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The Pale Horseman: A Novel

The Pale Horseman: A Novel

Written by Bernard Cornwell

Narrated by Jonathan Keeble


The Pale Horseman: A Novel

Written by Bernard Cornwell

Narrated by Jonathan Keeble

ratings:
4.5/5 (136 ratings)
Length:
14 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Dec 2, 2014
ISBN:
9780062393739
Format:
Audiobook

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Description

The is the exciting—yet little known—story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandsom defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England's four kingdoms.

At the end of The Last Kingdom, The Danes had been defeated at Cynuit, but the triumph of the English is not fated to last long. The Danish Vikings quickly invade and occupy three of England's four kingdoms—and all that remains of the once proud country is a small piece of marshland, where Alfred and his family live with a few soldiers and retainers, including Uhtred, the dispossessed English nobleman who was raised by Danes. Uhtred has always been a Dane at heart, and has always believed that given the chance, he would fight for the men who raised him and taught him the Viking ways. But when Iseult, a powerful sorceress, enters Uhtred's life, he is forced to consider feelings he's never confronted before—and Uhtred discovers, in his moment of greatest peril, a newfound loyalty and love for his native country and ruler.

The is the exciting—yet little known—story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandsom defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England's four kingdoms.

At the end of The Last Kingdom, The Danes had been defeated at Cynuit, but the triumph of the English is not fated to last long. The Danish Vikings quickly invade and occupy three of England's four kingdoms—and all that remains of the once proud country is a small piece of marshland, where Alfred and his family live with a few soldiers and retainers, including Uhtred, the dispossessed English nobleman who was raised by Danes. Uhtred has always been a Dane at heart, and has always believed that given the chance, he would fight for the men who raised him and taught him the Viking ways. But when Iseult, a powerful sorceress, enters Uhtred's life, he is forced to consider feelings he's never confronted before—and Uhtred discovers, in his moment of greatest peril, a newfound loyalty and love for his native country and ruler.

Publisher:
Released:
Dec 2, 2014
ISBN:
9780062393739
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as ebookEbook

About the author

BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of over fifty novels, including the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales, which serve as the basis for the hit Netflix series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.


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What people think about The Pale Horseman

4.6
136 ratings / 37 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (2/5)
    Cornwell whips up another rousing historical adventure tale with a straightforward warrior protagonist and the usual cast of sniveling, conniving cowards always twisting the truth to make him look bad.

    This time the setting is the 9th Century Saxon-Danish wars at the time of Alfred the Great, and the action is more bloody and gruesome than in other Corwell novels I've read. Not for the fastidious.

