It is a time of political turmoil once more as the fading King Edward begins to lose control over his successors and their supporters. There are two potential heirs—possibly more—and doubt over whether the once separate states of Wessex and Mercia will hold together . Despite attempts at pulling him into the political fray, Uhtred of Bebbanburg cares solely about his beloved Northumbria and its continuing independence from southern control.
But an oath is a strong, almost sacred commitment and such a promise had been exchanged between Uhtred and Aethelstan, his onetime companion in arms and now a potential king. Uhtred was tempted to ignore the demands of the oath and stay in his northern fastness, leaving the quarrelling Anglo-Saxons to sort out their own issues. But an attack on him by a leading supporter of one of the candidates and an unexpected appeal for help from another, drives Uhtred with a small band of warriors south, into the battle for kingship—and England’s fate.
Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother, who was English, a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted and brought up in Essex by the Wiggins family, who were members of the Peculiar People, a strict Protestant sect who banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine. After he left them, he changed his name to his birth mother's maiden name, Cornwell.
Cornwell was sent away to Monkton Combe School, attended the University of London, and after graduating, worked as a teacher. He attempted to enlist in the British armed services at least three times but was rejected on the grounds of myopia.
He then joined BBC's Nationwide and was promoted to become head of current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland. He then joined Thames Television as editor of Thames News. He relocated to the United States in 1980 after marrying an American. Unable to get a green card, he started writing novels, as this did not require a work permit.
As a child, Cornwell loved the novels of C.S. Forester, chronicling the adventures of fictional British naval officer Horatio Hornblower during the Napoleonic Wars, and was surprised to find there were no such novels following Lord Wellington's campaign on land. Motivated by the need to support himself in the U.S. through writing, Cornwell decided to write such a series. He named his chief protagonist Richard Sharpe, a rifleman involved in most major battles of the Peninsular War.
Cornwell wanted to start the series with the Siege of Badajoz but decided instead to start with a couple of "warm-up" novels. These were Sharpe's Eagle and Sharpe's Gold, both published in 1981. Sharpe's Eagle was picked up by a publisher, and Cornwell got a three-book deal. He went on to tell the story of Badajoz in his third Sharpe novel, Sharpe's Company, published in 1982.
Cornwell and wife Judy co-wrote a series of novels, published under the pseudonym "Susannah Kells". These were A Crowning Mercy, published in 1983, Fallen Angels in 1984, and Coat of Arms (aka The Aristocrats) in 1986. (Cornwell's strict Protestant upbringing informed the background of A Crowning Mercy, which took place during the English Civil War.) In 1987, he also published Redcoat, an American Revolutionary War novel set in Philadelphia during its 1777 occupation by the British.
After publishing eight books in his ongoing Sharpe series, Cornwell was approached by a production company interested in adapting them for television. The producers asked him to write a prequel to give them a starting point to the series. They also requested that the story feature a large role for Spanish characters to secure co-funding from Spain. The result was Sharpe’s Rifles, published in 1987, and a series of Sharpe television films staring Sean Bean.
A series of contemporary thrillers with sailing as a background and common themes followed: Wildtrack published in 1988, Sea Lord (aka Killer's Wake) in 1989, Crackdown in 1990, Stormchild in 1991, and Scoundrel, a political thriller, in 1992.
In June 2006, Cornwell was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's 80th Birthday Honours List.
Cornwell's latest work, Azincourt, was released in the UK in October 2008. The protagonist is an archer who participates in the Battle of Agincourt, another devastating defeat suffered by the French in the Hundred Years War. However, Cornwell has stated that it will not be about Thomas of Hookton from The Grail Quest or any of his relatives.
Sword of Kings is the penultimate installment of The Last Kingdom series, if it wasn’t, I would’ve given up reading the rest of the series.
I won’t lie. I don’t even know what else to say on this review here. If you’ve read the previous books, then you’ve read Sword of Kings. This is definitely the worst book in the entire series so far, or at the very least, the most pointless one. The most important events in this book happened off-screen, and beyond that, there’s nothing important offered in this book. After seeing the super high average ratings and reading this book, I’ve come to the conclusion that a LOT of readers love repetitive series as long that they’re well-written.
