A serialized ebook novel by Christian Cameron
1450s France. A young Englishman, Tom Swan, is kneeling in the dirt, waiting to be killed by the French who've taken him captive.He's not a professional soldier. He's really a merchant and a scholar looking for remnants of Ancient Greece and Rome - temples, graves, pottery, fabulous animals, unicorn horns. But he also has a real talent for ending up in the midst of violence when he didn't mean to. Having used his wits to escape execution, he begins a series of adventures that take him to street duels in Italy, meetings with remarkable men - from Leonardo Da Vinci to Vlad Dracula - and from the intrigues of the War of the Roses to the fall of Constantinople.
-from the “back cover”.
Characters: As with all of Cameron’s novels, we get characters out of history, not modern people in costume thrust into a different age. The characters’ behaviors and actions are true to the time period and this has the effect of making the book seem more real. The book opens with Tom Swan as a helpless captive, and given his desperate situation, he immediately gains the reader’s sympathy. He is a likeable, resourceful protagonist surrounded by an interesting cast of supporting characters.
World building: Cameron is unmatched when it comes to world building. He is both a historian and a reenactor and it comes out beautifully in his novels. Cameron has a wonderful way of adding rich details to his historical fiction, without sounding like a professor giving a college lecture. Tom Swan immerses the character in the world of late medieval France.
Engagement/Willing suspension of disbelief: This is not a fantasy novel, it is historical fiction. Given this, I expect realistic depictions of events while at the same time a story filled with enough action to keep me engaged. Again, Cameron does not fail. The fights are brutal and realistic, with genuine danger for our protagonist. Tom Swan is no Conan, able to charge into a horde of enemies. In fact, he reacts to surviving combat in a very human, realistic manner. At no point did I want to pull back in disbelief. Cameron kept me fully engaged in the story.
Writing/Mechanics: Tom Swan is a professionally written novel. Cameron writes excellent prose, but I’ll warn you that he doesn’t shy from historic terms for clothing and equipment, and you’ll occasionally run into non-English words or phrases. But for me, this just adds to the richness of the experience. The context of the story tells us what the items are and what the words mean.
Impact: I read the novella in one sitting and loved it. Actually, it is not a novella, but one part of a serialized novel. And this is my one disappointment. Now I have to wait a month to be a part of Tom Swan’s next adventure.