The Pale Horseman

by Bernard Cornwell


Reviewed by Coral

Alfred and Guthrum have made peace. A peace that everyone, except Alfred and his priests, knows won't last.

For Uhtred the end of the war brings nothing but misery. Not only has Odda the Younger claimed glory for Ubba's death, poisoning Alfred even more against Uhtred, but Ragnar, Uhtred's (kind of) foster brother is one of the hostages given to Alfred by Guthrum. With no way to get to Ragnar, knowing that his friend will die when Guthrum is ready to make war once more, and with Alfred making it clear he has no place at court, Uhtred goes back home to his wife and tried to settle into life.

But he is a pagan and, at heart, a Viking, living in a Christian - Saxon world. Is there any place that he can ever truly settle? And when the war comes, will he find his heart fighting alongside Alfred, or against him?

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as the first one, I'm just not quite sure why.

I get that Uhtred is going through an identity crisis. By birth he's a Saxon. His land has been taken away. And, no matter how much of a Viking he feels at heart, there really isn't a place for him in the Viking world. At most, he would end up a vassal king. But he doesn't fit into the Saxon world either. He's a pagan, and they won't accept him as he is. At some point, though, the whole back and forth thing got a little annoying.

There's something in the characterization of Alfred and his wife Ălswith that bothers me, but I can't really explain what it is either. Although it might be because I've previously read Joan Wolf's Edge of Light, a book about Alfred and Ălswith that I enjoyed tremendously. These are really the only books about Alfred that I've ever read and, between the two, I like Joan Wolf's characters better; I'm trying not to let that affect my enjoyment of this book too much.

Grade: B