Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom #2) by Bernard Cornwell

5 stars for The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom book 2) by Bernard Cornwell.

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bið ful āræd.

The Pale Horseman calls out to me even as I am writing and wrapping up my review of The Last Kingdom. That is when I know I am destined to read this book.

Book 2 The Pale Horseman pretty much picks up from where book 1 The Last Kingdom leaves off, with Uhtred - at the age of twenty - recounting the mistakes he makes as an arrogant, foolish and headstrong young warrior following his battle with the great Danish leader, Ubba Lothbrokson. From then on, it tells of Uhtred's plight and fight where an adversary of today may turn into an ally on the morrow and vice versa. And finally, central to the story, events that lead to the King of Wessex being reduced to the King of a few square miles of swamp and how that is expanded on subsequently.

Taken verbatim from the book "The kingdom of Wessex was now a swamp and, for a few days, it possessed a king, a bishop, four priests, two soldiers, the king’s pregnant wife, two nurses, a whore, two children, one of whom was sick, and Iseult."

The story is phenomenally well written. There are twists and there are turns, and they catch me unaware. The author does a remarkable job in developing Uhtred's character here for there is no lack of action on his part that leads to heart-stopping moments. Yes, I cannot help but worry for Uhtred. Then, there is the ever-present humour, as sharp as ever, perhaps even more so than that of Uhtred's sword, Serpent-Breath, for words have power.

Once again, I have a great time immersing myself in The Saxon Tales, so much so that I stay up the night to finish up the last chapter culminating in the great shield wall battle yet again. As I read, I am ever thankful to buddy Sean who suffers through not one but two seasons of The Last Kingdom - crappy - TV series because he feels the need to refresh his memories and not be a book spoiler for my sake. Buddy, your binge-watch is duly noted and greatly appreciated!

Destiny is everything. I believe at the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree of life, the three women spinners are at work again, and now, they are spinning me towards The Lords of the North. I know it because..

Wyrd bið ful āræd. Fate is inexorable.

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 2 May 2006

*** Favourite quote ***

At the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree of life, there are three spinners, three women who make our fate. We might believe we make choices, but in truth our lives are in the spinners’ fingers. They make our lives, and destiny is everything.

~ The Pale Horseman
Bernard Cornwell


The Pale Horseman (the title is a reference to Revelation 6. 8) is the second book in the tale of Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg, and his tangled relationship with Alfred the Great, King of Wessex in the 9th Century. The story begins on the day after the events described in The Last Kingdom end, and goes on to describe the fateful year in which the Danes capture Alfred’s kingdom and drive him as a fugitive into the marshes of Athelney. It seems that Wessex, and England, are destroyed, but Alfred is determined to make one desperate gamble that might save his kingdom . . . .

*Blurb from author's website*

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