/ Key title The first book in a brand new series, The Last Kingdom is set in England during the reign of King Alfred. / With his staggering Grail Quest, Warlord and Sharpe series Bernard Cornwell has cemented his position as a virtuoso of historical fiction / This new novel, of heroic deeds, bloody battles and the struggle to unite Britain in the face of a common enemy, will delight all his fans and recruit many new readers to his fantastic writing / Competition: Simon Scarrow, Wilbur Smith, Conn Iggulden
Bernard Cornwell worked for BBC Television for seven years, mostly as a producer on the Nationwide programme, before taking charge of the Current Affairs department in Northern Ireland. In 1978 he became editor of Thames Television's Thames at Six. Married to an American, he now lives in the United States.
What era has busy historical novelist Cornwell chosen to visit next? Ninth-century England, with Alfred the Great's defeat of the Vikings related by a young nobleman kidnapped by the Danes. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
'Cornwell is a virtuoso of historical fiction.' Sunday Telegraph 'Bernard Cornwell is a literary miracle. Year after year, hail, rain, snow, war and political upheavals fail to prevent him from producing the most entertaining and readable historical novels of his generation.' Daily Mail 'Cornwell's narration is quite masterly and supremely well-researched.' Observer
Bestseller Cornwell leaps back a millennium from his Richard Sharpe series to tell of the consolidation of England in the late ninth century and the role played by a young (fictional) warrior-in-training who's at the center of the war between Christian Englishmen and the pagan Danes. (Most of the other principal characters-Ubba, Guthrum, Ivar the Boneless and the like-are real historical figures.) Young Uhtred, who's English, falls under the control of Viking uber-warrior Ragnar the Fearless when the Dane wipes out Uhtred's Northumberland family. Cornwell liberally feeds readers history and nuggets of battle data and customs, with Uhtred's first-person wonderment spinning all into a colorful journey of (self-)discovery. In a series of episodes, Ragnar conquers three of England's four kingdoms. The juiciest segment has King Edmund of East Anglia rebuking the Viking pagans and demanding that they convert to Christianity if they intend to remain in England. After Edmund cites the example of St. Sebastian, the Danes oblige him by turning him into a latter-day Sebastian and sending him off to heaven. Uhtred's affection for Ragnar as a surrogate father grows, and he surpasses the conqueror's blood sons in valor. When father and adopted son arrive at the fourth and last kingdom, however, the Danes meet unexpected resistance and Uhtred faces personal and familial challenges, as well as a crisis of national allegiance. This is a solid adventure by a crackling good storyteller. Agent, Toby Eady. (Feb.) Forecast: Cornwell's own life served as inspiration for this novel: he, too, was orphaned (and adopted by members of a strict fundamentalist sect). Readers who followed the story of his reunion with his birth father in 2003 (while he was on tour with Sharpe's Havoc) will take special interest in the personal angle here. Four-city author tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.