1346 and the French are still not accepting that Edward III (of England) should be their true King, rather than Philip VI, the actual King of France. It’s not an unreasonable claim, as Edward’s maternal grandfather was Philip IV (also of France), but things have gone beyond diplomacy and have turned to all-out war. The English forces have gathered on the beaches of Normandy and are heading to a crucial confrontation at Crécy.
This is the story of that battle – and the route to the battlefield. But more importantly, this is the story of a vintaine of soldiers and their conflicts, both personal and physical, as they head towards one of the most devastating battles of the Hundred Years War.
A first for the blog. After six hundred and ninety-five crime novels (at least – I only started counting since starting the blog), I finally got round to a non-crime novel*. No mystery, no thriller, no crime whatsoever. Well, that last part isn’t true, there’s crime all over the place here – lynching, grave-robbing, wholesale slaughter, rape and pillage (and something unacceptable done to a cat!) – but it’s not the sort of crime that I usually read about.
The reason why I decided to take a look at this one is pretty obvious, though – over the past four and a half years, I’ve read a lot of Michael’s work, mostly from the Templar mystery series, but also his spy thriller, Act Of Vengeace and the start of his latest series, Rebellion’s Message. But recently, he has moved into the historical warfare genre à la Bernard Cornwell, first with the final Templar book and then with the Vintener Trilogy, of which this is the first book.
And, while there isn’t a mystery to solve here, this reads just like one of the Templar series. Viewpoints shift from character to character, from various of the vinteners, to the young boy, Donkey, tagging along with them, or the French woman, Beatrice, someone with many secrets to hide. The battle scenes are reasonably short – which is a good thing for me, as while they are well-written and easy to follow, unlike some extended fight scenes that I can think of, it’s the human interest side of the story that interests me much more.
There are plenty of threads woven through the tale, and while I certainly prefer them to be woven around a central murder mystery, I can’t deny that this is a highly enjoyable read. Interesting that Michael picks on one particular conspiracy theory from the time as almost a side note – I wonder, does this tie in to City Of Fiends, the final (chronologically speaking) Templar novel? I guess I’ll know in ten books time…
So, if history is your thing (and off the top of my head, this is an era untouched by the historical mystery genre), why not follow my lead and give this one a go? Highly Recommended.
Well, that’s two from Michael in a row – if you’re a fan, pop back soon for a Q&A with the man himself. And if you can’t wait, here’s Michael talking about Fields of Glory.
*Actually, you can make a good case for Paul Doherty’s The Plague Lord, but I didn’t realise this when I read it. This one was a deliberate choice.