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4.6 out of 5 stars619
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 25 February 2009
This second novel is Cornwell's series is every bit as good as the first, you can feel yourself being sucked into the whole Dark Age period, the war the brutality and the people of this period are fascinating. And as always Cornwell's writing style is great and if a fan of action then you'll enjoy this work it's packed full of swords, axes, battles and blood, you could ask for more.

Uhtred is faced with a dilemma, whether or not to fight for the Saxon King Alfred or fight with the Dane warriors he knows best, he finally makes his decision when Alfred offers him command of his small but powerful navy. And from here Uhtred faces numerous dangerous situations from naval battles to surviving the invasion of a massive Dane army and rescuing Alfred from the swamps of Wessex. All the while he wonders if he is doing the right thing in fighting for the Saxons.
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The second book of the series continuing the story of Uhtred and like the 1st book it is an exellent read. Now Wessex is safe Uhtred gets bored and after killing a fellow Saxon he gathers a bunch of Saxons and steals Alfreds ship and turns it into a viking ship and goes raiding in Wales. Here he meets lots of new charcters both new friends and new enemies and he gets himself into a lot of trouble with Alfred. But then fate happens and Wessex is slaughtered by the Danes leaving Alfred living in a swamp desperatley trying to build an army to face the Vikings and save England, and remember this book is based on what really happened. As always Bernard has given us an exellent book with a great story that will keep you coming back for more.
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on 4 September 2006
I have been a fan of Bernard Cornwell for many years, initially captivated by Sharpe and his various adventures. I enjoyed his strong story lines, believable characters and the accurate historical background. I have been educated as well as entertained by Sharpe's bodice-ripping tales. I struggled with the Stonehenge set of stories, not being able to relate to the historical context and not finding the characters attractive so I found it difficult to get emotionally involved.

As a result, it is a great pleasure to move onto the latest set of books. I enjoyed Last Kingdom, even if set in a period of history which I did not know, it still felt familiar. Cornwell was back on form. The second Alfred book, The Pale Horseman, was better than the second, with more character development and more action. According to my son, who has beaten me to the third book, the Alfred saga continues to reward readers. Unfortunately I have to wait for my wife to finish it!
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on 3 April 2009
Well what can you say?

Did character's like Uhtred actually exist? - who knows, but i guess probably not. Does that detract from the story? - no.

Cornwell's books offer a glimpse of life in the past with a dedication to research that can only be admired, there is a sense of the superhero in all of Cornwell's main characters, but you shouldn't be put off by that.

Uhtred is just like a comic book superhero from Marvel or DC, you know fine well that they will survive the book, and that during the book they will have some highly improbable adventures. But that's kind of the point, Uhtred is the unbelievable but entertaining hook to hang the very believable Saxon universe on,
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on 4 April 2011
The Pale Horseman is the second book in the Alfred The Great/Uhtred series. It is 876 and the war against the Vikings is going badly. The three kingdoms of Northumbria, Anglia and Mercia have already fallen to the invaders. Not only that but large areas of King Alfred's kingdom of Wessex have been conquered also. The Saxons have to fight, and try to regain some lost territory.

This book was a very good read. I thought it was better than the first one in the series. The writing is very vivid, with some very interesting characters, and some great battle scenes. I like the way King Alfred is depicted, but I still find it difficult, at times, to warm to the main character, Uhtred.
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on 12 February 2010
And so we follow Uhtred on the next phase of his journey. The boy becomes a young man. Accomplished warrior, full of wanderlust and ever looking towards Northumbria...his true home and robbed from him when he was young. This chapter of the Alfred the Great series sees Alfred's Wessex invaded and downtrodden. Uhtred's story ranges from captive to seaman to King's council and everthing inbetween. See how a Saxon raised as a Dane influences the future of a kingdom in the future known as England... A worthy second book. Cornwell weaves historical fiction like no other. Looking forward to Uhtred's next installment.
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THE PALE HORSEMAN is the second book in this masterful series.
Wessex, led by the pious King Alfred, is the last Saxon stronghold against the savage strength of the Vikings. Now it is struggling for its very existence. Uhtred, a Saxon raised by Vikings, is no ordinary warrior. As sharp of mind as he is of sword, his lust for life and battle sits badly with Alfred and his priests. But they face dire odds and Uhtred’s unique knowledge and fearlessness mean that he may be their only hope in the coming battle.
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VINE VOICEon 4 May 2007
This book is something of a rarity: a sequel that improves on the original. It also reads well as a stand-alone novel, with a satifying ending. Although it is obvious that Uhtred (who is apparently writing these accounts in his old age)is young enough to have many more adventures, it never feels that this account is just marking time until Book 3.

I read "The Pale Horseman" out of sequence, coming to it first, and it did not suffer as a result. References to events of the previous book work perfectly well as unexplained vistas (cf. Tolkien, who repeatedly casually references earlier "history" in his stories). Having thoroughly enjoyed it, I then immediately sought out a copy of "The Last Kingdom", treating it as a prequel. Although perfectly readable, if I had started there, I probably would not have persisted with the series.

