Train journeys are great for reading. Last Friday, I settled down on a five hour jaunt to Nantwich for a Civil War authors forum, and picked up my copy of Fields of Glory by Michael Jecks. Now, I am not normally given to reviews - I feel a bit of a fraud judging real writers efforts - but I was lucky enough to get a signed copy from Michael, and I really, really, enjoyed it.
It tells the story of a company of archers (vintaine) during the Crecy campaign of 1346. Jecks is undoubtedly a master of the battle scene. I oozed jealousy at the effortless description of visceral medieval warfare, from the initial landing in Normandy, to the climactic Battle of Crecy.
The research is excellent. The facts of, what is a well known campaign, are spot on, and nothing jars the reader out of immersion in the history. There is also a little nod to Fieschi letter and mystery of Edward II fate, which added a real layer of back-story. One of my pet gripes with Historical Fiction, is the transportation of a modern mindset into the past. Of all periods, I think the medieval is the most difficult to get to grips with for an author, but Jecks deals with this admirably. They are medieval lives being depicted, living through horrendous circumstances - on both sides. It is the fragile human stories, men and women, that really gripped me as the action raced along. I particularly liked the character of Beatrice Poillet, believe me, writing believable female characters is difficult work!
The interaction between the soldiers, and the ribald language, really works and gave it a layer of humour (often dark humour) that I appreciated. You quickly come to empathise with the characters as they develop. Without giving away spoilers, it does end on a bit of a cliff-hanger (What will Donkey do?), which simply left me wanting more. It looks like I have another series to go with Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow and Mike Arnold, because this really is in the highest order of historical adventure.