The Greatest Knight

The Greatest Knight

The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones

My bad book review this week is about a book that sounds like a pretty normal Fantasy Novel. However, this is a non-fiction book, and is fascinating. The book, written by Thomas Asbridge, is about William Marshal. Marshal, the First Earl of Pembroke, was born during a time of civil war in England and lived most of his life negotiating one type of conflict or another.

The Greatest Knight

The Greatest Knight

I picked this book because much of the idea of the medieval knight that many of our stories are based on originated with Marshal. He was a jouster during the ear when the sport really became popular. He was very good at it.  Marshal was was the younger son of a minor noble and had no land to inherit, yet he would prove to be one of the most important political figures in English history, serving under five different monarchs. That is a stunning number, considering the short life of people in those times and how frequently power changed hands.  Could you imagine someone people Secretary of State for five different presidents?

Thomas Asbridge, The Greatest Knight Author

Thomas Asbridge does a wonderful job taking a historical topic and bringing it to life. He was fortunate to have access to some very good source material, and presented it very well. Marshal’s life looked like a tale from a George R. R. Martin tale (minus the rape and incest). Asbridge didn’t did a lot of research beyond the immediate material to bring us The Greatest Knight. I learned an incredible amount about the time period, as well as many of the key characters central to that age.

The story was told in such great detail that I was inspired to read other material about this period. Apart from our iconic view of the English Knight, The Greatest Knight played a role in the forming of the document that many Western nations would base their governments upon, the Magna Carta.

Without revealing too many spoilers, I encourage you to check out this rags-to-riches heroes tale, that is actually a real life account of the life of a remarkable man.

Please check out some of my other Bad Book Reviews.

Review – Homeland by R.A. Salvatore

Some important aspects of this story are revealed herein.

I was first introduced to Dungeons and Dragons in the Summer of 1989 and I was immediately hooked. By the time winter break rolled around, I had saved up a little cash and was dying for something to read. My best friend and our DM recommended I read Darkwalker on Moonshae by Douglas Niles. He was a “don’t crease my spines!” kind of guy, and wouldn’t loan me his copy of the book. I wasn’t old enough to drive yet so I had to wait for our next family shopping trip to visit the nearest bookstore. That trip came in early January 1990, right before school started back. I was pumped as I raced down the sidewalk to a little Hallmark store. The Dungeons and Dragons novels were right up front and I headed straight for them. No dice. I was crushed.

The book I wanted was out of stock. I did not want to go home empty handed, so I browsed the selection. There were some Dragonlance titles, but I had already read all of them. Nothing looked that great.

The moment of truth

Finally, I spotted an interesting book with a cover that looked different from every other D&D book I had read. I saw an elf wielding a scimitar on the books’ cover! I had seen my friend’s copy of The Crystal Shard, another Salvatore great, sitting on his pristine shelf, but I wasn’t allowed to touch that one either. Intrigued, I picked it up and read the jacket. It was very interesting.

I bought the book and left the bookstore excited. On the twenty minute ride, I started reading. Seven hours later I painfully rose from the chair where I had been sitting since I got home having stayed up all night reading. That book blew me away. The story that Bob Salvatore unfurled amidst the exotic backdrop of a city full of evil elves was beyond anything I had imagined.

Character Development

Salvatore developed each of the characters so well. The main characters mentor is so heroic and brave that he still ranks as one of my favorite characters in any book. The ruthless way of life that typifies the dark elves was very well portrayed. Salvatore explained the reason for the Drow Elves cruelty so well that I pitied them.

Combat

This is Salvatore’s wheelhouse. His understanding of the mechanics of martial arts and his own study of them balance his incredible fight descriptions seem very realistic. The detail and intense action floored me.

The end

Homeland doesn’t end with a typical happy ending. Drizzt’s victory came at a high price. Salvatore addresses several problems in Homeland common to our modern life. Matron Malice could have had the two most formidable fighters in all the city within her house If she wasn’t so hungry for power. Because she was so greedy, she lost them both.

The Dark Elf Trilogy was written after the Icewind Dale Trilogy as a prequel and backstory for Drizzt. Homeland did a wonderful job establishing Drizzt as the hero millions of people loved so dearly.