Saturday, May 12, 2012

Edi's Spotlight: In the Name of the King by A L Berridge

Historical Week 2012 - Day Six

Dear Readers,

welcome to the last but one day of my . You may remember that I  dedicated this week to the war victims of the Crimean War in general and author A.L. Berridge in particular. 

I hope you caught more than a glimpse of the Crimean War and why we should not forget the victims who died because of logistical errors and tactical faults. 

With the two book package Crimea (pb, 2011) by Orlando Figes and Into the Valley of Death by A. L. Berridge you get a masterly written historical overview of the Crimean War and a book from the middle of the British Army in the Crimean War with emotional weight and surgical precision regarding details.


Today I want to show you one more reason why A. L. Berridge deserves my dedication.
I do not know if you have read my review of Honour and the Sword (pb, 2010) [ISBN-13: 978-0141043739], the first book in the  The Chevalier Series. This book stands for her unstoppable passion for historical fantasy.

Another expression of this passion is definitely the second book in the  The Chevalier Series. And that is the reason why you get the review of In the Name of the King (pb, 2011) [ISBN-13: 978-0141043746] by A. L. Berridge. I have to say thank you to Louise for the signed copy I received from her.

Book Store Information
In general my decision to read a book is mostly based on the cover and the blurb/synopsis delivered on the back cover. You do not get more information when you are in a book store. The world of books is changing which means I also will take in account blurbs and descriptions on GOODREADS and other places.
Here we go:
In the Name of the King (pb, 2011)
[ISBN-13: 978-0141043746]
by A. L. Berridge

"1640, and the pall of war hangs over France . . .

Across the ravaged countryside, French soldiers are gathering in vast camps, as they prepare to take on the might of the Spanish Army.
André de Roland, a young and idealistic French aristocrat arrives in Paris. He has scarcely set foot in the city when he is compelled to defend a young woman’s honour by crossing swords with a cruel nobleman. Accused of treason and forced into hiding, he finds he has stumbled on a conspiracy within the King’s household to seize power by a secret alliance with Spain. It is the hour of his country’s greatest need and André is alone. He must risk his life and honour in the battle to save France.

In the Name of the King is an epic pageturner of political intrigue at court and brutal warfare in the field. It is also a story of nobility and love, as the destiny of one young man, his King and his country become inextricably intertwined. "[Back of the book]

My Expectations

I expected nothing more as the sequel of Honour and the Sword on the same high level.That means high expectations.

The Delivery

To be honest I could use nearly everything of my Honour and the Sword review for In the Name of the King the review. But I did not like the idea because it seems unfair towards the author and also boring for regularly readers. On the other hand it shows the qualitiy of the sequel. Finally I decided to mingle old with new which in some ways A. L. Berridge did in In the Name of the King. Don't get me wrong it is neither old wine in new skins nor the 97th brewing of tea leaves as they did in the Crimean War.

Of course In the Name of the King is like the predecessor Honour and the Sword when it comes to the headmost narrative level. It is a most entertaining  cloak-and-sword adventure including a lot swashbuckling rapier combat in the tradition of Alexandre Dumas.
The concept of Honour in the 17th century is still present.

But the scope of the story changed significantly from the impact of the Thirty Years War on a small community to Paris and to the royal court and battlefield. 
Welcome to the world of intrigue, betrayal, suspicion, hauteur and honour. I see you need an appetizer: There is a plot against King Louis XIII and André de Roland ....  Which game plays the opaque Cardinal Richelieu? I s there hope for the love between Anne du Pré and André de Roland? How many duels a man can gather within a day? (I do not talk about D' Artagnon). 

And welcome to the leg-, arm-, and head-loosing battlefields where the own musket was as dangerous as the enemy. Ever heard of the Battle of Rocroi?
A good author knows that readers of series like to have a set of evolving main characters (at least one) who return again and again. And then there are companions (good and bad) which are important for the development of the characters and the story. Sometimes companions rise to be the secret stars of the book.
I assure you that A. L. Berridge is an excellent author when it comes to characters in her series because she executes everything I explained before.

 Of course  André de Roland is still the main character. If you want to know in deep how A. L. Berridge invented and developed the character then you must read André de Roland by A. L. Berridge.
Readers of  Honour and the Sword (like me) will be happy to meet some of the characters like Stefan Ravel, Jaques Gilbert and Anne du Pré.
If you do not know Honour and the Sword I can assure you that it does not take long to feel familiar with Stefan, Jaques and Anne.
But there are more. For myself it was a great pleasure to get more information about the Comtesse de Vallon and André 's aunt. Finally there are new characters (good and bad). I want to single out two companions who are my secret stars of In the Name of the King:
Albert Grimauld, a fireworker and former soldier. This humble and unpretentious man is true and trustworthy fellow liked by André and mistrusted by Stefan. And there is the tough and feisty Bernadette Fournier. A young woman and love interest of Jaques. I like them especially because they do much more as everyone expects.

The decision to buy and read is sometimes easy and sometimes like the theory of every thing.
Imagine you like the cover, you like the story blurb, you like the writing because the words melt on your tongue and then it comes to the narrative style: first person, third person, alternating point of views, and so on. 
A. L. Berridge use a narrative style which I love even more than before after reading In the Name of the King.

I can and will not deny that the following passage is nearl the same I used for my Honour and the Sword review. The reason is quite simple. It fits for both books and I could not find more adequate verbalisations.
A L Berridge chose to deliver the adventures of André de Roland in form of a collection of letters, interviews, diary and journal extracts,and interviews. The whole story is told from the perspective of different characters and that includes friends and foes! And to top it all, you will not find a single line written from André perspective!
The result is on the one hand a matchless view of André de Roland and on the other hand the opportunity to witness the story through the eyes of different and unique people. It does not take long to identify the current narrator without reading the chapter header. A L Berridge inhales every narrating character a unique personality. There is the caring and suffering (with André) Jaques, the tough Stefan, the young and feisty Bernadette Fournier and more.
When I look now at you I see one spefic question on your face.
Is it possible to read In the Name of the King without knowing Honour and the Sword?
The short answer is a big bold YES
followed by an even bigger bolder BUT 

Yes = Each book is like a chapter of André 's biography with a clear beginning and end. There is no cliffhanger. Both deliver gripping historical fiction with emotional depth.

But =Honour and the Sword lays the foundation for the whole series. It delivers the development of André de Roland which let you understand why he acts like he acts. Reading In the Name of the King without knowing Honour and the Sword is like watching The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers without watching The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring before. Of course you can do that but what makes more fun and what is more satisfying?
This is the question answer you must answer yourself.
You look for a cloak-and-sword adventure including a lot swashbuckling rapier combat in the tradition of Alexandre Dumas including emotional depths and packed with unobtrusive  presentation of historical details?

Then I highly recommend to read the  The Chevalier Series by  A. L. Berridge.
Both so far available books - Honour and the Sword and In the Name of the King - deliver excellent historical fiction from a time where honour was something completely different and the rapier the weapon of the nobleman.

Not sure if you should read one of the books?
Then come back tomorrow where you can win one of three In the Name of the King copies!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Nothing better than a book meeting and exceeding expectations.
And who on earth would watch The Two Towers without watching Fellowship first?

Zoltán Gecse said...

Alex, maybe that way as I seen the Empire Strikes Back before the A New Hope. ;)

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