To write a good historical novel, an author needs to know more than just the material details of a time in history – he or she needs to have a sense of what the people in that time thought of themselves and the world they were living in – their joys and fears, their concerns and goals, and the ideals that framed their world. For a novelist working in the medieval world, that means you’d better have a strong sense of the concept of chivalry – not just the ivory-tower, Camelot version of the knightly code, but a realistic, pragmatic notion of how chivalry was (and was not) put into practice by real medieval knights in all of their military endeavors. An author who really understands the notion of chivalry can, through the eyes and words of their fictional characters, give us a depiction of how chivalry might’ve been applied in the medieval world, and (even more importantly) can also paint a picture of how the same ideals still speak to us today.
One new novel on the shelves does an outstanding job of avoiding both fairy-tale idealism, and the dark, amorality that seems to pervade so many works of historical fiction these days – it is called The Ill Made Knight, which has just been released in both print and e-book format by Orion Publishing. It is the first work of medieval fiction by up-and-coming author Christian Cameron (depicted above, wearing 14th century armor). History buffs may know Mr. Cameron more for his works of fiction set in the world of ancient Greece, such as the Tyrant and the Long War series, and his novel Washington and Caesar set during the American Revolutionary war.
Through this new novel, and its protagonist, William Gold, Christian Cameron gives us a complex, nuanced, and extremely realistic view of both the profession, and the philosophy of a young knight of the 14th century. If his description of either historical detail or military life seems particularly realistic, it maybe because he is a military veteran himself, or because he studied history under the renowned Prof. Richard Kaeuper (whose been a guest on a past episode of our podcast), or because part of his research involves dressing himself in realistic armor and taking part in reenactments of the sorts of “deeds of arms” he describes in the book.
Christian Cameron joins us now on the podcast to talk about The Ill Made Knight, his own experiences in reenacting a knight’s life in the bloody and glorious time of the Hundred Years War, and his perspective on the code of chivalry – then and now.