This is the second volume on Teutonic castles and this one focuses on the stone castles in Latvia and Estonia, as opposed to the brick castles of Prussia.
It shares the same qualities, the same limitations and the same format as the previous volume. The plates, pictures and maps provide good support to the narrative and descriptions, even if the text accompanying them tends to duplicate parts of the main text, which is a pity and a waste of rare and valuable space.
The inherent size limit of the book prevents the author from presenting the full history of the Sword brothers and Teutonic Knights in Latvia and Estonia and, anyway, this is simply NOT the purpose of this volume or of its companion (volume 1 on the castles in Prussia). Accordingly, do not expect a detailed history of both Orders over the period. However, this book is about the stone castles in these regions, and their timber predecessors, the multiple key roles they played and how they allowed the Sword brothers and then the Teutonic Order to dominate the region for so long, despite being outnumbered.
One of the originalities of this book, when compared to the other volume, is to show that, in many ways, it is the
Sword brothers who sketched out the strategy and the type of warfare that the Teutonic Order would developed over the next three centuries after having absorbed their defeated predecessors. This included the strategic positioning of the castles, their military roles in securing the Order's territory and as bases for its own expeditions, their roles as convents and hospitals, and their economic and administrative roles. An additional feature is to show, just as in the previous volume, the crucial role that these castles played in conjunction with Crusader armies which periodically reinforced the Order's manpower.
Another similarity is the combination of plates, pictures, plans and reconstructions of a large sample of castles, illustrating the main types that can be found across the Order's most northern dominions. This is also completed by a gazette at the end of the volume briefly summarizing the main features of some 21 castles which are mentioned in the book.
Finally, and because the Order retained control over its possessions in Latvia and Estonia longer than it did in Prussia, this volume is also original for showing how a number of these fortresses were modified and modernized to accommodate and adapt to gunpowder warfare in the 15th and 16th century. A solid four stars.