  • (3/5)
    This book is the second of the Saxon Series. It follows the first very well and ties in many of the characters. I enjoyed the way that Cornwell introduces new characters and scenes. He is very good at descriptive narrative. There are a few times where it becomes repetitive, but all in all, a great book
  • (5/5)
    This second book of The Saxon Stories sees Uhtred doing some roving before he ends up in the swamp with Alfred, one of the more famous incidents in Alfred's long rule. Uhtred is still more pagan than Christian, much to Alfred's dismay. He gets in trouble, falls in love, and fights the Danes when he isn't allying himself with them.Mr. Cornwall is one of the great historical fiction authors and his abilities are on display in The Pale Horseman. Uhtred has a dry sense of humor that contrasts sharply with Alfred's piety and often makes me laugh. The battle scenes are amazing; the reader can feel the fear and battle lust in the fighting. Another great book in a wonderful series.
  • (5/5)
    Bernard Cornwell cements his place as my favorite author. Supremely entertaining novel.
  • (5/5)
    Very good book.
  • (3/5)
    A fun trump thru the Saxon age.
  • (4/5)
    This the second in the Saxon Chronicles (starting with The Last Kingdom) and continues in excellent full blooded form the story of Uhtred (who still wants to regain lordship of Bebbanburgh, now known as Bamburgh) and his love/hate relationship with King Alfred of Wessex. This is both a ripping yarn, with the narrative drive of beautiful racing horse, and a well researched reconstruction from the available sources (as far as I can tell). I was exasperated by Uhtred's pig-headed obtuseness at the beginning of this novel, especially when he rides on horseback into church to announce his victory at Cynuit (a hillfort in Somerset) to the devout and pious Alfred. However, the novel provides wonderful set pieces and subsequently shows Uhtred's character development.The first part continues Uhtred' sea adventures as he sails to Cornwalum, meets Britons (Celts) and the beautiful Iseult.The large second section of the novel relates mainly to King Alfred's enforced stay in the "swamps" of the Somerset levels, which are well described in their undrained state. There is also the scene when having been reunited with an old Danish friend, Uhtred realises that for all his love of the Danes (who had brought him up after killing his father in Northumbria), he can only hope to regain his land and castle at Bebbanburg as a free lord if he accepts his Saxon destiny and so helps Alfred.The climax comes with the battle of Ethandun, which is convincingly told.Alfred is convincingly portrayed as a complex man who would have been happy as a scholarly priest or monk, but born into a royal family has the ambition and drive to make the necessary hard decisions to try to regain his Christian kingdom, although he has doubts and weaknesses that arise from very piety that makes him consider it his destiny to preserve Christianity.Uhtred makes a convincing pagan in a world which his fellow Saxons are fighting to keep Christian - "The world began in chaos and it will end in chaos. The gods brought the world into existence, and they will end it when they fight among themselves, but in between the chaos of the world’s birth and the chaos of the world’s death is order, and order is made by oaths, and oaths bind us like the buckles of a harness.".
  • (4/5)
    I’ve had several books from the Saxon Chronicles on my TBR for quite a while but only started reading them after watching the TV series, Last Kingdom on BBC. The first book, The Last Kingdom, begins the story of Uhtred, a Saxon boy taken by the Danes while attacking Northumbria in the late 800’s.In The Pale Horseman, Uhtred is now in his early 20’s -- a man with a wife, a child and a sworn oath to his king, Albert. Albert’s Wessex is the last of the “English” kingdoms remaining as the others have all fallen to the Danes, This book focuses on Albert and Uhtred’s struggle to keep the Danes from conquering Wessex.A note for potential spoilers - I noted in my review of The Last Kingdom that the tv series extended beyond the book – this book is the rest of the first season of the series.The first book, I rated 4 starts. This one is at 3.75 stars - slightly less as I did not find the main character, Uhtred as likable in this second installment. The story and the action is both just as good as the first book and I look forward to the third book in the series.Rating: 3.75 Stars
  • (4/5)
    My second Bernard Cornwell novel - after the first in this series. It's about as much fun watching the writer at work as it is following the tale itself. He gives us little reminders and explanations, details repeated or summarized that we might have learned in volume 1 or even earlier in this book. The tale gets a little complicated sometimes so Cornwell is careful to help us stay on track. But even when you see him at work like this, it's never distracting. I am no historian, never mind any expert on Alfred and his time. But the historical note at the end makes it clear that Cornwell has done his homework. What a grand fun way to learn a little history! Mostly I read these dense academic books that take me weeks to crawl through. This book is a grand page turner that keeps up me into the wee hours. Started yesterday, finished today!
  • (4/5)
