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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written complex fantasy
Wow what can I say. I am so glad I received the Gollancz newsletter reccomending this book with its beautiful cover boldly at the top of the page, because otherwise there is a good chance I would have never found it amongst this era of brilliant Fantasy books being written left, right & centre. Ive lost count of how many trilogies & chronicles I am in the middle of at the...
Published 10 months ago by Mr L Reynolds

versus
1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Son of the Morning by Mark Alder
Unfortunately I bought this book having read some of the gushing reviews when I should have stuck with my gut instinct. Basically I was swayed by comments comparing this book and the author to Game of Thrones and G.R.R. Martin, a series which I have thoroughly enjoyed and where I am impatiently awaiting the next book. There is no way I can continue ploughing through this...
Published 7 months ago by anon


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written complex fantasy, 30 May 2014
This review is from: Son of the Morning (Paperback)
Wow what can I say. I am so glad I received the Gollancz newsletter reccomending this book with its beautiful cover boldly at the top of the page, because otherwise there is a good chance I would have never found it amongst this era of brilliant Fantasy books being written left, right & centre. Ive lost count of how many trilogies & chronicles I am in the middle of at the moment, I clearly have a serious addiction when it comes to greatly written fantasy...

Like this...

This is a tome of a book but it does not disappoint in anyway. I found the book brilliantly complex, it is a real book to dig into & not to stop until you literally reach the depths of Hell. Mr Alder has clearly done plenty of research & put in an immense amount of thought to combine the politics & battles of the '100 years war' with this amazing fantasy concept of 'Heaven' guarded by its powerful but rather fussy & demanding angels & 'Hell' in the depths below, overrun with evil devils & demons. If this isn't an awesome enough so far for you to actually read this book, throw in a very likable & intelligent young boy the 'antichrist' who is wanted dead by Satan, a usurping King Edward who has a war on his hands & cannot gain support of his angels he desperately desires & seems to be left with no choice but to have his father truly killed & hope the angels see him as the king or seek help from the depths of hell who in return want to be released from the darkness. Whilst the newly crowned French king is also lacking support of the French angels.

Like I said it is very complex & if I was to say anything negative about the book it would be the names which can easily get confusing particularly Mortimer & Montagu and Osbert & Orsino, although I expect this is to try & be as accurate as possible with the characters. Also there were sections where names were not used in conversation for a period of time, a lot of this was for a surprise effect, although it mainly worked I would often flick back to see if I had missed something. It would be an absolute waste to steam through this book, take it at a good pace, I read it over 2 weeks & you will certainly be rewarded, its 731 pages of gripping action.

The characters are really well personalised, I particularly like Montagu, who is a loyal King Arthur type knight with a holy sword, who has pledged his loyalty to serving his King. There are some great elements of magic mixed in too, I particularly enjoyed the use of a dead angels blood & feathers.

Overall just a fantastic & mesmerising read - Cannot wait for the sequel.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A devilishly good book!, 1 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Son of the Morning (Paperback)
A bold and innovative idea – let’s take the 14th century and write it as if their superstitions were real. Angels, Devils, Demons, Heaven and Hell? Yes, it all exists in this new book by one of the rising stars of British fantasy. Although it’s closer to historical fiction in its way; there’s a great amount that fans of Bernard Cornwell would relish here. It’s got a good dose of Pullman-esque cosmology and a wry leavening of humour, something that’s not always present in fantasy today. There’s even a hint of TH White; Alder’s characters are very modern in their speech and behaviour but he’s made an excellent job of examining the attitudes of mediaeval nobility and (almost) making them sympathetic. Hidebound by religion and social standards, they cannot help but act the way that they do. We may loathe the way they treat people but we can understand them more after reading about them here.