The story meanders. Uthred is old. There’s a new enemy. Ah, sailing the sea is good. Uthred is old. Oh no, a new enemy, I wonder whether who will prevail? HMMM, this will be SHOCKING. SHOCKING. Oops, Uthred is in danger. Uthred is old. More than 60 years old. Uthred love tits. Uthred is old. Oh, tits. And let’s not forget how much reputation matters. Tits, too. Reputation is all that matters. And tits. And Uthred is old. Uthred is with Finan. Ah seafaring, the wind is nice. The sea is dangerous, but the wind is nice. Uthred is old, but the tits he thinks about are nice. Ah yes, Uthred doesn’t believe in Christian. Uthred is now old. Uthred must leave a good reputation. Oh, shield wall is scary. But shield wall is where warriors live. The Shield wall is terrifying. Oh, wait, important character’s death? I’ll mention it in two sentence. Bye. Uthred is old. No, don’t say bye yet. England hasn’t been formed. Let’s move on to the next book.
You’ve just read, at least, the past six books in The Last Kingdom. I recommend this only for readers who don’t mind not experiencing anything new whatsoever in the storyline. If there’s a cow, Cornwell has milk that cow to death. Twelve times. Hel won't even accept this cow anymore in her place. I don’t like saying this, I think this is the first time I say something like this in a review, but this volume is totally a cash grab. I hope the last book will provide a great conclusion. That’s all I want. But for some readers who asked me to read the books or watch the show? Stick with the show. There’s only seventeen 1 star rating for this book at the moment on Goodreads, so allow me to give the eighteenth 1-star rating. Sword of Kings is the most pointless book I’ve read this year, a total waste of time. I pity the cow milked to death for this series.
4 stars for another well written story in the Saxon Stories series. This book has Uhtred of Bebbanburg, going south from Bebbanburg to fulfill an oath to kill two men, one of whom is Aethelhelm the Younger and would be king of Wessex. He fights some fierce battles and almost dies but survives. Bernard Cornwell writes the best battle scenes of any historical fiction writer currently writing books. He describes in vivid detail the shield wall and weapons used in 10th century England. This was a library book.
Not many authors are able to write 12 books series and still keep it engaging and thrilling read. Bernard Cornwell can.
The Saxon Stories is the best historical fiction series I have ever read and my fascination with main character Uhtred grows with every instalment. If you are new to this series, do yourself a favor and give it a chance as soon as possible. (You may read my spoiler-free review of previous books here.) If you are familiar with our pagan warlord extraordinaire, do not hesitate to pick this instalment as soon as it is released.
As always, book is accompanied by a historical note in which author states what had really happened in the past and what is his work of fiction. These historical notes are a "cherry on the top" that I always look forward to, so make sure to read them as well :)
*ARC provided by publisher as an exchange for honest review*
I’m a little depressed after finishing this. I just realized I have to wait at least another year for a new Uhtred book. Also – I think the tone of these books is getting darker.
In Sword of Kings, Uhtred is called upon for help from Edward’s queen, Eadigfu. She believes Aethelhem and her step-son Aelfweard are plotting against her and her children. She sends for Uhtred, seeking his protection against their mutual enemies. And Uhtred, feeling restless, and also suspicious of a plot against him, against his better judgement and the advice of friends, comes to rescue her. At which point, of course, things go terribly, horribly wrong.
Edward dies, leaving Mercia and East Anglia to Aethelstan, his true heir, and Wessex to Aelfweard, the recognized heir. There’s also the matter of the oath Uhtred has sworn to kill Aethelhelm, and others. (I mean really, is there any oath he hasn’t sworn at this point?)
We say goodbye to a couple old friends. I was a little upset by the way those character deaths were handled, which seemed almost thoughtless. It happens off page toward the end, and while Uhtred seems upset by one, he admits that he was relieved about the other, and it bothered me quite a bit.
He’s often painted as a sort of Knight in Shining Chain Mail (he literally saves like 13 orphans in London from misery in this book), and to have that line thrown in so carelessly toward the end felt like a disservice to his character. I didn’t feel like it reflected who he really was or his past actions. It’s hard to really say what it was without spoilers, but it wasn’t a good way to end.
Anyway- I did like some of the new characters (Beneditta). And Finan received a lot of spotlight here, and his friendship with Uhtred is one of my favorite things about the Saxon Stories. The battle scene at the end was fantastic.
