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
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Praise for The Pale Horseman:
‘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
‘It is stirring stuff, and few writers are better qualified than Cornwell to do justice to the excitement of the times…Ninth-century Britain and a master of storytelling – it is a marriage made in heaven.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘Cornwell’s mastery of historical sources and his aptitude for battle scenes is well established…the language, and particularly the dialogue, is raw and unarchaic, rich in insults and Anglo-Saxon expletives.’ Times Literary Supplement