    Set across 877-78, this second instalment of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories continues to follow Uhtred, now aged 20/21, who is as ever split between his English blood and Danish heart. There is more of Alfred the Great is this sequel. Mr Cornwell does a good job of portraying the famous king. I enjoyed the first book in the series - "The Last Kingdom" - and rate this one as being even better. The battle scenes are vividly described; the dialogue is believable and often includes dry humour, and the blend of fact and fiction works well.A very good read.
  • (4/5)
    A solid adventure historical. Cornwell knows his way around a battle.
  • (2/5)
    Thie is a fast paced, well written book. I don't personally enjoy reading about battles, especially when they are graphically described. I'm not sure at this time if I will read more of Mr. Cornwell's books. Perhaps one more to see if I can get a better feel of this type of literature. He does paint an excellent/accurate picture of the timeframe of the book.
  • (3/5)
    Where I got the book: audiobook on Audible.Uhtred son of Uhtred’s adventures continue, with the wily English (but a bit Viking) warrior becoming more deeply enmeshed with King Alfred, the Wessex king he despises but whose interests he always ends up serving. The story starts off with Uhtred making his own action, as he’s bored and decides to go raiding. He ends up with considerable wealth, the witchy Iseult and BIG TROUBLE with Alfred for going rogue. But then fortunately the Danes attack, and Uhtred ends up helping Alfred out of a desperate situation—at great personal cost.It was incredibly easy to sum up the story, and that fact in itself should give me pause. But no matter—Cornwell makes a straightforward plot into an entertaining series of battles, maneuvers and deceptions that pull you nicely into a world where the Anglo-Saxon English are desperately fighting off the invading Danes. Fighting is lovingly described blow by blow, while women are given about as much attention as a dog or horse (which is a pity because I think Cornwell could have done a whole lot more with Iseult. Now there’s a character just WAITING for Philippa Gregory.) But this is Cornwell being true to his style of story—adventure stories (mainly) for and (almost exclusively) about men, with enough historical realism and details to make you want to dive for a history book about the period (and isn’t that the point?) I love the frequent references to place-names—some of which are easily matched up with their modern counterparts while other are tantalizingly less easy to place—and laughed at the inclusion of the most famous legend about Alfred.To me, the main drawback about these stories is that they’re too short. I find myself longing for more intricacy and detail. In addition, I wasn’t crazy about the Uhtred-goes-raiding first part of the book, which seemed a bit too like padding for my liking. But hey, I’m trying to find out what makes the blood-and-battles male side of historical fiction tick, and perhaps some of Cornwell’s ability to cut the yapping and get on with the fighting could be a useful asset to some other writers I could name, who err on the side of talking and let all their battles be fought offstage.
  • (4/5)
    This is the second of Bernard Cornwell's second best series, the Utred of Bebbanburgh series, and they are good books. I prefer Utred to Sharpe, but I understand it's a moot point. The ninth century is the setting, and the Epic of Alfred of Wessex is going on in the background, while a good revenge plot really occupies our minds. An excellent piece of entertainment.
  • (4/5)
    The sequel to The Last Kingdom, this novel is set in 877 AD. Uhtred is in the southern part of England with his Saxon breathren as they are trying to fight off the Danish invaders, who Uhtred use to live among. Uhtred finds himself in the position of having to ally with Alfred, who has taken his estates from him. He wrestles with rejoining the Danes, but ultimately realizes that he is a Saxon, and must fight with them against the invaders. He has a hard time coming to grips with Alfred, who has taken refuge in the marshes, being able to defeat the Danes and uniting England.This is a well-written novel and a fitting sequel to the excellent The Last Kingdom. Cornwell does a good job of recreating the period and setting a proper mood and atmosphere for the novel. His writing style is engaging. He does a good job of developing characters and an even better job of depicting battle scenes. A good adventure story. Even though there are no fantastical elements, this is the sort of book that would appeal to readers of epic fantasy as well as historical fiction.Carl Alves – author of Two For Eternity
  • (5/5)
    Bernard cornwell is now my favorite author! I am awed at how his battle scenes continue to mesmerize me in this second book of the saxon tales series. I will definitely read the rest of the books in the series.
  • (2/5)
    I finished this last night, and I'm still not really sure what I think. On the one hand, I am absolutely fascinated by historical fiction and how vastly different it is from our world today - and this novel seemed believably accurate. On the other hand, Uhtred and every single other man in this novel, except perhaps Alfred, were brutes. I know that's just the way it was, but still. There was none among the characters with much compassion, except the pious men for whom it was about staying in God's good books.It was well written, but still don't think I enjoy reading this kind of brutality. No thanks!
  • (4/5)
