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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-06-078712-7

This is the second novel in Bernard Cornwell's latest trilogy of historical novels, featuring the life and times of King Alfred the Great and his wars against the invading Danish Vikings. If you read and enjoyed the first book in the series, The Last Kingdom, you'll definitely want to read this one too.

It is in this part of the story that we get the traditional, very probably apocryphal tales about Alfred the Great. Such as the one about how, after a defeat by the Danes, when hiding in the swamp, he was abused by a fisher woman unaware of his identity for burning the cakes she left on the fire in his care.

Once again, the actual protagonist of the story is Uhtred, a Saxon with divided loyalties, having spent much of his formative teen years living among the Danes. A good part of the artistic tension in the story derives from this inner conflict. I shan't tell about Uhtred's final decision, as that might spoil the plot for anyone planning to read the book.

Cornwell is an excellent writer and a master of the genre. Highly recommended.

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