As well as the conceit (which will probably have some fundamentalist Christians frothing at the mouth) that God is a usurper, Lucifer is the hero, demons are the good guys and Satan is God’s jailer, Alder has started us off on a tour of the mid-fourteenth century with some very engaging characters to keep us company. There’s a boy who could be the AntiChrist (which has a very different meaning in Alder’s universe), a brave if emotionally tortured earl, a pardoner who’s the mediaeval answer to Del Boy and Arthur Daley, a slimy Florentine banker and his compassionately and sympathetically drawn man at arms. We also get to look inside the royal houses of England, France and Navarre as they jockey for position and the favour of both angels and devils. And if you know your 14th century history, you should be able to anticipate some of the events that are yet to come. Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror might serve as a travelling companion as you make your way through Alder’s book.

Alder very sensibly does not endow his angels or devils with deal-breaking powers; they’re formidable (indeed, this book’s equivalent of dragons, I think) but everything is balanced so that they don’t overpower the narrative; it’s a story of human beings first and foremost, the good, the bad and the ugly. Many of those human beings really existed in history and Alder cleaves pretty closely to the record whilst at the same time allowing his narrative to fill in some of the gaps - and adopts a playful attitude to bending history when it suits the story.

Indeed, playful is a good word to use here; Alder’s clearly having immense fun, tackling a huge event in European history and doing so with wit and aplomb. That he’s done so whilst covering some very important themes and retaining the humanity of his characters is all the more laudable. The book’s a colossal 750 pages, the first of a series which, when complete will be a mighty achievement indeed. I hope he can maintain the momentum and the tone of this book in future volumes.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 30 May 2014
By 
Parm (A bookshop near you) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Mark Alder: Son of the Morning: (Review)

Imagine taking the 100 years’ war and setting it in a different world, a parallel world. Some might say…its been done: Game of Thrones? Ok that’s a concept I concede. But game of thrones is a fantasy setting. Son of the Morning takes and uses the real history, it encompasses the main players of the Day, the likes of Edwards (Black Prince), Joan of Arc, John the blind, Henry V and so many many more. Throw in the odd revolting peasant, a spot of black death and you have a fairly miserable period in history. What Mark does to this is a touch of writing genius, he throws into the mix religion…But that’s a central part of Medieval Europe I hear you cry! But so much more so if the Angels and Devils that were so much a part of the lives of these superstitious people were real .

Churches and relics were imbued with angels, the more powerful the angle for example the more gilded and beautiful the church. The problems in a mortal world though come to the fore when both sides have “God on their side” who in fact does, the Hosts of Angels start to become unresponsive and the great and powerful men of Europe start wonder if God has abandoned them and if they need to look to darker powers for aid.

Now comes the real genius behind the story: All is not what it seems, God may not be the good all-knowing being we are led to believe, Lucifer is not the devil incarnate. The whole hierarchy as we understand it between Heaven and Hell is based on lies. ‘God’ created nothing but the barren wastes of Hell. When God in his jealousy saw the Paradise that Lucifer had created in his rage he imprisoned Lucifer in Hell and bound mankind up in a system of arbitrary rules and sins that demanded worship of him alone. These sins are so wide reaching that only a tiny minority can ever hope to avoid the fires of Hell.

Woven into this extremely rich tapestry of imagination and history, are battles worthy of any great swords and sandals novel and the dark imagination worthy of Dante. But Mark doesn’t just stick at the high level, the writing goes down to the detail of the clothing, the sounds, the sights and the smells of the time, this is no tale of polished knights, this is medieval and grimy. It is also riddled with wry sardonic humour, and outright laugh out loud moments.

This book should appeal to those who love great writing, fans of Historical fiction, fantasy, supernatural tales… it should appeal to anyone who loves books, because this is writing at its best.

