Dr. Ken Mondschein’s new book Game of Thrones and the Medieval Art of War is an unusual read. On the one hand, Ken is clearly a HUGE Game of Thrones fan, and has immersed himself in the books and TV show, and thought about them very deeply. On the other, he is a jouster, martial artist, fencer, and professional academic historian. As a result, he goes into depth and detail about things like the economic factors affecting armour development in Westeros, just as he might about how the same factors affected armour development in Italy.
The book has chapters on chivalry, armour, weaponry, swordplay, economics (actually my favourite chapter), women warriors, culture, and atrocities, and it also has a very useful bibliography that will expand my to-read pile to an unfortunate degree. The book is well written, though it could be better proof-read; there are quite a few niggling little typos. I’m extremely pedantic about such things, so they bothered me more than they might bother you.
I learned a great deal that I didn’t know about medieval warfare reading this, but I am not its target market; I read the first GoT book, and abandoned the series when almost everyone I liked spending time with died at the end of it. I loved the TV series (I’ve watched every episode), but I’m not a fan in the proper sense; it’s light entertainment for me, I don’t care about it the way I do about, for instance, Star Wars.
My conclusion is that if you are not a GoT fan, then the continual intrusion of a fictional world into what would otherwise be a brilliant primer on medieval warfare would be annoying. If you are a GoT fan, then this book will get you to look at the world that George R. R. Martin has created with new appreciation for the depth of thought that Martin put into it. You will also learn a lot about how similar forces played out for real on the battlefields of the middle ages. This might also be an excellent gift for a GoT fan in your life who you’d like to wean onto historical research. If was to give it a star rating, it would be 5 out of 5 for GoT fans, and 3 out of 5 for those who aren’t so bothered about the goings on in Westeros.
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