The Last Kingdom (Bernard Cornwell) and The Pale Horseman (Bernard Cornwell)

Posted on Thu 22 June 2006 in Rooties Recent Reading

Two books this time. I bought them as a pair for 3.73 in a supermarket just before we went on holiday. Other than the price and the fear of having nothing to read whilst away, I chose these because I recognised the authors name. He wrote the Sharpe series of novels which have been turned into Television shows staring Sean Bean. I've seen lots of the sharpe books in the second hand shops but had always avoided buying them. However, since reading these two books I've already bought one sharpe book and expect to be getting more.

The "Saxon" Series is currently only 3 books (more being written) that begin in "The Last Kingdom" with man called Uhtred speaking of his life. He's not yet an old man, he still has the goal of recovering his rightful lands. The style of writing is beautiful, you can imagine a Saxon man speaking that way. I think it's the detail that makes it so effective. An enormous amount of research must have been done before the series came into being. The author has discovered old town names, fortifications, even life styles - at one point Uhtred bemoans the war as it is allowing foxes to survive when they would normally be culled, which will lead to more lambs being lost and less food for people. The story is accurately placed in history to match up with real events and battles of the time (Uhtred was a Lord and Warrior).

In a strange way, I also love the way Uhtred is not quite like able. Yes, he is the hero of the story but it is not an easy role. In the "Pale Horseman" he returns to his hall and discovers one of his servants stealing a tree. His reaction is to cut off the mans head with his sword! He is a warrior and one you wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of.

Bernard Cornwell has finished each book with some historical notes that help differentiate between fiction and fact. In the Pale Horseman King Alfred burns some oatcakes which is a story we all know from school. Yet from his research he says this was not likely a real event as the sources for the story are very late in our history and not from that period of time.

These stories are simply wonderful to read.