Movie Review: Seven Kings Must Die

At long last, the hit Netflix series The Last Kingdom, an adaptation of the Saxon Stories book series by Bernard Cornwall, has come to an end. Seven Kings Must Die is a 2-hour movie that encompasses the final three books, differing from the show where one or two books at most would be the focus of an entire season of episodes.

My first thought is that this was a poor choice. I don’t read Hollywood news, so maybe there were budgetary concerns or perhaps some of the main actors wouldn’t commit to two or three more seasons of work, so they chose this out of necessity. But the two-hour timespan made for a story that felt rushed.

For example, an entire book in the series, the eleventh is completely glossed over, with just some few elements taken and sprinkled throughout the movie. Now this book felt like a lot of fluff to begin with, so maybe it’s not the worst idea, but the twelfth book, a far more pivotal entry in the series, was done in about ten minutes on screen and rather poorly. The English king is made out to be a psychotic, borderline-sociopathic murderer who is drunk with power, a complete distortion of the character in the books. The grand battle that cemented the king’s claim to the throne was watered down to a war of words at London’s gate.

Even the final, climactic Battle of Brunanburh felt less climactic. The battle in the books is built up for quite a few chapters, as the hopeless position of the English king is revealed, and negotiations to buy time drag on. In the movie, you get the sense that the enemy army has the advantage, but their victory does not seem so assured as it does in the books.

The ending of the movie was okay, though I won’t give any spoilers here.

All in all, it felt to me that both the books and the Netflix adaptation went too long. The series should have ended once Uhtred, the main character, reclaimed his lordship over Bebbanburg, since having it stolen from him as a child was the start of his character’s story arc and his all-consuming obsession throughout the first 10 books. Eventually, it all got a little stale.

If you’ve read the books and you’re dying to see for yourself how they were adapted, you should watch Seven Kings Must Die with an open mind. If you’ve only seen the show, my recommendation would be to ignore the movie since the final episode of The Last Kingdom was, in my opinion, a good ending for Uhtred of Bebbanburg.


Audiobooks: Coming Soon!

I can finally reveal to you all that my Ethan Chase novels are now in the process of becoming audiobooks! Narrator Joe Azzari will be producing the audiobooks; he and I have begun working together just this week on character voices, and will soon dive right into the manuscript itself.

I’m really excited for this project. Joe does some fantastic narration work (check out his character reel promo on his ACX page here, if you’d like a sneak peek). He was my first choice to produce this series and I was over the moon when he accepted.

I’ll keep you all apprised of progress in the audiobooks as we go along, and will let you know where and when you can get the finished product.

Other than that, no other real news except to say that the free promotion of my His Name Was Zach novels on my birthday last week went well! I believe a little over 100 free downloads were made, and I ended up getting a few more star ratings on Amazon out of it. I also watched Seven Kings Must Die on Netflix and will probably review that on here soon.

Thank you all for reading and your continued support!

Movie Review: Knock at the Cabin

A family of three, vacationing in a private cabin in the woods, are met by four strangers who tell them that the fate of the world is in their hands, but it will require the ultimate sacrifice from one of them…

M. Knight Shyamalan is back with another twisted tale for us, and I think this may be his best one yet. The premise is as simple as it gets, and the entire movie takes place in this one location with these seven main characters. I’d love to talk about the plot more but with a movie like this, it would be very hard without giving away some spoilers. This is a film to be watched without any foreknowledge.

What I will talk about is the acting, which was tremendous. Dave Bautista is the big star for this film, and despite his subdued demeanor he shines brightest. Bautista was one of my favorite wrestlers back in the day when I watched WWF/WWE wrestling, and I’m happy that he’s finding success outside the ring.

I’m also glad that Bautista has chosen to reinvent his image as an actor. In years past, he was always cast as the big, dumb muscle, whether as a James Bond villain or Drax the Destroyer in the Marvel universe. It’s nice to see him in more subtle and nuanced roles where he can showcase his true abilities as an actor instead of just hitting things and yelling.