However, by book 2, the main protagonist, Uhtred, has become a fully rounded character, with a distinct personality. The cliches of Book 1 have been replaced by a distinctive, although frequently irritating, person - in our household he goes under the moniker of 'Uhtred the Incredibly Annoying'! It is refreshing that this time, Bernard Cornwell, has created a flawed hero, who political ineptitude undoes much that his military prowess achieves.

Although I am not a specialist in the period, I believe it pays reasonable attention to historical accuracy (certainly, it does not have the glaring errors of Book 3!)- with Cornwell flagging in his Afterword where he has deviated from the historical chronology, or invented major figures.

The narrative is exciting, and carries you forward; certainly Cornwell creates a believable portrayal of battle-madness. The characters are not divided into heroes and villains - the morality is unflinchingly that of the period, and all the main protagonists make choices that we might consider unacceptable. Minor characters are not mere ciphers. but distinct individuals - one of my favourite features is the more-experienced Leofric's gloomy running commentary on Uhtred's behaviour!

Although Uhtred is another of Cornwell's unfeasibly competent warriors - Cornwell admits he has given Uhtred the lordship of Babbenburg because he himself is descended from the family that later ruled there, so I suspect that there is an element of projection onto his hero! - his immaturity prevents his military competence rendering him boring.

So, I found this far more enjoyable than the better-known 'Sharpe' sequence, and am looking forward to further installments of Uhtred's 'memoirs'.
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on 24 February 2016
Uhtred, a Saxon raised by Vikings, is a man made for war. He fights for the King that would betray him, and the land that would deny him.

I won a paperback copy in Goodreads First Reads.
I've never read a Bernard Cornwell book, and I was keen to. After all, I religiously watched Sharpe when I was younger, so this was surely going to be from the same mind and a perfect match.

I was bored. I normally start with the good stuff, but let's jump to the main course. I didn't get on with the writing style, at all. It seemed... basic, suitable for a 12 year old reader (although the content definitely isn't!). This was this, and that was that. You are told everything.
It is mainly written from a first person point-of-view in the present tense; but suddenly there will be paragraphs or the odd sentence that jumps to an older man remarking on his younger self. To say that he was arrogant back then; or more keen to plow his wife than serve the King back then; or that he couldn't know that this brand new character would become very important.
As far as the last one is concerned, I don't want to jump forward and know what is going to happen; I personally like the development in stories to happen naturally. I didn't feel that any relationships, or characters, had any development.

It felt almost like it could have been an accompaniment of The Last Kingdom screenplay. Yes, I know the book was released ten years before the programme came along; but the book had as much depth as script instructions.
He said this. She went there. He killed a man. They raped the girls. He drank ale.
There's a monotonous level of interest for each.
Seriously, there's pillaging churches; piracy; impersonating Danes; betrayal... the list goes on and it is awesome on paper. How did it become so dull?

Uhtred, our main character, left a lot to be desired. I couldn't really tell whether it was the writing style that sapped him of all character; but I didn't like him. For a man that was well-travelled, educated, a warrior and a leader of men - he was very two-dimensional. He came across as petulant, rather than arrogant, when he refused to see reason, or made certain choices. There wasn't an ounce of humanity in any of his thoughts or actions (I kinda wish the author had turned him into a villain and had a bit of fun with it, it was all so dreary).

The supporting cast are all as flat and easily forgettable.
Aethelwold - the king's nephew - was the only one that broke the mould. He had something about him, and brightened the few pages that he featured on.

So why two stars?
I might not have enjoyed the book, but I have to admit that I respect all the fine historical detail that has gone into it. You can tell there has been a lot of research into the era, the people and the details. It comes across very well in the text, being informative and immersive. It never feels like a history lecture.
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on 9 February 2016
This is the continuing story of one Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a blood-thirsty anti-hero who is driven by a love of fighting and a desire to win back his Saxon birthright from his uncle. More Dane than Saxon he cannot make up his mind which to be. As a cold, bloodthirsty, hardened warrior he clashes with the pious King Alfred, whose aim is to protect his people from the marauding Danes and bring peace to the land. Thrown together, they are forced into an unlikely alliance which underpins the story.

The story moves well and the characterisation is good. However, my belief in the story is eroded by the portrayal of King Alfred. He is depicted as a weak king. The real Alfred, was consigned to living as an outlaw, having lost all his power, influence and wealth. The real Alfred inspired his people, stood by them when other leaders had either retreated abroad or allowed themselves to become puppet kings. The real Alfred gave them courage and leadership, without which no-one would have followed him into battle. And yet we are supposed to believe that he plays second fiddle to the fictitious, albeit brilliantly characterised Uhtred! I can’t! And that is the reason this second book, like the first in the series, disappoints me.

However, Alfred apart, I will continue reading Bernard Cornwell’s books because he is a master story-teller and a superb writer of battle scenes, be they one on one combat, small fights or huge battles. The story carries you along. It’s just a pity that our true hero, Alfred the Great, is not more worthily portrayed.
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