REVIEW: King’s Company by Jessamy Taylor
William D’Amory dreams of battle and glory…
But since his father died defending King Stephen, there is no money to train him for knighthood. Instead he must tend the pigs while his family prays England’s bitter civil war will pass them by.
Them comes a stranger on a secret mission, and William is plunged into danger and intrigue. Pursued across war-torn England in the company of a fugitive prince, he must at last face the truth about his father’s death.
Dear Ms. Taylor,
In the blurb, this book was compared to those of Rosemary Sutcliff and I have to say I agree. The historical feel is great, the details – this is a world of dirt, manure and fleas – are nicely worked into the narrative and it has a YA feel to it.
It’s 1143 and dark days in England as a civil war rages. Stephen and Matilda, descendants of William the Conqueror, both claim the throne. Barons and knights are divided and bands of mercenaries roam the countryside. In the moments before a battle, Edward D’Amory thinks of home with longing and unease. His sons are young and he questions whether or not his wife can manage his small, tidy estate. But his King needs him and Edward answers the call at the cost of his life.
Now three years later, the inhabitants of Evescombe are getting along as best as they can. William, the youngest, dreams of one day being a knight as are his older brothers but times are hard and training is impossible as they eke out a living and try to keep their heads down. With careful management, there will be enough to last them through the hard, cold months of winter to come. But soon strangers will appear who will change everything.
First old Sir Godrey, their father’s uncle who had gone on crusade, returns home and finds in William an eager and talented pupil. Then a mysterious French knight and his vassal save William from mercenaries intent on robbery. Philip and Girard are ostensibly there to collect a commissioned book from a local monastery but as time passes, Philip spends more time with his new friends while Girard disappears for days on end.
William’s training continues and with Philip to practice with, his skills improve. But what future will he have with no money to outfit him? As William pays little attention to the discussions of politics, he is surprised by the arrival of a young man of his own age and soon becomes caught up, first by force and then by choice, in the actions of the great who will determine the fate of England. Which path will William decide to travel and to whom will his loyalty be given?
William might start the book as a young idealist but over the course of the story, his attitudes will change as the truth of battle and war become real to him. He’s based his allegiance on what he knows but that might not be quite the truth. He sees his world through the eyes of a fourteen year old boy and thus misses some crucial details. Everything starts as an adventure and he dreams of being covered in glory for great deeds.
Some things will be fairly obvious to adult readers while it will take a while for William to catch on. His chance to obtain his longed for future will arrive in a way he never anticipates but he will have to make hard choices about what is most important to him. The plot and details are not that hard to figure out but it’s all woven together well and doesn’t feel forced or contrived. This is more a YA historical but there is a hint of a romance though it’s left more as a possibility in the future than one even acknowledged by the end of this book. I’m not sure if there are future adventures for William, Philip and others though I’d love to keep reading about them if the opportunity arises. B