The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories, #1)

By Bernard Cornwell

80,589 ratings - 4.24* vote

This is the story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by t This is the story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his

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Book details

Paperback, 351 pages
January 3rd 2006 by Harper Paperbacks

(first published October 4th 2004)

Original Title
The Last Kingdom
0060887184 (ISBN13: 9780060887186)
Edition Language

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Uthred, son of Uthred, it’s finally time for me to read your story in its prose form.

I am no stranger to Bernard Cornwell’s work, ever since John Gwynne recommended me The Warlord Chronicles trilogy—which I finished and loved—to read, I was already a fan of his books; even though I haven’t read any of his other books yet. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten the chance to read his other books. Seeing that I’m fully caught up with The Last Kingdom TV series adaptation, one of my favorite ongoing TV series right now, and I’m super impatient to wait for the next season to come out, I figure this year is the right time for me to read the series.

“I had the arrogant confidence of a man born to battle. I am Uthred, son of Uthred, son of another Uthred, and we had not held Bebbanburg and its lands by whimpering at altars. We are warriors.”

The Last Kingdom is the first out of thirteen books in The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell. The plot revolves around Uthred of Bebbanburg, an orphaned English boy who is captured by the Danes, and then he’s taught the way of the Vikings. Surprisingly, Uthred grows to love the Danes’ way of living, and things became more difficult for him because Alfred’s life is also intertwined with him. This first book showcases a few years within Uthred’s younger life, and it is certainly an interesting one. I’ve mentioned earlier that I loved the TV series adaptation, but I will clarify that I loved the TV series since its second season, not immediately from its first season. Fortunately, it seems likely that I’m going to love the books even more because I loved this one right from the start. Leadership, loyalty, faith, family, and the thirst for battles are prominent themes within this book—and the series—and everything about them was executed wonderfully.

“What do we look for in a lord? Strength, generosity, hardness, and success, and why should a man not be proud of those things? Show me a humble warrior and I will see a corpse.”

No offense to Alexander Dreymon, but one thing that, in my opinion, the first season failed to capture was Uthred’s fascination and thrill for battles. Reading this proved to be quite an intriguing experience, I think Cornwell did a much better job on Uthred’s characterizations. To be fair, though, this is one of the biggest benefits of reading the book instead of the adaptations. It was also great to see the first appearances of the major characters again. Alfred, Father Beocca, Brida, Ragnar, Leofric, and many more to come are all great characters, and I loved reading Uthred’s interaction with each and every one of them. If you love the characters within this book already, believe me, the two best side characters of the series—Finan and Sithric—haven’t even appeared yet, and I myself am so looking forward to meeting them in the books.

“War is fought in mystery. The truth can take days to travel, and ahead of truth flies rumor, and it is ever hard to know what is really happening, and the art of it is to pluck the clean bone of fact from the rotting flesh of fear and lies.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve read the Warlord Chronicles trilogy, and reading this once again reminded me just how good Cornwell is at writing battle scenes. Not only that, there’s something about Cornwell’s prose and the drama he weaved that just seemed to clicked with me incredibly well. For some reason, I didn’t know that the books will be narrated by an older Uthred that retells his life from the beginning, and Cornwell simply excels at doing this type of storytelling.

“What happens to you, Uhtred, is what you make happen. You will grow, you will learn the sword, you will learn the way of the shield wall, you will learn the oar, you will give honor to the gods, and then you will use what you have learned to make your life good or bad.”

The Last Kingdom covers only a small section of Uthred’s life and adventure. It is a great start to one of the most famous historical fiction series right now, and I’m so looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Due to the episodic nature of the series, I’m going to read only one or two books in the series per month to avoid feeling burnout. That’s what I did with The Expanse and The Dresden Files and it worked incredibly well for me. But yes, this is one of my priority series to finish this year. Destiny is all.

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A Review That Has Very Little to Do with This Book:

Sometimes you need a lot of book. You know what I mean.

