Arrows of Albion is a three-book series written by Jonathan Lunn. It is set during the 14th century at the beginning of the Hundred Years War fought between England and France for control of the French throne.
The story is encapsulating, although there are some similarities to other novels at the beginning, Lunn quickly pulls the reader away from any fears that they may have read this story before. What I most enjoyed about the series is that there is a very good balance of action and battles along with other political machinations, we do not jump from battle to battle following an all-conquering hero. The battles in the series, most notably the battle of Crecy are exciting and engaging even for the reader who has read many different takes on the battle. The concept of chivalry is a strong theme throughout as we see the creation of the Order of the Garter and how knights often chose to ignore the principles of chivalry when it suited them. However, the tale is so much more than about the life of knights, I found Lunn’s take on the daily life of the ordinary people of England and the struggles and horror of the Black Death particularly detailed, making the reader imagine what life may have been like. The series concludes with Kemp having to hunt down an important book in order to save his friends, it was a nice way to finish the novels as it brought a sense of freedom for Lunn to create an adventure without needing to stick to historical facts. It keeps the reader turning the pages and provides something which may have been missing in the previous two books, in summary it is a truly gripping story.
Another great positive of the book is Lunn’s writing style, the books are fast moving and easy to follow therefore keeping the reader engaged from the beginning. The only slight criticism I can point out is the fact that the third book is fairly shorter than the previous two, however on the other hand I am glad it has not been padded out with content which would take us away from the fast moving story.
Martin Kemp is our main character; we are thrust into his seemly bland and ordinary life which is then turned upside down as we follow his adventures. As a reader I found myself often trying to work Kemp out, which in my opinion adds to the detail of the story. Lunn certainly must be praised for the in-depth development of characters such as Kemp, who faces his own internal struggles to be a good man in a violent world. Kemp sees his own long held beliefs in the codes of chivalry shattered, however refreshingly he is not simply portrayed as the perfect man with strong morals as we see him commit various violent acts, which he often struggles to recover from.
Kemp is loosely based on Sir John Hawkwood, who was an English mercenary living in the period. As a lover of history I enjoy when characters are loosely based on historical figures as I find myself vigorously researching who these people were. The historical notes are precise and bring a nice conclusion to each book explaining the sometimes unbelievable events in the books are based on historical fact!
Although this series would not be my first choice on the period, it certainly is well worth a read for avid historical fiction fans of the period.