Amazon Store

Monday, December 21, 2009

Amazon Store Update

Made some massive changes to my Amazon store the other day. Will continue to try and update it as the reviews keep on rolling.

I've done my best to populate it only with books I've actually read and think are worth buying. Many of them I've reviewed here. If I haven't, feel free to ask me about them.

If a review I write inspires you to buy a book, and you buy through Amazon, please, buy it through my store. If you buy from other sources, then, hey, more power to you.

More reviews on their way soon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Last Kingdom

I don't remember exactly when my father passed The Last Kingdom on to me. It may have been in one of my more recent trips home, or it may have been a while ago. I'm not really sure. I know that he had previously gotten me hooked on Cornwell's Grail Quest trilogy, so I figured that this one was worth a shot. Of course, I didn't know it was also part of a trilogy until I started reading it. Oh well. To late for recriminations now.

The Last Kingdom tells the tale of the Danish invasion of Britain and the rise of King Alfred the Great, through the eyes of Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Uhtred, the son of a minor duke, is only ten years old when the Danes kill his father and capture him. Fortunately, Uhtred impresses his captor, Ragnar the Fearless, through an act of either colossal bravery or colossal stupidity, and so rather than being ransomed or killed, Uhtred becomes a foster son to Ragnar. As he grows older, he learns the Danish ways of war and life, before ultimately being brought back into contact with the English, and being forced to choose between his heritage and those who raised him.

There is a lot to recommend this book; Uhtred himself is an interesting and well-written character, and I really enjoyed following his musings about his relationship with both the Danes and the English. The many historical figures that Uhtred interacts with (Alfred being the most notable) seem quite human, with sufficient virtues and flaws to seem human, without coming across as either unbelievably saintly or unbelievably villainous. 

As much as I love his characters, in some ways, I love Cornwell's England in this novel even more. His descriptions of the abandoned, mysterious Roman ruins, ancient pagan halls, and the wide panoply of the English landscape give his characters a place to live that manages to feel real and mythic by appropriate turns. It's very convincing, and very enjoyable to boot.

Hard core historians will be proud of many of Cornwell's word choices; he eschews the term "Viking" for the Danes (correctly noting that "Viking" is an activity, not a person), London becomes Lundene, and so on. I do appreciate his attention to detail, though I have to confess that at times, I had trouble translating the Saxon names into their contemporary locations. But it's a small matter, and does not detract at all from the general quality of the book. Fans of historical adventure should definitely give this one a look.