Those Fridays you come home, lie down on the couch, and resolve not to come back until Sunday afternoon. You have vetoed faces and the spoken word. The phone will remain unplugged except for the ordering of something greasy.

On these Fridays you have two options: dissolve into a self-pitying, gelatinous blob or turn to a lot of book.

You are not without survival skills. You put stock in the usefulness of books. They’ve gotten you through weekends when you waited for the phone to ring, times when your flight’s been cancelled, road trips with the family.

So, you know to turn to a lot of book.

What you don’t need is Joyce stinking up the joint.

What you need on this weekend is something with a clean plot, a protagonist that will win, and somewhere to go far, far from here. You need good historical fiction.

Miniver might push Ivanhoe, but let’s face it, such nobility will exhaust you. This weekend may I suggest the sword’s song, and the whale’s way, and the red dawn?

What you need is a series --- something that weighs in at 2,000 plus pages so there’s no danger of running out.

Go ahead. Follow the nose of the masses. This series is a bestseller: you can count on its opiate properties.

It’ll get you through til dawn. And Bloody Sunday.

Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

$1.99 on Kindle today 6-10-17

BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List






I am Uhtred, son of Uhtred, and this is the tale of a blood feud. It is a tale of how I will take from my enemy what the law says is mine. And it is the tale of a woman and her father, a king.

He was my king and all that I have I owe to him. The food that I eat, the hall where I live, and the swords of my men, all come from Alfred, my king, who hated me.


This story begins long before I met Alfred. It begins when I was ten years old and first saw the Danes.



I thought this book was magnificent! I heard about if from some friends on GR awhile back and have the series listed in my notebook to read, but it was put by the wayside like so many other books. Then one night I got to see an episode of The Last Kingdom on BBC with my best friend while we were on the phone and he said the books are better. I'm like, "What Books?" and he proceeded to tell me about the books I already heard about and have listed in my handy notebook. I promptly put the first book on my Amazon Christmas Wish List and my friend promptly bought it, and here we are, a book that I have missed out on for so long. I loved it! I loved it! I loved it! I have the second book on the way and hope to get the rest SOON!

I find some books very hard to read or understand and get lost in translation. I was afraid that would happen with this book, but that is not the case. No, I can't remember all of the names or how to spell them, but I do that in any book... what I mean is... I wasn't lost... I understand all the author was trying to convey! I think this author is brilliant in the way he writes a story. I loved learning some of the history, even though some of the characters are fictional, it's still a wonderfully told story! This only makes me want to read more into the history that is factual in the book.. anyhoo.. moving on.

When Uhtred was ten-years-old, the Danes came and attacked England. Uhtred and his family had a fortress in Begganburg. The Danes took some places around Uhtred's home. Then some peeps and Uhtred's father all got together to duke it out with the Danes at a place called Eoferwic and things didn't go so good for the Saxons. Uhtred lost his father that day and was taken by the Danes, Uhtred was made a son of Ragnar the Fearless for his heroic effort in trying to attack Ragnar.

You have to love that, "NOW YOUR MY SON AND GET THE HELL OFF MY HORSE!" ↑

Uhtred grew to love Ragnar because he was kind to him, taught him things, was proud of him when he did great things. He was so unlike Uhtred's real father who seemed to be a cranky, non-caring father.



I liked Ragnar. I liked him so much more than I had liked my father. I should, by rights, be dead, yet Ragnar had saved me and Ragnar spoiled me and he treated me like a son, and he called me a Dane.



Uhtred grew up learning how to fight and he was so smart, this boy was so very smart and he was even smarter as he grew. He seemed to know what to do and say from a small child.


There is a female character in the book I loved, her name is Brida. She wasn't a Dane either, but she lived with them and grew up with Uhtred. They were best friends, warriors, lovers. She is fierce in the book and I like her!

I have to mention that Uhtred gets his own sword made and names her Serpent-Breath. He says in the book that he still has her and this is him telling this as an older man. Uhtred also helped make his own saxe which he called Wasp-Sting because she was short :) What can I say, I thought that was cool!

