Excerpt & Giveaway: The Last King by M.J. Porter

The Last King by M.J. Porter

Publication Date: April 23, 2020
Paperback & eBook; 314 pages

Series: The Ninth Century, Book One
Genre: Historical Thriller

They sent three hundred warriors to kill one man. It wasn’t enough.

Mercia lies broken but not beaten, her alliance with Wessex in tatters.

Coelwulf, a fierce and bloody warrior, hears whispers that Mercia has been betrayed from his home in the west. He fears no man, especially not the Vikings sent to hunt him down.

To discover the truth of the rumours he hears, Coelwulf must travel to the heart of Mercia, and what he finds there will determine the fate of Mercia, as well as his own.

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As I suspected, I find my Aunt amongst the gravestones of my ancestors, to the rear of the small priory the monks from Gloucester maintain, at my expense.

Her hounds appear to be sleeping at her feet, but I know better. They’re fiercely loyal and can be roused to snapping furies with just a word from her. One of the beast’s growls at me, the sound more terrifying than iron being drawn from a scabbard.

“Down Wiglaf,” my Aunt snaps. I turn to meet the hound’s eyes, and I fear that we both feel equally quelled by her tone. The hounds are named after the men who ruled Mercia after her father was deposed. Not that she had the naming of both of them. I consider that it might pain her, but then dismiss the idea. My Aunt is not the sort of woman to fear to speak a hound’s name.

“King Burgred has always been a bloody coward.” Her coarse words shock me so much I feel my mouth drop open.

She turns to gaze at me, the hint of amusement in her eye, and I consider what she sees when she looks at me. No one has ever said that I resemble my father, but neither have I been told I take after my mother. My blond hair is a mystery to me, my build the result of my warrior skills.

“Did you think I grew deaf every time you and your warriors made Kingsholm your home?”

“I,” I stutter, but nothing else follows the words. She cows me as no one else ever has. Not even my father.

“King Burgred is a coward, and your father was a fool not to stake his claim to the kingdom.” My father could never have ruled. He was a weak man, tormented by the death of his father. I vowed to never be like him.

“You’ll be king now.” It’s not even a question, but a statement.

“How did Bishop Wærferth get to you so quickly? Did he sail here?” I turn, as though to seek him out or spy the hint of sails to the west.

My Aunt’s sudden laughter takes me by surprise.

“So, he’s already suggested it to you. Good. At least I don’t have to force you to fulfil your duty.”

Again, my mouth opens, but no words sprout from it.

“The ealdormen will support you. All of them. The bishops as well.”

“I,” I try and speak, but she’s walking to my side, her hand stretched out to touch my arm.

“Mercia suffers because our line has been broken. You’ll heal it.”

“I.” I just can’t find the words to say.

“I know you never wanted this. But I always knew. I think your father and brother did as well.”

“I can’t be king,” I finally manage to force the words beyond my constricted throat.

“But you will be.” And she moves off, no doubt to find the bereaved women and the young girl. My Aunt has never shied away from the responsibilities she feels to the people of Mercia.

One of the hounds follows her, but the other one, the one she chastised, Wiglaf, remains, head low and whining softly. I reach out. Cup the hound’s muzzle, run my hand along his snout. His whining softens, dies away altogether.

Wiglaf was my brother’s hound before he belonged to my Aunt. That accounts for why she cares for it so well. He’s old now.

Only when we’re together, do we give in to our combined sorrow.

Together we walk to my brother’s grave.

It’s been over a decade since his death, fighting for Mercia. His hound is lined with grey and slow to move during the cold winter weather. Watching him struggle to his feet makes me realise how damn old I truly am.

I bend my head and rest my other hand on the gravestone that marks my brother’s grave.

These warriors I ride with were his men.

Edmund was once my brother’s closest ally, even closer than I was to him.

Coenwulf would have made a fine king of Mercia.

“Bugger it,” I complain, standing upright, shocking poor Wiglaf as he lies over my feet, and then struggles to stand.

“Bugger it, arse it.”

There was never a choice.

There rarely is.

About the Author

I'm an author of fantasy (Viking age/dragon-themed) and historical fiction (Early English, Vikings and the British Isles as a whole before the Norman Conquest). I was born in the old Mercian kingdom at some point since 1066. Raised in the shadow of a strange little building, told from a very young age that it housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia and that our garden was littered with old pieces of pottery from a long-ago battle, it's little wonder that my curiosity in Early England ran riot. I can only blame my parents!

I write A LOT. You've been warned!

Not sure where to start your journey through Early England? Here are some pointers.

If you like action-adventure, with a heavy dose of violence, foul language and good old camaraderie - The Ninth Century series is for you, starting with The Last King, or The Seventh Century, starting with Pagan Warrior, has a little more politics to go with the set-piece battles.

If you like stories about the forgotten women of history, then the Tenth Century series, starting with The Lady of Mercia's Daughter, is a good place to begin. Or, The First Queen of England, with a little more romance.

If you're interested in the last century of Early England (before 1066) then The Earls of Mercia series is for you.

If you want to read it all, then you can read in chronological order, or mix it up. The series weren't written in chronological order.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 11
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Tuesday, January 12
Review at Bibliostatic
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Wednesday, January 13
Review at Rajiv's Reviews
Excerpt at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, January 14
Feature at Bookworlder
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Friday, January 15
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Saturday, January 16
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Monday, January 18
Interview at Books & Benches

Tuesday, January 19
Review at Impressions In Ink
Excerpt at Madwoman in the Attic

Wednesday, January 20
Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Thursday, January 21
Review at Books and Zebras
Excerpt at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Friday, January 22
Excerpt at Coffee and Ink
Excerpt at A Darn Good Read
Interview at Jathan & Heather


Enter to win a copy of The Last King by M.J. Porter! Two paperbacks are up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on January 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The Last King

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