I have a special place in my heart for novelists who actually practise the skills that their characters need. Of these perhaps the best example alive today is Christian Cameron. His US Navy aviation thrillers (co-written under the nom-de-plume Gordon Kent) are informed by his 12 years in the Navy; his ancient Greek novels (the series Tyrant and The Long War and his stand-alone biographical novel on Alexander the Great Alexander: God of War) are informed by his years of ancient Greek re-enactment. And to write his current two series, one strictly medieval, the other medieval-fantasy (the Traitor Son cycle under the incredibly impenetrable nom-de-plume Miles Cameron), he came all the way from Toronto to Finland to train with me in Fiore’s Art of Arms. He has been training daily ever since, and has fought in armoured tournaments in Canada, the USA, and Italy.
It’s really no wonder then that his descriptions of armoured combat are the best in the business, bar none. I have written elsewhere about how I first came in contact with his work, and how from the first, I was impressed with the accuracy and depth of his fight scenes.
So you may imagine the degree of anticipation I felt on getting my copy of his latest, the first in the Ill Made Knight series. This is right in my home turf, set in the 100 years war, and, get this, a young Fiore dei Liberi appears as a character! I had very high hopes for this book. And Christian delivered. The book is a triumph of plot, character, and action. It works as fiction, and it works at all the sword-nerdy levels you could possibly want. It is accurate enough, I think, to be used on a history curriculum, with the main features of the campaigns (Poitiers in 1356 and Brignais in 1362) rendered in detail. We see Chaucer, Froissart, Jean le Maingre, Geoffrey Charny, and a host of other well-known 14th century people, alive on the page as they have never been before. The main protagonist, William Gold, was a real lieutenant of Sir John Hawkswood, perhaps the most famous condottiero of them all, and yes, another character in the book.
It is in the minutiae of camp life that this book really stands apart. Sewing. Cleaning equipment. Cooking. Dealing with cheap weaponry when you can’t afford good stuff. This book takes you on campaign like no other ever written, except perhaps God of War.
Buy it, read it, tell your friends. Historical fiction was never closer to fact, or more rewarding to read.
Did I mention that Fiore is in it??