The author writes such beautiful pieces in the book, not just blood and guts and this and that, here is an excerpt of some of the way he describes things.



Ships on the winter Temes. Ships sliding past brittle reeds and leafless willows and bare alders. Wet oar blades shining in the pale sunlight.


I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I loved how he wrote things like that, the words seemed to flow like the water.

There were a lot of things happen in just this first book. Some really sad things, some good things. I can only image what happens in the other books. At one point Uhtred fights for Alfred, he gets married, has a son. And carries on trying to get back to his home and take over his rightful place.

Meanwhile, he takes a bath.. sorry.. I couldn't help myself.

I will say it again, I loved this book. It kept my interest from the very beginning and I did not find one point that was boring, it did not drag at any point. Kudos to Bernard Cornwell for making such a wonderful series. On that note, I will leave you with a large excerpt and parting scenes....



Mildreth was well. She was safe. She had not been raped. She wept when she saw me, and I took her in my arms and wondered that I was so fond of her, and she said she had thought I was dead and told me she had prayed to her god to spare me, and she took me to the room where our son was in his swaddling clothes and, for the first time, I looked at Uhtred, son of Uhtred, and I prayed that one day he would be the lawful and sole owner of lands that are carefully marked by stones and by dykes, by oaks and by ash, by marsh and by sea. I am still the owner of those lands that were purchased with our family's blood, and I will take those lands back from the man who stole them from me and I will give them to my sons. For I am Uhtred, Earl Uhtred, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, and destiny is everything.





"My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred and his father was also called Uhtred. My father’s clerk, a priest called Beocca, spelt it Utred. I do not know if that was how my father would have written it, for he could neither read nor write, but I can do both and sometimes I take the old parchments from their wooden chest and I see the name spelled Uhtred or Utred or Ughtred or Ootred, and I look at the deeds which say that Uhtred, son of Uhtred, is the lawful and sole owner of the lands that are carefully marked by stones and by dykes, by oaks and by ash, by marsh and by sea, and I dream of those lands, wave-beaten and wild beneath the wind driven sky. I dream, and know that one day I will take back the land from those who stole it from me."

I felt like I needed to write a proper review for this book, if for no other reason than to tell every single soul that could possibly read the words I'm writing that this is the absodamnlutely best series ever written within the genre of historical fiction. If you're looking to start reading historical fiction and have little experience with the genre, read this. If you're a longtime fan of medieval history and vikings and anything even slightly similar, read this. If you're intending to only ever read one historical fiction series, pick this one!

Northumbria. 866 AD. Osbert, second in line to the castle of Bebbanburg, is ten years old. For the first time since the infamous sack of Lindisfarne and the start of the Viking era, the barbarian Danes return to England to pillage and plunder to the full satisfaction of their greed. Osbert's elder brother is among the first to fall to the swords of the wicked pagans. And because of tradition set in stone among the great lords of Bebbanburg, Osbert must now give up his name for that of his dead brother. From this day, he is known as Uhtred Uhtredsson. Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

"There’s war between the gods, Uhtred, war between the Christian god and our gods, and when there is war in Asgard the gods make us fight for them on earth."

The Northumbrian army marches to take back the captured city of Eoferwic, resulting in a catastrophic defeat. The lord of Bebbanburg is slain in combat, and young Uhtred is captured by the Danes. He lives with the dangerous raiders from the north for years, and grows into adolescence under the watchful eye of Ragnar the Fearless. Thus begins a tale of the Saxon who becomes a Viking. Of the pagan who becomes a champion of Christendom. Of a man whose loyalties are forever torn. Of a man whose name is whispered in the ears of kings, is feared by warriors from all sides of the great war, and terrifies pious priests into making the sign of the Cross. Thus begins the tale of Uhtred.

"Pride makes a man, it drives him, it is the shield wall around his reputation... Men die, they said, but reputation does not die."

Let's settle one thing here: Uhtred of Bebbanburg is the best protagonist I've ever encountered in fictional literature. All the amazing protagonists in the genres of fantasy and science fiction can go hide in a corner when this guy is around. His fierceness in both battle, love and faith has no match anywhere else, and his twin allegiances and friends on both sides of the main conflict turn him into a remarkably interesting person who is constantly doubting his own loyalty and identity.

That praise should say a whole lot about Cornwell's skills at characterisation, especially considering that Uhtred is not even my favourite character in this series. But there are tons of great characters hidden in every chapter of the book. From ruthless and bloodthirsty Norse warriors, to Saxon leaders with their ambitions exceeded only by their piety. From pagan witches to scheming priests. And from the lowliest of slaves on the Viking ships, to kings and princesses fighting for power. All of those are to be found on the pages of The Saxon Stories, alongside so many more.

But this series is also so much more than the tale of Uhtred. It is the story of cultures and faiths clashing violently. Of the mythology and origins of one of the most powerful nations in history. Of how England, a name not yet widely known, was united under one great kingdom.

Cornwell's eloquent writing style, the dramatic first-person narrative, the magnificent early medieval setting, the most interesting and conflicted main character I have ever read about and historical realism gracefully and skillfully combined with masterly storytelling ; all of it adds up to a truly fascinating story of war, love and death in Anglo-Saxon England.

I'm going to say it one more time: this is my favourite series. Do yourself a favour and read it!

"Wyrd bith ful araed. Fate is inexorable."


Sean Barrs

The Last Kingdom, by Bernard Cornwell, is a triumph of a novel; it is historical fiction at its finest. Uhtred’s story is as fantastic as it is gripping, and most importantly it feels realistic. It’s like I’ve read a chapter of a man’s life that could have existed, that could have been a part of history. His character is just that well written.

The book begins with an aged Uhtred narrating his life to the reader. He is full of a life’s wisdom and a warrior’s experience as he tells the adventures of his youth. He looks back at the decisions he made with equal measures of regret and joy at his foolhardiness. This is where the author triumphs most: he tells the reader where his protagonist is going to end up, at the end of his life, and urges them discover how he got there.

But I am Uhted, son of Uhtred, and this is the tale of a bloodfeud. It is a tale of how I will take from my enemy what the law says is mine. And it is the tale of a woman and of her father, a king.



Uhtred is the second son of Earl Uhtred. Consequently, as second in line, his farther wanted him to be a priest, which is a life Uhtred would never choose for himself. After the death of his brother, his farther names him is heir and expects him to witness battle, which the invading Danish fleet provide. His farther is killed in the battle and Uhtred captured by a Danish warrior called Ragnar. It sounds all doom and gloom, except Ragnar is what Uhtred wanted his father to be. He is a fearless warrior without religious restraints. Furthermore, and more importantly, he shows Uhtred warmth. Something his farther withheld. It is no surprise that his would be captor becomes something of a role model to the growing warrior that is Uhtred.

"And that is how I met Ragar, Ragnar the Fearless, my brother’s killer and the man whose head was supposed to grace a pole on Bebbanburg’s ramparts, Earl Ragnar."



This leaves our protagonist in an odd situation. He is an Englishman, but is living as a Dane. So where do his loyalties lie? These questions do not occur to Uhtred till he is a man grown and spent his youth as a Danish warrior. He worships Thor and Odin and marvels at the Danish pride that is their magnificent ships. The inner conflict that builds is tremendous. We know where his path will eventually take him, and what side of the bloody shield wall he will belong on, but are clueless to how he will actually get there.

Suffice to say, I liked this book a lot. Uhtred is a terrific protagonist. This series, however, is not just Uhtred’s tale. It is the tale of how Alfred the Great conquered the Danish invaders and how Christianity further purged pagan beliefs; it is the tale of how Uhtred, a very believable fictional warrior, helped Alfred eventually be considered great. At least, that is the ending we know will happen and the ending we can’t wait to see happen.

