The Last Kingdom is an adventurous tale enjoyable for fans of fantasy and historical alike. Review by Violet Kane

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In Print
If you're a fan of epic fantasy who has been reluctant to make the jump to try historical fiction, you may be worried that you'll get bogged down in a stuffy tale of top hats and petticoats. Never fear with Bernard Cornwell's The Last Kingdom. Fans of epic fantasy will find a story of battles, bloodlines and clan feuds.

In ninth century Northern Europe, Uhtred is a young warrior caught between home and conquest. When he is taken at a young age from his English (Christian) home by Danish (pagan) conquerors, Uhtred remains dedicated to his family legacy and the reclaiming of his rightful lands, but he also cannot ignore his growing feelings of affection for the Danes, who foster him and teach him their ways—including the arts of war and devotion to the Norse gods. As Uhtred grows older and the Danish forces encroach further on England, Uhtred finds himself in the midst of battle and ultimately torn between his personal allegiance to the Danes who raised him and his familial devotion to the lands of his fathers.

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On Audio
The Last Kingdom is an excellent case study of why I love to read epic fantasy, but don't care how much magic there is. This book is certainly not fantasy—while the main character is fictional, the events of the story and many of the characters are based on historical fact. However, I'm not the sort of person who reads fantasy for the magic, but rather for is transportive qualities, taking me out of my everyday life to a long-ago world of swords, battles and brutality. Cornwell renders the early medieval world in rich detail, but at the same time does not belabor the descriptions or favor them over Uhtred's essential conflict. For audiobook fans, this novel is available in an excellent unabridged production read by Tom Sellwood. It's one of the lengthier audio productions you'll find, coming in at 16 discs, but it you can track down a copy, it's well worth the effort.

This novel is the perfect opportunity for fans of epic fantasy to branch out into a new genre that they will find both compelling and familiar.

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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.