Monday, January 4, 2016

The Last Kingdom

Over the holiday break, I watched most of the Netflix series, The Last Kingdom. I enjoyed it. It's full of swashbuckling adventure, the acting is good (David Dawson, who plays King Alfred, is phenomenal) and while the drama feels a bit manufactured now and then, it still manages to seem like real drama that medieval warriors and royalty might have faced. The series tells the story of a young Saxon boy who is orphaned and then kidnapped by Norsemen (Danes) and raised as one of them. As an adult, he's not sure where he fits and this tension between his Saxon English identity and his Norse Danish identity is one of the driving forces of the series.

People are often comparing this series to Game of Thrones though I've never seen that one or read any of those books. I do like these medieval period pieces for various reasons (since coming back from Scotland a couple of years ago, I got into medieval Viking sagas and the history of the Celts, etc.) and for me the one that sparked my interest was the show The Vikings. This one is good (I only saw the first two seasons) but I did kind of start to lose interest in it when it became a bit too modern (the fact that the hero is such a proto-feminist seems very unrealistic, even though Norse women did have slightly more rights than European women broadly, these were not moden people in any sense of the word: I am no historian or even an expert on this subject so it's just my impression).

In any case, I went out to the bookstore and picked up a copy of The Last Kingdom over the break
and started reading this, too. I'm enjoying it. This is not the kind of book I would typically read (though I fully admit it's a kind of prejudice, when someone says "fantasy" or "science fiction" I have a negative visceral reaction, probably because so much of this writing, in my opinion, is badly written) but I find this one pretty easy to read and the writing's not grating on me (so far). This one is written in first person but that makes it a fairly straightforward story and it helps to have watched the series on Netflix beforehand. Of the writer, Bernard Cornwell, I know nothing but what is written on the book: he's a former BBC journalist and lives in the US. But he's a good writer and I think the book is full of historical detail which shows a good deal of research was done.

I still have yet to view the final two episodes of Season One (there is no Season beyond, at least not at this point) so I will watch them this week but luckily there are several books in the series which may keep me occupied for some time.

(That sad feeling of watching a Netflix series you're enjoying and knowing it's going to end soon).

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