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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best volume so far in the Outlaw series ?, 19 July 2012
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This review is from: Warlord (Outlaw Chronicles) (Hardcover)
This is volume 4 of the Outlaw series (after Outlaw, Holly Warrior and King's Man). It is focused on the five last years of the reign of Richard Lion Heart (from 1194 to 1199), after his release from captivity, and his constant struggle against Phillip II, the King of France. Again, we find Robin Earl of Locksley, and his men (including Little John and his fearsome battle axe) and Alan Dalle, the warrior trouvère whom Angus Donald has equated with Blondel. As another reviewer mentioned, it might be preferable to read the books one after the other, although this is not absolutely necessary to enjoy this one.

The first thing I particularly liked about this volume was the topic. As Angus Donald mentions in his historical note, there are many books on King Richard but few that concentrate on his last years. This one does, and, as usual, the author manages to tell a superb, exciting and very historically accurate story. Although on paper King Richard I was much more powerful than his liege lord King Philip, the latter was a cunning diplomat who kept detaching Richard's vassals from him and encouraging them to rebel against the King of England throughout Aquitaine, Touraine, Anjou and Normandy, just like his father (King Louis VII) and grand-father (King Louis VI) had done in their time against previous Kings of England and Dukes of Normand. The author, who acknowledges drawing heavily from John Guillingham's magisterial Richard I, clearly shows how Richard put up a spirited defense and struggled for 5 years to reconquer, one by one, almost all of the castles and fortresses that had been lost during his captivity. It also shows him as the charismatic, energetic and skillful warlord that he was. Even what appear at first glance to be his acts of reckless bravery seem to have been mostly calculated risks, including those taken to win his victorious battle at Gisors.

There is much more to the book than this. The second excellent point is that it shows what medieval warfare was really like, with all its horrors, pillaging and massacres. It also shows war generally opposing relatively small armies - a few hundred or a few thousand on each side - with each trying to subdue and conquer the others castles and fortified towns through sieges and doing their best to avoid pitched battles where everything could be lost all of a sudden. These were wars of sieges, skirmishes and ambushes and rapid movement. The importance of siege warfare, and of capturing enemy castles quickly before they could be rescued, is very well illustrated in the book and the descriptions related to Château Gaillard are accurate. I particularly liked the two assaults on Verneuil and Milly and the hand-to-hand fighting on the walls. They were also wars that could only be sustained for a short periods so that they were many temporary truces. All of this is very well shown in the book, including the effects of war on the men (with one of our heroes being subject to what is now called post traumatic disorder) and the kind of behaviors that professional warriors such as the routiers (mercenaries) of Mercadier (who really existed and really served faithfully Richard until his death).

However, this volume is not only about warfare. More generally, it paints the picture of daily life and of the feudal world at the end of the 12th century whether in Alan Dale's manor or in Paris which was under major construction at the time, as indicated in the book (but I will not mention anything more to avoid spoilers). We also learn much more about Alan Dale's father, and why he was murdered, so there is a bit of a detective story's flavor added to it at times and even the Holy Grail comes into it.

Readers should also be aware that the portrays of the two Angevin brothers are largely (although not entirely) the traditional ones: Richard Lion heart "the hero" and John "Lackland" "the villain". Despite this, Richard, at least, was not caricatured: some of his less savoury sides are also shown. As for John, he has been so reviled that it has always been very difficult to come up with a case in his favor, although some have tried. I have two final little quibbles, perhaps, but certainly not enough for this book to be anything else than five stars.
- First, a "slip of the pen": contrary to what is mentioned, neither of Richard's grand-fathers (Geoffroy, Count of Anjou and William, Duke of Aquitaine) ) was Duke of Normandy, although his father (King Henry II and his great grand-father (Henry I Beauclerc, the last of William the Conqueror's sons) were
- Second, Aliénor of Aquitaine was not present when Richard, her favorite son, died of his wound at Châlus.

