The Last Kingdom
Before you even enter best-selling author Bernard Cornwell’s vividly drawn ninth-century The Last Kingdom, you’re greeted with a list of 68 Anglo-Saxon place names — Lundene for London, Eoferwic for York — and already the gauntlet’s been thrown: A breezy tale of English legend and Viking lore this ain’t. You learn stuff. For one, the invading horde that conquered three of England’s four kingdoms were rarely called Vikings; these hard-drinking warriors were the Danes. We’re privy to their pagan ways through Uhtred, a fire-hearted English boy of noble birth orphaned by battle and raised by Danes. Our hero clearly prefers their brutal camaraderie to the pious Christian cunning of his native Englishmen, which is odd, since this is the first book in a planned series tracing England’s King Alfred the Great. No matter; cudgel us crazy, but after this dip into the Dark Ages, we want to go back.