The Saxon Stories (AKA The Last Kingdom)

by Bernard Cornwell

The Last Kingdom

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 the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands) Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides. By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the enchanting fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.

This thrilling adventure—based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors—depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England.

The Pale Horseman

The second installment of Bernard Cornwell’s New York Times bestselling series chronicling the epic saga of the making of England, “like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer, London)—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit television series.

This is the exciting—yet little known—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.

At the end of The Last Kingdom, The Danes had been defeated at Cynuit, but the triumph of the English is not fated to last long. The Danish Vikings quickly invade and occupy three of England’s four kingdoms—and all that remains of the once proud country is a small piece of marshland, where Alfred and his family live with a few soldiers and retainers, including Uhtred, the dispossessed English nobleman who was raised by the Danes. Uhtred has always been a Dane at heart, and has always believed that given the chance, he would fight for the men who raised him and taught him the Viking ways. But when Iseult, a powerful sorceress, enters Uhtred’s life, he is forced to consider feelings he’s never confronted before—and Uhtred discovers, in his moment of greatest peril, a new-found loyalty and love for his native country and ruler.

Lords of the North

BBC2 and Netflix series THE LAST KINGDOM is based on Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling novels on the making of England and the fate of his great hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg. THE LORDS OF THE NORTH is the third book in the series.

Uhtred wants revenge. He wants the land and castle that is his. He wants his treacherous uncle to pay for taking them.

Heading north with his lover, former nun Hild, he finds chaos as the Vikings battle among themselves to consolidate their hold on the region. At the heart of it are men from Uhtred’s past – Sven the One-Eyed and Kjartan the Cruel, men of vicious reputation. Still, he has matched such men before.

Then Uhtred suffers a betrayal to rival the treachery that deprived him of his birthright. It will leave him trapped with no hope of escape …

Uhtred of Bebbanburg’s mind is as sharp as his sword. A thorn in the side of the priests and nobles who shape his fate, this Saxon raised by Vikings is torn between the life he loves and the cause he has sworn to serve.

Sword Song

The year is 885, and England is at peace, divided between the Danish kingdom to the north and the Saxon kingdom of Wessex in the south. Warrior by instinct and Viking by nature, Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has land, a wife and children—and a duty to King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames. But a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have invaded the decayed Roman city of London with dreams of conquering Wessex… with Uhtred’s help. Suddenly forced to weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning tide of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles, Uhtred—Alfred’s sharpest sword—must now make the choice that will determine England’s future.

The Burning Land

At the end of the ninth century, with King Alfred of Wessex in ill health and his heir still an untested youth, it falls to Alfred’s reluctant warlord Uhtred to outwit and outbattle the invading enemy Danes, led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair. But the sweetness of Uhtred’s victory is soured by tragedy, forcing him to break with the Saxon king. Joining the Vikings, allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—Uhtred devises a strategy to invade and conquer Wessex itself. But fate has very different plans.

Bernard Cornwell’s The Burning Land is a new chapter in his story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.

Death of Kings

The master of historical fiction presents the iconic story of King Alfred and the making of a nation. As the ninth century wanes, England appears about to be plunged into chaos once more.

For the Viking-raised but Saxon-born warrior, Uhtred, whose life seems to shadow the making of England, this presents him with difficult choices. King Alfred is dying and his passing threatens the island of Britain to renewed warfare. Alfred wants his son, Edward, to succeed him but there are other Saxon claimants to the throne as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the north.

Uhtred’s loyalty – and his vows – were to Alfred, not to his son, and despite his long years of service to Alfred, he is still not committed to the Saxon cause. His own desire is to reclaim his long lost lands and castle to the north. But the challenge to him, as the king’s warrior, is that he knows that he will either be the means of making Alfred’s dream of a united and Christian England come to pass or be responsible for condemning it to oblivion.

This novel is a dramatic story of the power of tribal commitment and the terrible difficulties of divided loyalties. This is the making of England magnificently brought to life.

The Pagan Lord

Bernard Cornwell-who “is at his enthralling best conveying . . . one of the defining periods of English history” (Wall Street Journal)-returns to his epic Saxon Tales saga with this dramatic story of divided loyalties, bloody battles, and the struggle to unite Britain

At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.

Loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.

With The Pagan Lord, New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell-“the reigning king of historical fiction” (USA Today)-continues his magnificent epic of the making of England during the Middle Ages, vividly bringing to life the uneasy alliances, bloody battles, and deadly intrigue that gave birth to the British nation.

The Empty Throne

This eighth entry in New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell’s epic Saxon Tales series brings to life the harrowing and turbulent tale of a nation torn apart by sectarian and religious strife, a political struggle dominated by dynastic rivalries, and the remarkable strength that elevates some characters above their time.

“My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred . . .”

Britain, early tenth century AD: a time of change. There are new raids by the Vikings from Ireland, and turmoil among the Saxons over the leadership of Mercia. A younger generation is taking over.

Æthelred, the ruler of Mercia, is dying, leaving no legitimate heir. The West Saxons want their king, but Uhtred has long supported Athelflaed, sister to King Edward of Wessex and widow of Aethelred. Widely loved and respected, Athelflaed has all the makings of a leader—but could Saxon warriors ever accept a woman as their ruler? The stage is set for rivals to fight for the empty throne.

Uhtred is still suffering from the wounds he received in battle. To recover his strength he needs to find the sword that caused the injury, but lost amid the battle’s blood and mud, how could it be traced and who among the Vikings or Saxons might be holding it?

In the end it is one champion, one hero, who will destroy the new Viking threat to Mercia and ultimately decide the fate of England.

