Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: The White Horse King (The Life of Alfred the Great) by Benjamin Merkle

The White Horse King was one of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time. I love history, but it has to be written in an engaging and interesting manner to hold my interest. This book did that for me.

Having read about this time period from the Viking perspective and from the French perspective within the last couple of years, I found it fascinating to read about this time period from the Anglo-Saxon perspective. Interestingly, I had visited White Horse Hill as a child and never understood the significance (although under dispute) and was only told that the horse was made a long time ago. I still remember vividly seeing this horse and walking on this hill with my family.

The details the author was able to gather and organize about the life of King Alfred were amazing. So many things about this king impressed me. Not only was he a God-fearing man, but he was able to forgive his most treacherous enemies. His thinking for the time period was so progressive as well. He was not only the youngest son of a king and unlikely to ever take the throne, but when he did take the throne he overcame a ferocious enemy, he led battles, he organized a standing army, and he planned cities and their defenses.

The historical background provided in this book was also interesting, from the difference between a village, a town, and a city, to the fact that Viking helmets did not actually have horns. I also found it interesting to learn about the Christian traditions of this period. Those tidbits of information kept me interested

I've already ordered another book about King Alfred to learn even more, and plan to give a copy of this book to a friend also interested in this period in history.

The book is a short and easy read, although I did find the chapters to be longer than necessary. I like more frequent stops.


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