The Pale Horseman Review
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The Pale Horseman is Bernarnd Cornwellís second book about Uthred, Earl of Bebbanburg, and itís clear that Cornwell is setting the reader up for a long ride with Uthred. This book picks up immediately following The Last Kingdom, without missing a beat. The Last Kingdom was the story of a young man growing up as a warrior, told from the perspective of an older Uhtred, looking back on a grand life. This time, we see more of the pensive, older Uthred than before, as the pace begins to slow ever so slightly. But thatís not to say Uthred wonít split a manís head in half with a battle-ax if he catches him stealing trees from his property.

This novel joins Uthredís tale when heís still just twenty years old and has the misplaced priorities of most men that age. He has just led the Saxon army into battle against the strongest army the Danes could field and killed the Danish leader, Ubba Lothbrokson. But instead of racing with the news to King Alfred, he rides to his home and beds down his wife. This lets one of the other Saxon warriors claim the victory and all the kingís favor. Uthred loses his composure when he realizes his mistake and spends the rest of the book trying to recover from his blunder.

There are not as many battles in this book as there were in the first one, and Uthred seems to lose a bit of the personality that made him such a strong character. That can be blamed on the attention that Cornwell pays to his growing into true manhood. Uhtredís personal story now encompasses his marriage, his affairs outside of marriage, fatherhood, personal rivalries, new friendships, and his quest to recover his familyís stolen fiefdom. His loyalties are not as torn between the Danes and the Saxons as they were when he was younger, but he still has a deep bond with Rangar, the son of the Dane who raised him.

The voice of the older version of Uthred regrets having to leave behind his younger self, but he seems at ease with the life the fates have given him. This is a story that is going to be good reading for years to come. Pale Horseman is still as bold and in-your-face as The Last Kingdom in the fight scenes and in the sections where Uthred and his crew put to sea in search of treasure and adventure. The entire series is an Alpha Male tour de force, and itís a prime example of historical fiction as an art form. I highly recommend this book for the manís man in your lifeóor for the man that you wish was one.

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