Author Griff Hossker has written 116 books, all centered on warfare, many in the Middle Ages with knights, Vikings, swordsmen, and Saxons, but some set in WWI and WWII. He’s a very popular author, so I decided to read this book, which I purchased for review.
The story is set in the 13th century in Wales, France and England. The main character is a young man named Gruffyd, who has been trained by his father, a famous archer, to follow in his footsteps. His father is retired from his life as a hired soldier and ekes out a meager living, enough to support him and his son. At seventeen, Gruffyd is already a strong, smart and able bowman and is hired by the lord of a nearby castle. The lord is a base and cowardly man, and when the nobleman commits a devastating deed affecting Gruffyd, the young man makes a life-altering decision. For a while he lives as an outlaw living wild in the woods while seeking a passage to France. There are a considerable number of obstacles in his journey but when he reaches France, he is hired as an archer by Lord Edward, heir to the throne of England. Edward is waging war against certain French factors who are a threat to his father’s throne. He quickly becomes captain of Lord Edward’s archers and plays a major role in some of England’s most decisive and ruthless battles, both in France and in England. Gruffyd is very young for such an important post and must continually prove not only his own worth, but also the value and importance of his archers in winning significant battles.
Did I enjoy the book? Yes and no. The author’s style of writing – short sentences, almost staccato in style and with sparse description—took a bit of getting used to. The story itself moves quickly and is true to both the history and battles of the time and the use of the longbow. As a reader, I learned a great deal about archery (long bow, cross bow, and the pros and cons of both), how archers were used to advantage in battle, and the life of an outlaw in England – it’s not all Robin Hood. The battle scenes spared no gruesome detail, but then battles in the Middle Ages were gruesome affairs.
What I found somewhat off-putting were the deaths of most of Gruffyd’s friends, while he himself moved seamlessly and without injury through challenge after challenge, always finding just the right solution and earning a lot of money from his employer in the process. It was a tiny bit too perfect. The name Gruffyd chooses to disguise who he really is – Gerald War Bow – felt an off note, but considering the names of other characters, such as Dickon of Downholme, Matty Strawhair, and Rafe Oak Arms, perhaps not so much. The author has an enormous grasp of warfare in the Middle Ages and the history of the time, so it’s perhaps just the writing style that threw me off.
I was drawn along by the story, despite the drawbacks, and if you like historical novels, you might want to sample one of his books to see if his storytelling appeals to you.
PS I thought the cover was spectacular!
About the author (from Amazon):
Griff Hossker was born in Lancashire. He became an English teacher and taught in the North East of England for 35 years. He co-wrote a number of musicals including Shakespeare The Musical and The Journey (produced at the Millennium Dome in 2000). He enjoys history, visiting castles and reading historical novels. His novels span English history from the Roman invasion through to World War II as well as a trilogy of books set in the American Civil War and an ongoing Napoleonic series.
He has travelled extensively speaking about his novels, and he has sold more than 980,000 books world- wide. He has regular interaction with his readers whom he regards as friends rather than customers.
You can find Griff Hosker
On his website: http:/www.griffhosker.com
On twitter: @HoskerGriff
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/griff.hosker.9