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Mercenaries by Jack Ludlow

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Sun September 13th, 2009, 7:20 am

Mercenaries
Jack Ludlow

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Beginning in 1033, this is the first part of a trilogy following the fortunes of the remarkable de Hautville family. A minor Norman baron, the prolific Tancred de Hautville produced 12 strapping sons (not to mention the odd daughter). Refused service with Duke Robert of Normandy, who sees them as a threat, the mettlesome de Hautville sons contemplate their bleak future. Trained as warriors from an early age, and unusually, well-educated, they look south to Italy, where Norman mercenaries are in great demand. William, the oldest, a natural leader, and his brother Drogo set off. They know that they must not just make their own way in the world, but also prepare the way for their younger siblings.

Italy in the eleventh century is a land of many principalities, full of turmoil and constant warfare. There are many players contending for power: the Lombards, of Germanic origin, the Western Holy Roman Emperor based in Germany, the Papal States, the Eastern Roman Emperor of Greek Byzantium, and the Saracens. Soon there will be another player added to the board- the Normans, no longer satisfied with fighting on behalf of others, but hungry for lands and titles of their own.

“Mercenaries” takes a little getting into; the Italian situation is complex and convoluted and repays a bit of background reading. Once the places of the main characters in Italy are established, like the Norman mercenary captain Rainulf Drengot and Lombard lords, Guaimar, deposed Duke of Salerno, and Pandulf, Prince of Capua, the story picks up momentum and rattles along at a spirited pace. The de Hautville brothers are clever, likeable rogues and soon grasp where they can place themselves to greatest personal advantage. There’s plenty of action, and clearly more to come in “Warriors” and “Conquest”, due out next year.

The characters are a mix of actual historical figures and fictional ones. The author provides a useful note explaining which is which and some historical information. A small complaint, but one which I find I’m making more and more often these days—mistakes not picked up by copy-editing. The most obvious and irritating one: the basic fighting unit of the Norman knights was not, as written throughout the story, a convoy, but a conroi: a unit of mounted knights, somewhere between twenty and fifty men and horses in size. The knights in a conroi would ride knee-to-knee in strict formation, acting rather like a cavalry version of the shield-wall. Elsewhere we get odd unfortunate errors, for example, the use of the word approbation (approval) used where clearly the word meant is opprobrium (disapproval). Please, publishers, do some proof-reading!

However the publishers of “Mercenaries” have kindly provided an online taster, an excerpt containing the first couple of chapters.

You will find that you need a map like this one to work out the jigsaw of 11th century Italy.

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A quick summary of the Norman conquest of Italy
Last edited by annis on Tue June 11th, 2013, 8:15 am, edited 22 times in total.
Reason: duplicate post?

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun September 13th, 2009, 12:53 pm

Thanks Annis. BTW I found two duplicate postings and I merged them. Not quite sure what would happen (it's my first *merge*), so I'm guessing you might want to edit this one down to one review :)

At least I didn't lose them, I'm always afraid of doing that :o :p :rolleyes:
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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Ariadne
Bibliophile
Location: At the foothills of Mt. Level

Postby Ariadne » Sun September 13th, 2009, 3:13 pm

Thanks for the review, Annis. It's nice to see there's a new series set during this relatively underutilized place and time (Holland's Great Maria takes place around the same time, doesn't it?). I'm going to keep a copy of that map handy should I decided to pick this up!

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Sun September 13th, 2009, 6:55 pm

Posted by Misfit
BTW I found two duplicate postings and I merged them


Thanks, Misfit. Not sure what I did there - must have hit something twice! In fact, I found a few other things to sort out when I went in to edit - clearly it's not a good idea to post late at night when the brain's at low ebb :)
Last edited by annis on Mon September 14th, 2009, 2:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Sun September 13th, 2009, 7:04 pm

Posted by Ariadne
It's nice to see there's a new series set during this relatively underutilized place and time (Holland's Great Maria takes place around the same time, doesn't it?).


Yes, it's an obscure period, but a tumultuous one and it's always surprising that more HF authors haven't made use of it.

The Norman mercenary, Richard d'Alene, Maria's husband in "The Great Maria" is based on Robert Guiscard, one of the many de Hauteville sons, and the most successful. I gather that the third book in the trilogy, "Conquest", will deal with Robert's story.
Last edited by annis on Sun September 13th, 2009, 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ariadne
Bibliophile
Location: At the foothills of Mt. Level

Postby Ariadne » Sun September 13th, 2009, 8:05 pm

"annis" wrote:The Norman mercenary, Richard d'Alene, Maria's husband in "The Great Maria" is based on Robert Guiscard, one of the many de Hauteville sons, and the most successful. I gather that the third book in the trilogy, "Conquest", will deal with Robert's story.


Thanks for the info - good to know!


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