Friday, 17 March 2017

Becky's Big Day in London: British Museum & Last Kingdom Season 2 Premier

Sometimes luck and fate can work together to allow your dreams to come true.

Such events are rare and I have been blessed to encounter a few in my life and one occured recently that combines my love of history and anything vikingy.

It all began when a special invite to attend the Premier of Season 2 of The Last Kingdom - a hit BBC/Netflix TV series based upon the bestselling Anglo-Saxon chronicle series which follows the epic and historical founding of England under the rise of King Alfred against the Viking Danes - landed in my Twitter DM inbox on Friday 3rd March.

I have been a fan of the books since I was sixteen and it was in fact The Last Kingdom book which ignited my love of all things vikingy as I fell in love with the way of life and the mythology just like Uthred, the fictional protagonist who was born a Saxon but kidnapped and raised as a Dane.

I was truly delighted and love the first TV series adapation back in 2015/2016. The cast, the action, the dialogue and of course setting and costume were all top quality.

So I was overjoyed when I learned Season 2 begins tonight, two weeks ago, and jumped over the moon when the Team at TLK decided to invite me, a humble fan to watch the 1st episode before everyone else and meet the cast!?

I was overwhelmed with the gratitude for them to invite me and I will be eternally thankful to my employers to let me have the day off to attend.

I decided to make the most of my day in London by visiting the British Museum before my special event at NBC Universal Studio Offices.
I of course went straight to the Anglo-Saxon section and marvelled at the wonders of Sutton Hoo. Followed by the Viking section where my jaw dropped as I finally got up close to the Franks Caskett which is a rare and beautiful object.
I did take LOTS of photographs of many different objects but these two were my favourite.
Replica of the Sutton Hoo Helmet - must have been a true marvel of craftsmanship even then.
My fav side of the Franks Caskett (all 4 equally stunningly carved) - this depicts a Norse myth of Weyland the Smith on the left - then on the right the 3 Kings presenting gifts to Mary & Jesus
Then it was onto TLK HQ where me and other fans and members of the production team were ushered into a luxurious inhouse cinema room to watch the first episode.
The only thing missing was popcorn.
It was as good as if not better than the first series combined, we rejoined familar characters and also met new ones, there are lots of new plot twists accompanied by superb dialogue and epic action and drama.
Have no doubts or fears fellow fans - Season 2 of TLK is going to be as awesome as the first if not a whole other level up.
Afterwards we had chance to mingle with the cast!
My first encounter was the tall and considerate Rune Temte who played Ubba in Season 1. He showed a genuine interest in me as a fan which he also is despite no longer featuring in the story.
Rune with his Ubba face on... he really isn't that scary at all...
I then met the superb gentleman that is David Dawson who plays King Alfred. He again happily answered my questions and recognised me as a fellow Northerner. We both agreed Aethelflaed, Alfreds daughter, deserves more recognition.
Such a charming gentlemen
I then met Harry McEntire who plays the mischievous Aethelwold and he was really sweet and I loved telling him how I appreciate his character as he isn't outright evil but he definitely likes to have his own agenda.
He is just a loveable rogue in real life.
I then went up to Eliza who plays Aelswith, Alfreds stern and scary wife. Eliza is the complete opposite which just shows that she is a brilliant actress to act so against her naturally friendly and warm personality. 

Last but by no means least was meeting Alexander Dreymon, Uhtred son of Uhtred. He was really charming and I felt the most nervous talking to him. I bravely asked him how he felt having long hair and he did admitt it could be its own entity at time when filming and he revealed it took 9hrs to put in all those extentions and the same to take them all out.
I met Uhtred son of Uhtred son of Uhtred!
The whole day was a dream, the sun was shining, seeing my fav artifacts of history was amazing, the first episode and meeting the cast was epic - I owe one of the best days of my life to the TLK team for choosing little old me.

I wish and hope that Season 2 brings them more success and secures a third season.
Everyone who works on it from the costume designer to the stunt team to hair and make up to the writers and of course the actors deserve fame and recognition for excellent tv drama.
This as precious to me as Uhtred's sword is to him.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Becky Bookworm Book Review: The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy

