Here are six new works of fiction that medievalists might want to have as a late summer read.
Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound
Cenan Books of Cyren Press
Setting: Ireland in the late twelfth century.
Excerpt: It began before my story. Some years before, while I, Alberic, laboured still in Yrlande. I heard it from a poet who came to Milesius’ monastery. He claimed to have seen it all. Their approach to a town above love, vine-covered hillsides of fragrant black soil, studded with white pebbles and wind-fallen grapes. Stumping like pilgrims, walking their horses and mules with Mac Murchada at their lead, driving on. A cloak shading over his brow. Through an unending country they had travelled, from landfall at Honfleur, through Rouen, Chartres, Chinon and the uncertain wooded expanses between. Routiers and mercenaries in the desolate places gauging the prey and at each new town, the welcome uncertain, the castellan high-handed or the burghers wary.
The Battle at the Halfway Oak and The Spanish Court: Two Scripts of Medieval Historical Fiction
Witan / Scopcraeft
Setting: Two scripts set in the fourteenth century, during the Hundred Years’ War.
Excerpt from the Introduction to the Battle at the Halfway Oak: The script treatment that follows was inspired by one of the most dramatic episodes of the Hundred Years War, when England and France fought off and on to establish their superiority over the medieval world.
Excerpt from the Introduction to the Spanish Court: The tale of Hawley and Shakell, two English squires who fought under the “Black Prince” in the 1360s-70s, is rich with possibilities for readers interested in understanding the colorful complexities of the Hundred Years War.
Joan: A Novel
Setting: France in the fifteenth century.
Excerpt: Her job is picker-upper of stones. Not pebbles but rocks of heft and edges and sharp corners. As the boys of Domrémy gather in the field, Joan is bent-backed over the ground, digging missiles out of the earth with blackened fingernails. From her skirts, the ends gripped in a tight fist, she makes a bundle weighted down with hard treasures.
At her brother Jacquemin’s whistle, the others come padding over, a shuffling and uncertain army of which he is captain, being the eldest—sixteen—and tallest. From his mouth, a stem of wheat curves in a long arc like a single whisker. He looks out at the scorch of afternoon sun in a clear blue sky and stretches a leg, shakes a foot as if to wake it. Above them, a hot wind exhales, stirring a few hairs on every head. A stillness eases into the grass. One boy opens his mouth to yawn.
All the Seas of the World
Setting: In a fictional world similar to the medieval Mediterranean.
Excerpt: Nadia watched as Ghazzali al-Siyab rode off with those who had met them, as Rafel had arranged. Rafel was good at these things; she had learned that in three years.
Al-Siyab would head south for two days, then turn east, avoiding villages, and after two more days, on camels by that point, start back north, to enter Abeneven through the landward gates.
He was arrogant, young, too aware of how handsome he was, but he’d come to them specifically for this undertaking, and he was greedy and ambitious—which was good for their purposes. He was to be paid only when they were done. He wasn’t going to run off. It was possible he’d betray them, but unlikely.
Neither she nor Rafel knew al-Siyab, but the men who had hired them had also hired him for this, and if you trusted no one you couldn’t do very much in the world, and they were doing something significant now, or hoping to.
Well, yes. Assassinations did tend to be significant, she thought, amusing herself. She didn’t laugh (she didn’t laugh much) but she smiled in the dark.
4th Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Set in England in the early sixth century.
Excerpt: Isla and Blue are sitting up on the mound watching the river creep up on the wrecks and over the black stubs of the old jetties out on the mudflats, waiting for Father to finish his work in the forge. Along the far riverbank, the Ghost City, the great line of its long-abandoned river wall, its crumbling gates and towers, is making its upside-down face in the river again. ‘Something’s coming, sister,’ Blue says. ‘Look.’
Isla looks. The wind has picked up. It scatters the birds wading on the mudflats. It catches at the creepers that grow along the Ghost City wall. It lifts and rustles them like feathers. ‘Could be rain,’ Isla says. ‘The wind’s turned.”
The Falcons’ Eyes: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine
Setting: Western Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Excerpt: It is past midnight; the funeral vigil for the queen is underway. I am alone in my chamber, thinking of the perilous journey ahead. I must try to sleep.
The bronze falcon sits beside me, on the table by my bed. Aiglette placed it there yesterday, thinking it would comfort me. I was ambivalent about the falcon when he gave it to me: it was a gift I had never wanted, and was, at first, almost wary of. Yet the passing years and the perception of others have changed my way of perceiving this fanciful creature, with its gilded wings and enigmatic gaze. But then, time has altered so much.
Would it were morning, would that sunlight might banish my disquiet! Even my prayers have been fruitless: God and the Virgin seem to have forsaken me. I must seek another way to find peace.