Overall – well worth reading if you are a fellow Uhtred fan. My hangups with this one were more personal than anything else. Thank you to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for the eARC for review.
Great to be back with Uthred in Sword of Kings in the penultimate instalment of The Saxon Stories. Cannot believe that I only have one to go!
I would say that Sword of Kings is one of the strongest of this series, with some very high points, and one of the most engaging opening sections of all the instalments so far. It was a fantastic start, and that continued through much of the story.
Whilst there was a section which I thought had pacing problems, the rest was usual Bernard Cornwell success. It has a great cast of characters, with an entertaining plot, and a smaller arc taking place and resulting satisfactory within the wider arc and drive of the series, which is the formation of England under one king.
What I particularly enjoyed in this instalment was that it seamed less streamlined than many of the other instalments. A major focus for Uhtred deviated somewhat from the usual, instead focusing on his hatred of slavery, partly due to personal experience. This materialised into some powerful scenes that both made me love Uhtred more, and also managed to explore the character of Uhtred even more! Bernard Cornwell somehow manages to expand on Uhtred every single book, and I would say this makes our main character one of the most successfully and interestingly developed characters in fiction.
Book 12 in the last Kingdom series published 2019. 4 lively stars. Twelve books in and Uhtred of Bebbanburg is starting to get a bit long in the tooth but the same can’t be said about his continuing adventures.
On the death of King Edward the country that was to be the united country of England is thrown into utter confusion. On his deathbed Edward decreed that his kingdom should be split in two those being the Kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia. Aethelstan, Edward’s son supposedly born out of wedlock, is to be the King of Mercia. Because he is considered to be the bastard son his ascension to the throne is hotly contested, by war if needs be.
Back in Bebbanburg, Uhtred is growing old and contented and being embroiled in yet another Anglo-Saxon war is something he has no heart for. But many years ago Uhtred swore on oath to Aethelstan that if Aethelstan ever found himself in trouble Uhtred would come to his assistance. Now Aethelstan is very much in need of help and Uhtred, a man of honour, rides to keep his oath.
Unleash the hounds of war the warriors of Northumbria are coming. So, dear reader, sit back and enjoy the ride as two old men Uhtred and Finan ride to take on the might of Wessex.
This is a high octane adventure with Bernard Cornwell’s brilliant amalgam of historical fact and fiction.
Bernard Cornwell's legendary creation Uhtred of Bebbanburg returns for the 12th novel in The Last Kingdom series. Cornwell brings us the usual mixture of historical fact & fiction, wonderful characters (old & new) & superb action. After only a few pages I already felt totally immersed in Uhtred's world. As Uhtred gets older he finds it harder to fight, but with his trusty weapons (Serpent Breath & Wasp Sting) he is still a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. Sword of Kings is another fine addition to The Last Kingdom series of books, but I wonder how much more Uhtred of Bebbanburg can do. Thankfully everyone has one more fight in them.
Although there were times of uncharacteristic doubt by Utrhed, that might be attibuted to age and maturing, the novel held up with new plot lines. I liked the beginning battles with the boats and don't seem to have grown tired of the author continually introducing beautiful women and new despicable adversiers. There was also a new element of rescuing orphans and including them in an ongoing story. The last minute overwhelming of odds is getting tiresome though.
Well here I am I’m finally caught up with the saga of Uhtred of Bebbanburg! This installment was actually really enjoyable & the whole series has become a bit of a comfort read for me over the last two years. I’m sad there isn’t more waiting for me but I’ll do my best to be patient while Mr. Cornwell writes more about my dude & his crazy adventures!
This very captivating book is the 12th instalment of the excellent "Last Kingdom" series by the formidable author, Bernard Cornwell. (This series has also been adapted for TV/Film)
The historical details concerning this book has been meticulously researched and documented, with Place Names and a well-drawn map of Wessex, East Anglia and Mercia at the beginning of the book, while at the back you'll notice a well detailed Historical Note and general explanations concerning Uhtred's story.
Story-telling is as ever of a top-notch quality, all the figures featuring in this warlike historical story, whether they are great historical or wonderful fictional, come vividly to life, and the book contains great fighting actions and superbly pictured battle scenes.
The book is set in the year, AD 924, and King Edward the Elder is at the end of his life, and in the wings there are two Princelings waiting, namely Athelstan and AElfweard, to become the next King of Wessex, East Anglia and Mercia.
