24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Cornwell's best book in years,
This review is from: The Warrior Chronicles (2) - The Pale Horseman (Alfred the Great 2) (Hardcover)
This is one of Mr Cornwell's best books of recent years. Quite simply, it is an excellent story, very well told. It continues the tale of Uhtred from last year's "The Last Kingdom" (so new readers should start there), who once again finds himself torn between fighting for the Vikings, who he feels are his natural brothers, and the Saxons, who are his blood brothers. This inner conflict provides the impetus behind non-stop action as Uhtred's adventures range from raiding in Cornwall to fighting the Danes for King Alfred. Uhtred's allegiance swerves more than once during the novel, so ensuring that the reader keeps guessing where he will go next.
Cornwell clearly loves the Dark Age world that he has created in this series and his evocation of 9th century England, whose inhabitants are violent and God-fearing in equal measure, is very believable. Particularly convincing is the 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. Even the supporting cast, notably the priest Asser (who wrote a life of Alfred), is well characterised.
By the end of this book you can almost smell the Dark Ages, so convincing are Cornwell's powers of description and the skill with which he draws his characters. He has spoken of wanting to write one Uhtred novel a year for the foreseable future; I hope he manages to maintain this high standard.