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If you like historical fiction and haven’t read Bernard Cornwell, then you are doing yourself a disservice.

I picked up my first Cornwell book with the Archers Tale.  And although I wasn’t happy it turned into a Grail quest story (I’ve read enough of those), the action and the historical aspects of the book are great.  I’ve now read eight Cornwell books, and I have four more sitting on my shelf.  

The Pale Horsemen is the second book in the Saxon tales. You’ll want to pick up The Last Kingdom and start with that.  The timeline is in the late ninth century, and the tale centers on a young man who was born a Saxon, raised a Dane, and then fights for the Saxons and King Alfred the Great.  The Pale Horsemen picks up right where the first one leaves off, and follows Uhtred, our young protagonist, as he walks the line between Dane and Saxon.

Alfred thinks he has found peace with the Danes, but they are only gathering their strength. A surprise attacks breaks Alfred’s forces and sends him into hiding in a swamp.  With Uhtred’s help, Alfred begins to fight back, and ultimately win back his kingdom.

The story is well written and has a lot of great action and fighting.  Uhtred is growing in fame, and uses his anger and size to become an even more notorious fighter than he had become in the first book.  

What I enjoy most about Cornwell’s book is his historical notes at the end of the book. He shares what parts of the story are real, and what he created to try and make a better book. He did a remarkable job of sticking to the real story.  Check it out yourself at Wikipedia.

I liked this book enough that when I finished it, I started the next in the series. Lords of the North is going along well, and it should be finished soon. I’m tempted to just keep on going and finish out the whole series!

3 star – see the book rating explanation here