Also, for those interested in further reading in some of the topics covered in this book, I can recommend the following titles, in addition to the John Guillingham's book mentioned above:
- John France's Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades (1000-1300)
- Blood Cries Afar: 1216 by Sean McGlynn, which, despite its title, covers the last years of Richard's reign and the whole of John's reign.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Oct 2012 16:45:27 BDT
Hamstead says:
As a medievalist I have to defend Angus and say that Geoffrey of Anjou WAS created Duke of Normandy in the spring of 1144 - see The Reign of King Stephen by professor David Crouch page 195 of the paperback.
Also Alienor of Aquitaine WAS at the deathbed of her son Richard - see Ralph Turner's biography of her, page 278 of the hardcover.
I would also add that Sean McGlynn is not a historian I trust with the facts. Having tried his Lionheart and Lackland, I discarded it as twaddle after spotting numerous historical errors.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Oct 2012 21:23:12 BDT
Last edited by the author on 23 Oct 2012 21:55:03 BDT
JPS says:
Geoffroy of Anjou, created Duke of Normandy? First I had heard of this, but then we might be simply playing on words. Geoffroy had no right to the ducal crown whatsoever, other than through his wife Maud or his son Henry. Are you sure you are not confusing with the latter? Besides, you used the term "created": who had the authority to "create" (nominate might have been more accurate) a Duke of Normandy? A Count of Anjou did not. Maud, a claimant to the throne of England could have invested her husband with a territory yet to be conquered on behalf of their son and heir or even on behalf of her own claim. This would allow Geoffroy to claim to be Duke of Normandy, but he would not be "created". Even the suzerain - the King of France - could not "create" a Duke of Normandy without beforehand finding a good reason (or pretext) to get rid of the incumbent.

On the second point, however, you are perfectly correct. Richard did write to his mother Alienor after being wounded and she did come in all haste when she learned that her favorite son was dying. There would also be obvious dynastic reasons for her to hurry to his side, of course. The point here is whether she arrived BEFORE he died (and this what I mentioned in my review) or whether she was at his deathbed, which is not quite the same thing...

As for Sean McGlynn, fime by me if you don't like him. I haven't read either his Lionheart or his Lackland and, as you certainly have noticed, did not refer to either of them. The book I was referring to was, as mentioned, "Blood Cries Afar". I also have some reservations with some of the author's favorite themes in this book, as you will find out if you read the related review, but they rather relate to what I would call anachronisms. Blood Cries Afar is, however, worth reading, even if you disagree with the author and even if you have not liked some of his other books, for whatever reason...

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Oct 2012 17:47:16 BDT
Hamstead says:
As I said, read professor Crouch on the matter of Geoffrey of Anjou becoming Duke of Normandy and Ralph Turner on the matter of Alienor being at Richard I's deathbed. For Angus to use both of these details in Warlord, is hardly a slip of the pen when respected academics have stated the case. What's an author to do if not follow the accepted research? There are charters from as early as 1143 naming Geoffrey as Duke of Normandy, although the main focous occurs after April 1144. There is a letter form Abbot Suger to Louis VII referring to 'the count of Anjou whom you made duke of Normandy.' At this stage, Louis had been allying himself with Geoffrey to take down Neufchatel en Bray and the castle Lyons la Foret, held by pro Stephen castellans who were in opposition to Geoffrey.
Lionheart and Lackland is one (awful) book - very sloppily researched . It gets details wrong and states assumptions as if they are facts. I haven't read 'Blood Cries Afar' but going by Lionheart and Lackland, I wouldn't touch McGlynn's historical writing ever again because I just couldn't trust it.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Oct 2012 18:58:56 BDT
Last edited by the author on 24 Oct 2012 19:09:56 BDT
JPS says:
Thanks for the clarificationregarding Geoffroy of Anjou, "made" Duke of Normandy by Louis VII.

