cover image The Lords of Vaumartin

The Lords of Vaumartin

Cecelia Holland. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $18.95 (344pp) ISBN 978-0-395-48828-7

Her assiduous research providing absorbing background details, Holland illumines the words of scholars and soldiers in 14th century France. Young orphaned Everard de Vaumartin is heir to his family's castle in Brittany, but he prefers to immerse himself in books rather than train for a life of knighthood and fighting. Separated from his company in the battle of Crecy in 1346, and aware that his uncle Josseran will not welcome his return to Vaumartin, Everard goes instead to Paris. Never acknowledging his noble birth, he lives with an alchemist's family who are soon decimated by the Black Death; only Everard and the youngest child survive. Everard takes care of little Sylviane, enrolls at the Studium as an apprentice scholar and marries a local woman. The story of Everard's developing knowledge and his growing leadership in the clash between the anti-Royalist factions and the Dauphin is interwoven with Josseran's battle campaigns, first for France's King Phillip and son John, then in a switch of loyalties, for the Plantagenet invaders. Motivated by authentic emotions and grounded in quotidian details, Holland's characters bring medieval France to life, telling of the scholar's path, the plague's havoc and the fading chivalric code. The author's 16th novel (after Pillar of the Sky ) is a satisfying mix of intellectual and political history. (October)