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In the late ninth century, Wessex is the last English kingdom. The rest have fallen to the Danish Vikings, a story told in The Last Kingdom, the New York Times best-selling novel in which Uhtred's tale began. Now the Vikings want to finish England. They assemble the Great Army, whose one ambition is to conquer Wessex. A dispossessed young nobleman married to a woman who hails from Wessex, Uhtred has little love for either, though for King Alfred he has none at all. Yet fate, as Uhtred learns, has its own imperatives, and when the Vikings attack out of a wintry darkness to shatter the last English kingdom, Uhtred finds himself at Alfred's side.
Bernard Cornwell's The Pale Horseman, like The Last Kingdom, is rooted in the real history of Anglo-Saxon England. It tells the astonishing and true story of how Alfred, forced to become a fugitive in a few square miles of swampland, fights his enemies against overwhelming odds. The king is a pious Christian while Uhtred is a pagan. Alfred is a sickly scholar while Uhtred is an arrogant warrior. Yet the two forge an uneasy alliance that will lead them out of the marshes to the stark hilltop where the last remaining Saxon army will fight for the very existence of England.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Michele Kellett on 06-11-12
As a 62-year-old woman, I suspect I am not the ideal audience for these books. However, I really enjoy them, with some caveats. They are solidly researched, with fascinating insights into a historical period that gets little popular attention -- 9th century Britain, when Britain was just starting to coalesce into the nations we know today. The cultural crosscurrents and conflicting loyalties that result are played out in the person of the hero, a guy who is a little bit Conan the Barbarian and a little bit wily Odysseus, drawn with red-blooded vigor and not a little humor. Some of the characters, and some of the plot turns, are comic book retreads, but many are quite deftly conceived, especially Alfred the Great, and Alfred's relationship to the hero. There is plenty of subtly-delivered information on daily life during this time (which I like very much) and vast oceans of blood and gore (which I don't, but I can accept that many do).
The reader of this volume is not my favorite -- every male character in the book is given a separate and distinct Scandinavian/British accent, which I'm not sure makes sense when no character, technically, is speaking any language modern listeners would recognize.
I am also puzzled why some books in this series are abridged and others are not. Especially since the abridged versions still seem to retain the vast oceans of blood and gore, rather than the details of daily life.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
By cjwheeler on 06-12-08
as good as the first
I liked this book as well as the first. Same great story, same great character and same writing. Again I am disappointed that this is an abridged book.
I like the narrator, who also narrated the first book.
Now on to book Three, "The Lords of the North", and this one is unabridged.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful