The Pale Horseman (Last Kingdom Series #2) (Saxon Tales)

The Pale Horseman (Last Kingdom Series #2) (Saxon Tales)

by Bernard Cornwell


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As the last unvanquished piece of England, Wessex is eyed hungrily by the fearsome Viking conquerors. Uhtred, a dispossessed young nobleman, is tied to the imperiled land by birth and marriage but was raised by the Danish invaders—and he questions where his allegiance must lie. But blood is his destiny, and when the overwhelming Viking horde attacks out of a wintry darkness, Uhtred must put aside all hatred and distrust and stand beside his embattled country’s staunch defender—the fugitive King Alfred.

New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell’s The Pale Horseman is a gripping, monumental adventure that gives breathtaking life to one of the most important epochs in English history.

“Cornwell’s characters are vividly drawn, betrayals lurk around every corner, the humor is as sharp as the swords, and the action is non-stop.” —NPR

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061144837
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/26/2006
Series: Last Kingdom (Saxon Tales) Series , #2
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 33,029
Product dimensions: 7.94(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Bernard Cornwell is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers 1356 and Agincourt; the bestselling Saxon Tales, which include The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne; and the Richard Sharpe novels, among many others.

Read an Excerpt

The Pale Horseman LP

By Bernard Cornwell

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Bernard Cornwell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060878924

Chpater One

These days I look at twenty-year-olds and think they are pathetically young, scarcely weaned from their mothers' tits, but when I was twenty I considered myself a full-grown man. I had fathered a child, fought in the shield wall, and was loath to take advice from anyone. In short I was arrogant, stupid, and headstrong. Which is why, after our victory at Cynuit, I did the wrong thing.

We had fought the Danes beside the ocean, where the river runs from the great swamp and the Saefern Sea slaps on a muddy shore, and there we had beaten them. We had made a great slaughter and I, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, had done my part. More than my part, for at the battle's end, when the great Ubba Lothbrokson, most feared of all the Danish leaders, had carved into our shield wall with his great war ax, I had faced him, beaten him, and sent him to join the einherjar, that army of the dead who feast and swive in Odin's corpse hall.

What I should have done then, what Leofric told me to do, was ride hard to Exanceaster where Alfred, King of the West Saxons, was besieging Guthrum. I should have arrived deep in the night, woken the king from his sleep, and laid Ubba's battle banner of the black raven and Ubba's great war ax, its blade still crusted with blood, at Alfred's feet. I should have given the king the good news that the Danish army was beaten, that the few survivors had taken to their dragon-headed ships, that Wessex was safe, and that I, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, had achieved all of those things.

Instead I rode to find my wife and child.

At twenty years old I would rather have been plowing Mildrith than reaping the rewards of my good fortune, and that is what I did wrong, but, looking back, I have few regrets. Fate is inexorable, and Mildrith, though I had not wanted to marry her and though I came to detest her, was a lovely field to plow.

So, in that late spring of the year 877, I spent the Saturday riding to Cridianton instead of going to Alfred. I took twenty men with me and I promised Leofric that we would be at Exanceaster by midday on Sunday and I would make certain Alfred knew we had won his battle and saved his kingdom.

"Odda the Younger will be there by now," Leofric warned me. Leofric was almost twice my age, a warrior hardened by years of fighting the Danes. "Did you hear me?" he asked when I said nothing. "Odda the Younger will be there by now," he said again, "and he's a piece of goose shit who'll take all the credit."

"The truth cannot be hidden," I said loftily.

Leofric mocked that. He was a bearded squat brute of a man who should have been the commander of Alfred's fleet, but he was not well born and Alfred had reluctantly given me charge of the twelve ships because I was an ealdorman, a noble, and it was only fitting that a high-born man should command the West Saxon fleet even though it had been much too puny to confront the massive array of Danish ships that had come to Wessex's south coast. "There are times," Leofric grumbled, "when you are an earsling." An earsling was something that had dropped out of a creature's backside and was one of Leofric's favorite insults. We were friends.

"We'll see Alfred tomorrow," I said.

"And Odda the Younger," Leofric said patiently, "has seen him today."

Odda the Younger was the son of Odda the Elder who had given my wife shelter, and the son did not like me. He did not like me because he wanted to plow Mildrith, which was reason enough for him to dislike me. He was also, as Leofric said, a piece of goose shit, slippery and slick, which was reason enough for me to dislike him.

"We shall see Alfred tomorrow," I said again, and next morning we all rode to Exanceaster, my men escorting Mildrith, our son, and his nurse, and we found Alfred on the northern side of Exanceaster where his green-and-white dragon banner flew above his tents. Other banners snapped in the damp wind, a colorful array of beasts, crosses, saints, and weapons announcing that the great men of Wessex were with their king. One of those banners showed a black stag, which confirmed that Leofric had been right and that Odda the Younger was here in south Defnascir. Outside the camp, between its southern margin and the city walls, was a great pavilion made of sailcloth stretched across guyed poles, and that told me that Alfred, instead of fighting Guthrum, was talking to him. They were negotiating a truce, though not on that day, for it was a Sunday and Alfred would do no work on a Sunday if he could help it. I found him on his knees in a makeshift church made from another poled sailcloth, and all his nobles and thegns were arrayed behind him, and some of those men turned as they heard our horses' hooves. Odda the Younger was one of those who turned and I saw the apprehension show on his narrow face.

The bishop who was conducting the service paused to let the congregation make a response, and that gave Odda an excuse to look away from me. He was kneeling close to Alfred, very close, suggesting that he was high in the king's favor, and I did not doubt that he had brought the dead Ubba's raven banner and war ax to Exanceaster and claimed the credit for the fight beside the sea. "One day," I said to Leofric, "I shall slit that bastard from the crotch to the gullet and dance on his offal."

"You should have done it yesterday."


Excerpted from The Pale Horseman LP by Bernard Cornwell Copyright © 2006 by Bernard Cornwell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Pale Horseman (Saxon Tales #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 175 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Now I have two favorite historical fiction writers - Sharon Kay Penman and now Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell puts one right right in the middle of the battle - the downpour of rain - crack of thunder and lightening - fear and "battle calm" and the yell "SHIELD WALL" just makes the hair on one's arm stand up. If you're a fan of England's historical fiction/events, I strongly suggest Cornwell's books. Uhtred has developed into a fearsom warrier. I've got the next book in the series and ready to read.....
mn22 More than 1 year ago
I love reading Cornwell's books on my nook, because additional research on a historic a character, location, or event is only a click away. After reading his novels, this one included, I always come away with the feeling of have been exposed to events that I did't know much about, but now want to know even more! Some would say he needs to get deeper into his characters in the book, and I understand the comment, but this is the second book in a long series, I think your seeing plenty of development - just read them all!
JR86 More than 1 year ago
Book Two of The Saxon Tales, The Pale Horseman, continues the story of Uthred, the Saxon boy raised among the Danes. Set against actual events, the story interweaves actual historical characters with fictional ones in a highly entertaining fashion. I enjoy the historical references and the detail of everyday life. I previously read another set of books by Mr. Cornwell and thoroughly enjoy his work. The book is fast paced with surprising twists and turns. The fight and battle scenes are realistic without being unnecessarily gory. The action ranges all over the east side of England and never flags. This book will be interesting to history buffs who do not mind a little action, and to action buffs who do not mind a little history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read all the Sharpe novels and most of Mr. Cornwell's others. Haven't read a bad one yet. I'm awed by his ability to take history and tweak it and make it fun. One just wants to get to know better even deeply flawed characters like Uhtred (arrogant, rude, crude, self-involved). It's just hard to put his books down, and I always look forward to the next.
tanker135 More than 1 year ago
Bernard Cornwell writes exciting books that grab the reader who enjoys martial tales and makes you want more. I read the entire Sharps series years ago and really enjoyed them, and the Saxon Tales is just as good a read. The protagonist is as interesting a character as you'll find. The author paints scenes that put you there. Strongly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I do not rate this as highly as I would some of Bernard Cornwell's other works, anyone interested in the time of Alfred the Great, should certainly read this series. It is well researched and a very good read.
rfayhallock More than 1 year ago
I have completed reading THE LAST KINGDOM and THE PALE HORSEMAN, in the series.. Their engaging to read, easy to read and I am learning as I read. I appreciate the author's reasearch of his his books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've just finished reading this book, and read The Last Kingdom before that. I like the storyline, time frame etc. but I also find there is not enough detail. After reading the Outlander series, and books by E. Rutherfurd, these stories seem kind of flat. The characters could be so much more interesting if the author provided more details about their lives. My impression is he seems to be rushing through the book, they're only 300 or so pages compared to the other authors I mentioned, their books are well over 1,000 pages. It's an okay read.
Lilo02 More than 1 year ago
The journey continues in the life of a Northumbrian Lord Uhtred who was orphaned and captured by the Vikings and then was raised by the Viking leader Ragnar who also fathered and trained Uhtred to become a warrior. Ragnar and his whole family are murdered in the first book The Last Kingdom and Uhtred finds himself in the hands of where fate leads him next. He is found to be switching sides and joins King Alfred's army to fight the Danes in The Pale Horseman. This is still a very good book and one that I'd offer for any historical fiction lover. However the ending, the battle of Ethandun which granted Alfred the title "Alfred The Great" is a little slow and dry. But none-the-less the rest of the book is filled with good drama new characters and lots of history that I think any historical fiction lover will enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After a slow start in The Last Kingdom, Cornwell hits his stride in this installment of the Saxon Chronicles. His characters start to take on a life of their own and seem less like rehashes of figures from his other series. The battle action and historical detail are first-rate, and the question of the hero's legacy promises to unify the future installments.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
kims-embroidery on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
kuniyoshi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Harrod on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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!!
Neilsantos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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).
ragwaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Better than the first one. Still no revenge but just kept me more interested. A little repetitous with the "Fate is inexorable" thing.
BenjaminHahn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
justabookreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
dhrobbins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the second of this series Uhtred assumes a much more sarcastic tone when relaying the events - and his caustic judgements - to the reader. If you read the first in this series, you will note that this book continues with Uhtred's struggle to regain his lands and balancre his love of the Danes with supporting Alfred, who is still oppressive with his Christian outlook. This tension, coupled with Uhtred's roguesh amore fate, drives Uhtred from rebellious adventure back to supporting Alfred in his quest to protect England from the Danes.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bernard Cornwell, perhaps our best writer of the historical adventure novel today, again scores high with the second book in his Saxon Stories. I'm a devoted follower of Cornwell, and in my opinion, these books rank with the better Sharpe stories and exceed The Heretic. The Pale Horseman tells the historical story of the 9th-century Danish (Norse or 'Viking') invasion and Alfred's struggle for the survival of Wessex and his idea of a united England. The Danes have already defeated Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. Then the Danes broke the truce and Alfred's kingdom shrunk to an area of vast swamps and tidal flats known as the Somerset Levels. With the help of our fictional warrior, Uhtred, a man caught between loyalty and desire, Alfred rallies the fyrd - a people's army of sorts - to the great battle of Ethandun in 878 CE. Alfred's victory saved Wessex and indeed the possibility of "England" - a Danish victory and perhaps that island would be called Daneland (although had the Danes never invaded Alfred would never have had the opportunity to unite the disparate Saxon kingdoms). In any event, much remains to be done. Alas, we must await Cornwell's third installment, The Lords of the North due out in the US in January 2007. Highly recommended for fans of Cornwell or anyone who enjoys historical adventure stories. The battle descriptions put the reader right in the clash of steel, the chanting, the roaring insults, banging of shields, blood, earthy human odors, the bloodlust, the horrible injuries and brutal deaths.
BruderBane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"A young man stumbled back of Osric's fyrd and vomited. Two dogs ran to eat the vomit." Gross but oh so Cornwell. He always takes the time to delineate with the minutiae of life while two armies stand off in the rain, cold and mud with the fate of a future England at stake. Cornwell has proven over and over again to be a fantastic thrilling author, with titillating combat and an array of characters that truly entrance the reader. With the second book in the Saxon series Cornwell continues to captivate. I can¿t wait to read the next novel.
starmist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Exquisite historical detail makes The Pale Horseman come to life. The characters breathe. Very readable as a stand alone book even though it is one of a planned trilogy. This time of history, such an intense time of transition and turning points, is beautifully captured by Cornwell. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i have yet to read a book of his I do not like. Every book of his I have reread at least twice, and I am looking forward to rereading this one...great great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PainFrame More than 1 year ago
He can make sermons, but he can’t make speeches. I read the first book in this series, The Last Kingdom, more than a few years ago and while I loved it, for some reason I never picked up the sequel until now. The previous novel was the first Bernard Cornwell novel that I had read, but I knew that it would not be the last. This author is very good at making history feel immediate and real, and has a good grasp of the time period which he brings to life in an authentic and often frightening way. I’m very glad that I live in the modern age and will never have to stand in a shield wall, I actually got anxious reading Cornwell’s description of this type of battle. Very well done, but not for the squeamish.