(Parm)

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4.0 out of 5 stars A unique and exciting fantasy/history mash up, 10 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Son of the Morning (Paperback)
This is not, as the cover seems to hint, like Game of Thrones. I nearly didn't buy this because the publishers have been very keen to compare it to GRRM, which seemed a cheap shot to me. However, I am a huge Game of Thrones fan so I admit the comparison did get me interested.
I'm pleased to say I wasn't disappointed. It's not Game of Thrones but it is a thought provoking, exciting and sometimes unsettling book. This has the spirit of Chaucer - medieval life is gloriously represented, from the Kings down to the beggars grubbing in the marketplaces. It's quite a work of imagination and quite a long book but I read it quickly.
The characterization is very good but I didn't quite find any character to really root for as much as I did Arya or Tyrion. Osbert the Pardoner or Orsino are very good, though and both gave me some heart in the mouth moments. It's a much more thoughtful book than Game of Thrones and the writing is, in places, truly amazing. However, for me Game of Thrones just edges it. I'd find it difficult to say why. Maybe it's because I prefer wholly invented fantasies rather than a history/fantasy mash up like this is. Perhaps it's because the central character, Dow, is such a complex, difficult and traumatised person. He's fascinating but not always easy to like. He's a fundamentalist of a sort and that can make him hard work. On the other hand, characters like Queen Isabella were great fun, terrifying and quite sexy. I'm very near to giving this book 5 stars and probably would have if it hadn't been for the Game of Thrones comparison.It's actually pretty unique, I would say.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roll on book 2, 8 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Son of the Morning (Paperback)
I would recommend this to any fans of fantasy or historical fiction. I am a fantasy fan and thought the history would be annoying and difficult to follow. However, the author has written the book as if the reader knows nothing about the period it's set in and it's very clear what's happening. Its depictions of medieval England were so vivid that it inspired me to learn more about the history.
An excellent read with very good female characters that avoid the 'kick-ass' stereotype. Very good, can't wait for the next.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, unforgettable and glorious, 20 Jun. 2014
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Son of the Morning (Paperback)
The fear of God and damnation fuelled medieval life. Its fire was fed by the estates of Church and King, the poor predated on by both. But while kings might call on angels for support against the holy forces of their enemy, and while rich and poor alike might entreat saints (or indulgences) to intercede in the daily struggle of a hard life and its inevitable end, it might not hurt to hedge one's bets - to pester demons and devils for their support. If God won't listen, maybe Lucifer will. In these times, angels, demons and devils were not fantasy, they were a part of the shadows and lights that watched the daily lives and thoughts of every soul.

It is into this medieval world that we are immersed in Son of the Morning - we are dipped into a century where the statues of saints chatter in churches while capricious angels play in the coloured light of Europe's most royal chapels. Where demons and devils wait for the gates of hell to open just enough, and where the richest in the land consort with monsters. And where the poor are trodden into the mud of the battlefield or discarded in the sewage on the streets. But what if there are demons that will listen just to them? What if a saviour should emerge - not from heaven but a son of Lucifer?

Son of the Morning takes place in the few years leading up to and including one of the key events of the entire medieval period - the Battle of Crecy in 1346. But it wasn't just knights and longbowmen who fought alongside the Kings and princes of England and France that day, and in all the other days of the Hundred Years War. The skies were black with imps, the ships were blown by angel breath, knights were enthused and torn apart by dragon banners and demons inflamed the poor to rise up and take land and life from their overlords.

Angels will only talk to kings but none will talk to Edward III. His finances have been emptied by war and he looks for a solution to both problems in the service of his best friend and knight William Montagu, the Earl of Salisbury. Montagu is an honourable man, in aristocratic terms, until he falls from grace in a manner to rival that of God's fallen angels. His mission, to discover the true fate of the King's father, the unlucky Edward II, adapts as he realises the extent of his damnation.

