I'm becoming a fan of historical fiction but have not read enough to offer comparisons or to have developed a distinguishing palate. Nonetheless, I found The Last Kingdom interesting. There was gore galore, and very little romanticism of the age. One gold nugget I'll take away from this story is its insight into the psyche of a warrior--the drive, the blood lust of battle, the song of the sword -- I can't say I've understood as well as after having read this novel.
The central theme of The Saxon Stories revolves here, around King Alfred. This was a fascinating period of history--the invasion of England by the Danes. The brutality of the age has sharpened my appreciation of the difficulty with civilizing our species. Every gain in an evolved and peaceful consciousness has been hard fought. This fictional walk through history has whetted my appetite for more.