As the papal wars of the Western Schism rage across Europe, a young man takes his first step on the journey of a lifetime.
Geoffrey Hotspur dreams of knighthood. As an English orphan-squire bonded to the court of Sir John of Gaunt, uncle of the English King Richard II, his prospects are few.
An inveterate gambler already deep in debt, young Geoffrey accepts an invitation to participate in a raid on French lands. His plans go awry, however, after a deadly street brawl results in his banishment from court. As further punishment, he is ordered to join a royal commission bound for Florence.
Accompanied by Jean Lagoustine, a mysterious Frenchman whose intentions towards the young squire are not all they appear to be, the ship upon which they journey is waylaid by corsairs. Barely escaping with their lives, Geoffrey and Jean find themselves forming part of a company of Catalonian crossbowmen en route to enlist with the Roman papal army.
Intrigue and betrayal dominate the war between the two popes, and the young squire’s understanding of faith and fidelity are soon challenged. The need to do right inspires Geoffrey to take a personal stake in the outcome of the conflict. With little more than his wits and a sword, the young squire must find a way to fulfill his duty to his lord, to his faith and to himself. As the war culminates in the final battle for the throne of St. Peter, will Geoffrey find that a knighthood is worth the risk to his honor?
Of Faith and Fidelity: Geoffrey Hotspur and the War for St. Peter’s Throne is the first book in English Free Company Series. It’s also very long. At 430 pages, it seems like an endless read, and I now know that when reading a long book on the Kindle, you don’t get the same satisfaction from the percentage marker at the bottom of the page that you do from seeing a bookmark in a book. It was, however, worth it.
Geoffrey is a young squire trying to find his way without a family name to open doors for him. With no family, he also has very little money. Neither of these setbacks keep him from gambling far more than is wise, or making any unwise decisions at all, really. Geoffrey is far more arrogant than someone in his precarious position should be.
I’m not sure I liked Geoffrey, but he certainly had gumption. He didn’t hesitate to ask for favors from leaders as high-placed as the Pope’s brother. I marvelled at how he drifted through the whole story without sustaining any more damage to his person than he did.
His companions were an interesting lot, as well. I was disappointed that some of them would obviously not be in Book Two of the series. Although I wasn’t really fond of Geoffrey, I kept hoping he would step up and become something great. I’m not really sure that happened in this book, but I can see a lot of potential for future books. Of course, I loved the history in the book. This was a period that I wasn’t familiar with, so I had to look up some things as I read. That just made it more interesting for me. I love learning history through fiction.
I’m looking forward to watching Geoffrey mature through the series and see how things play out with the secondary characters.
About the book
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing
Release date: Dec 8, 2011
Where I got the book: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4 stars