I love history but the time of Charles Martel is one of my weaker subjects so when “Anvil of God, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles ” came across my radar I grabbed the chance to read it. At 440 pages it was a little intimidating but the history lover in me dove in head first. And boy was I glad I did. The author tells an intriguing tale of battle and political intrigue that equals much of the fiction currently popular in Hollywood. Except this is based in reality!
The prologue opens in 740 in the heat of battle. Charles Martel (“The Hammer”) is once again victorious but it appears that he is unwell. The first chapter skips ahead a year and Charles and his sons are just returning home. Alas, this is not Charles story but the story of his descendants and we are soon told the story of his death. Before that death comes we learn that Charles wants to divide the kingdom between his two eldest sons who have joined him in battle, as well as their much younger half-brother. He also has promised his daughters hand in marriage to forge an alliance. This sets the stage for the political intrigue that carries us through the book.
Shortly after Charles’ death each of his children has gone their separate way. The book follows each of them on their “journey.” The book does a fantastic job of switching between each of the four stories without overwhelming the reader. As is the case with big moments in history, there are actually many characters that make up the story. In this case some are real and some are of the author’s imagination. I had to consult his list afterwards to know the difference. When everything converges for the later parts of the story, the reader has the privilege of being able to see things from all directions.
Mr. Gleason seamlessly intertwines history with fiction to give us the reasons for the events of historical record. The story pulls you in and you forget that not everything you are reading is historical fact. Strong characters, though not necessarily likeable, give us a feel for what these historical figures may have actually been like. He puts flesh on the bones of the middle ages.
The “fill in the blanks” historical fiction seems to be becoming a popular sub-genre of historical fictions. If this book is an example of what to expect I welcome it. By the time I was a quarter of the way in to the book I wanted to know what happened to the characters and that kept the pages turning rather quickly. I certainly can’t wait for book two. This book certainly didn’t complete the story of the children of Charles. I can see why this was to be reviewed by a travel web site. With this book in front of you, you might not notice your flight was delayed!
Disclosure: A free copy of this book was given to the volunteer with the expectation that a fair and honest review would be written of it.