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The Pale Horseman

Bernard Cornwell, Author
Bernard Cornwell, Author . HarperCollins $25.95 (349p) ISBN 978-0-06-078712-7
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Outnumbered Saxon forces continue battling Danish invaders in this rousing sequel to the bestselling The Last Kingdom . It's A.D. 877, and the dispossessed Northumbrian noble Uhtred has just routed the Danes in a battle at Cynuit in southern England. Logically, Uhtred should now ally himself with Alfred, whose Wessex kingdom alone has successfully resisted Danish control. But Uhtred sees a better chance of recovering his lost estate if he finds a way to join the Danes, who raised him and whose simple life of "ale, women, sword, and reputation" he finds more congenial than Alfred's Christian piety and military caution. But when the Danes invade Wessex, Uhtred's loyalties are further divided. His Celtic mistress foretells victory for Alfred, but Uhtred can scarcely believe that the bedraggled king, camped in isolated marshes with a handful of supporters, can repel the invaders and unite England. Yet pride grows in Uhtred: "I understood that among the Danes I was as important as my friends, and without friends I was just another landless, masterless warrior. But among the Saxons I was another Saxon, and among the Saxons I did not need another man's generosity." Uhtred demonstrates his newfound patriotism in the book's climactic battle at Edington. Filled with bawdy humor, bloodlust, treachery and valor, this stirring tale will leave readers eager for the next volume in this Alfred the Great series. (Jan.)

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