The Saxon Stories or if you live in the US, you may know it as the Saxon Tales or Saxon Chronicles in the US, which were previously called The Warrior Chronicles and most recently as The Last Kingdom series is a historical novel series by novelist Bernard Cornwell about England in the 9th and 10th century. Bernard Cornwell is a historical fiction storytelling maestro.
The Saxon Stories Books
Following are The Last Kingdom Books in order they are published by the UK publication:
- The Last Kingdom – 2004
- The Pale Horseman – 2005
- The Lords of the North – 2006
- Sword Song – 2007
- The Burning Land – 2009
- Death of Kings – 2011
- The Pagan Lord – 2013
- The Empty Throne – 2014
- Warriors of the Storm – 2015
- The Flame Bearer – 2016
- War of the Wolf – 2018
- Sword of Kings – 2019
- War Lord – 2020
The book series has undergone some title changes and is known in the historical fiction world by its several names. The initial titles in the US and UK editions – Saxon Stories and Saxon Tales, also continued in subsequent novels. However, the title was switched to The Warrior Chronicles in the UK editions from The Death of Kings.
In US editions, the series was known as The Saxon Chronicles. After their roaring success in the world of literature, the first two novels served as the basis for a series of TV programs named The Last Kingdom in the autumn of 2015. Soon after, the audience began linking the novels to the TV series and referring to them as The Last Kingdom books. As a result, Cornwell, the author, renamed the series to The Last Kingdom series.
Uhtred of Bebbanburg is the protagonist of the series. He is the son of a Saxon lord in Northumbria but was adopted by a Danish warlord after he was captured as a child and ended up in Denmark. The hero of the novel was named after Uhtred the Bold, of which the author is a descendant.
The story starts with the defeat of all Saxon kingdoms except one – a major dominion by Danes, along with Kingdom of Wessex. This is the lost kingdom, which was almost conquered. The King of Wessex, Alfred the Great, gathers his army and embarks on an extensive struggle of fulfilling his dream of uniting all English speakers under a single kingdom. The Last Kingdom Uhtred sets aside his disposition to help Alfred achieve his ambition.
The Saxon Tales series has many endearing elements that appeal to the lovers of historical fiction, including romance, sword fights, castles, war, forests, and the battle for the good. Bernard Cornwell books exhibit great mastery of worldbuilding as an experienced author by creating a captivating story that takes place in another time, invoking the readers’ imagination with interesting characters.
The protagonist, Uhtred The Last Kingdom is exceptionally likable; he is relatable; even though he belongs in a completely different time, his flaws make him so interesting and appealing. He is curious, driven, and most of all, incredibly fearless. However, we watch him fail and learn as the story progresses and the plot thickens. He develops an understanding of what motivates people and their consequences.
Perhaps his most endearing feature, his naiveté, mostly lands him into trouble. Although Uhtred isn’t a historical character, he plays an integral role in the books and the television program.
In the show, Uhtred is played by Alexander Dreymon. He has brought the character to life while making it his own. He has beautifully captured the nuances of Uhtred’s personality, which the fans of the books fell in love with. The rest of the casting is also great, and the script has been translated well from the books.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Cornwell has become a master at the art of battlefield storytelling since he has written a lot of historical fiction during wartime. Cornwell has set a benchmark for fantasy writers so that new writers can take inspiration from him. The books keep you fully occupied in Uhtred and his fights and life experiences. Impressively, the TV series has a realistic sense of time and place; they have done justice to Cornwell’s writing since the wars and lives of the characters feel real.
The fact that Cornwell’s prose is nothing fancy makes The Last Kingdom Bernard Cornwell books easier, quicker to read, and more enjoyable for people who are not into history and politics. You also get spontaneous humor and Uhtred’s candid observations, making the Saxon Stories excellent. The straightforward storytelling makes it easy to translate to the screen.
The Last Kingdom (TV series)
In 2014, the BBC announced the television adaptation of The Saxon Stories, titled The Last Kingdom. Stephen Butchard wrote the TV series. It is a joint production of BBC Two, Carnival Films, and BBC America. They produced a series of eight 60-minute episodes. The Last Kingdom series premiered on 10 October 2015 on BBC America and on 22 October 2015 on BBC Two in the UK.
In early 2018, two more The Last Kingdom series aired. However, the third, fourth, and fifth series was released exclusively by The Last Kingdom’s sole producer Netflix; BBC was not involved after the second season. Netflix canceled the series after the fifth season and announced a two-hour feature film, “Seven Kings Must Die.”
The Seven Kings Must Die finished filming in Hungary in March 2022. The Last Kingdom fans can expect the movie to be aired in Late 2022 or early 2023 exclusively on Netflix.
Talking about the TV series production quality, it isn’t perfect. The historical enthusiasts might disagree with the production and how the characters use weapons, armor, swords, etc. Though the books don’t follow the history perfectly (as admitted by Cornwell), the TV series has taken even more liberties with history and the books, so the series sometimes feels rushed.
Even if you have not read the books, you will surely enjoy the series. However, the books are an incredible read, and we highly recommend them. We are also anxiously waiting for the Netflix-exclusive movie – The Seven Kings Must Die.