Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Sword of Justice by Christian Cameron.


Earlier this month I was able to get hold of the next volume of my favourite historical series – which is called the Chivalry series or the Thomas Gold series. The story takes place in the historical. That's not exactly neglected by historical writers, namely the Hundred Years War. But Cameron is much better at handling this material than just about anybody I can think of. The main character is the Squire/Knight Thomas Goldwho rises to the social ranks by fighting for various warlords, mostly English. He is a first-person narrator, which means that Cameron has taken on the challenging task of creating a character with a believable 14th century presentation who also speaks convincingly and comprehensibly to us. For instance Thomas Gold  has got to have a reasonably accurate attitude towards religion in the era of the papal schism, and talk about it in such a way that he doesn't lose our sympathy  or our ability to keep track of what's going on.

How many people reading this know anything about the papal schism in the 14th century? Yet Cameron is able both to explain the conflict in the church at this time and convince us that real people in that time took their seemingly exotic beliefs and religious practices seriously.

Other strong points. Cameron, who has a military background and intense personal interest in historical combat is very  good at depicting not just hand-to-hand fighting, but also training regimens and the organization of armies. He makes all of these subjects extremely interesting if you are at all inclined to military fiction.

Further, is not just the main character who is well described and believable, it is all of the characters who appear in the series. Cameron has room in the series for a lot of detail. He uses it well to create a world inhabited by a rich variety of characters: men and women, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian and on and on.

As a professional historian I find the most impressive thing about this series is that Cameron does not restrict himself to the easiest and the best known parts of the first half of the Hundred Years War. It's not all English roughnecks wandering over the devastated French countryside – though there is plenty of that in parts of the series. This book, however is largely about the wars in the Mediterranean basin. This is unfamiliar material for most of us, but we are surely better informed and deeply interested by the time we are done with this book. We come away from it as well with an appreciation of what crusading was like in this later era.

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