But this is not medieval theology as we would recognise it. God and Lucifer are not in their familiar forms. The only thing that God created was the hell to imprison his rival, Lucifer. God keeps the devotion of humankind with rules. In the Harrowing of Hell, Christ found just two souls sufficiently free of sin to rescue. One side effect of God's law is the division of society with the nobility secure in its superiority over the poor and those who trade. When the Queen of Navarre finds her son Charles consorting with cats all that bothers her is that they should be aristocratic Persian cats. If he eats mice, they must be beautiful white mice, caged within a jewel box. Morality has been corrupted by snobbery. Montagu has the best lines when it comes to stating his self-importance but as time continues he changes and by the end of the novel it's doubtful that he would recognise or acknowledge himself.

Son of Morning overflows with rich characters. There are far too many to mention and are best discovered for yourself but some are outstanding, especially Osbert the pardoner - there is nothing he wouldn't say or sell to save his skin - and the demon cardinal who has his own use for human skin. I think my favourite though, apart from Montagu, is Charles of Navarre, truly a monstrous child in every sense of the word, yet with charisma overflowing.

The novel is a long one at well over 700 pages and it's not a book to read quickly. There is a huge amount going on and many characters to follow, many missions to pursue. It immerses the reader absolutely in this medieval world. Reading it is an absorbing experience. It interprets the psychology and sentiment of the age and brings it alive on the page. It is bawdy and it is very funny in places. At others, it is tragic. Angels might be capricious and vainglorious but the death of an angel is a terrible thing. The suffering of the poor, the corruption of the church, the cruelty of kings and princes, the small pleasures that were to be found, and the certainty that humans are no more significant than the little imps who nestle against their masters for comfort, all remind us that the Hundred Years War was a battle for much more than the soil of France or England.

Son of the Morning, written beautifully and powerfully and fantastically from the very first page, finishes perfectly, ending the story for some and hinting at a host of new characters - human, divine and unholy - to come. This is the first in a trilogy. The next cannot come quickly enough, especially with the hints of what lies ins store, including that most diabolic of pestilences, the Black Death. Without doubt, this is one of the most imaginative and vivid novels I have read in years and I will remember for a long time the pleasure it has given me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Bold, Inventive and Thoroughly Entertaining Read, 7 Jan. 2015
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Mark Alder’s Son of the Morning is a wonderfully skillful blend of gritty fantasy and real-world medieval history, seasoned with religion and shot through with magic. To take the Hundred Years War and add fantasy sounds like an improbable plan doomed to failure, but Alder pulls it off, and more, with the additional elements slotting in so seamlessly that they make the story’s world seem more, rather than less, real.

It starts with a breathtaking twist that utterly upends and inverts Judeo-Christian theology in a manner that left me both awed and surprised, before moving onto a multi-stranded story that mixes politics, intrigue and revelation. The characters that make up Son of the Morning’s ensemble cast are real and compelling. Its history is deft and interesting without being too deep. And underlying it all is the setting; a world in which religion is real, touching everything, driving all.

