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Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

The Pale Horseman begins immediately after the events in the previous book, The Last Kingdom. Uhtred has helped defeat part of the Danish invaders.

Once again, Uhtred is caught between loyalties. On one hand, he is Saxon, born and bred. Even though he does not embrace the Saxon Christianity, but believes in the Norse battle gods, he longs to recapture his father's land in northern England. But, Uhtred was taught to fight by the Danes and he loves them more than he does his own countrymen. He has made oaths to both Saxon and Dane.

While Uhtred is the main (fictitious) character in the story, the history is based on much information on Alfred the Great's reign as king of Wessex in England. Alfred is a pious Christian that is reluctant in battle and suffers from gastrointestinal problems. Uhtred hates Alfred but has an oath to him so he fights for him.

The story winds to a pivotal battle between Saxon and Dane armies. Loss of life is high in the shield wall. Uhtred's character, now in his early 20's, is being developed into an adult, a warlord and landholder. He is writing about himself, as an older man looking back on his stupidity of youth.

The Pale Horseman is the second in Cornwell's Saxon Tales. The next book, which I will be starting on very shortly, is The Lords of the North. These are excellent!

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