Uhtred, who's safely in Bebbanburg (Bamburgh) receives a plea for help from Queen Eadgifu, wife of King Edward, and that plea will set him on a course to Cent (Kent) in an attempt to rescue her from the clutches of AEthelhelm, and so take her back with him towards safety to Bebbanburg.
On the way back Uhtred is waylaid by certain factors and heads for Lundene (London) to see and notice the lay of the land there, and while being there he gets ambushed by an invasion of reinforcements from East Anglia by AEthelhelm into Lundene, who's taken over the city by luring Merewalh out through treachery, and only by sheer luck and determination Uhtred and his followers manage to escape for a final confrontation.
What will follow is a thrilling and excitable adventure in which Uhtred and his followers, now with the help of Merewalh and his garrison, will try to invade Lundene and complete his oath to Athelstan by killing AEthelhelm and AElfweard, an oath that will fail, but his personal nemesis at this moment Waormund will certainly face his deadly wrath in an attempt to regain his famous sword, Serpent-Breath, and in doing so finally paving the way for Athelstan to become King of Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex, and ultimately also becoming a serious future threat to Uhtred's still free Kingdom of Northumbria.
Very much recommended, for this is another brilliant episode and splendid addition to the Last Kingdom series, and one that I would like to call: "A Marvellous Captivating (Uhtred) Sequel"!
Great. Bernard Cornwell is a master at creating the perfect atmosphere of an environment before the battle; he describes the hills, the rivers, the bridges, the villages, the emotional conditions of the warriors as if the reader were there with them. And in this twelfth episode of the story of Uhtred di Bebbanburg it is like this too: the atmospheres are recreated in a perfect way and it is always a pleasure to read the 400+ pages of the book in one breath. Uhtred is now old by the standards of the time (he should be in his sixties by now) but he makes up for the athletic superiority of his opponents with his intelligence, experience and cunning and then guts them as usual. Uhtred, inside, is always the usual Uhtred: stubborn, fatalistic, born to fight and, as he says, "to entertain the gods". It was really nice to find Uhtred, Finan, Oswi and all the others and if I have to find fault with this book, I would say that the author has this time exaggerated a bit with the historical descriptions relating to the unification of Englaland ( as it is called in the book); I agree that these descriptions serve to give context to the stories of the Saxon kings, but Uhtred's books are not historical treatises and in my opinion about fifty pages could have been cut. But anyway a very enjoyable book.
It's Uhtred, it's solid, it's more of the same. Maybe I've gotten pickier with age and it takes more to entertain me. I remember absolutely loving every sentence of the first 3-6 books in the series, but aside from the masterpiece that was The Flame Bearer, the second half feels a bit more stale overall.
A sentimental four stars for being a slight improvement on War of the Wolf and for having some solid action in the streets of Lundene/London.
This whole series of Saxons vs Danes is worth reading though some volumes are better than others and - caveat emptor - battle scenes do not spare you the blood and brutality. After reading the series you can binge watch the Netflix adaptation which is superb ⚔️🛡️
This 12th offering in Cornwell’s Saxon historical fiction series encompasses the death of King Edward the Elder (871-924) to the crowning of Æthalstan as his successor. Cornwell’s fictional hero Uhtred of Bebbanburg has sworn an oath to support Edward’s son Æthalstan. Unfortunately, Edward decided to split his kingdom between his two sons—bequeathing Mercia to Æthalstan, and West Saxon and Wessex to Ælfweard.
Of course, Cornwell has the two brothers vying to rule all three areas as their father did. He paints Ælfweard as vicious and deceitful, as well as his savvy step-father Æthelhelm the Younger. Plus, Æthelhelm has found a powerful giant of a warrior in Waormund. Uhtred will need considerable support from Finan, his right-hand-man to defeat them.
The aging Uhtred is older, and not quite the warrior he used to be. But, his experience has made him wiser. And like all of Cornwell’s Saxon series, there will be battles and killing ‘aplenty’. He is the master of making the reader feel the energy in hand-to-hand fighting. Uhtred has plenty of opportunity to use his long-sword Serpent Breath and his short sword Wasp Sting.
This is one of the better books in the series. Enjoy!
De los últimos que me he leído de esta saga creo que es el que peor sabor de boca me ha dejado.
