Thursday, June 02, 2016

"Gate of the Dead" ('Master of War' Series) by David Gilman - a review..

Lord, two weeks since the last update/post... shameful...

Not been entirely un-busy, just not enough time to sit down and write it up.. I have however, as always been reading fairly voraciously, and this one was finished a few weeks ago...

As those of you who read my book review page will know I have been very enjoyably working my way through the Julian Stockwin "Thomas Kydd" books, but I found myself with a few days while I waited fro the next book to arrive in that series so picked this up just to tide me over.. I ended up racing through it and it was very far from being a time filler but deserves a post in its own right purely because of how good the book is..

This is the third book in the series and reminded me just how damned good they are...  set in the period of the 100 Years War, this series is about archer Thomas Blackstone, knighted after the Battle of Crecy for saving the Kings life, but now (after events in Normandy in the previous book [clicky]) living in exile in Italy (or rather Tuscany, as there was no "Italy" in 1358) where he is a leader of a band of condottieri in the service of the city state of Lucca protecting it from the attentions of similar condottieri in the pay of Milan. Blackstone is very good at his job and rewarded well, but is still estranged from his wife (again described in the previous book)

Things are going reasonably well for him then, but then he receives a message via a wounded man that  appears to have come from the Queen (Isabella) - it is a summons back to the court in England, and while it is quite obvious that it may be a trap, Blackstone remains a 'Kings man' (despite the exile) so decides to return. As expected a number of attempts are made on his life during the journey, and when he arrives in England the Queen tells him she needs him to fight the Black Prince in a tournament that has been announced, and which has attracted the very best knights in the whole of Europe...  he does it, but in a way that only the Prince can see as to all intents and purposes he yields, in the meeting with the Prince, and the King, Isabella explains that English political handling of problems in France are leading to the chance that they will lose their holdings (England still held the French King at this time and were demanding a huge ransom, which effectively France couldn't pay, but meant a power vacuum that the French Barons were exploiting for all its worth). The King orders Blackstone back to France, into the heart of the Peasants Revolt, to rescue the French Kings family, but holds out the hope the Blackstone's estranged wife might be with them.

After many adventures, skirmishes, and battles, this he manages to do - and reunites with his wife who has forgiven him. At the end of the book however, the assassin who has been stalking him since the beginning of the book, is reveled to be in the pay of Milan, and Blackstone has to face him in trial by combat...

..and that's it - no spoilers here, read the book - Steve the Wargamer rates this one 10 out of 10....

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