The events of the Hundred Years War would make for an extraordinary novel even if you wrote them as a straight novel. The characters were larger than life, the politicking every bit as devious as anything George RR Martin could imagine and the battles every bit as brutal. Add into the mix the angels and demons of medieval religion made real and you have an amazing story. Simon Spanton, Son of the Morning’s editor gives you his take on the book.
The first thing you might notice about Son of the Morning (maybe even before the resplendent angel wings and that wicked sword) is that it’s a big book. Really big. 732 pages big.
I don’t have an issue with big books (hell! I publish fantasy novels I can’t really afford to), but I do need the story to be as long as the book. Padding is an indulgence for the author and an imposition on the reader. For all its epic size I don’t think you’ll find an ounce of padding in Mark Alder’s novel.
This massive book grew out of a single image. In my mind’s eye a gleaming wavefront of plate-armoured angels mounted on horseback, their wings blinding white in the midst of the many chivalric colours, the blood the mud, crash into the ranks of Edward the third’s men-at-arms. That image, illogical, irrational, impossible wouldn’t leave me. Now any editor can have an idea. It takes an author to write a book. So I talked about this idea with Mark Alder. He loves history, he’s forgotten more than I ever knew about it and the 14th century in particular and he has a real relish for research. But more importantly I know Mark can write a cracking story.
So we talked and Mark mulled it over and came back with some ideas and then he wrote this novel. And its an awesome piece of work. Mark has taken the facts of the Hundred Years War, the characters from history and the beliefs of the age and has written a rip-roaring (no other word for it) historical fantasy. The religious beliefs of the time fit the idea and he brings it all to vivid and believable life. There are characters from history who would appear OTT in Game of Thrones – Mark lets them loose on the page. The details are wonderful – this journey through the England and Europe of the 14th century feels so vivid, so real you’ll be profoundly grateful you didn’t live then but deliriously happy to get to visit with Mark as your guide.
And do Angels ride on horseback at men-at-arms? Mark comes up with something much, much better. His angels are creatures of light, utterly alien and seemingly a little insane. And in a fight you’d really want one on your side. Or failing that a devil…
Welcome to the Hundred Years War as it should have been…
Do let us know what you think.
Son of the Morning is out in bookshops on the 17th of April 2014 and is our April book of the month. Check back every Tuesday in April to read a new chapter.