    Bernard Cornwell lives part of his year here in Charleston. If you time it right, you can walk along one of our Charleston streets, and hear a madman ranting in an attic room -- only it's not a madman, it's a literary wonder named Cornwell, ranting and raving in the creation of a scene for whatever novel he's working on. In fact, carriage tour guides look forward to driving by his house, as he sometimes throws things from the windows as he creates his scenes. You know it's been a first rate tour if your carriage is thus blessed.Cornwell once again brought the sights, smells, and sounds to life from the days of Alfred the Great, when the land was torn by war. While I never particularly really liked the main character, or any of the others, I still followed the story with great interest. This is no dry history book, but vibrates with earthiness that I have no doubt is grounded in reality of the time. I remain amazed at Cornwell's amazing skill at depicting a battle, with accuracy and intricacy, holding this reader's interest for each slash and parry. I'm not a blood and guts sort of girl, but these battles are fascinating to me.I've heard Mr Cornwell fo readings, and know that he is a skilled actor as well as a gifted writer. He also spends part of his year up in New England, where he participates in Summer Stock. Though I was initially disappointed he did not read this particular version of the book, the voice actor was really good. This book is is the second book in the Saxon series focusing on England essentially before it was England. It's a time in history that fascinates me. I wish that Cornwell had been writing back in the days when I was studying history at Uni, or when I was living in England for part of that course of studies. His writing would have been good course requirements for any History major.
  • (5/5)
    I got this book at a library sale back in 2007, and just finally got around to reading it. Even though it's the second book in the series, it stands alone really well. This is the first work of historical fiction with which I have ever been impressed. Cornwell does an excellent job making a blood-thirsty warrior play out in a sympathetic way. While the naming conventions of the time make some of the characters a little confusing, I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter of this work.
  • (4/5)
    The Pale Horseman is book two in the King Alfred novels following The Last Kingdom.This is my third Cornwell series and my tenth book of his overall which means nothing if you know anything about Cornwell as an author. He’s an extremely prolific writer and I’ve barely touch his long list of titles. It makes me happy knowing I still have all that reading ahead of me.Uhtred, the Saxon raised as a Dane, is once more a pain in King Alfred’s side. Knowing Uhtred would go back to the Dane’s given the chance, he attempts to keep a leash on him but roping him in with religion and responsibility does nothing for Uhtred’s mood. Bored with a farmer’s life, he goes out raiding and meets up with a Dane named Svein who has ambition, ships, and men to back up his wild claims. Svein impresses Uhtred but he still isn’t ready to run back to the Danes, even if that’s where his heart is. Uhtred doesn’t like King Alfred but when the Danes attack, Uhtred finds himself by King Alfred’s side arguing with him over leadership and war skills. Though he never expected it, he is now doing everything he can to keep Alfred on the throne.As a main character, Uhtred is wonderfully hateful and I mean that in a good way. He’s selfish, impulsive, violent, and a warrior through and through. He’s what I picture a Saxon raised among war faring Danes to be like. He hates his king but stands by him even going so far as to give him his oath; whether he likes to admit it or not. Loyalty means much to Uhtred but he struggles with it. He owes it to Alfred as his king but would sneak away to the Danes if he could and the thought crosses his mind more than once. When the opportunity comes up, he doesn’t go, surprising even himself but when the fight comes he avoids his friends not wanting to face them.I know very little of Alfred’s actual history other than his being very smart and pious. This story is told by Uhtred so his portrayal is less than flattering. Being a pagan also shapes many of Uhtred’s views --- his wife whom he once ran home from a battle to be with is now someone he can’t stand to be around. Her religion is a main a sticking point between the two. He finds a new woman, a pagan priestess, to replace her and while you know he enjoys her company, you also wonder if he does it just to show he’s still pagan and not willing to bend the knee to both Alfred and his religion.Cornwell is as graphic as ever in the thick of the battle scenes --- bones, flesh, and teeth crushing loudly and violently. It’s a rough time, around 870 A.D. or there about, so at least he is true to the period; something I always appreciate about his writing even if I don’t always revel in it.It’s taken me a number of months to return to this series, not for lack of want, but because of other books that have come into my life. In fact, two additional books have been published in this series since I began reading Cornwell’s books. I don’t plan to let that much time pass between now and the next book.
  • (5/5)
    Amazing tale. More blood and guts. Creative twists. Finished this one on the heels of the first one and am swiftly moving onto the third!!
  • (4/5)
    I feel a lot of similarity between this and his Arthur series, Uthred is very similar to Derfel, just a little more bloodthirsty and a little less cuddly. Uthred is probably an accurate representation of a 21 year old Saxon warrior, this doesn't make his especially likeable however. Hey, there's a reason these are called the Dark Ages. But he does have a suitably early period outlook on life. "Ale, women and reputation, nothing else matters." I know people that are living this. I enjoyed it, I'd rather see a new 18th century series from Cornwell though. (Not Sharpe, that one should stay put to bed).
