The year is 1097 and 16 year old Reymond is the son of a French farmer, but he yearns to join the Christian Crusades to free Jerusalem from the Saracen enemy. He runs away from home to join the troop of Charles as a young recruit and is soon embroiled in fighting, sieges and killing. The troop gradually moves across Europe and Reymond bands together with a group who become his brothers-in-arms.
The Holy War takes some unexpected twists as the Tafurs – peasants dressed in sack cloth yet know to be barbarians – join their ranks and Reymond and his friends become entwined with one particular young man, Sebastien. He appears to hold powers of sorcery and the men find themselves swearing an oath and taking part in Sebastien’s strange rituals during which he knights them (and himself) as the seven virtues – Patience, Kindness, Diligence, Chastity, Humility, Temperance and Charity – and bestows a specially made sword upon each of them. Sebastien claims to have visions that show how the men will take the Holy land and defeat the Saracen, but Reymond begins to suspect that there is sorcery at play.
The men find their fortunes changed forever when they partake in one particular ritual that involves a curse to lead them down a dark and deadly path from which there may be no return. Can the curse of their new personalities and their ever present swords be broken?
I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity by Love Books Group and the author to read this fantasy thriller and to be a part of this blog tour.
When I started this tale, I must admit to not knowing what to expect after reading the “blurb”. This feeling only increased when the first few chapters jumped from the present day back to 1097 and then to 1982, yet the lead character seemed to be the same young man Reymond albeit with a series of other names (Patience and Wrath). Time travel? Doctor Who? However as the tale moved on I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together and came up with my own conclusion, and will leave you to do the same – although all is revealed.
I most enjoyed the elements of the book set in the time of the Crusades and felt that I was learning some history. The author has researched well the Crusaders, the battles and sieges and their practices in order to make the book historically accurate – I found this when my interest was piqued by Mr Sutton and I did a little extra reading myself! I wasn’t sure if the Tafurs existed, but found that there was indeed a large element of peasants and poor lay people who joined with the crusaders to fight the Saracen and are known by academics as Tafurs. There may have been embellishment over the years about their appearance – wearing only sack cloth and being bare footed – and their cannibalism, but there are also ancient texts that describe the Tafurs as being considered barbarians by both the Crusaders and the Arabs (Saracens). This might have been used as a military tactic by the Crusaders and the author makes use of this as cities are raided and there is talk of burning the enemy at the stake and eating human flesh. I also established that there was indeed one considered to be the King of the Tafurs…..but as to sorcery, rituals and fantasy this may be something for the reader to decide!
Young Reymond grows from a boy to a man throughout the course of the book and within each century that we find him in. I liked him as a character and even when he found himself having to carry out hideous acts, I was still routing for him. The other “six” brothers-in-arms all have a back story, some more fleshed out than others (I loved Andros!) and I enjoyed reading the subtle transformation in their characters as they slowly took on their new personalities : Wrath, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Pride and Envy. There are also two important secondary characters in the more recent incarnations of Reymond’s life – Fisher and Mari, the only female character – who play a vital role in the search for the elusive “book” that will provide the answer to remove the “curse”. These characters have a more detailed back story and it is through their presence that the reader learns more of Reymond’s story and why a young man carries a sword in the modern day.
The story is fast and the action is definitely furious. It jumps from century to century, from continent to continent and will keep you on your toes – but if you don’t do blood and gore then it may not be for you. I think that reading on a Kindle makes it harder to flick back and forth to check what happened in a different part of the book, which I personally needed to do in order to recall an event that related to a new one! No spoilers, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by some elements of the ritual that changed the personalities…..but then I remind myself that this is fantasy!!
Overall a really enjoyable fantasy thriller with some fantastic historical components. Well worth a read if you enjoy something a little bit different. I am definitely going to look out some of Pete Sutton’s other novels.
About the Author
Pete Sutton is the author of three books: A Tiding of Magpies, a collection of ‘deliciously dark tales,’ Sick City Syndrome, an urban fantasy set in Bristol where he lives and Seven Deadly Swords – a historical fantasy thriller partly set in the crusades, partly set in the modern day.
Pete has a not so secret lair in the wilds of Fishponds, Bristol and dreams up stories, many of which are about magpies. He’s had stuff published, online and in book form, including a short story collection called A Tiding of Magpies (Shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award 2017) and the novel Sick City Syndrome. He wrote all about Fishponds for the Naked Guide to Bristol and has made more money from non-fiction than he has from fiction and wonders if that means the gods of publishing are trying to tell him something. Pete is a member of the North Bristol Writers. (from website)
Website http://petewsutton.com/ .