Whether you’ve discovered Uhtred’s story because of the TV show or simply stumbled upon one of the books, you may now be wondering about how to read The Last Kingdom books in order.
Like most historical fiction, this series is just that: Fiction. But history buffs will rejoice in the nuggets of truth and inclusion of real historical events, even if the hows and whys are fabricated.
Originally published as the Saxon Stories series, The Last Kingdom is great for fans of medieval fantasy who like their fiction based more in reality than elves, dwarves, and other magical races.
Who is Bernard Cornwell?
Bernard Cornwell is king of the historical adventure novel. He was born in London in 1944, and grew up as an adopted child with Christian fundamentalists in Essex County. After school, he began a career with the BBC.
It was only after moving to the USA in 1980 that he decided to pursue his long-cherished dream to write. His first novel about the protagonist Richard Sharpe, a British soldier in Napoleon’s wars, appeared soon after.
It was followed by a number of Sharpe novels, some of which were filmed for television as well as a large number of other book series. Cornwell’s books take place in the American Civil War as well as in the Hundred Years’ War, in the early Middle Ages, and the Viking Age.
In addition to thoroughly researched facts and detailed battle paintings, Cornwell’s novels inspire his fans above all with their gripping stories.
With more than 30 million books sold and translated into 20 languages, Bernard Cornwell is considered the king of the historical adventure novel. For this achievement, he bears the title “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” conferred by Queen Elizabeth II. A keen sailor, Cornwell lives in Cape Cod during the summer and spends the winter in Charleston, North Carolina.
Now let’s take a closer look at The Last Kingdom books in order.
About The Last Kingdom Series
The main character in The Last Kingdom series is Uhtred. He is the son of an English nobleman who was captured by Danes at a young age and subsequently raised as one of their own. His mixed upbringing create many challenging conflicts of loyalty and Uhtred almost views himself as a Dane.
This medieval series takes place during the ninth and tenth centuries. It largely focuses on the conflict between the Kingdom of Wessex as they deal with the Viking incursion into Southern England.
Uhtred is placed in an interesting predicament when a man he despises and views as weak, King Alfred, manages to defeat the Danes. Following this surprising defeat, Uhtred’s supposed brothers turn on him. Now he must choose sides between the homeland of his birth, and the men who raised him as their own.
The Last Kingdom Books in Order by Publication
If you are looking for how to read The Last Kingdom books in order, the best way to do so is pretty straight-forward. That is because the publication and chronological order are the same. So, without further preamble, here are all 13 of The Last Kingdom books in order.
- The Last Kingdom (2004)
- The Pale Horseman (2005)
- 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)
- Uhtred’s Feast: Inside the World of The Last Kingdom (Expected: November 14, 2023)
The Last Kingdom Screen Adaptation
As previously mentioned, this successful book series has also been adapted into a successful TV series.
The Last Kingdom has five seasons available to stream on Netflix. It stars Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred, Emily Cox as Brida, and David Dawson as King Alfred. The fifth and final season aired in March 2022.
If you’re panicking over the TV series wrapping after five seasons and the book series being 13 books in length; fret not. The TV show began adapting roughly two books per season, and in October 2021 Netflix announced it will be producing a movie of The Last Kingdom. Alexander Dreymon will return to his role of Uhtred.
While the producer said the fifth season will fully conclude the series, there is one more story they wanted to tell. The title of the movie is Seven Kings Must Die.
A Summary of The Last Kingdom Books in Order
Whether you were first a fan of the TV show, or are looking for a refresher before you prepare for a reread, it might be helpful to know a little bit more about each book in this series. If that is the case, keep reading to find summaries for each of The Last Kingdom books in order. However, if you wish to avoid any potential spoilers, proceed with caution as some of the summaries may contain spoilers for previous books.
1. The Last Kingdom
Death comes with the dragon boats.
Northern England in 866: At the age of ten, the prince’s son Uhtred witnesses the invasion of the Vikings. His brave courage in battle impresses the leader of the Danes so much that he spares Uhtred and takes him in as a foster child. In being raised by them, Uhtred almost views himself as a Dane by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex, the kingdom of King Alfred the Great and the last territory in English hands.
Uhtred most certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery. Yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides.
By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight, and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the enchanting fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.
2. The Pale Horseman
And I saw a white horse, and the rider’s name was Death.
The previous defeat of the Danes at Cynuit does not last long as the Danish Vikings quickly move to invade. Before long the Danish conquerors occupy three of the four English kingdoms. The entire land of the Anglo-Saxons is in the power of the invaders — except for a small swamp area.
This is where King Alfred of Wessex hides with a few loyal followers, including Uhtred. The dispossessed English nobleman always believed that he would fight for the Danes who raised him and taught him the Viking ways if given the chance.
