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Knight Triumphant

Title: Knight Triumphant A Graham Novel
Author: Healther Graham
Publisher: Zebra Historical Romances (an imprint of Kensington Books)       Date: 2002

As far as paperbacks go, this is a pretty standard book. The spine is clearly glued to the wrap around cover which is made of heavy paperstock. The front cover depicts a man dressed in plate armor, sans helmet. He is facing the viewer with his head slightly lowered. A sword is held in his left hand and obscures the right hand side of his face. The image is a bit heavy on the light/dark contrast between the armor, sword, and black background. The author's name and title are presented in raised gold-leaf text. I am not sure what type font was used, I am inclined, however, to say it is something related to Times New Roman. The spine is a slate grey color. The publisher's logo and genre designation are printed in white at the top of the spine. Beneath that is the notation that this is from a N.Y. Times bestselling author, also in white. The author's name is presented in a goldenrod colored, smaller print, version of the front text. A miniature full color image from the front cover is presented and then the title of the book is located at the base of the spine in similar type font and color as the author's name.

The back cover is slate blue, like the spine. The header of the blurb is in the same goldenrod color and type face as the title and author's name. Beneath this, in what appears to be Times New Roman font, are the three statements of the blurb. They are spaced as to be centered on the back. Below the blurb is a brief promotion for two of the author's other books. The blurb is a solid demonstration of brevity being exercised to paint a full picture in as few words possible. There is a suggestion of the conflict within the novel and it explains enough to illustrate the major points while leaving much to imagination. Compared to the text of the book, I would argue that this blurb is fairly well assembled.

I'm not entirely sure where to start in my assessment of the text. There are several things that Graham did wonderfully. At the same time, there are elements that I found jarring. I suppose I must preface what I am about to say with the following: I am an amature medievalist. I have been reading, researching, and studying the European medieval period for over twenty years. (Yes, I am that person who will be put off by how movies get it wrong. I am, however, not the person who will say it in the middle of the theater. At home, however, all bets are off.)

Graham set her work in the period around when King Edward I of England (known as Edward Longshanks for his considerable height) was at war with King Robert II of Scotland. Indeed, both kings are mentioned frequently in the story and Robert II makes a brief apperance at a battle scene. She does a very good job of showing the reader the political intrigue surrounding the capture of Langley castle with out painting it out in detail. Her description of the mannerisims and dress of the personages involved are relatively true to historical facts.

It is clear that Graham did do some research into the period she set her novel in. Her descriptions of life within the castle are close to what is historically accepted. The way she shows the characters of different classes interacting does a good job of showing the reader the stratification of late medieval society. At the same time, however, there are some elements missing that I found dissatisfying. She presents all the female characters as bareheaded most of the time. None but the poorest of the poor or the young unmarried girls of the period were bareheaded. She does not include headdress in any of her descriptions of the heroine's garb or that of most of the female characters, implying that they simply were not worn.

There is an unexpected level of familiarity between the heroine, Lady Igrainia of Langley (born of the noble house of Abelard) and the servantry. To some extent it can be understood by way of the fact that Igrainia nursed her people through a bout of the bubonic plauge. (Though this plauge is not specifically mentioned, the apt descriptions of the symptomology makes it clear that it was the plauge afflicting the castle at the beginning of the book). Still, she is rather cozy with her servants and this is not exactly correct for the period. She treats them as though they were of higher rank, in some cases as though they were close to being peers. This also irked me.

The storyline is well constructed and the pacing is very good. I found this a fairly easy book to read, the historical errors and author's playing around with some of the societal structure aside. The rising action of the story is tightly woven and blends a good deal of period events with the fictional events of the novel. The scene where Igrainia was traveling in disguise to London and beset upon by thieves was surprisingly well written and accurate. The hero (Sir Eric Graham) and his search party (who were out searching for her following her escape from the castle) coming upon the traveling party in the midst of their fight with the thieves was a bit deus machina but I can forgive that because there really wasn't a much better way to resolve that scene.

The crisis moment of the story comes very late and the falling action leaves the reader with the feeling that there is a major portion of the story missing. As this is most likely part of a series, I can only presume that a following book picks up not much longer after where this one concludes. There were some scenes that seemed a bit out of place. I can recognize that the hero of the novel being a military figure must at some point in the novel demonstrate this. I question, however, if that could have been handled better. The transition from the scene at the castle to the scene at the battlefield was rather abrupt and a bit bewildering. Where we had been following the heroine through the story, we suddenly jump to following the hero for a scene and then return to following the heroine for most of the story. It was a disatisfying disruption to the flow of the story. I am debating if I should locate the other books in this series to place this novel into context. It is clearly not the first or the last of it.

Rating: 6/10