Highly recommended to all fantasy readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend, 21 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Son of the Morning (Paperback)
Fabulous book! I couldn't put it down once I reached half way and finished it in two weeks (quite a feat with my busy lifestyle!)
I hope that the sequel will be released or written soon. This book has found a permanent home on my bookself.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic historical fantasy, 26 April 2014
*Couple of minor spoilers in review. Sorry*
Mark Alder's lengthy opener in what looks like a trilogy is really rather good. It's unique, wryly humorous in its prose, affably accurate in its historical timeline, prosaically fluent, and a darn good story to boot.
The story opens in 1330 with an explanation of the hierarchy of heaven and hell: that God is named Itheketer and rules Heaven with his angels, that Jesus is named Lucifer and rules Free Hell where fallen angels are named demons. Satan is God's lieutenant and he and his devils constantly batter at the walls of Free Hell to prevent Lucifer establishing a Kingdom on Earth where a grievously wounded God cannot venture unless the Antichrist removes a sword from his bowels. All pure fantasy which is then overlaid on fourteenth century England, France and Spain during the a fraction of the period of the misnamed Hundred Years War. From 1337 until Crecy in 1346, the action sweeps from battlefields to monasteries, from fairytale-esque castles and towers to rough and ready slums. Characters are parodies of historical personages, events are lit up by fantastical beings. Devils are corrupted, foul things with a glum sense of humour; angels are epically ethereal, vacuous, vapid and egotistical creatures of light. It is a world where "dealing with divine powers is the province of kings; dealing with diabolic powers that of the damned."
Amongst them stride Edward III of England, a King without angels as his father lies on a briar altar containing the Evertere holy banner; Philip VI of France, a diplomatic King who prefers to avoid direct battle despite his archangels and Oriflamme banner; Isabella of France, Edward's mother and a sorceress; and the young demi-feline Charles II of Navarre. A step below this are a cast of dozens, headed by the utterly English William Montagu, Dowzabel the Antichrist, Orsino, Edwin the priest, Osbert the Pardoner, and the banker Bardi. Then there is the arch-devil Hugh Despenser, recently returned from Hell to wreak revenge on the English.
What makes this novel intellectually fun is the sardonic humour that fills the novel. Quips from Edward and Montagu make light of worldly politics, the humour of desperation seeps in every sentence from Osbert, a man who "had started life with many advantages, but had thrown them away to finish where he was now, among the flies, the offal and the stink of the marketplace...chief among his talents, was that he was a nimble man who could run quickly for one of such belly."
The humour is intelligent and pointed. It is at times both modern, courtly, and others acerbic, sardonic and downright giggle-worthy.
"Unfortunately, killing bankers - however attractive and pleasurable that may be in the short term - tends to diminish one's chances of credit at a time of future need."
"'Excellent Holland, excellent,' shouted the old knight. `Much more like it. I think you've broken my ribs. Nice work.'"
"God is a banker. I like that Bardi. It would take an Italian to come up with such a heresy."
"'Where will you be?'
`Coordinating from up here.'
`What coordinating?'
`It's a sort of cowering.'"
There are light touches of philosophy:
"Equality is against God's plan. A poor man is not equal to a king, as a rat is not equal to a lion."
"'We are all the same rank dead, priest.' said Orsino. `That,' declared Edwin, `shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Nature of Heaven.'"
At times, the author shows a neat turn of descriptive prose:
"Glutinous light, light that floated in blobs and pools like those shimmering stars that halo the vision on rising too quickly, filled the chapel. It was a light of storms, of the war between the sun and the dark clouds, of an effusion of gold breaking from the gloom of a rainsoaked hill."
The novel brings together many strands through the oft-used literary fantasy medium of a quest. Whether it be Montagu enthralled by Isabella, Edward III loping round France seeking battle, Dowzabel trying to find Edward II, Bardi trying to get his debts paid, or Osbert just trying to stay ahead of the games and out of magic circles, the characters move through human and magical means inexorably towards the Battle of Crecy. Of course, most will know how this history ends, but the pleasure here is not in the destination but in the sometimes ludicrous, often deft, telling of the narration what with its forays into Hell, its magic and fantasy, its angels and demons. Belief must be suspended, an appreciative sensor of humour is vital to understanding what the author has created.
It is a novel that demands to be read, rather than glossed through; requires consideration and attention to see the multiple layers that build up the form of the story. To look at its back jacket you might think it is just another piece of historical fiction but it is not. It is a well-told novel of high fantasy; it is neither George R Martin nor Philippa Gregory, but something that takes echoes of those authors and adds a huge dose of individuality. A lengthy novel, but well worth the time. I look forward to the next one.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtakingly brilliant!, 26 April 2014
By 
R. Vowles "becky" (Truro, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Son of the Morning (Paperback)
The Hundred Years War spanning the 116 years between 1337 and 1453 is one of those great sprawling medieval conflicts that roams back and forth across Northern Europe encompassing a huge number of iconic battles and names of Medieval history. Crecy, Agincourt, Saint-Omar, Tournai, Poitiers just some of the battles that have been immortalised in English and presumably in French consciousness for almost 700 years. We have icons like Edward the Black Prince, Joan of Arc, John the Blind, Henry V, Charles the Bad just a few of the big names that are what you think of if you think of the period. At the same time Europe suffered a series of peasant revolts and an almost total overthrow of the traditional feudal system largely due to the ravages of the Black Death. There is a massive amount that can be written about the period, so much fodder for authors. Something I've never seen touched upon though is the Hundred Years War taking the medieval stance on the nature of Angels and Devils into account.
Medieval theology is something that to modern eyes seems slightly mental. If you read medieval religious or social texts you will find numerous accounts of people genuinely interacting with a huge array of Saints, Angels, Imps and Demons. Many of these are accounts of ordinary common folk stumbling across a Demon as they go about their daily business, but it's not just gullible peasants who see these things. Serious, sensible and highly educated men and women totally believe that these heavenly and hellish creatures existed and could be appealed to. The creatures were a very real part of the actual world, a fact confirmed by all of the great minds of the day. They were as real to the medieval consciousness as microbes and atoms are to the modern mind.
With Son of the Morning Mark Alder has taken this theological concept of Angels and Demons being all around us and made it literal fact. The Angels and the Saints quite literally dwell amongst the relics that fill the medieval churches. The more beautiful and splendid the church the more powerful the Angel that is likely to choose to live there. The worthy, the pious, those chosen by God can have the types of very real conversations with these beings that you usually only find discussed in the writings of people like Julian of Norwich or Margery Kempe. At the same time demons are able to take physical form and disrupt God's plan on earth in a totally literal manner, just as the most educated medieval mind would have known they could. When a King declares that the Angels are with his army, and when the troops have a vision of a heavenly Host streaming above the battlefield this isn't superstitious nonsense, but probable fact. Now both the French and English Kings are finding their respective saints and angels increasingly unresponsive, and have to work out if this is a sign of God's displeasure or if something 'unholy' needs to be done to break the stalemate.

