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The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom Series, Book 2) (Alfred the Great 2) Hardcover – 3 Oct 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 472 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition, First Impression edition (3 Oct. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007149921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007149926
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (472 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bernard Cornwell was born in London, raised in Essex, and now lives mainly in the USA with his wife. In addition to the hugely successful Sharpe novels, Bernard Cornwell is the author of the Starbuck Chronicles, the Warlord trilogy, the Grail Quest series and the Alfred series.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The Pale Horseman is the second book in Bernard Cornwell's Alfred the Great sequence, and this highly experienced author will be well aware of the pitfalls awaiting the creator of any second book in a series -- particularly when its predecessor, The Last Kingdom, was so enthusiastically received. The fact that Cornwell's Sharpe books are so beloved (for their immense colour and vivid recreation of a very lively period of history) was not a guarantee that this latest venture for the author would succeed. But succeed it did, and The Last Kingdom conjured an era of Vikings and massacres, with a brilliantly drawn (and complex) King Alfred at the centre of the narrative. So -- does Cornwell bring off this second book with equal panache?

No need for suspense -- The Pale Horseman is just as exhilarating a recreation of an age of heroes as its predecessor, delivered with the brio that is the author's trademark. Uhtred was born in Northumbria but rais! ed as a Viking. Married to a Saxon, he has achieved fame as a doughty warrior. But the more reflective Alfred has problems with the aggressive, self-serving manner of his young friend. An alliance, though, is necessary: these two are the sole remnants of those who commanded Wessex, after ill-judged bargains have destroyed the union. The Vikings now reign over most of England, and Alfred and his company are obliged to hide in the swampy netherland of Athelney, trying to regain the support they once enjoyed. Uhtred cannot shake off his Viking training, but finds himself acquiring an admiration for Alfred, who he comes to sense is a great man. As the narrative progresses, the conflict between the two men must be resolved before bloody battles will change the fate of England.

One expects the heroic endeavours of Bernard Cornwell's novels to be dispatched with panache, but there is another element which his admirers rely on: the conflict between his strongly drawn characters,! exemplified here by the two proud leaders. It'll take a while! before this new sequence achieves the immense popularity of the Sharpe novels, but the auguries are good. --Barry Forshaw


'Cornwell is a virtuoso of historical fiction.' Sunday Telegraph

'Bernard Cornwell is a literary miracle. Year after year, hail, rain, snow, war and political upheavals fail to prevent him from producing the most entertaining and readable historical novels of his generation.' Daily Mail

'Cornwell's narration is quite masterly and supremely well-researched.' Observer

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These days I look at twenty-year-olds and think they are pathetically young, scarcely weaned from their mothers' tits, but when I was twenty I considered myself a full-grown man. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"The Pale Horseman" is the second volume in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories series. Picking up directly from where "The Last Kingdom" left off in the spring of 877, it charts the experiences of the warrior Uhtred Uhtredsson. Born in Northumbria and raised by the Danes, he is a man of mixed loyalties who through circumstance has found himself siding with the weak-willed Alfred, king of Wessex, the only English kingdom left at that time unconquered by the invaders. Uhtred cares little for the conflict, seeking only wealth and a reputation for himself, and so it is not long before he commandeers one of his king's ships to go raiding. But the tide soon turns as Wessex itself falls prey to the Danes, and Uhtred must fight for Alfred if he wishes to avoid losing everything he has gained thus far.

As a historical adventure tale the book works very well. The battle scenes are as usual infused with pace, drama and realism - without ever becoming gratuitous. The lead-up to the climax of the novel, the battle at Ethandun, is particularly well-handled. The author has always been very good at establishing a setting and his descriptions of the landscape are always convincing, from the wild and storm-battered coast of Cornwall to the marshes surrounding Æthelingæg (modern Athelney) during winter and the uplands of Wiltshire in the spring. Enough historical detail is present, too, that it is easy to feel drawn into both the place and the era in which the novel is set, without unnecessarily burdening the narrative.

However, whereas "The Last Kingdom" had a strong narrative through-line, following Uhtred's development from childhood through adolescence into the adult world of the ninth century, "The Pale Horseman" is rather more fragmented.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The perfect companion for all historical fiction enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

`The Pale Horseman' is the sequel to the best-selling `The Last Kingdom' and continues the tale of the great warrior Uhtred, born in Northumberland. Raised as a Dane, he is now married to a Saxon girl. He is a pagan and his alliance with the pious Alfred the Great does not sit easily on the shoulders of either man.

However, the Danes break a truce with the Saxons in Wessex and slaughter most of the Saxon leaders. Only Alfred's family, Uhtred and a small number of his companions escape from the Danes. They are driven deeper and deeper into a swamp, where they are helpless to try to gather forces to stand against their enemy.

The Danes now hold most of England and it has been a disastrous time for the Saxons. Uhtred finds himself torn between the growing respect he has for Alfred and the love he has for his Danish foster brother, Ragnor. He has to wrestle with his heart and decide whether to try and rally the Saxons and drive out the Danes, or change sides and go to stand with Ragnor.

Particularly convincing is Cornwell's portrayal of the almost crippling effect on the Saxon war effort of King Alfred's belief that God alone will rescue England from the Danes. That contrasts and conflicts with Uhtred's warrior's instincts - and the tension between Uhtred and his king is cleverly written. Just as Uhtred slowly resolves his conflict of loyalty, so Alfred gradually changes from a king who refuses to do anything other than pray to a warrior who might be able to save his people.
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Format: Hardcover
The Pale Horseman starts where The Last Kingdom ended. It follows the story of Alfred, King of Wessex as told by Uhtred, one of his warriors who was born a Saxon but raised throughout the last book by the Vikings. Fate being inexorable has lead Uhtred from the relative safety of the Viking Ragnar, to being a killer of Vikings who has been brought to the attention of the king of the only remaining Saxon Kingdom which itself is now under threat of Viking invasion.
Now I know at the time I write this, the book has not been published (I read the advanced readers edition) so I won't give anything away here, but suffice it to say that any of Bernard Cornwell's fans won't be disappointed, the story is as good as the first and almost as good as his Arthurian trilogy. If you loved his Arthurian trilogy and wanted more, I'm afraid Mr Cornwell has said he will not write any more, but believe me this new series will make up for that as it is the next best thing to an actual Arthur/Derfel story.
The characters are good, even the minor ones, and the plot line is from history but with a few minor adjustments to suit the narrative of the plot. The battles are vivid and you are really put into the thick of it yourself. There's something for everyone; history, romance, action, adventure, intrigue... need I say more?
There are some (I know from reading other peoples reviews of Cornwell's books) who say the plot lines to all his books are similar and the characters all the same etc. Does it matter? You know where you are with his books, they are well crafted and extremely enjoyable, in fact some history teachers are now recommending them to their students as they bring history to life and not just give the boring facts! If you haven't read a Bernard Cornwell novel before, then this series is as good a place as any to start, I don't think you will be disappointed. If you have, you know what to expect and get this one, you'll love it, I did.
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