-by Merlin Douglas Larsen
425 pages (1999)
“The rolls of parchment, the ink and quills and pencils were arranged and then the monks waited for the Count to speak….” Larsen’s Jackals in Iron is a “must read” for the avid history buff and for those who have a hankering for distinguished story-telling at it’s best. In impressive rich detail, every turn of the page expounds the history of the Norman incursion of England amongst other notable battles, chronicling the lives and actions of heroes, miscreants and citizens caught in the middle of life-altering movements of nations.
At the outset of the novel (1100 A.D.), we become acquainted with the principal character - Count Guy of Ponthieu - a “worldly hardened warrior” advanced in age and held in high esteem by his comrades. Along with his youthful wife Estelle, the Count is invited on a sojourn to the abbey of Saint-Evroult, to recount his life experiences, scribed for posterity by the monks residing there. As he relates his past in detail (the atrocities committed during war, the conquests, the family conflicts, and the inner battles, etc.) to the eager party of copyists, we are treated to a retroactive narrative. We become deeply entrenched in the Count’s read-worthy experiences, and consequences of his past decisions.
The reader is also generously provided with a glossary of terms, as well as lineage flow charts and maps, which I personally found very helpful in better understanding certain details of the story. They also added much richness to the read. Without a doubt, the extensive detail and research that must have gone into penning such a novel will astound even the most picky of history aficionados.
Larsen unquestionably deserves the sincerest of kudos for this masterpiece. Jackals in Iron is highly recommended for those who prefer a more ‘meatier’ read that is most enjoyable.
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