I'll certainly read David Crouch's book on King Stephen: it's been on my "to do list" for a while. µI do not know Ralph Turner, but then the 12th century in Western Europe is not my main area of interest. Anyway, this still leaves us with William of Aquitaine, whom I do not think was ever Duke of Normandy... Still one slip of the pen to explain away... :)

More seriously, and although I am not a specialist of the period, I think I understand what you are getting at. There are quite a few "historians" publishing for the "general reader" and who tend to "get details wrong" (in some cases, I even wonder whether this might be deliberate, especially when the wrong detail happens to back their case...) and, even more frequent, "state assumptions as if they are facts." This is both a form of "spin" and of fraud where the author seeks to (and often succeeds) take advantage of his superior knowledge of a given period (compared to most of his readers). I recently came across a historian's book who stated that the conquest of Byzantine Italy by the Normans in the 11th century had been easy and "swift". He just "forgot" to mention that it took 30 years and that the Empire put up much more of a fight than what is generally admitted... Is this the kind of behaviour that you are alluding to?

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Oct 2012 21:48:24 BDT
Hamstead says:
No, William of Aquitaine was never Duke of Normandy - we agree on that one :-)
You are right about "historians' publishing for the "general reader." I would also say that they tend to base a lot of their research on other people's secondary source research and so a wrong statement becomes repeated, firmed up and turns into 'the truth.' Ralph Turner, an academic whose bio of Eleanor of Aquitaine is actually pretty good still manages some odd moments of insanity. He blithely informs the reader that Geoffrey le Bel went on the 2nd crusade (eh?) and then died by drowning. He got the former fact from Eleanor biographer Regine Pernoud and goodness knows how he came by the second. Then Alison Weir (don't get me started on Weir) tells everyone that Eleanor had a half brother called Joscelin. So does biographer Marion Meade. How do they know this? Simples: it says so in the Pipe Rolls. But when one checks the Pipe Rolls it only says Joscelin 'brother of the Queen.' Doesn't say which queen, and the latter turns out to be Adeliza of Louvain, 2nd queen of Henry I. So Eleanor gets a half brother she never had. Basically the whole kit and caboodle of them are going around repeating each other's mistakes and not checking their facts.
Ahem, sorry for the rant.
To get back on track, thank you for the conversation. I would also add that I don't know any more specifics on Richard's demise and whether Eleanor actually attended his last breath, even though we know she was there to escort his body back to Fontevraud.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Oct 2012 08:38:47 BDT
Last edited by the author on 25 Oct 2012 09:05:09 BDT
JPS says:
Agree, and every time I feel tempted to do the same, I remember what my own professor always used to say (and still does say): go for the primary sources, THEN, and only then, start looking at the secondary sources. The "short cut" tactics are often driven by a mixture of lazziness, time pressure and inability to access the primary sources (especially the charters in Western Europe, and Greek, Arabic and Armenian sources, in the East).

So yes, "cutting corners" in that sort of way is quite frequent, even among historians who have been trained otherwise and should know better (such as Regine Pernoud in your area of expertise). I also definitely agree on the wrong statement made by someone who just did not bother to do her/his research properly - and may have looked at only part of the available "evidence" - becoming repeated and turning out into "the truth" over time. I was rather alluding to a slightly different case when authors deliberately "twist" the sources to make them say what they want them to say ("à la" Tom Holland, for instance). This then opens the door for "spin" and propaganda, and is no longer history, in addition to being particularly dishonest. I won't even bother commenting on the "cheap tricks" that some (including the same) can come up with such as playing on prejudices and using gossip (gore and sex stories being among the favorites). By this time, of course, and after all these kind of manipulations, the "product" to be sold is certainly not a history book any more. It is in fact after coming across a few of these and, in a couple of cases, being misled into buying them before discovering what they really were, that I started posting reviews on the books that I have read...

That was my little rant. I can't stand fraud. I won't get you started on Alison Weir. No point anyway since we very probably share the same view. She may be a hugely popular novellist, but she is certainly not a historian in my book, and never will be.

As for Richard's demise, I didn't think there were anymore specifics about Richard's demise. Just checking, since you did catch me out on Geoffroy of Anjou. I knew she did escort his body back to the Abbaye of Fontevraud, which I have visited a couple of times, although a long time ago when I used to be very much interested by the "Plantagenest".

Thanks for the conversation
JPS
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