Book Review: The Pale Horseman

“We make children and wealth and amass land and build halls and assemble armies and give great feasts, but only one thing survives us. Reputation.” 
― Bernard Cornwell, The Pale Horseman

The Pale Horsemanebook: The Pale Horseman
Original Title: The Pale Rider
Series: The Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories (Book #2)
Setting: England
Pages: 384 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Date: December 26th 2006
ISBN: 9780061135675
Edition Language:English

The official synopsis according to Goodreads states:

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.
The Good…: 

While I enjoyed The Last Kingdom a lot, Bernard Cornwell’s sequel, The Pale Horseman, was even better. In The Last Kingdom Cornwell spends a lot of time (as he should) with world building, and it took me a while to really get into the story. Once I did, I was hooked. This problem didn’t exist for me with The Pale Horseman. 

The novel picks up where the first book ended, with Alfred defeated and forced into exile. Uhtred’s loyalties once again caught in the middle between the Danes who raised him and who he’s come to love, and Alfred. This decision is further complicated by the fact Alfred has publicly humiliated Uhtred, and made Uhtred’s hatred of the pious king grow. If Uhtred fights for Alfred, he may finally get his home back and earn respect among his countrymen. If he fights with the Danes, Uhtred will forever be hated by everyone he knows, and will never be able to return home to Northumbria. The ideas of family, patriotism, and loyalty run throughout the novel, and made me wonder which choice I would have made.

Uhtred is 19 years old at the beginning of the novel, and 21 years old at the end. By all rights he’s a man, a warrior, a husband, a father, a cheater, a fugitive, and a pagan. He loves deeply, but isn’t overly affectionate. He’s hot-tempered, and learning to be more thoughtful. This Uhtred I loved! Even though he still gets on Alfred’s bad side and remains manipulated by the King, Uhtred is now able to see the traps before the slam shut. Sadly, he often is unable to stay out of them due to Alfred’s traps being the lesser of two evils.

Alfred is still horrible. I feel bad for hating him, since he accomplished so much during his reign, but I do. I try to keep in mind that I’m viewing the monarch through Uhtred’s eyes as I read, but Uhtred’s opinions of Alfred seem pretty convincing. I wish he was a better General since Wessex is in the midst of a war with the Danes, and that Alfred didn’t seem like such a hypocrite. He claims to be a “good” Christian, but often uses his faith as a weapon against others. Ugh! I hope he’s better in the next novel.

Do I Recommend?
I really do! Bernard Cornwell writes action wonderfully. I actually feel like I’m in the midst of one of the battles. The characters are multidimensional and the intrigue makes the relationships between the characters tense and unpredictable. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars, because it hooked me from the very first page to the very last. Loved it!

This is my eighth completed review for the 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

This is my seventeenth completed review for the 2015 TBR Reading Challenge


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