A belated Happy New Year to you all, and I hope you had an enoyable festive period.
Although I treated myself to a Tolkien and Angus Donald’s latest in the autumn, and a couple of others I found in sales, my reading has slowed down a little. These have joined numerous others in the pile simply because I’ve been engrossed in a couple of non-fiction titles, and they’ve required more of my attention.
First up, The Templars by Dan Jones has been a joy, although the appendices remain to be read. Jones is a storyteller, and charting the rise and fall of the Order his writing proves as entertaining as it is informative. With a great narrative, sometimes you can forget you’re reading a work of non-fiction: the stories that emerge about these highly-trained warrior-monks are fantastic. Meanwhile, Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts is impressive, if heavy going at times. But, as I still have some way to go, I’ll reserve my thoughts for a later date.
That’s not to say I haven’t been able to curl up with something lighter. Far from it. Over the festive period I started reading The Holcroft Covenant and when I turned the final page the entire day had gone by. The central character, American architect Noel Holcroft, is something of a knight-errant embarking on what he believes to be a worthy quest. His father was one of three high-ranking Nazis who together embezzled $780m from party funds before committing suicide: reparation was their goal, and Holcroft must find the children of his father’s compatriots and together redistribute the wealth to those who suffered. However, dark forces are at work in the shadows, hoping to seize the money and build a Fourth Reich. I cannot remember the last time I read a thriller where the author delivered so much misdirection with such skill, but remembering who everyone is requires as much concentration as the plot.
From one knight to another, I also returned to Westeros, with George R. R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. A collection of the three Hedge Knight novellas, it tells of the adventures of unlikely heroes Dunk and Egg, who as fans of the series will know go on to become Ser Duncan the Tall and Aegon V Targaryen respectively. Where it wasn’t as rich or complex as ASOIAF, it’s focus instead being on a feudal level (KNIGHTS! LOTS OF KNIGHTS!), I found it more understated and, in truth, gently pleasing. Each story was short enough to read in a couple of hours, a film in book form if you will, which makes them perfect commute material.
Although the sensible plan is to work through the pile, given I still have books I earmarked for last year in it, we all know what can happen when a shiny new book is released. And looking at the various publishers’ catalogues for January through to June, there could be a lot of these . . .