But when Iseult, a powerful sorceress, enters Uhtred’s life, he must consider new-found feelings. In his moment of greatest peril, Uhtred discovers a loyalty and love for his native country and ruler.
The pious King Alfred relies on God’s help, but Uhtred prefers to trust his battle-tested sword. Still, the two unequal allies are completely in agreement on one thing: A defeat would be the downfall of England.
3. Lords of the North
My sword can conquer the whole world for me.
The year is 878 and Wessex is free from the Vikings. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, helped Alfred win that victory. But now he finds Alfred’s lack of generosity and insistent piety repelling and disgusting.
He flees Wessex, going back north to seek revenge for the killing of his foster father and to rescue his stepsister, captured in the same raid. He needs to find his old enemy, Kjartan, a renegade Danish lord who lurks in the formidable stronghold of Dunholm.
Uhtred arrives in the north to discover rebellion, chaos and fear. His only ally is Hild, a West Saxon nun fleeing her calling. His best hope is his sword, with which he has made a formidable reputation as a warrior.
He will need the assistance of other warriors if he is to attack Dunholm and he finds Guthred, a slave who believes he is a king. He takes him across the Pennines to where a desperate alliance of fanatical Christians and beleaguered Danes form a new army to confront the terrible Viking lords who rule Northumbria.
4. Sword Song
I was a warlord in all his glory and I came to kill.
In the year 885 there is a fragile peace in England. Most of the country is occupied by the Danes, with only Wessex in the south still free. Warrior by instinct and Viking by nature, Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has land, a wife, and children — and a duty to King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames.
But a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have invaded the decayed Roman city of London with dreams of conquering Wessex…with Uhtred’s help. Suddenly Uhtred must weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning tide of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles.
Uhtred — Alfred’s sharpest sword — must now make the choice that will determine England’s future.
5. The Burning Land
What is the strongest army against a woman’s hatred?
At the end of the ninth century, King Alfred of Wessex is in ill health and his heir is still an untested youth. Therefore, it falls to Alfred’s reluctant warlord Uhtred to outwit and outbattle the invading enemy Danes, led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair.
But the sweetness of Uhtred’s victory is soured by tragedy, forcing him to break with the Saxon king. Instead, he will reclaim his ancestral fortress on the Northumbrian coast. Joining the Vikings, allied with his old friend Ragnar — and his old foe Haesten — Uhtred devises a strategy to invade and conquer Wessex itself.
But fate has very different plans.
The Danes of East Anglia and the Vikings of Northumbria are plotting the conquest of all of Britain. When Alfred’s daughter pleads with Uhtred for help, he cannot refuse her request. In a desperate gamble, he takes command of a demoralized Mercian army, leading them in an unforgettable battle on a blood-soaked field beside the Thames.
6. Death of Kings
The king dies. The empire should live.
At the end of the ninth century England threatens to sink into chaos again. Uhtred’s master, King Alfred, is dying and war is in the air. For the Viking-raised but Saxon-born warrior, Uhtred, whose life seems to shadow the making of England, this presents him with difficult choices.
Alfred wants his son Edward to sit on the throne after him. But there are other Saxon claimants to the throne as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the North.
Uhtred’s loyalty and vows were to Alfred, not to his son, and despite his long years of service, he is still not committed to the Saxon cause. His own desire is to reclaim his long-lost lands and castle to the north.
But the challenge to him, as the king’s warrior, is that he knows that he will either be the means of making Alfred’s dream of a united and Christian England come to pass or be responsible for condemning it to oblivion.
7. The Pagan Lord
King Alfred is dead and his son Edward has taken the throne.
At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. While the empire seems saved, the peace is fragile. Alfred the Great is dead and his son, Edward, reigns as king.
Wessex survives, but the peace cannot hold. That’s because in the North the Danish ruler Cnut Longsword desires nothing more than the emerald crown from Wessex.
Uhtred is now out of favor with the new king and cannot help. So, he decides to recapture his family seat of Bebbanburg from the Northmen with a troop of outcast warriors.
Alliances and vows will be broken and many men will die as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest confrontation with the Danes to date. It is a war that will decide the fate of every king and the entire English nation.
8. The Empty Throne
One champion, one hero, might decide the fate of England.
It is a time of change. The united Anglo-Saxon armies have pushed the Danes back, but the deadly danger from the North still hangs over the English lands. And now Æthelred, ruler of Mercia, is dying with no legitimate heir.
The West Saxons want their king, but Uhtred has long supported Athelflaed, sister to King Edward of Wessex and widow of Aethelred. She has all the makings of a leader — but could Saxon warriors ever accept a woman as their ruler? The stage is set for rivals to fight for the empty throne.
