Friday, September 23, 2011

Edi's Spotlight: Honour and the Sword by A. L. Berridge

Introduction

As mentioned in other reviews, August 2011 has been an interesting month for me concerning the discovery of authors new to me. Regularly readers know that I like to read historical fiction.
I'm not the only one who think that historical and fantasy have more in common than a lot of people assume.
Today's author A. L. Berridge wrote an informative guest post about this topic. I posted about it.
In case you missed the post I deliver once again the direct link:

A L Berridge is the author of The Chevalier series. That sounds French. And indeed
"The ‘Chevalier' series follows the fictional life and adventures of André de Roland through some of the most tumultuous years in French history. As the series ends, Louis XIV has attained his majority, the Age of the Hero is over, and the Age of Absolutism is about to begin."
For detailed information read The Chevalier Series on the official A.L. Berridge website.

So far the series consist of two novels:
- Honour and the Sword (pb, 2010) [ISBN-13: 978-0141043739] and
- In the Name of the King (pb, 2011) [ISBN-13: 978-0141043746].
A. L. Berridge has been so kind to sent me copies of the first two books. So far I read the first one and thus Honour and the Sword is the subject of this review.


Book Store Information
In general my decision to read a book is mostly based on the cover and the blurb/synopsis delivered on the back cover. You do not get more information when you are in a book store. The world of books is changing which means I also will take in account blurbs and descriptions on GOODREADS and other places.
Here we go:
Honour and the Sword (pb, 2010)
"It is 1636 - the height of the Thirty Years War, one of the bloodiest and most destructive conflicts Europe has ever seen. As the campaigning season begins, the Spanish armies swell out of the Artois region of the Netherlands - flooding into King Louis XIII's France. The sleepy border village of Dax-en-roi stands in their way. Facing the overwhelming might of the Spanish forces, the Chevalier de Roland rallies a valiant defence, but in vain - his household guard no match for the invaders. There is only one survivor as the Roland estate is razed to the ground, one soul who escapes the Spanish brutality: the lone heir to the Roland name, the son, a young boy by the name of André de Roland, the new Sieur of Dax . . .Upon this young nobleman?s shoulders all hope lies. He alone must bear the honour of the Roland name and, with it, the fate of his people."[Source]

My Expectations

My list of historical fiction authors is growing. Most of them write stories set in the past of England. With Honour and the Sword I left England and entered France. The combination of cloak-and-sword and France always leads me to The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Like a lot of other boys I read and loved it in my youth. With such a "burden" it is not that easy to read a book without prejudice. Of course I expected swashbuckling rapier combat. But I also expected to learn a little bit more about the period of time and most important an entertaining adventure.


Theme

To my surprise the main theme is something completely different compared to the books I read in the past years. This book is about the concept of Honour in the 17th century. Sometimes it is obvious but often you will not recognize it. It is important to know because it puts a different complexion on several of André's decisions and actions.

Honour and the Sword is a great description of the impact of the Thirty Years War on a small community. And it is a great example of the interaction between a single person discovering the own personality and a group of people who are partially strong but in the need of a kind of leader to blossom the full strength.

On the headmost narrative level it is a cloak-and-sword adventure including a lot swashbuckling rapier combat in the tradition of Alexandre Dumas.

In sum Honour and the Sword is a book which is most entertaining adventure with the tempting touch to think about concepts and group dynamics processes.


Setting

I recommend to read the Thirty Years War by A.L. Berridge delivers detailed information.
Of course I give you an rough overview.
The year is 1636. Europe is suffers from the Thirty Years War. The French region Picardie is invaded and occupied by Spanish troops.
There is a colored map of the region over at the official book website and fortunately there is a black and white map in the book too.


Plot

With the Spanish occupation which is done in a bloody and brutal manner, young nobleman André de Roland forfeits family and home. The inhabitants of the Picardie wait in vain for relief. It is up to André and several villagers to organize resistance as a base for further actions against the Spanish occupants.

As there is a second book it is obvious that André and his comrades will kick out the Spanish troops. But that is far beyond to take place in a linear way. Lack of experience, misunderstandings, betrayal, abnormal ambitions, Spanish counter attacks and other unexpected events are the reasons for twists and turns. With every action, thought, dialogue André develops and also some of the other characters, especially his friend Jaques and Anne, the one he loves.


Character(s)

André de Roland is the main character of the book. If you want to know in deep how A. L. Berridge invented and developed the character then you must read André de Roland by A. L. Berridge. I can't do it in that way. It would go beyond the scope of this review. He is a young nobleman and has nothing in common with the noblemen from today. He is definitely neither the heir nor a copy of Alexandre Dumas' d'Artagnan. For me André de Roland is the French answer to Robin Hood.

But there are more characters which you get to know in a different way due to the structure of the novel. The structure supports the easy connection with characters which appear three dimensional.


Style

The narrative style is definitely the crossroads where opinions will differ. It is the the very point where reader will decide if they like the book or not.
A L Berridge chose to deliver the first adventure of André de Roland in form of a collection of letters, interviews, diary and journal extracts, interviews. The whole story is told from the perspective of different characters and that includes friends and foes! And to top it all, you will not find a single line written from André perspective!
The result is on the one hand a matchless view of André de Roland and on the other hand the opportunity to witness the story through the eyes of different and unique people. It does not take long to identify the current narrator without reading the chapter header. A L Berridge inhales every narrating character a unique personality. There is the caring and suffering (with André) Jaques, the tough Stefan and more.

The writing is emotional and stirring with a rhythm which gives you once a while the opportunity to breathe.

The Inevitable

The title of the book - Honour and the Sword - is the shortest summary you can get which includes all you get.
In the tradition of Alxandre Dumas, Honour and the Sword offers with André de Roland the French answer to Robin Hood. Enter a time where honour was something completely different and the rapier the weapon of the nobleman.
Remember the time when you read first Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers. You can't turn back the time but instead you can read Honour and the Sword and feel young again.

If you would like to get more information or my review has not been sufficient for you then I highly recommend to visit The official Honour and the Sword website.

And now the time has come to say au revoir ... André de Roland is waiting for me In the Name of the King ...

2 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'll check the iBookstore!
And congratulations on winning a copy of LJ Sellers' book. I was stoked when your name came up, because I knew you wanted a copy.

ediFanoB said...

Hi Alex,

Kindle edition is available [ASIN: B003P9XCG2].

I left a comment on your blog concerning my win! It was a big surprise. And yes, I wanted a copy. That will be a "nightmare" for my rest of 2011 picks ;-)

As I said before, the list is not carved in stone.

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