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Honour and the Sword by AL Berridge

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Manda Scott
Posts: 81
Joined: July 2010
Location: Shropshire, UK

Honour and the Sword by AL Berridge

Post by Manda Scott » Sun March 11th, 2012, 11:41 am

One of the great joys of having set up the Historical Writers' Association is that I am being sent a lot of books I wouldn't otherwise read. A great many recently have been entrants for the HWA/Goldsboro Prize for Debut Historical Fiction and for obvious reasons, I can't review them here yet (when the winner has been announced, I may well do).

And then there are the books that are simply sent by thoughtful publicists who want to bring their authors to my attention. Such was the package that arrived recently containing three novels by AL Berridge. None of them was 'my era'. None of them had covers that would have made me pick them off a table, but that was definitely my loss. I'll know better next time.

The first is Honour and the Sword, first in a series concerning the life of one Andre de Roland, from his youth through to his turbulent adulthood.

And the first shock (for me) is that it's written in multiple first person. To non-writers, this is probably an irrelevance, but given that I'm in the midst of writing a multi-first and thought it was fairly unique in the field of historical writing, at least further back than the astonishingly good multi-firsts penned by Laura Wilson - this comes as something of a shock. But having digested the fact that nothing on earth is as original as we (I) would like to think, it's a splendid example of the best that multi-first can be: inspiring, involving, thoroughly engaging, with a fast-paced, intricate plot and a hero who is fully fleshed out, genuine, plausible and thoroughly likeable.

The action is set in 1636 as the Thirty Years War ravages the continent, sending Spanish armies to occupy Spain. The bulk of the narrative comes from the perspective of Jacques, a stable boy on the estate of the local Lord and in the opening scenes, said Lord is slain by the Spanish invaders and Jacques flees with the strange, introverted twelve year old heir, Andre de Roland. Plunged from a pampered, if strictly coded, childhood where everyone tugs forelocks and stares at the ground as he passes, into life as a menial in the local village, hunted by the Spaniards for whom he would be the ultimate hostage, young Andre goes through a series of rites of passage, in which Jacques teaches him how to be a peasant - and Andre teaches Jacques how to fight and to be a nobleman. When they become part of the nascent guerilla army, other characters begin to impinge on their lives, most notably Stefan, the self-appointed leader of the rabble, who claims to loathe Andre and certainly goes about breaking him, while clearly falling in admiration, if not in love. Feminine interest is supplied by the Lady Anne who is a hostage in the local citadel and must, of course, be rescued against insuperable odds with the view into the Spanish side provided primarily by the aide to the local commander.

The tag line under the title says, 'Bernard Cornwell meets the Three Musketeers' which is, I am sure, a great selling point, but does little justice to what is a cleverly written, intelligent, entertaining and above all engaging book. I'd be reading the second one if my partner hadn't stolen it first - she's the one with the First in English Lit and we rarely cross over in our reading likes. There can be no greater testament than that we both thoroughly enjoyed this.

Bestselling author of
Boudica: Dreaming. INTO THE FIRE out in June 2015: Forget what you thought you knew, this changes everything.


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