As if the conceptual leap it took to combine medieval action and politics with the high fantasy of Angelic intervention wasn't enough to make this book brilliant, Alder draws in elements of Milton's Paradise Lost concerning Lucifer and his fallen angels, and to turn the whole concept of God and the battle between Heaven and Hell on it's head. In Son of the Morning mankind has been deceived, the accepted concepts surrounding creation, Christ and the hierarchy between Heaven and Hell is based on lies. 'God' created nothing but the barren wastes of Hell. God saw the beauty of Paradise that Lucifer has formed and in his failure and rage imprisoned Lucifer in Hell and bound mankind up in a system of rules and sins that demanded worship of him alone. These sins are so wide reaching that only a tiny minority can ever hope to avoid the fires of Hell. At one point a character, confused about why Hell is so overcrowded asks if Christ didn't visit Hell to release all the just souls who had died with no chance of his Grace. The answer 'He did. And he freed both of them.' Only two just because of the impossibility for mankind to live by the Ten Commandments. Lucifer escaped Hell only once and can to Earth where he was called Christ, until God arranged for him to be betrayed, crucified and returned to his prison, only later spreading the rumour that 'Christ' was in fact the Son of God and a sacrifice in God's name. By combining the paradox of mankind's base nature vs the purity demanded by the Bible, the disparity between the vengeful God of the Old Testament and the Message of peace and love of the New Testament and the world full of death, pain and disease the was normal day to day living for medieval people Alder has come up with a solution that draws in all of these threads and which has the potential to be taken so much further in the upcoming instalments in the story. There are so many places that this can go. The s***storm that hits Europe with the outbreaks of unprecedented vileness that was the Black Death, and the total collapse of 'God's order' in the form of the feudal system, I can't wait to see how these are handled. The concept of Lucifer as a saviour of the people spreading his message of equality 'When Adam delved and Eve Span who was then the Gentleman?' that helped unite revolts both in England and in France only to be brutally crushed by Richard II in the case of London and by Charles the Bad, King of Navarre in the Jacquerie of Paris. this all fits beautifully into the world that Alder has created. As does the total and almost unique brutality of the chevanchee used by military commanders during the period, why else would they commit such crimes unless spurred on by unholy forces?
I'm hoping, and guessing, that future books in the series will delve further into the reasons behind the various unfortunate nicknames given to some of the great war leaders. There is so much material that can be drawn into this brilliant story and used to bolster up the concept of demons, devils and angels all at war. Things like the wording of the momento mori on the tomb of the Black Prince, and the horrific but unlikely death of Charles of Navarre as well as the spate of sightings of angels like Michael that helped raise Joan of Arc to prominence. Even the documented interest Isabella of France took in the supernatural during her retirement and her eventual adoption of the habit of the Poor Clares and her burial with the heart of her husband; all of these factors will hopefully be drawn in to further enrich this incredible fantasy world.

