A novel set in a crumbling medieval kingdom, where the rule of a mad king is disrupted by the arrival of a young rogue, who radically alters life in the royal household and forms an alliance with the king's daughter, Flore. From the author of THE LAST OF THE TEMPLARS and BETTER THAN ONE.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
In a Medieval setting: a dense, dreamy black comedy about a patch-and-tatters Lord of Gascony, his gorgeous wife (a blend of "emotional riot and calculating intelligence"), and his jousting triumph over Death after abortive spiritual journeys. Amanieu of Noe, a weasel-faced bandit/murderer of deformed spirit, visits a rundown castle in Gascony - and finds that it's "like watching someone else's dream." The resident lord, Caesar Grailly, is given to drifting off into other worlds while inundating the household (wife Bonne, daughter Flore, assorted oddballs) with his silence; Caesar, you see, is desperately listening for the souls of others. . . without success. (And wife Bonne - now that their physical relationship has withered - has become most weary of "looking at his ear.") Meanwhile, strange doings go on around the zombie-esque Caesar: Bonne is worshipped by the garrison captain, whose defense of her leads to the murder of castle-retainer Solomon (by angry peasants); the above-mentioned Amanieu arrives, cheerily admitting to various crimes; virgin Flore, having eavesdropped on a mighty mating, becomes "obscene before my time" and declares her love for the newly tender Amanieu; Bonne tries to get a wandering troubador to salute her in rhyme. (Alas, the poet prefers boys.) And then a huge knight, completely enclosed in smelly black armor, arrives at the castle to avenge one of Amanieu's crimes. But it's Caesar who, after tossing Bonne's poet off a parapet and breaking Amanieu's sword arm, takes on this malodorous giant: he thus at last meets Death on the bridge - and manages to expiate his old secret sin (the long-ago killing of his own child amid the blood-lust of battle). Marbled with verbal gems and obliquely told: a witty, caustic, showy tale of vengeance, violence, and other Medieval hangups. . . with fun of a very special, demanding nature. (Kirkus Reviews)