Monday, March 17, 2008

Cornwell's The Pale Horseman

Steven Till has written several times about Bernard Cornwell's historical fiction, so I was aware of Cornwell's Saxon Chronicles series. Over break, I decided I wanted to read something vaguely medievalist just for fun, so I picked up A Pale Horseman -- which is book 2 in the series, but the local bookstore didn't happen to have the others in stock at the moment.

I thought it was a rolicking good story. In his review, Till finds the protagonist a bit too roguish for his taste, but that's what I rather liked about it. Uhtred isn't a Han Solo-style lovable rogue -- he's kind of an arrogant jerk. I didn't feel under any compulsion to like him, so I didn't much care.

For the scholars out there, the book has all sorts of insider references to King Alfred, and particularly his interest in Boethius. Indeed, there was enough about Boethius that I'll probably have a little post soon explaining who Boethius was for the non-scholars out there.

Anyway, I wouldn't assign it to a class, but A Pale Horseman convinced me to read the rest of the Saxon Series.


  1. Anonymous10:03 AM

    How do you feel about Cornwell's portrayal of King Alfred?

  2. That is the big question, isn't it? There is little that I know of Alfred that is directly contradicted by Cornwell's portrayal, but the priggish near-wimp depicted isn't what I had in mind. The Alfred in my mind is less cerebral (though he has a great respect for learning) and is more-or-less as devout a Christian as those around him.

    Cornwell, however, is depicting Alfred indirectly, through Uhtred -- and a guy like Uhtred might very well have seen Alfred as this prissy misguided idealist.

    Short version: Plausible, but not what I had in mind.

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