Reviewed by MaryLu McFall
This second historical novel in a series puts us squarely in Italy with Geoffrey, otherwise known as Hotspur. The young squire is growing up under the eye of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, a well-known powerful man in English history. Evan Ostryzniuk writes history with great depth, and the novel rings with authenticity. The period of history is full of derring-do and deeds of bravery. It is also full of treachery and bloodshed.
As in the first book, Geoffrey is of interest to readers who enjoy watching a character grow. In this second book, Geoffrey becomes involved in the machinations of those who would destroy the right of Niccolo to rule. The fact that he is only ten years old when his father suddenly dies is seen as an opportune time to form alliances to attack the boy.
The year is 1395 and this period of Italian history is one of great interest to many scholars. Italy is not a country of one mind; it is a country of city states each ruled by men of wealth and political power and influence. The period is not one of great familiarity to the average reader, even avid readers of historical fiction. Ostryzniuk is not only a writer but a scholar; however the novel is structured in such a way that a reader is captivated by Geoffrey and his ambitions. As with many young men of that and several centuries thereafter, the military route is one of the most successful.
While enemies of Niccolo plot their strategies, the heads of the city states of Florence, Venice and Bologna combine to see to it that the Este estates remain in the hands of the rightful heir. While Niccolo is/was illegitimate, the Pope sees to it that that is not as issue and Niccolo is legitimatized.
This novel reads slowly, but it is one that deserves to be read slowly. Details of history are combined in such a way as to pull you forward albeit reluctantly at first. Such detail is not a habit of American readers. And one very fine point is the fact that the book has smaller margins, the type running a good four inches across the pages. Once your eye becomes accustomed to taking in more than the usual line of text your brain adjusts to reading much more than the usual froth of too many historical novels.
I am looking forward to reading the third novel and going back to add the first to my list of reads. The fact that these books involve the Lancasters was a real bonus, as the family was the inspiration for my own novel, The Family Lancaster.
Reviewed by MaryLu McFall, who lives in Newnan, GA and is the author of an e-book A Little Karmic Murder and the forthcoming e-book, The Family Lancaster. She works part-time at an independent bookstore in Peachtree City and researches book values and lists the Omega Bookstore collectibles on ABEBOOKS.com.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Knox Robinson Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.