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Book Review: The White Horse King

December 5, 2009

This post is part of Thomas Nelson’s BRB program (Book Review Bloggers, not Be Right Back). Have a blog? Like free books? Check this out.

I think I read this book in two or three days. It’s absolutely captivating.

It could be that I’m fascinated by history in general, but Benjamin Merkle brings Alfred the Great to life in such a stunning way that he may make a history buff out of just about anyone. His writing is well-paced, and approachable without being simple. He will draw you into an epic story and then make you laugh when you least expect it.

Merkle’s own interest in King Alfred is evident from the beginning. He ends his short Introduction with,

“Alfred was great because Alfred was a great king.”

Merkle sets your expectations for Alfred high, and Alfred the Great meets them. By the end of the book I can’t help but think it’s one of the great tragedies of our time that Alfred the Great is not a more prominent figure in our history classes and texts.

The first half of Merkle’s biography traces Alfred’s seemingly endless battle with the Vikings. The youngest of a long line of heirs, no one ever thought Alfred would be king. Not only was he king of the Anglo-Saxon people on the island now known as Great Britain, he was the last English king left standing before Viking invaders. He went on to become the longest-standing, most-loved, and most influential king the Anglo-Saxons had.

The stories of Alfred’s battles with the Vikings are wonderfully inspiring. Genuinely the stuff of legends. The stories of his grace and forgiveness are almost mind-blowing, and the stories of his renaissance are beautiful. Alfred the Great may as well have been King David alive again in the flesh; it’s no surprise he found such comfort and wisdom in David’s Psalms.

Such a great man should be remembered in all the great stories his life authored, and such stories could not have been written better than Merkle has here. Alfred genuinely deserves his title as “the Great,” and Merkle deserves all the acclaim this book has afforded him for bringing King Alfred to life again.

What are you reading? Do you love it?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2009 3:24 pm

    I’m reading two books right now – Fluke by Christopher Moore and Genius Denied by Jan and Bob Davidson. The first one? Total fluff read – I mean, Moore is a decent writer, but I wouldn’t consider him for a literary thesis or anything. Mark it under brain candy, if you will. Genius Denied though is fantastic so far – albeit a little subdued. I’m an AP teacher, so I deal closely with GT students and I see *every day* students who are so bored with sitting in a wooden desk for nine hours a day. I’m enjoying what the Davidsons have to say about education. :)

    • Lex permalink
      December 10, 2009 12:39 pm

      Thanks for the tips, Elora. Do you think Genius Denied would be a good read for someone who is NOT a teacher?

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