Set during the time of King Henry V (1400s), this novel follows many, many people, among them, the Pitchfork Men. Sir Ralph has a taste for women and battle while his nephew, the Baron of Pitchfork, Sir Arthur chases after the ideal of chivalry. Sir Robert Neville, a cousin to the Pitchfork Men, follows King Henry on campaign in northern France.
This tale had plenty of action with lots of weapons and organized chaos. I liked that the weapons appeared historically accurate in use – the individual rich and the government military had weapons and most everyone else didn’t (or they were lucky to have a bow or a knife). There was plenty of history in this book and the reader was plopped down into the middle of it. So if you aren’t familiar with the setting or the time period, you might want to skim a Wikipedia article on King Henry V before you dive in.
There were many, many characters in this book. I do well with a plethora of characters as long as I get to spend quality time with them. The point of view shifted often and among many of the characters in the book (few got to sit on the sidelines) and I had a hard time connecting with the characters and keeping them straight. I think if I had gotten a solid 10-20 pages with each point of view initially, then I could have hopped around quickly towards the end of the book. As it was, quickly flashing from one character to the next, I was a bit frustrated at not being able to keep them straight. Adding to this, many of the characters have an every day name and then some royal title. So a close family member will refer to Sir Ralph as ‘Ralph’, whereas those who serve him will call him ‘Baron of Pitchfork’. This is a simple example, but toss in 10-20 characters at the beginning with titles, full Christian names, and familiar friendly names, coupled with quickly flashing among points of views, and you get some confusion to muddle through.
The ladies aren’t shrinking violets in this book, though there are far fewer female characters than male characters. Lady Mary Rambures stands out among them and has the most page time, being the center of the love interest and (at times) the center of the action. In fact, the book leaves us on a bit of a cliffhanger concerning her storyline. So, I hope there is a planned sequel, though I haven’t seen any mention of one on the author’s page
I read the Kindle edition which has some extras, such as a nice image of an armored knight with all the bits labeled. I especially liked the use of all these bits of armor in the storyline. Several short poems in French are used throughout the book and the English translations are at the end of the book. I prefer it when novels do this so that the translations don’t interrupt the flow of the story (and for those versed in the alternate language, they can feel like a multilingual smarty pants for getting some or all of the translation correct).
And that brings me to my biggest criticism of the book: the translation. This book was originally written in Polish and was translated to English by Pawel Brzosko. The book is peppered with small errors that gave me mental stutters (though the translation does become more fine-tuned and exact as the book goes on). Sometimes sentences were missing articles (a, an, the) and sometimes the incorrect verb tense was employed. A few times a not-quite right word was used or the incorrect word. At one point some soldiers were ‘larded’ down with halberds. Well, you only lard something in cooking (like using goose fat to soften a tough cut of meat in the cooking process) or perhaps you can fill up the lard (the food storage area). Couple this with quickly shifting point of views going on, and I had a tough time getting into this book. But I am glad I stuck with it, gave it a chance, and kept on reading. The book had its moments of excitement and glimpses into the depths of human nature. This author bears watching.