The Holy Lance by Andrew Latham

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When going through my “to be read” list of books to choose which one to read next, I often allow myself to be swayed by the chatter on various social media outlets.  The Holy Lance was one of those where the chatter almost compelled me to read it.  One of the things that drew me in was the fact that the author is an acclaimed historian; something that I have found to enhance any historical-fiction they write.  Besides, I like to support those who have taken up the profession of Historian as I am a self acclaimed amateur one (was my major in college back in the early 70’s).  Now, when you couple all of that with the history of the region and the current climate of terror and hatred, it became a no brainer to read a book about the Crusade under Richard the Lionheart.

Rumor has it that the spear that pierced the side of Jesus was hidden away in a remote Lazar House deep in Saracen held territory.  Richard wants it; his rivals want to keep it from him; Saladin wants to keep it from any Crusader.  This sets up a remarkable tale of a troop of Templars led by Michael Fitz Alan who infiltrate Saracen territory in order to claim the relic for Richard.  The main protagonist, Fitz Alan, is a mighty warrior of Christ, fearless in his pursuit of and in the killing of the unbelievers.  He is also possessed of a troubled mind and soul who struggles each day with his past.  This is one of the strong points in the book, the author’s portrayal of these Templar Knights as men who hold firmly to the belief that their very souls depend on strict adherence to their Rule.  The story is replete with exciting action, dramatic turns of events and in my opinion gives a brief on why we continue to war in that area of the world to this day.  A 5 star effort for this, the first book in the series.  Hooverbookreviews says, ‘get ready to read, you may learn something.’  🙂

About the author:

Knox Robinson author Andrew A. Latham is an award-winning professor of International Relations who regularly teaches courses in medieval political thought, international relations, and war.  Trained as a Political Scientist, Latham has spent the last decade-and-a-half researching political violence in the Middle Ages.  He has written scholarly articles on medieval war, the crusades, jihad, and the political thought of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas.  His most recent book is a work of non-fiction entitled Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics: War and World Order in the Age of the Crusades.
Latham was born in England, raised in Canada and currently lives in the United States.  He graduated from York University in Toronto with a BA (Honours) in Political Science; later he earned an MA from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario; and later yet, he earned a PhD from his alma mater, York.
Latham is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Historical Writers’ Association and De Re Militari: The Society For Medieval Military History.
Since 1997 Latham has been a member of the Political Science Department at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he where he lives with his wife Wendy, daughter Bernadette and son Michael.
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Gisborne: Book of Kings by Prue Batten

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Ever since I finished book two of this exquisite series, I had been waiting none too patiently for the third knowing that a wonderful treat was in store for me and the author did not disappoint.  As with the first two volumes the story is replete with tension filled plots and marvelously depicted characters.  The main female protagonist , Ysabel, while she has matured maintains that spark of spontaneity and stubborn willfulness that makes her such an intriguing character.   The main male protagonist, Gisborne, remains much the same as he keeps things close to the vest even though his heart is tormented with the kidnapping of their son and the growing hatred and need for revenge is kindled within. That is one of the author’s strengths, the ability to draw you into a character so completely that you feel what they feel; the anguish, the fears, and yes the joys.  Indeed the rich variety of characters makes this book(and the other two) such a joy to read. Descriptive scenes and scenery, a tale filled with the gamut of human emotions; well I can only say that it is a pleasure to have read all three and I am sure you will feel the same.  5 stars and more.

About Prue Batten:

A former journalist from Australia who graduated with majors in history and politics, Prue is now a cross genre writer who is also a farmer, kayaker, dog owner, gardener and embroiderer

Gisborne Book of Knights

This is the second title in The Gisborne Saga by Prue Batten and as effusive as I was in my praise of book 1, I did feel some trepidation as I started reading book 2…hoping that the author would be able to continue the excellence. I am happy to report that she has…. Ysabel Moncrief/De Courcey/Gisborne is one of the most fascinating characters I have read in fiction. Impetuous, intelligent, and constantly at war with her conscience, Ysabel strides through this tale of turmoil, doubt and fear as she seeks answers and safety for her and her son. The story has a bit of everything but most of all it has drama,from the plight of Sir Guy Gisborne, a plot to kill King Richard and the ever growing tension and hatred between Guy and his cousin, the Templar, Sir Robert Halsham. As with most good tales this one has it’s share of plot twists and surprises not the least of which happens at the end…I will say no more about that. Another reason for 5 stars are the author’s incredibly rich characters…they imbue the story with their loyalty, their realness, their believable existence.
In a word, run don’t walk to your internet bookshop of choice and read this marvelous series of tales. Book three Book of Kings is in the works…I am looking forward to that.

Warlord by Angus Donald

As this is the fourth book in this most excellent tale of Robin Hood, I sort of knew what to expect and was not disappointed.  This chapter revolves around King Richard’s attempt to drive King Phillip of France out of Normandy but there are plenty of other side stories and subplots as well.  Alan Dale is once again the narrator and in this tale is also one of the main characters as he struggles to find the real reason his father was killed and who the responsible party was.  Along with that he is also dealing with a curse levied at him and his bride to be.

The author has produced a magnificent tangle of twists and turns while also continuing his deepening of Alan’s character.  Alan suffers much agony and pain, physically, emotionally and spiritually during the many and varied adventures he takes part in during the course of this tale not the least of which is his concern about his own guilt in the deaths of so many he encounters in his quest for the truth. This is where the author shines in my view as he brings that pain and agony to the reader almost as if it leaps off the page as you read the words.

One of the big events, one that will carry over to the next book in the series is the introduction of The Holy Grail.  This most revered relic of Christianity plays an important part in Alan’s quest and serves as a catalyst for Robin to pursue this relic and possess it.  Thankfully the sequel, Grail Knight, is already available so I won’t have to wait too long to continue the pursuit.  I heartily rate this volume at 4.7.