I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince by Rosanne E. Lortz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I usually lump historical fiction into two categories: the kind that is mostly fiction with very little history, and the kind that is mostly history with very little fiction.
I Serve falls in between these two categories, leaning slightly more towards mostly history. It's this tendency, I think, that made I Serve a very enjoyable read.
I Serve tells the story of a young squire named John Potenhale who is knighted and becomes the attendant to the Black Prince. The story is set in the 1300's during the reign of Edward III of England. At that time England was involved in the Hundred Years' War with France.
The tale, told by Sir John Potenhale to the widow of a French Knight named Sir Geoffroi de Charny, begins with the English army landing in France. There Potenhale, then a squire serving an old knight named Sir Chandos, fights in his first battle and is knighted. He then becomes a member of the Prince's household.
Soon afterwards the ladies of the court in England visit the English camp in France. Among them is the prince's cousin, the Lady Joan of Kent. It is immediately apparent that the prince favors his lady cousin very much.
While delivering a note to the lady from the prince, Potenhale meets the lady-in-waiting Margery. He is instantly taken with her spirited manner and bright red hair.
Yet the love he desires is long in coming for Sir John Potenhale. Many obstacles stand in the way of his happiness, including the uncouth Sir Thomas Holland, Margery's loyalty to the Lady Joan and even Potenhale's own conscience.
When the Black Death strikes Europe, Potenhale, seeing it as a punishment for the world's sins, considers giving up knighthood and entering a monastery. But then, "torn between losing his soul and losing the love of his life, he finds friendship with a French knight who might - just possibly - help him save both."
I Serve would be an excellent resource for those interested in studying the Hundred Years' War or the Black Death, but it also stands by itself as a novel. Some of the rich descriptions thrust you straight into the action - take for example, the battle of Crecy:
It was no easy matter to reach Warwick. The slope of the hill had liquefied from the rain... I slipped several times in the mud as I dodged here and there to avoid encountering the enemy. One little man-at-arms gave chase, and I was forced to delay my mission to parry his blows. But the mud proved as treacherous to him as it had to me. His legs lost footing, and I drove my sword into the joints of his armor, right where the breastplate meets the helmet.One of the things I appreciated most about this novel was that Potenhale was a very convincing character. He had fears, joys, and desires that I could identify with, but he was also historically accurate. Too often in historical fiction the main character has a modern mind-set. With Sir John Potenhale, this was not the case.
If you like your historical fiction with more history than fiction (like me) than you should enjoy I Serve. If you want to learn more about the Black Prince, the Hundred Year's War, or the Black Death, then I Serve will provide you with a unique and unforgettable way to see these events. or if you're just looking for a good book to while away an evening - well, what better way than to journey back to 13th century England for a little while?
Intrigued? You can buy the paperback or ebook here.
Also, today on the blog English Historical Fiction Authors Rose wrote a guest post on one of the main romances in the book, the love story of the Black Prince and Joan of Kent. Go check it out!
How do you like your historical fiction? More history, or more fiction? Are you interested in the time period that I Serve is set in? Ever read a book about the Black Prince?
Let me know by commenting! Happy Easter y'all!