Champion

L. Christian Balling, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $0 (309p) ISBN 978-0-87113-198-0
The charismatic figure of William Marshal, an English soldier of fortune, has inspired epics ever since his death in the early 13th century. Balling (The Fourth Shot, Mallory's Gambit) sketches in Marshal's young exploits against the Saracens as a Templar in the Holy Land and then dwells on his hero's defense and romantic pursuit of Irish heiress Isabelle de Clare when he was in his 40s and she was 18. Among other historic personalities are squire Jean d'Erly, Marshal's first biographer; deft politician Eleanor of Aquitaine;, her wheezing old husband Henry II; and their vicious, scheming son John. When John, as Isabelle's guardian, threatens her with rape and the seizure of her castle, Marshal rides to the rescue. But vengeful John then sets in motion a complicated maneuver involving Marshal's old enemy, the Templars'ok Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort and King Philip of France. Balling's research is thorough, especially regarding political machinations, armor, weaponry, horsemanship and battle scenes, but chunky textbook exposition mars the novelistic mood, especially when it comes to relationships between the sexes. Champion will nonetheless please readers with an interest in the period. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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