Diría que su mayor problema es la trama principal en si. Para empezar no es demasiado atractiva la idea inicial, pero es que además con el paso de las páginas todo se va enredando de mala manera hasta llegar a un final que no está mal, pero que al llegar mediante tantos rodeos, queda un poco desangelado.
A su favor, pues lo de siempre sobre Cornwell. Mucha acción y siempre pasa algo, aunque en este caso me ha dado la sensación de estar leyendo un borrador y no una de sus novelas habituales ya acabadas. Tampoco ayuda que el supuesto villano de la historia aparezca entre nada y menos y que aunque nuestro héroe tenga un enemigo al que enfrentarse, este no sea nada interesante.
PD: Añado que se agradece que Uthred por fin parece ser "humano", pero no voy a contar nada más sobre este tema.
Solo queda uno creo de esta saga, así que voy a esperar si lo sacan en castellano y veo como termina todo.
I don't give a lot of fives, but Sword of Kings tops others in this series to which I have given fours. Solid 4.5 stars, rounded up. So deep into this long series, and the story still grips me. Plenty of action, plenty of personality, very engaging. I loved it! And I finished it in a week, which for me, is really something.
Oh my goodness. Uhtred is back and in one of the best books of the series. It reminded me why I fell in love with him. It is action packed and Uhtred is at his most cunning. When he leads 180 men against 2000 in Lundene (London), I held my breath the entire time. The story is full of battles and skirmishes and even a humiliating episode for Uhtred. It has everything.
I have to admit that I didn't know much about English history except for the Tudors before reading this series. Alfred and his vision for the future have quite opened my eyes. The first book still has one of the most thrilling scenes ever, to me, in that England, as we know it, came down to a small marshland defended bravely by Alfred and, of course, Uhtred. I know Uhtred is not real but the rest of the story is full of wonderful historical research and that is a true story. When Alfred's vision is realized, I almost wept.
The best part of the book comes at the end in the author's notes. It captivated me and left me salivating for the next book. Cornwell is a master of captivating the reader. And this is just a wonderful addition to this wonderful series. I had to order it from England because, for some silly reason, it won't be out in the U.S. until Nov. and I couldn't wait that long. I am glad I didn't.
The twelfth book in the series about Uhtred of Bebbanburg, and now King Edward (Alfred’s son) is on his deathbed. His two oldest sons are lining up to do battle for the throne. Uhtred has sworn an oath to Aethelstan even though he’d much prefer to stay in the north. Fate, of course, has other plans and once again Uhtred is fighting for the saxons. This is another great instalment in the series. Uhtred is such a great character, and I’ve enjoyed the whole series, one more to go.
The less said about this sorry mess of a novel the better at this point, I think. All the things wrong with it are simply reappearances and intensifications of earlier problems, and frankly there's not much right with it. If I didn't know the next book was the last one, there's no way I'd proceed from here. This story just needs to end.
In this book Uhtred is old, tired and indecisive. Almost all of his earlier passion for life and quick wit is gone. I felt like this book was only going through the motions. The plot didn’t grab at me and the characters were just meandering around without direction. While this was my least favourite book of the Saxon series, it was still a Bernard Cornwell book, and a mediocre Bernard Cornwell book is better than no Bernard Cornwell book. In all of this being said, I had a huge book hangover after reading it. I love his writing and immersive world building so much that I was craving more of that sort of world, and I started The Winter King next.
La storia di Uthred e della creazione dell'Englaland è ormai quasi alla fine. Cornwell sta grattando il fondo del barile delle sue idee e purtroppo si vede. Questo La spada dei re non è tra i capitoli più ispirati del ciclo, ma comunque si fa leggere, accompagnandoci al gran finale...e sono sicuro che Cornwell ci regalerà fuochi artificiali.
Onto book 12 in the saga, lets hope it’s a rip-roaring ride!
That it is and most enjoyable too as it’s a fast-moving yarn with likeable characters old & new. This one’s pace actually reminded me of the earlier novels which I’ve enjoyed the most. There jus seemed to be more going on & you never quite knew how events were going to unfold. Uthred seems a more considered warrior too in this tale I noted, certainly more cautious & careful with his men’s lives which came through in the text to me.
Certainly summit different than a few of the prior books which seemed formulaic for the most part although I can’t quite put my finger on it! I enjoyed it more is the only parting comment I can make!