The Last Kingdom (Cotton Malone #17), by Steve Berry

Eight stars

I would consider Steve Berry to be one the great authors who can mix history with current events to create masterful stories that entertain the reader. While working through a series, Berry is able to cobble together a vast amount of not-too-well known historical fact and develop a full novel on those grounds. His writing is top-notch and his ideas take the reader on an adventure like no other. This piece is no exception, tackling the small kingdom of Bavaria and how it was subsumed into the larger united Germany. There are some interesting ‘American’ ties, something the reader will likely want to know more about when the dive into this piece. Crisp storytelling, wonderful characters, and a little wit to keep the reader on their toes. Berry at his best!

In the latter stages of the 19th century, King Ludwig II of Bavaria could tell that his time in power was waning. Before he was deposed and died a few days later, Ludwig II is said to have been on a mission to find a new kingdom, one where he could reign without the worry of German unification, which was afoot. He sought his own place of solitude, where he would not be faced with enemies and the push to have him follow rules he could not accept. Bavaria was slipping away, but he had high hopes. History does not tell us whether Ludwig II succeeded, but there are crumbs!

Flash forward to the present, where Cotton Malone has been called back into service, albeit without the approval of the new US president. Malone’s protégé, Luke Daniels, has intel on a new group trying to win Bavarian independence from Germany, which is sure to topple the country’s stability. Bavaria, the largest German state, is also one that is rumoured not to have been keen on unification and its people are still resentful to this day. Daniels has also been able to work with the current Bavarian prince, a title in name only, who is seeking some form of impactful monarchy and ensuring the Wittelsbach name returns to power. There stands before him a few obstacles, a duke, the elder brother of the prince, the German republic, and worldwide sentiment.

As Malone and Daniels explore the situation, they come upon a highly secretive and powerful deed that proves Ludwig II may have found his new Bavaria, far from the European continent. However, this document, should it be true, could cause major issues, as many powerful countries would love to lay claim to it themselves, utilising its geographic location, strategic placement, and access to various parts of the world. It is up the Malone, with Daniels’ help, to keep things calm and peel back the rumours in order to find the kernel of truth. 

As the race to find the last Bavarian kingdom heightens, both Malone and Daniels realise that they have taken on quite the task with this mission. Many would have them fail, only to take over control of the kingdom for themselves. It is up to them to act swiftly and succinctly, or have everything demolished and Bavaria returned to German control. A historically intense and baffling piece, which shows just how intense a Steve Berry thriller can be. Series fans will surely love it and be surprised by some of the content.

I never finish a Steve Berry book without shaking my head and picking my jaw up from off the floor! There is so much going on and Berry offers up dazzling history woven into his narratives, providing depth not found in many of the books I have read. There is a great flow to there story, both in modern and historical contexts, all of which is essential for the reader to remain captivated by what is going on. The characters, both modern and historical, are intriguing and I am curious to discover more about when when I have additional time. With an upcoming Luke Daniels-centred novel, I should be able to learn a little more about this operative, though I feel this may also be a new avenue Berry is entertaining, having Daniels play a more prominent role. The plot twists throughout kept me guessing, as did some of the historical pieces. Berry is known for his melding of fact and fiction, so I was curious to sit through his end piece, in which all is revealed for the patient reader. This is a powerful series and usually offers up something about which I had no previous knowledge. I cannot wait to see what is to come, as Steve Berry never disappoints.

Kudos, Mr. Berry, for another great novel. I am itching to see what’s next.