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BBC to take on Game of Thrones by screening 'epic' Cornwell books

The BBC is taking on the success of bloodthirsty fantasy show Game of Thrones with its own "epic" series about the ninth century wars between the Anglo-Saxons and Viking invaders.

The Last Kingdom, an eight-part series inspired by a series of novels by Bernard Cornwell, starts filming in Autumn and will be shown on BBC2.

It is made by Carnival Films, who make Downton Abbey, and tells the story of the son of a Saxon nobleman who is kidnapped by Vikings and raised as one of their own before returning to England to fight against them.

Executive Producer Gareth Neame said the books "combine historical figures and events with fiction in an utterly compelling way".

He said: "In part the epic quest of our hero Uhtred, it is also a fascinating re-telling of the tale of King Alfred the Great and how he united the many separate kingdoms on this island into what would become England."

Game of Thrones, which is made in the US by HBO, is based on George R.R. Martin's novels set in a medieval-inspired fantasy world.

Cornwell is the author of the Sharpe novels, about a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, which inspired a long-running TV series with Game of Thrones star Sean Bean in the title role.

BBC drama boss Ben Stephenson said: "I hope The Last Kingdom will expand BBC Two's distinctive portfolio of drama. It's an epic narrative with an extraordinary creative team. It will feel like nothing else on television, with all of the scale and intrigue of the best fantasy stories but the reality of fact."

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