The Serpent Sword (Bernicia Chronicles #1)The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is clearly written with a love for this historical period which I must confess is a tad earlier than what I normally read - my usual tastes for Historical fiction start in the early 8th-9th century, or whenever Vikings started making trouble.
This is well before Vikings were even a threat to anyone in England, for this was when the Kingdom of England was still many different feuding Kings each trying to conquer the other and in a time where surprisingly it was the Welsh that were taking on the role of menace.
Into this mix comes Beobrand, a young man who seems to have come from a kingdom far to the south, don't ask me about my historical geography but as his accent was so distinct to the Northumbrians/Bernicans I figured a Southerner. He has left behind a dead family & burnt home, he seeks to join his eldest brother and the King he has sworn under, yet, not all is as it seems and the reader learns that truth from the very first page. For in these brutal times a man survived not just by his blade but by his honour, loyalty and bravery. Beobrand will learn this lesson, and many more, in cruel and shocking ways throughout the book as he faces friend and foes alike in a personal quest that always frustratingly never accomplished until...
Over all the action, drama, characters, landscape, detail is all brilliant, a very good story well told and as soon as I reached the last page I went straight to the Kindle store and downloaded Book 2 The Cross and the Curse as I want to see what Beobrand faces next as well as observe how much he has changed & grown from Book 1.
There is however a but, for me personally I found it slightly jarring when the narrator leapt from one characters head to another within the same passage - there are good clear breaks between characters points of view but sometimes it felt a bit like hop scotch between thoughts but it may not bother others.

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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Becky Bookworm Book Review: Viking Fire by Justin Hill

Viking FireViking Fire by Justin Hill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harald Hardrada is one of my FAVOURITE Viking Kings EVER! I have read both fictional & non-fiction books on his epic journey from zero to hero but I will confess Justin Hill's 2nd novel which focuses on this giant of Norse history, is the first that has made me fall deeply in love with him. Almost as much as I fell in love with King Cnut in Helen Hollick's Hollow Crown.
Harald's is a story that involves him facing and overcoming challenge after challenge and shaping him to be the great Norwegian King, as great as the tales tell him to be.
My favourite part of the entire book has to be when Harald reaches Miklagard, the Great City, Constantinople (Istanbul) - the city, society, landscapes, people and of course the very treacherous politics was superbly captured and brought alive on the page. There is one particular and relatively minor conflict Harald gets embroiled in as he serves amongst the Emperor's armies, involving one of the men of the many crews he now commands, and the choices he makes in that event is the strongest indicator of the kind of leader and ultimately King Harald will mature to be. I won't give away too much detail about the situation but it is a clear & firm demonstration that Harald is a man worthy of following and more evidence of why so many did.
There are of course lots of more everyday scenes involving Harald that better define his character and personality, be it with his crew, his mistress or wives, with his children or even when he is talking to a General or an Emperor. Each of these scenes is distinctive and sometimes emotionally touching. I have laughed with Harald, cried with Harald, cheered with Harald, even yelled in anger or shock with Harald. You really do get under the skin, into the blood and dive in his soul as you read each chapter.
Within each chapter I found there was at least 1 line I read that would stick in my head for hours after I had put the book down (which was only ever when I was working I must admit). I found so many literary gems amongst the prose that I started adding them to my own personal list of favourites and it grew and grew as I read the book. I won't list them all as they might hint at spoilers for new readers but I will mention the first line that I was struck by. It was when Harald was with his brother, King Olaf's army, waiting to face the rebellion forces. Harald remarked to himself that Death is like going to sleep, it's living that hurts. If you hurt you know you are alive. Or something like that, to that affect at least. Having recently, in the past year, encountered death through my father, and having had morbid thoughts about what dying is actually like, this one line made a lot of sense to me and I could see how that would bring some comfort & strength to a young warrior facing his first fierce battle. It also showed that this was a Viking who due to his Christian upbringing at least, was considering more than just what kind of afterlife he might have in heaven, he was actually contemplating how he transforms from earth to heaven through death. It is a small yet significant way of reminding the reader that at the end of the day, despite his momentous life & impact on history forever, Harald was still a human being, like ourselves, who will consider his own existence and the sad and often scary fact that we all die in the end. Albeit in Harald's time death & dying was more common and more visible than it is in the 21st century.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it's beautiful and masterful telling of Harald's life. Highly recommend to fans of Vikings, 1066, or just Historical Fiction in general.

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Becky Bookworm Book Review: Path of Gods by Snorri Kristjansson (Valhalla Saga Book 3)

Path of Gods (The Valhalla Saga, #3)Path of Gods by Snorri Kristjansson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely bloody brilliant! Great characters, superb action, amazing battles and sparkling dialogue. Combined with a cleverly and well crafted plot that is full of surprises and a good dash of humour. A fine and fitting end for all involved, some remarkable plot twists that neatly bring the characters and storyline full circle with great storytelling. This final book was packed full of Norse mythical references and I was especially impressed with the introduction of a horror element to the magic used. It didn't revert to stereotype and still maintained a strong Nordic influence and style to its approach and indeed how the heroes and companions fought against this new and increasing threat.
Overall this trilogy is a masterful retelling of the raise of King Olaf and his blood-coated mission to make the Danes Christian and Snorri has cleverly captured the religious conflict of the time and presented it in a manner that really does remind the reader why the Vikings held firm to their belief in the Aesir and the Old Ways for no great heroes have ever truly emerged from Christian trials and adventures, only in the ways of the North are true heroes forged, their tales becoming legend.

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