A knight faces brutal challenges at home and abroad in de Rothschild’s historical-fiction debut.
Set in 1338, the novel centers on Sir Roger de Bohun, King Edward III’s one-time whipping boy, who’s now the “King’s Friend.” Roger has been handsomely rewarded for his years of loyalty: The king gave him a beautiful wife—Lady Alice, Queen Philippa’s lady-in-waiting—with whom he has two children, Harry and Isabel. He’s building an extravagant castle at Ipers Manor and has received a promotion to the prestigious rank of banneret. Roger’s successes, however, come during troubling times, as Edward makes a claim for the throne of France, complicating a number of political and religious intrigues. Closer to home, Lady Alice catches the eye of Sir Eustace de Frage, a man who will stop at nothing to claim her for himself. As tensions mount, Roger finds himself fighting for his king and his family. The author succeeds in creating a richly detailed setting and memorable characters. His descriptions of daily life in France and England, including the grand architecture of churches and castles, create a vivid picture of life during that era. Roger is a dynamic protagonist: a man of faith who’s loyal to his king, church and family but not immune to the charms of beautiful women. He’s met his match in Lady Alice, a passionate young woman who capably maintains the castle while he’s away. Eustace is a cunning villain whose ruthless desire for revenge drives some of the novel’s most effectively chilling scenes. The author’s vision is ambitious; as a result, the multitude of characters and subplots occasionally obscures the main protagonist’s story. The battle scenes are quite brutal, but de Rothschild reins them in before they become too gratuitous.
A sweeping, densely plotted epic that will likely appeal to fans of historical fiction or George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.