By Evan Ostryzniuk
Knox Robinson Publishing, 2011
Publisher’s Synopsis: Of Faith and Fidelity is the first book in the English Free Company series set in the late Middle Ages. The English Free Company is led by Geoffrey Hotspur, an orphan-squire and ward of the mighty Duke of Lancaster, whose driving ambition is to become a knight and serve a great lord. This captivating historical narrative not only follows the path to knighthood of a lonely English squire, but also considers some of the great issues of the day, from the many manifestations of fidelity to the meaning of faith during a period of political turmoil. Anyone who enjoys the stories of Bernard Cornwall and Jan Guillou will find more than an echo of their exuberant prose and vivid characters in Of Faith and Fidelity: Geoffrey Hotspur and the War for St. Peter’s Throne. Supported with extensive research done by a professional historian, Of Faith and Fidelity utilizes true personages and events to weave a vivid tapestry of this exciting time of transition between periods.
Of Faith and Fidelity: Geoffrey Hotspur and the War for St. Peter’s Throne takes place in 1394, at the height of the schism of the Western Church when the throne of St. Peter was contested by rival claimants in Rome and Avignon. For nearly sixteen years the papacy was been divided between claimants in Rome and Avignon. Unable to settle the dispute peacefully, both sides resorted to war. The key to winning the throne of St. Peter was always control of the Patrimony, a band of territory stretching the breadth of Italy that owes fealty to whichever pope who can rule it. From Scandinavia to Sicily, there is great anticipation that the campaign of 1394 will culminate in a battle that will secure the Patrimony of St. Peter for one man.
Before Henry V won his miraculous victory at Agincourt, before the Borgias had done their infamous deeds, there was Geoffrey Hotspur, a man as tall as Charlemagne and armed with a sword that rivals Excalibur. Thrown off the established path to knighthood, the ambitious and hot-tempered Geoffrey finds himself caught up in the war between the two popes, where he must adapt his beliefs and apply his training as a squire in order to survive. To this end, Geoffrey founds the English Free Company and fights in the battles between the armies of the two popes. With little money, fewer friends and no name, yet with his faith in chivalry firmly set, Geoffrey Hotspur possesses the confidence that what he does is right for him and for those he had sworn to serve.
Helping and hindering Geoffrey Hotspur in equal measure in his quest for knighthood is a gallery of characters with their own agendas, from professional debt collector Jean Lagoustine, to the Chancellor of Florence Coluccio Salutati, to a mysterious astrologer named Catherine, who seems to have a suspiciously impressive set of connections in the world of Italian politics.
A thrilling start to the story of Geoffrey Hotspur and his English Free Company, Of Faith and Fidelity is at heart a squire’s tale of hope, adventure and ambition during a time of great uncertainty.