The Saxon Stories
1. The Last Kingdom- A fine five stars
2. The Pale Horsman- -A brilliant five stars
3.Lords of the North-A vengeful four stars
4.Sword Song- A familiar four stars
5.The Burning Land- A loyal five stars
6. Death of Kings A mighty five stars

He was my king and all that I have I owe to him. The food that I eat, the hall where I live and the swords of my men, all came from, my king, who hated me............


I do love this series. What are your thoughts on the new television adaption?


The story begins in England in the 9th century with young Uhtred of Bebbanburg. He’s born a Christian Saxon, but from a young age is raised by pagan Danes. This dispossessed Ealdorman grows into a fierce warrior and eventually is torn between two identities. His main goal is to regain his father’s homeland, but there are many steps to be taken on his journey.

The law says I own that land, and the law, we are told, is what makes us men under God instead of beasts in the ditch. But the law does not help me take back my land. The law wants compromise. The law thinks money will compensate for loss. The law, above all, fears the blood feud. But I am Uhtred, son of Uhtred, and this is the tale of a blood feud. It is a tale of how I will take from my enemy what the law says is mine. And it is the tale of a woman and of her father, a king.

Reluctantly, I agreed to start watching the Netflix series with my husband before getting to the books, but then stopped after season one to catch up. It’s wonderful that, for the most part, the series is following the book so far with only minimal changes as far as events and characters. There were a few changes that I actually liked more about the series, and then a few things that I liked better about the book.

The writing, story, characters—I pretty much loved everything about this book. It’s fantastic, thrilling, and full of action and adventure. Historical fiction isn’t one of my most favorite genres, but this book was awesome and changed everything. The history during this period of time and location is something I haven’t learned that much about, and now I’m inspired to learn more about King Alfred and others in the story.

To be honest, I love a good revenge story, and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be plenty of it in this series. Seeing Uhtred get his revenge is something to look forward to. He’s a favorite character that you simply can’t get enough of, and it’s perfect that he narrates this entire book. There were other likable characters too, and of course some you just can’t help but hate.

Something really stuck in my mind when reading though: how much of this was actually true? The author included a much appreciated historical note at the end which answered the majority of my questions. It was interesting learning in the end which characters and events were real.

Moving forward now to The Pale Horseman after a short break.


You can also see this review and others


An outstanding novel set in England during medieval times in the year 866 AD. The author introduces real historical figures; Guthrum the Unlucky, Ubba the Horrible, and Ivar the Boneless, all fearless Dane warriors’ intent on taking over the English kingdoms. They arrive in their magnificent ships outfitted with rich colorful shields, finely carved prows, sterns with ominous dragons and serpents, and mastheads painted with bold eagles. A frightening sight for many townspeople who flee their homes trying to avoid the slaughter they knew would come. The story centers on an English lad, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a fervent believer in the spinners of fate. As he follows the destiny he feels he cannot avoid, Uhtred is eventually caught between his loyalty to his country and unexpected love for the Danes. An incredible read!


I had no idea what I was getting into when I read this book. I'd never read Bernard Cornwell. All I knew was that it was a book about Vikings.

Anyway, I absolutely loved it! And I became a permanent Bernard Cornwell fan. I think Uhtred is one of my favorite characters of all time. Yes he’s mean, arrogant, and a bit of an antihero, but he’s a full blooded character, and I felt like I really got to know him.

This book goes through Uhtred’s childhood as a Saxon raised by the Danes, and after reading his childhood, I can understand his blood thirsty nature and his conflicted loyalties. I’m always a bit amused by Uhtred’s grumpy disposition.

Cornwell has a way of bringing the Dark Ages alive with gritty realism, and he makes the reader feel like they are right on the battlefield, right there with Uhtred. In fact, I’ve actually become quite spoiled by Cornwell, because most historical fiction doesn’t draw me in this well.

This truly is one of my favorite series of all time!

