* Prices may differ from that shown
As those of you that have read my previous reviews will know, I am a huge fan of historical fiction. Having discovered medieval murder mysteries I am completely hooked. One of my favourite authors is Michael Jecks. He has written a series of books about a former Knight Templar, Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and his friend, Bailiff Simon Puttock. Jecks has now written 30 books in the series, with plans for more. The Oath is number 29. I have read the previous 28 so they must be good to make me keep going back!
The book is set in 1326, a very exciting time in history when Edward II ends up running for his life from Queen Isabella; his wife, his son; the future Edward III, and Sir Roger Mortimer; a Knight he condemned to death who then escaped from the tower and became Isabella's lover. Edward is a weak King ruled by his favourites; firstly Piers Gaveston and then Hugh Despenser; and the country is almost brought to civil war by his actions.
Baldwin has sworn an oath to protect and serve the King and it becomes increasingly difficult for him to do this as Edward risks all to protect Despenser who is hated by everyone, including Baldwin and Simon following an altercation in a previous book.
In The Oath, Jecks focuses less on Baldwin and Simon than he has done in previous books, and I missed the main characters. They also didn't spend much of the book together and eventually ended up on opposite sides. However, this did not detract from the enjoyment of reading about Edward's mad dash across the country to Wales to escape his would be capturers. Despite his many faults, I felt sorry for Edward. I started to pity Despenser throughout the book as his life begins to unravel, but it is hard to feel sorry for him after his treatment of other people.
In the previous books, Baldwin and Simon are called in to investigate a murder. In this book there was so much other stuff going in which was interesting and exciting, the murder seemed totally pointless. I know it wouldn't be a murder mystery without the murder, but it felt like Jecks had written the story, and then had to slot the murder and subsequent investigation in just to fit with the previous books.
As with all his books, it was well written and a real page turner. Even though everyone knows the outcome with Edward II, it was interesting reading about his flight and the continuous support of those faithful to him, even when there was no hope for him to escape capture. Mortimer came across as a vicious and cruel man who totally dominated Isabella and young Edward and I look forward to reading about his downfall in further books.
I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in historical fiction, but more so to those of you who enjoy it enough to read the previous 28 books first so that you can learn more about not only the characters, but also Jecks style of writing and the events of the time. I have grown to love Baldwin and Simon and look forward to reading more about them in book 30 and hope, after months of travelling with the threat of war hanging over their heads they are reunited with their families.
Available from Amazon for £5.25 including delivery, or try your local library.
Thanks for reading.
The Oath is a novel written by Michael Jecks set in England in 1326 it is a part of his knights templar mystery series.
In 1326, the rightful king Edward II is disposed by his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, the king has alienated his dukes and lords through the years of his reign and they all flock to the invading armies led by Mortimer. After disposing of the kings hated advisors the king is taken to Berkeley castle and is killed in a rather gruesome manner of which the description might get this review banned by Dooyoo. The pair of Isabella and Mortimer then effectively set up a puppet king using Edward III to rule the country until Edward reaches adulthood.
The knights Templar murder mysteries
The series of novels depict the life and times of an ex-knights templar Sir Baldwin de Furnshill (the templar's where a warrior sect of priests and knights who were brutally suppressed a few years earlier) and his friend the bailiff Simon Puttock. All the novels previous to this one have been set in the west country in and around Bath, Bristol, Exeter area and feature a brutal murder and then an investigation by Simon and Baldwin.
The Oath is a novel which seeks to plot out the last days of Edward II's rule, his flight from London to Wales and eventual capture. The king's advisors Sir Hugh the Despenser and Hugh the Despenser jnr are taken by the queen and Mortimer and are brutally executed. Throughout Baldwin rides with the King and Simon is at Bristol, at Bristol there is before the queen besieges the city a brutal murder of a family by an estranged husband. Simon finds the murdered body of the only survivor from the previous massacre and is given the job of finding the murderer, Bristol is besieged at the time so the murderer must still be in the city.
Michael Jecks is one of my favourite historical fiction writers, I don't think he's quite as good as CJ Sansom but he's one of the best of the rest. The previous books in the series are more murder mysteries set in troubled times in which he investigates the state of the country through the murders and investigations in the novels. However, in this book the flight of the king, the overturn of the king and the executions of the Despensers are the focus of the book rather than peripheral events as the complexities of the murder mystery is unwound. The author clearly wants to write a book about the overthrown of a king and the unpleasant events which follow the usurpation, the king is given a smooth ride by the author and his sympathies are clearly with the overthrown king.
So this novel, for me doesn't work very well as a murder mystery yes the story is slowly unpicked and the conclusion both makes sense and is cleverly thought out but the novel does read as a historical note in which the author realises that every now and again he should return to the murder mystery. He clearly wants to tell the public about the last days of a righteous king and his evil overthrow by his wife and her lover, none of the more unsavoury characteristics of the king are covered and the reader might be confused as to why the populace view the overthrow of their king with such apathy.
This is the latest in the murder mysteries and as a novel is one of the strongest because the events depicted as truly shocking, the author has clearly researched his field very thoroughly and leaves weaves a story of the king's decline very cleverly. In many ways I wish he'd just written a book featuring his two main characters Baldwin and Simon placed in the path of events which are sweeping the country but he chose to include a murder to be investigated and to be honest it rather distracts from the events depicted rather than being a focus of the novel. So all in all, a little confused in it's desires but as a read about the decline of an English King then it's a cracking read.
A final thought is that the books are always advertised as a knight's templar mystery but I always consider that a bit misleading because yes one of the two main characters is an ex-knights templar but beyond that the books have little or nothing to do with the famous medieval knightly order. If one of the main characters had been an ex-tin miner do you think the novel would be advertised as a tin miner mystery?