Warriors of the Storm

The new novel in Bernard Cornwell’s number one bestselling series The Saxon Tales, on the making of England and the fate of his great hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

A fragile peace governs the kingdoms of Wessex, East Anglia, under the rule of the late King Alfred’s son, King Edward, and Mercia, under his daughter Aethelflaed.

Uhtred, her formidable champion and greatest warrior, controls the northern parts from the strongly fortified city of Chester. But no one can prepare them for the storm that is about to descend…

The Northmen, allied to the Irish, come in force under the cover of night, up the Mersey, perhaps to attack Chester, perhaps to rage and pillage through Mercia, perhaps to take the troubled kingdom of Northumbria. They are led by the terrifying Viking warrior, Ragnall Iverson, a fierce fighter and ruthless leader.

He and his army are formidable enough but worse still, his brother is married to Uhtred’s daughter. With his passionate determination, Uhtred will stop at nothing to take back his corner of Northumbria and secure the future of Bebbanburg. But for Aethelflaed and the Mercians, doubt must arise to where his loyalty lies.

In the struggle between family and loyalty, between oaths given and political demands, there is no easy solution. And the clash between the Vikings and the Saxons will resound across the land.

The Flame Bearer

Britain is at an uneasy peace. After their bloody defeat of Danish-held East Anglia, the West Saxons stand victorious while the Mercians have taken back their land on the border of Northumbria, the last kingdom of Britain still ruled by the pagan northmen. A precarious truce exists between Æthelflæd’s Mercia and Northumbria, now ruled by Uhtred of Bebbanburg’s son-in-law, Sigtryggr.

Under the cover of this fragile calm, Uhtred must begin his campaign that will end with the assault on Bebbanburg, the great fortress that is rightly his and was stolen from him in childhood. But his plans are shattered when the Scots surge down and lay claim to the north of England, as the West Saxons, under Uhtred’s old enemy, Æthelhelm, invade Northumbria from the south. If Uhtred is to succeed in recapturing Bebbanburg he must both defeat Æthelhelm’s forces and drive the Scots away before he can attack the formidable fortress by the sea. He has a small army and many enemies, but Uhtred is not the supreme warlord of Britain for nothing…

War of the Wolf

Bernard Cornwell’s epic story of the making of England continues in this eleventh installment in the bestselling Saxon Tales series—”like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer)—the basis of the hit Netflix television series The Last Kingdom.

His blood is Saxon
His heart is Viking
His battleground is England

“Perhaps the greatest writer of historical adventure novels today” (Washington Post), Bernard Cornwell has dazzled and entertained readers and critics with his page-turning bestsellers. Of all his protagonists, however, none is as beloved as Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

And while Uhtred might have regained his family’s fortress, it seems that a peaceful life is not to be – as he is under threat from both an old enemy and a new foe. The old enemy comes from Wessex where a dynastic struggle will determine who will be the next king. And the new foe is Sköll, a Norseman, whose ambition is to be King of Northumbria and who leads a frightening army of wolf-warriors, men who fight half-crazed in the belief that they are indeed wolves. Uhtred, believing he is cursed, must fend off one enemy while he tries to destroy the other. In this new chapter of the Saxon Tales series—a rousing adventure of courage, treachery, duty, devotion, majesty, love and battle, as seen through the eyes of a warrior straddling two worlds—Uhtred returns to fight once again for the destiny of England.

Sword of Kings

An oath of loyalty.
Two warring kings.
A destiny he didn’t choose…

England is in turmoil as Vikings and Saxons battle for territory. Rumours build about the fatal sickness of the King, and the country awaits an heir.

A violent clash at sea forces the warrior lord Uhtred to lead his men from his Northumbrian fortress to London and plunge into the eye of the storm. For two kings claim the empty throne, and a new kingdom cannot be born without bloodshed.

Uhtred’s sword will leave one king dead and the other victorious. But sometimes it is hard to know the will of the gods…

War Lord

IN THE FINAL RECKONING, CHOOSE YOUR SIDE CAREFULLY…

The epic conclusion to the globally bestselling historical series.

After years fighting to reclaim his rightful home, Uhtred of Bebbanburg has returned to Northumbria. With his loyal band of warriors and a new woman by his side, his household is secure – yet Uhtred is far from safe. Beyond the walls of his impregnable fortress, a battle for power rages.

To the south, King Æthelstan has unified the three kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia – and now eyes a bigger prize. To the north, King Constantine and other Scottish and Irish leaders seek to extend their borders and expand their dominion.

Caught in the eye of the storm is Uhtred. Threatened and bribed by all sides, he faces an impossible choice: stay out of the struggle, risking his freedom, or throw himself into the cauldron of war and the most terrible battle Britain has ever experienced. Only fate can decide the outcome.

The epic story of how England was made concludes in WAR LORD, the magnificent finale to the Last Kingdom series.

My Take

As far as I can tell I started reading this series in 2011. I read all the books that were out at that time, picked up others as they came out, and recently bought the final three. (And re-read the tenth book because I couldn’t recall where I stopped and didn’t remember the plot.) I’m still kind of surprised how much I enjoy these novels, and how much I like Uhtred. I suspect it’s because there’s a blend of politics, history, battles, and pictures of everyday life. And Cornwell writes female characters that feel accurate and real to me. I also like how at the end of the book he notes which parts were based on known facts and which were not.

I had to stop and look at a timeline to see where these books fell compared to Hild, which I just read. Well duh, Hild is about the Angles in the east of England and in Uhtred’s world the Angles and Saxons have been pushed more to the west side of the island. Both are fascinating looks at an obscure period in history. I’m satisfied that this series is finished.

This series is also referred to as The Warrior Chronicles and The Saxon Tales.