The movie itself is very tense throughout, almost from the very first frame. It’s not necessarily a scary movie, and any violence typically takes place off-camera, but it’s extremely unsettling. There’s a lot of debate between the family and the strangers, with the former trying to convince the latter that they’re having a shared delusion or are zealots being led by a deceiver. In their turn, the strangers plead with the family to believe their incredible claims of God’s impending judgment and destruction of humanity.

I highly recommend this one to fans of horror and suspense films, and even to those of you who may not prefer such movies. It’s available to stream on Peacock, which is how I was able to watch it. It’s also based on the book Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, if you’d prefer to read that.

Gold of the Jaguar: Now Available!

“Through jungles, across the ocean, and in an ancient city forgotten by time, Ethan’s loyalty to family and his code of honor will be pushed to the limit, setting him on a collision course with an old accomplice.

Are you ready for another globe-trotting adventure with Ethan Chase? Yes, he’s back in Gold of the Jaguar! Now available to download wherever you get your ebooks, and with paperbacks coming soon! The Amazon link is here, or you can go to the book’s official page on Evolved Publishing and right here and find links to other book sites.

This book was a bit of a challenge to write, even more than its predecessors, but it was also a delight to once again be at Ethan’s side, dodging bullets and dashing through jungles, all while on the trail of a legendary treasure lost to time. All in all I enjoyed writing this one and I hope you enjoy reading it.

And if you do enjoy reading it, please leave a rating on Amazon! Apart from actually buying an author’s work, giving it a star-rating on Amazon (or whichever site you get it from) is the most helpful thing you can do for an author.

Book Review: ‘The Saxon Stories’ by Bernard Cornwell

I finally did it. I read all thirteen books in The Saxon Stories, and I’m ready to say my final word about the story as a whole.

First off for those who don’t know, The Saxon Stories is a work of historical fiction, telling the epic tale of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (allegedly the distant ancestor of the author). His story spans the reigns of King Alfred the Great of Wessex, King Edward the Elder, and King Athelstan, the first true King of the English.

As a boy, Uhtred’s family is slain in battle by Danish invaders. His uncle claims lordship of the castle of Bebbanburg despite it legally falling to Uhtred, and then he is kidnapped by a Danish warlord and raised like his son. Throughout his life, Uhtred’s singular goal stays the same: reclaim what is his and kill the usurper, his uncle.

Cornwell is an incredible author. He writes with authenticity and emotion, bringing characters to life. You can almost hear the clashing of swords and the screams of dying men, see the flapping banners of kings and chieftains, in his battle scenes. The tension is palpable in scenes in which the pagan Uhtred stands before a Christian king or lord, his fate laying in their hands as they are told by some to exile or execute him for his sins. All in all I really enjoyed his books.

My only real complaint comes from the length of the series. Thirteen books is a lot to read, and eventually minor characters and places start to blend together. In the last couple of books, some characters die whose names I remember, but I can’t exactly remember their relationship to Uhtred so the emotional punch falls flatter than it might. As Uhtred meets younger warriors who tell him how they fought beside him at this or that battle, I struggle to remember which battle it was.

***Spoiler alert in the next paragraph***

And my biggest complaint has to be how Uhtred manages to recapture Bebbanburg before the series actually ends, at the end of book ten. As a result, the last three books didn’t have anywhere near the tension of the first ten because, well, the overarching storyline was already complete. Uhtred was lord of Bebbanburg again! He’d finally done it! Throughout the first ten books, as it seemed that Uhtred was about to die, I’d think, Oh no, and he never got to reclaim his lands! After that, as death approached Uhtred, I met it with more of a shrug. Meh, at least he got to rule Bebbanburg again.

I’m just not a fan of these extended stories, series that are ten, thirteen, fifteen books long. I just don’t think any story needs to be that long. I can think of four or five of these books that could have been cut and you’d still have an epic tale.

But as I said above, this was overall an excellent work of historical fiction that I enjoyed tremendously. I highly recommend it to fans of the genre. For others, maybe give Book 1 a try. I will say the writing style is told in first person from the point of view of a 9th century Saxon, and the writing can feel a bit… blunt at times. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it’s noticeably different from other books. At least, I felt it was.

There’s also the Netflix series available to watch, which is a fine show but I much prefer the books.