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~

Actual Rating: 4.5 StarsTHIS WAS. THE MOST FUN. VERY BLOODY. LOTS OF BATTLE. WOULD RECOMMEND.Weird thing I noticed upon rereading, I could’ve sworn Uhtred’s phrase was “Fate is inexorable.” But on this read through the narrator said “Fate is all.” and “Fate is everything.” Now I’m wondering if the phrase has been edited in the audio version?

James Tivendale

In The Last Kingdom, we follow Uhtred. son of Uhtred who is the Ealdorman of Beddanburg by birthright. In the first-person perspective, Uhtred tells us his tale and throughout The Last Kingdom, he presents his formative years from a youth, through his teenage years to the time that he becomes a man.

During the prologue, Danes attack the outskirts of Beddanburg. Uhtred's brother is murdered by a Dane called Ragnar the Fearless. The Saxons retaliate in a pitched battle, during which 9-year-old Uhtred sees his brother's killer and tries to get revenge.

"I recognised him as the man who had killed my brother and, like the fool I was, I screamed at him."

Seeing the courage and fearlessness that Uhtred already holds at such a young age, Ragnar doesn't kill him but takes Uhtred with him at the end of the battle. Throughout the next years, Ragnar becomes fond of Uhtred and sees him as an adopted son. Uhtred, likewise, loves Ragnar like a father.

During this period, Uhtred lives like a Dane. He lives alongside Ragnar's family including his sons, his adopted daughter Brida, his real daughter Thyra, and Rangar's blind and wise father Ravn. Throughout this time Uhtred learns the warrior ways, learns how to speak Danish, and finds out about the ways of Woden, Thor, and the "pagan gods." He takes part in numerous battles and skirmishes against the Saxons and meets the army's heavy hitters such as Ubba, Ivar, and Guthrum.

There are so many excellent and memorable characters. Cornwell's penmanship expertly brings them to life. I finished The Last Kingdom yesterday and last night I had a dream about Uhtred and Young Ragnar. It is not often that an author's characters invade my subconscious in such a way. Uhtred is a great character. Not quite Danish and not quite a Saxon. Confused regarding his religious beliefs as he just wants to fight and to get Beddanburg back from his treacherous uncle. Characters like Ubba, Leofric, Ragnar, and Young Ragnar jump of the page and their dialogue exchanges with Uhtred are well composed and extremely memorable.

"Destiny is all, Ravn liked to tell me, destiny is everything. He would even say it in English, “Wyrd biõ ful ãræd."

When I started reading The Last Kingdom I hadn't watched the BBC series yet. I initially decided that I would read ahead so that the show didn't spoil events for me. I purchased the novel and also the audiobook which features the excellent Jonathan Keeble as Uhtred. This plan didn't quite work out. After I had read the first few chapters I decided to watch the first episode. The finale of this episode reveals a huge moment of death and deceit that doesn't take place in the novel until around 60%. I've only got my self to blame for spoiling it for myself but thought I would highlight this in my review so that potential readers don't make the same mistake. This moment was still extremely powerful and important to the novel's narrative but I think I'd stolen away the unpredictable nature of the incident. The book focused a lot more on young Uhtred than the show. The scenes of Uhtred's youth are extremely important to who he becomes and I think the show missed out on some amazing moments that are featured here.

"The preachers tell us that pride is a great sin, but the preachers are wrong. Pride makes a man, it drives him, it is the shield wall around his reputation... Men die, they said, but reputation does not die."

The Last Kingdom was an extremely enjoyable historical fiction read that features excellent drama, well-realised characters, and is chock-full of memorable battles and duels. The pacing is great too and at the more heated moments, I almost felt like I was part of the battle bellowing "shield wall!" with the sweat, blood, gore and death dripping from the pages. I am so glad that I started Uhtred's story. With there being 13 books in The Last Kingdom/ The Warrior Chronicles/ The Saxon Stories series I am aiming to read one a month for the foreseeable future. I'd like to thank Edward Gwynne for recommending this series to me.