5 stars – Highly Recommended
Publisher: Jugum Press
Released: Oct 2015
Reviewed by Kate Vane
This is the third book in the Accidental Heretics serial set in the early thirteenth century. The first two novels focus on a group of characters in the Languedoc (modern day south of France), all descendants of Crusaders in the Outre-mer, who are linked by an unknown legacy which threatens them all. Meanwhile they are caught up in Simon de Montfort’s crusade against the heretics of the region.
In this book the story takes us south through what is now Spain. A group of Languedoc knights hope to gain protection from Simon de Montfort as they ally themselves with the rulers of Aragon against the Muslim Moors. Tomas, a mercenary of mixed descent, is tasked by Pedro of Aragon to travel to Andalusia and use his family ties to disrupt the plans of a Moorish general.
The story is completely immersive, so you feel you’re there, among the sights and sounds and smells (especially the smells) of a Medieval battlefield, but yet it feels fresh and contemporary too. The characters are vivid and earthy. There is passion but there is also dry humour.
These books are uncompromisingly complex with their religious and ethnic and kinship divisions, but they are also great adventure stories, full of battles and ambushes, shifting alliances, betrayal and disguise. Even if I occasionally lost the thread of who was the enemy of whom and who was pretending one thing while actually believing another, I was so swept along by the story I didn’t mind.
Each book follows on from the one before, with many plot strands unresolved, so they need to be read in the correct order. I’m not sure when the serial is going to end (Book 4 is scheduled for release in 2016) but when it’s complete I think I’m going to go back and read them all again, one after the other. On a first reading they’re great stories but there is so much more in their world to appreciate.
Kate Vane writes crime and literary fiction. Her latest novel is Not the End.