access to all that history I had know virtually nothing about and would probably never had read about otherwise.
I should note also that over the course of nearly 20 novels, I became very fond of Sharpe, the character, which says something about Cornwell's skill, I think.

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