Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: The Horn of Roland by Jay Williams

Roland is the nephew of the mighty Charlemagne. When but a boy he–with his eleven fellow squires–turns the tide of a great battle and is knighted. Afterward all twelve become known as The Peers of France. Roland leads his companions to many victories against the Saracens and wins fame and glory among the Christian nations, but treachery and enemies from within are harder to guard against and Roland has gained the hatred of Count Ganelon. And Ganelon has no qualms about doing away with Roland, even if it comes to consorting with the very enemies of Christendom...
Even before I had read much about Roland I had thought of him as one of the most wonderful and heroic men in history (possibly because of a splendid painting we have in a book). Either way, to me the story of Roland is in the same class as Robin Hood and William Wallace. (I know, I know–Robin Hood is technically not a historical figure, whereas W. Wallace and Roland are, but he practically is.) But what I mean by saying he is in the same class is that a.) they are  great and honorable heroes and b.) their stories all end tragically. Oops, I hope I did not spoil the story, but everyone knows that those heroes die… don't they? Legendary heroes always have to die, because it is a sad but proven fact that to have a story really “stick” the hero must die. The story is written in a surprisingly simple style, but I assure you the author tells you enough–or at least he tells you all the right things. I hardly ever cry in books, but at the end of “The Horn Of Roland” tears were literally dripping off my face. The only other book that I remember crying that much about was “The Scottish Chiefs” which is–surprise–about William Wallace. (If I can help it, I do not read the ends of books about Robin Hood.)

Should one read “The Horn of Roland”? Yes. Possibly the story could have been written in a more overtly gripping style yet on further thought it really was. Many times it is the simple things that have the most power and this book is certainly in that class. And I certainly enjoyed it.

Stars: 4 out of 5
Content: Fighting, but not any especially gory descriptions


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