The White Horse King is the true story of Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, who lived in the late ninth century. He defended his country against Viking invaders, introduced a mini literary renaissance, and revamped the legal system of Wessex.
I’ll be honest and say I was disappointed, a bit. While the author does a great job of describing the Viking raids, and of describing the battle scenes that the Angle-Saxons fought against them, he skimps a little bit on the actual “biography” part of the book. I got a great picture of life in Saxon England as a whole, but I got a very small picture of Alfred himself and what he was like. Plus, his grasp of medieval Christianity and the effect it had on people’s lives, seemed to be a bit weak.
As a historical source, it’s a good introduction to the period, but on the other hand, I would have preferred a book that was less simplistic. I also found the sidenotes to be off-putting, taking up nearly half a pages (thankfully, they disappear partway through the book). And the notes themselves are a little History 101-ish (such as a description of who the Vikings were of the Roman occupation of Britain). Again, it might be good for someone who doesn’t know much about the period, but I was looking for something much more substantial.
As a side note, I often found the writing to be repetitive. Take this example: “The king… was unrelenting in his attack. He fought on fiercely and unrelentingly.” (125). The author’s writing style is engaging, but there are some stylistic mistakes. Still, I think this is a decent work of popular history. It’s not for someone looking for more insight on Alfred the Great’s character.