Former Riskies,  Reading,  Research

Book Review: The Last Duel

First some News

I just turned in my story for Midnight Scandals, a historical romance anthology with Courtney Milan and Sherry Thomas. I immediately started work on Book 5 of the My Immortals series. Now that Free Fall, my My Immortals novella is out of Kindle Select, I’ve also worked on getting it published to all other vendors. It should start showing up shortly.

Naturally with all this writing to do, I’ve been reading a lot because I can tell myself it’s practically work and almost writing! Writers need to read!

One of the many books I’ve read recently is Eric Jager’s The Last Duel. I’m really surprised I never heard about this book when it first came out in 2004. It’s exactly the sort of book I would have bought right away.

The gripping, atmospheric true story of the “duel to end all duels” in medieval France: a trial by combat pitting a knight against a squire accused of violating the knight’s beautiful young wife.

I loved this book. It’s everything I adore about history books and more. While I read the Kindle version– more about that later –I bought it in hardback for my dad, who I think will like it a lot, too and will also get my mom a Kindle copy. I’ve been pimping it to everyone. Even you. Especially YOU!

Based on extensive research in Normandy and Paris, The Last Duel brings to life a colorful, turbulent age and three unforgettable characters caught in a fatal triangle of crime, scandal, and revenge. It is at once a moving human drama, a captivating detective story, and an engrossing work of historical intrigue.

The quote sounds like it’s overblown, but you know what? It’s not. I finished this book nearly 10 days ago, and I read it steadily until I was done. I’m STILL thinking about it. At times I forgot I was reading about something that really happened. And then I remember that lives were truly at stake.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the book was the meticulous research. The duel and the circumstances surrounding it were sensational at the time and for centuries afterward. There is, therefore, an unusual amount of surviving documentation.

I fell in love a little with LeCog, the attorney for the defendant in the matter. It was plain that he was a meticulous man and quite insightful. I changed my mind once or twice about the two men, by the way. When the duel took place, I was glued to my chair, because not only did I have to know what happened, I was very much aware there was no guarantee that the outcome would be the one I hoped for.

The Kindle version was, in the main, very well put together. The footnotes actually worked, for example, in that I ended up at the right footnote and that footnote took me back to my place.

My Gripes

I have two gripes and one of them is a big one. At normal size, the images in the text were crisp and clear, but too small to read. Once I expanded them to examine maps and artwork in more detail, the images were blurry. Text in the images was unreadable.

My other gripe is that the images were in black and white. I was reading on my iPad 3, by the way, so this mattered to me a lot. Unlike print, color in an ebook does not cost a cent.

Let me say that again: color in an eBook does not cost a cent.

Those source images, many of them contemporary artwork, are in color in real life and my guess is that the original photographs were probably submitted in color, too. The image IN COLOR on the cover is also in the book. In black and white.

I would have paid extra for an eBook with those images in color and in high-resolution.

If you have any interest in the Medieval period, this is a great book to have.

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Amy Kathryn
Amy Kathryn
10 years ago

This sounds awesome. Thanks for the heads up.

I am totally supportive of the fact that a writer is required to read. It’s practically in the job description.

Louisa Cornell
10 years ago

It is a BIG part of the job description! Just ask Stephen King!

And I am SO buying this book in the hardback edition! What a great find, Carolyn!

Diane Gaston
10 years ago

Carolyn, it is frustrating that publishers are not looking at ebooks as opportunities to present work in a fresh way, to take ADVANTAGE of the format, rather than just try to transfer what they do in print format.

This book does sound awesome. I love history that reads like novels.

Carolyn Jewel
10 years ago

Thanks, everyone!

And yes, gosh, I wish publishers would pay more attention to the eBooks they’re putting out.

So MANY lost opportunity to make the experience awesome.

Isobel Carr
10 years ago

Have you read Steven Ozment? His books are amazing. The Bürgermeister’s Daughter is my favorite, but I also highly recommend Three Behaim Boys and Magdalena and Balthasar.

Carolyn Jewel
10 years ago

I will check those out! Thanks, Isobel.

10 years ago

I was wondering whether you would be happy to put up a link in my monthly series called “Books You Love”. The idea is for people to link up posts about a book they loved. It could be an old fave. I am hoping we will end up with a nice collection of books that can go on our reading lists. Here is the link Books You Loved July Edition

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