I have for some time been entertaining the idea of creating a blog for my website where I would review any books, video games, movies, and TV Shows I enjoy (or not) and I have finally found the perfect excuse to start it -The Last Kingdom.
If you haven't heard of it yet, it's because the show is fairly new and did not launch with the same fanfare of other series.
So, what is the Last Kingdom? I'll let the show speak for itself. Just watch the trailer first.
If you are already shutting the blinds and getting ready to binge watch the show, I totally understand, however, if you want to know my thoughts about it, keep reading.
So what exactly is The Last Kingdom? It's a BBC-made TV adaptation of a book series called The Warrior Chronicles or The Saxon Stories by British author Bernard Cornwell. It is set during the Dark Ages, in England, and tells the story of Saxon born Uhtred, who is captured and raised by invading Danes.
As you have probably figured out by now, this is not Fantasy, but Historical Fiction. However, believe me when I say that the English Dark Ages were not much different from Westeros. In fact, although most people associate GoT with the middle ages, and particularly with the war of the roses, the truth is George RR Martin found just as much inspiration in the troubled centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire. The Dark Ages were a period of near constant war, and the British Isles were the stage of several invasions. So much so, that the Saxons, who in this show are defending against an invasion of Danes, had in fact conquered the island from the Britons only a couple of centuries before.
Enough with the pleasantries, what about the show?
Sometimes people ask me what my main influences are. Usually, the question is followed by a quick guess 'It's game of thrones, isn't it?', forcing me to breathe deeply. You see, it's a bit more complicated than that. There are many other authors that affected the way I write and Bernard Cornwell is a perfect example. Long before I even heard about GoT, I was already devouring Cornwell's books (including The Last Kingdom). Not only that, but George RR Martin himself counts Bernand Cornwell as one of his own influences. So, obviously, I was really excited about this show. There was, however, always the chance that the people responsible for the show would mess it up. Luckily, they didn't.
To be honest, I read the book so long ago that I can't really remember the entire plot, which turns out to be great because I get to experience the show as I experienced the books - like a newcomer (well, almost). Anyway, I do remember enough to notice some changes in the plot, but that was to be expected, and every change up until now (there are 3 episodes out) is respectful towards the original material, which is what matters. I'm not going to go into much more detail in order to keep this review spoiler free, so I'll just say that most people will probably watch as many episodes as they can get their hands on in one single, obsessive session. I know I did.
In terms of production values, don't expect the lavish budget of Game of Thrones, but everything does look great. The sets are varied, rich, and realistic. The wardrobe couldn't possibly be any better. The only thing that might disappoint you is the scale of the battles but, to be honest, that's actually realistic. Armies comprised of thousands of men did not come to be until much later, in the middle ages, and even then...
As for the acting, you won't be finding any famous stars in the cast, but everyone does a superb job. I particularly like the differences in body language between the romanized Saxons and the Viking Danes.
With just three episodes out all I can say is I wish I had the entire season on my hard drive right now. This is exactly the kind of dark, gritty, and believable historical fiction that we get so rarely. Bernard Cornwell is a phenomenal author and his books thoroughly deserve to be adapted for TV. But it's not just the source material that is good, the people doing the adaptation clearly know what they are doing, so the end result is a show that you just need to watch. Oh, and by the way, Cornwell is fairly more productive than George RR Martin, with eight books written since 2004 for this series alone, which means there is a lot here to keep us entertained for a very long time. And by the looks of it, that's exactly what is going to happen.