Meanwhile, Uhtred is still suffering from the wounds he received in battle. To recover his strength he needs to find the sword that caused the injury, but lost amid the battle’s blood and mud, how could it be traced and who among the Vikings or Saxons might be holding it?
In the end it is one champion, one hero, who will destroy the new Viking threat to Mercia and ultimately decide the fate of England.
9. Warriors of the Storm
A storm is about to descend…
A fragile peace reigns in England. The kingdom of Mercia in the north is under the rule of Æthelflæd, daughter of the late King Alfred. It has put its most experienced warlord on the northern border of the kingdom: Uhtred.
But no one can prepare them for the storm that is about to descend…
The Northmen, allied to the Irish, come in force under the cover of night. They are led by the terrifying Viking warrior, Ragnall Iverson, a fierce fighter and ruthless leader.
Ragnall has a brother with whom Uhtred has already measured himself in the past, whom he respects as a warrior – and to whom he has given his daughter as a wife. With his passionate determination, Uhtred will stop at nothing to take back his corner of Northumbria and secure the future of Bebbanburg. But for Aethelflaed and the Mercians, doubt must arise to where his loyalty lies.
It is a struggle between family and loyalty, oaths given and political demands. There is no easy solution. But the clash between the Vikings and the Saxons will resounds across the land.
10. The Flame Bearer
An uneasy peace wanes in Britain.
For many years Uhtred fought against the Danes and Northmen. Now, only one English kingdom is under the rule of a pagan Northman, Northumbria, whose king is Uhtred’s son-in-law. A precarious truce exists between Æthelflæd’s Mercia and Sigtryggr’s Northumbria.
The time of wars seems to be over, and Uhtred sees the time has come to finally recapture Bebbanburg, the seat of his forefathers.
But the peace gives birth to the desire for war. The Scots surge down and lay claim to the north of England, as the West Saxons, under Uhtred’s old enemy, Æthelhelm, invade Northumbria from the south.
If Uhtred is to succeed in recapturing Bebbanburg he must both defeat Æthelhelm’s forces and drive the Scots away before he can attack the formidable fortress by the sea. He has a small army and many enemies, but Uhtred is not the supreme warlord of Britain for nothing…
11. War of the Wolf
I will carry fire and sword through the land, and vengeance will be my only consolation.
While Uhtred might have regained his family’s fortress, it seems that a peaceful life is not to be. He is currently under threat from both an old enemy and a new foe.
The old enemy comes from Wessex where a dynastic struggle will determine who will be the next king. And the new foe is Sköll, a Norseman, whose ambition is to be King of Northumbria and who leads a frightening army of Úlfhéðnar. They are wolf-warriors, men who fight half-crazed in the belief that they are indeed wolves.
Uhtred, believing he is cursed, must fend off one enemy while he tries to destroy the other.
12. Sword of Kings
An oath of loyalty. Two warring kings. And a destiny he didn’t choose.
England is in turmoil as Vikings and Saxons battle for territory. Meanwhile, the ailing King Edward begins to lose control over his successors and their supporters. Doubt begins to build over whether the once separate states of Wessex and Mercia will hold together.
Uhtred’s focus remains on his beloved Northumbria and maintaining its independence from southern control. But despite wanting to ignore the turmoil of the Anglo-Saxon succession, a prior oath binds him to Æthelstan.
When a leading supporter of one of the candidates attacks him, followed by an unexpected appeal for help from another, Uhtred can no longer ignore his oath’s demands. With a small band of warriors he heads south, where Uhtred’s sword will leave one king dead and the other victorious. But sometimes it is hard to know the will of the gods…
13. War Lord
In the final reckoning, choose your side carefully.
Uhtred, the warrior, fought for King Alfred and his heirs all his life. Now he wants to retire in Bebbanburg, home of his forefathers. With his loyal band of warriors and a new woman by his side, his household is secure – yet Uhtred is far from safe.
But the enemies of England do not rest; Northmen, Scots, and Irish all seek to extend their borders. And King Æthelstan, whom Uhtred has always faithfully served, seems to have forgotten to whom he owes the throne.
Beyond the walls of Bebbanburg, a battle for power rages, and Uhtred is caught in the eye of the storm. Surrounded by enemies and bribes, Uhtred has to choose. Should he break his feudal oath – or go to the last, hardest battle?
Final thoughts on The Last Kingdom books in order
Now you have everything you need to know about this series, its adaptation, and how to read The Last Kingdom books in order. If you enjoy historical fiction, reading Bernard Cornwell should most definitely be on your list. This series is great for historical fiction fans, or for fans of medieval fantasy wishing to explore a new genre.
Looking for more books in order?
Check out my list of the Dune books in order.