  • (4/5)
    The Pale Horseman reads fast and is highly entertaining during the battle scenes, but these characters are predictable, particularly because Uhtred is narrating the whole story in past tense so I know he is never in danger of dying. There are times when I worry though. Everyone around Uhtred dies, except for the highly obnoxious people. Plus Uhtred, like Durfel, isn't very intelligent so I'm constantly yelling "you idiot, this is the most obvious trap of all traps". So far, I am not to all impressed with King Alfred's ability to lead. When does this "great" moniker start coming into play. It's all in good fun. Raiding, shield walls, pillaging, sex, killing some priests, sailing, more killing. The good life?Give this to your male friend who doesn't have the patience for Neal Stephenson or G.M. Fraiser. I'm thinking your rugby playing, pint downing, rarely reads type friend. This just might get him interested in a bit of English history and give you something to talk about at the pub when your bored of sports.As always with Cornwell, I do appreciate his short historical notes section in the back, but I would very much like to see an extended list of related reading attached. This thrown bone is small and unsatisfying.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this book a lot. I think this is one of the better historical fiction series out there. The relationship between Alfred and Uthred is a believable one, and I could imagine existing in the time period.My only issue with the group was the hurried ending. I just thought it was a little contrived. Now I am sure this is what the author wanted, but to me it seemed rushed. A little more explaination after the battle would have been appreciated. But I am sure that is what the next volume in the series is all about.Highly recomended series if you are at all interested in history, war and religon.
  • (4/5)
    Second in The Saxon Chronicles trilogy.This middle book is concerned with Alfred’s desperate attempt to stave of defeat by the Danes, after they break the truce negotiated earlier and invade Wessex. Alfred is forced to hide in the marshlands of Wessex, while the Danes run rampant over the rest of his kingdom. Uhtred, the young narrator of the story, aids Alfred despite Uhtred’s inherent dislike of Alfred and especially Alfred’s Christian piety, which Uhtred views as excessive and dangerous to the welfare of the kingdom.Based on historical reality, Cornwell does his usual outstanding job of creating a believable world with believable characters. His battle descriptions are superb. In my opinion, he has no peer in the historical action-adventure genre. Highly recommended.
  • (2/5)
    The prose in The Pale Horseman is hurried, rambling, with historical inaccuracies and cardboard characters, all of it in need of an editor. Agreed there is little historical record of England's Alfred the Great; however, it is known he overcame a Danish invasion against staggering odds, unifying the squabbling tribes of Saxons, Mercian and some Britons. Yet Cornwell chooses to portray Alfred as an indecisive, toady of the Church, who only gained his kingdom and victory because of some swaggering, selfish, testosterone-ridden fictional Saxon hero. Doesn't wash.Add to that a propensity for run-on sentences, two glaring technical faux-pas (that linen bowstrings are unusable when wet, and arm-rings worn over chain mail), and you have a recipe for a frustrating and disappointing read.
  • (3/5)
    This is the sequel to The Last Kingdom, which I reviewed a few days ago. I had problems with that book because the protagonist, Uhtred, was an unsympathetic jerk. The historical detail was great, but I'm not too keen on reading about drinking, whores, and swordplay, even if it does play to accuracy. However, I still pressed onward with the trilogy..... and almost stopped a few chapters in. Uhtred, torn between being a Saxon by birth and a Dane in spirit, decided to masquerade as a Viking and do Viking things. Ugh. However, he did slowly mature as the book progressed. King Alfred insists that the Danes can be brought to Christ and does his utmost to promote peace. The Danes, however, do not agree. When Alfred is forced to flee and Uhtred grudgingly becomes his champion, the entire future of Wessex - and England - hang in the balance.I much preferred this book to the predecessor. This one had actual character development. I still didn't like Uhtred, but I no longer wished for his manbits to be ravaged by syphilis. Cornwell is a superb writer. His battle scenes sometimes are almost too heavy in detail, but it's interesting stuff. However, I have no gripping desire to read the next book in the trilogy. If I can find it for cheap somewhere, I'll buy it, but I'm in no rush. I won't be keeping either The Last Kingdom or The Pale Horseman.
  • (4/5)
    This book has been a wonderful continuation of the story of Uhtred and his journey to make his allegiance to King Alfred in the struggle against the Danes. I am fully enjoying this 2nd book in the Saxon chronicles series.
  • (4/5)
    Better than the first one. Still no revenge but just kept me more interested. A little repetitous with the "Fate is inexorable" thing.
  • (3/5)
    An excellent history capturing life and hardship with an accurate renditon of the relationships of the warring factions, paganism versus the new God of Rome; alas the characters suffer some as a result as does the plt which lacks a certain crispness. Still a great adventure read!