Ok so in case you can't tell I love this book, I'm blown away by just how cool the concept is, how well it's been drawn together and just why no one has thought to do this before (if they have, I apologise but I've not come across it and would love to be pointed in the right direction). This book isn't just a cool concept though. There are some wonderful descriptive passages both of the minutiae of daily life, the fabrics and textures of everyday life and of the huge battle scenes. Think Bernard Cornwell style battles raging across the page, being chased by escapees from Dante. In fact one aspect I really should touch on is the vision of Hell and of the Devils and Demons that reside there. The descriptions of angels are pretty cool, lots of bright lights, colours, beauty trumpets think Monty Python's Holy Grail on overdrive; but the descriptions of hell are something else. Anyone who's ever seen the medieval wall art that survives in some of the little churches that escaped some of the Reformation's zeal will know that medieval concepts of Hell were brutal and bizarre. Think the men with faces in their chests that reside around the outer edges of the Hereford Mappa Mundi, or the visions of Hell that make up the famous works by Hiernymous Bosch; what you get here is all of those things and then some.... The devils are terrifying and yet often strangely comical as the cavort and rampage across the countryside. Rotten and corrupt they manage to combine everything that is vile. Even down to being petty minded, but violent, bureaucrats who simply don't realise that their boss, God, is a lunatic! They also have some of the brilliantly ridiculous names that are found in the East Anglian Witchfinder records, all called things like Catspaw or KnowMuch.
As if this weren't enough Son of the Morning also has a cast of really wonderful characters. Osbert the Pardoner is a particular favourite of mine with his Blackadderesque view of the world being quite ready to drop all manner of cr*p on him from a great height and his willingness to manipulate the forces of Earth, Heaven and Hell to make his way through life as easily as possible. He is also given some of the best comic lines as he finds himself in a variety of unpleasant but unlikely situations. His glee at finally getting hold of some actual relics rather than the knock offs he's been selling all his life is very funny to read, as are his moments of baiting Father Edwin. William Montegu is a great character of classic chivalry corrupted too, and through him we get to see the whole process of nobility sinking into absolute sin and losing everything. One minor complaint is that the female characters are a little lacking both in quantity and in substance. With the period setting and the idea of war and politics as a place for men this is at least understandable, although it is a little infuriating that the female characters that are available don't seem to be utilised as much as they maybe could be. The two predominant females, Queens Isabella and Joan don't come across as being particularly unique from one another, although there is scope for them to show their differences a little more in future books. So this is a minor quibble.
This is a long old book, 779 pages in the edition I read, but don't be put off (if you've managed to read all the way through this review then you are probably up to the task anyway!) Every page is worth it here, there is a wealth of detail, of language and of thought that needs every single page. As this book only covers the first 16 odd years of the conflict I'm hopeful that there will be many more books to come!
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Son of the Morning
Son of the Morning by Mark Alder (Paperback - 17 April 2014)
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