Winter's Knight by Richard Argent (September 2010, ATOM, ISBN: 1905654545)
Notes: The following review is written by Amanda Gillies who reviews crime fiction on my Euro Crime website. You can read her crime reviews here.
Review: What a simply awesome tale! Full to the brim of excitement and adventure, with just the right amount of magic thrown in to keep things interesting.
Winter's Knight is set around its hero, Andrew, an ordinary young man from a small English village. Andrew is bullied by the other village youths for being different. He was born in the twelfth century, during The Crusades, at a time when superstition ran rife amongst the common folk, and he is marked as suspect by being delivered by a warlock's wife and having webbed toes. Andrew is not content with life as it is and longs to be a Templar Knight. He wants to ride a fine horse, wear the white mantle and protect pilgrims in the Holy Land.
Not long after he sees the ghosts of two dead men, who foretell his future successes, trouble at the hands of his bullies forces Andrew to leave the village. He is saved from starvation by a group of players and with them he travels to London, where circumstances see him becoming a squire and starting out on a path that will lead to the realisation of his dreams. The path we follow alongside Andrew is full of highs - success in battle, being adopted by a noble, finally taking the Templar mantle - but, equally, has many lows - including more than one fall from grace and the death of a close friend.
Andrew is very ambitious but, over the course of the story, increasingly questions why he wanted to be a knight in the first place and then, when he becomes good friends with a young Saracen, you see him question why he should want to kill people that are not so different from him after all. His eventual return to England is both nail biting and suspense-ridden, but the ending, although perfect, is not at all what you are expecting.
Then, there is The Secret that the ghosts mention at the start - that is worth waiting for, too. When you find out what this Secret is, it brings a lump to your throat.
Winter's Knight is a well-written, awe inspiring novel about having dreams, realising ambitions and then discovering not everything is as you hoped it would be. It is extremely enjoyable from start to finish and I highly recommend it.