The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell
The Saxon Stories #2
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (349 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

The last unvanquished piece of England, Wessex is eyed hungrily by the fearsome Viking conquerors. A dispossessed young nobleman, Uhtred is tied to the imperiled land by birth and marriage but was raised by the Danish invaders—and he questions where his allegiance must lie. But blood is his destiny, and when the overwhelming Viking horde attacks out of a wintry darkness, Uhtred must put aside all hatred and distrust and stand beside his embattled country’s staunch defender—the fugitive King Alfred.

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Uhtred holds the fate of England in his hands.

Before reading this installment in the Saxon Stories, I recommend reading The Last Kingdom, the first book in the series, not only because this tale picks up where The Last Kingdom left off, but also to better understand Uhtred’s history and his complicated relationships. Also, I must warn readers that The Pale Horseman, contains graphic violence as well as rape, though the rape is not described in detail.

It has been an adventure watching Uhtred grow up! He’s married, become a father, survived his first shield wall, and killed the Danish warrior Ubba. Uhtred feels he’s done more than enough to prove himself. However, Alfred doesn’t completely trust Uhtred because of his refusal to become a Christian and his divided loyalties. It is easy to sympathize with Uhtred because he is much more likable than Alfred, but I will admit I can see Alfred’s point of view at times. Alfred is a man mature beyond his years with carefully laid, long-term plans. In contrast, Uhtred is wild and quite immature at times, and while he has some long-term goals, he tends to live in the moment. Uhtred can make or break Alfred’s plans, and that makes Alfred uncomfortable. That being said, I’ve found Uhtred to be a man of his word. If he says he will accomplish something, he will. Uhtred doesn’t understand why that isn’t enough for Alfred. I find the relationship between Uhtred and Alfred fascinating. I can’t help but wonder what these two great men could accomplish if they could find a way to work together. Unfortunately, I fear they are doomed to never see eye to eye.

Denied the credit for the victory at Cynuit, Uhtred is understandably angry. In his frustration, he makes life changing decisions that will bring him joy, sorrow, and again put him at odds with Alfred. Uhtred is still truly torn between the Saxons and the Danes. There are moments where I held my breath because Uhtred’s choices literally had the power to change the future of England.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this chapter in Uhtred’s life, and I can’t wait to see what he will do next! I look forward to picking up the next book in this captivating series.

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