Chivalry is oddly in vogue these days. The ideals of the Code of Chivalry are, sadly, not. The grimdark nature of much epic fantasy these days seems to take pleasure in eviscerating any lingering notions that the ideals of honor, etc. were anything but cynical lies. George R .R. Martin loves to do this. Anthony Ryan did this so much in his Raven’s Shadow series that he ruined one of the best first in series in decades. Even Guy Gavriel Kay can’t help but be a little cynical in his tale of troubadour love, A Song for Arbonne.
So yeah, I’m a bit sick of grimdark, personally.
Then I stumbled on the Traitor Son series by Miles Cameron. Oh, it’s dark all right. The violence is almost clinical, it’s so vivid. There’s lots of swearing, plenty of blasphemy, and the darkness is so thick you can cut it with a bearded Italian spear (aka ghiavarina).
But I loved it! Miles Cameron is a true knight. He knows the Middle Ages like the back of his hand. Being a professional reenactor, his love for the time period shows in every description of a knight’s saddle, in every detailed blow-by-blow of a knightly joust, even in the way he tells time (by the number of times you can recite a Pater Noster). He can honestly see the brutality and the violence of the age, but he sees it in technicolor, not the drab browns of Kristen Stewart’s offensive and idiotic Snow White.
And can I please make a note to all epic fantasy writers out there–don’t forget to let your characters have fun! This series, in between the epic battles, is all about having fun. Bring on the feasting and the drinking!
Rather than go in depth into each of these books, I’ll just have a short bullet list of awesomeness for each of the five books. Hopefully it’ll make you go and buy the whole series in the time it takes you to recite ten Pater Nosters!
The Red Knight
- Awesome mythical creatures, including wyverns and a fantastically rendered race called daemons that I’ve never seen before.
- Amazing set pieces, including a final battle that’ll have you drooling
- Amazing magical system that combines medieval Christianity with the neo-Platonic hermeticism and an amazing way of bringing it to life called “mind palaces”
The Fell Sword
- Fictionalized Vikings fighting alongside fictionalized Genghis-Khan era Mongols
- Knights battling with First Nations warriors (because, I mean, why not?!)
- A siege broken from four sides at the same, with some of the best battle tactics I’ve ever read in a fantasy novel.
The Dread Wyrm
- This book has possibly the biggest dragon in the history of fantasy literature.
- But wait, there’s a second dragon. And yes. It’s even bigger than the biggest dragon in the history of fantasy literature.
- The bad guys are vile. You really want them to lose. Unlike a certain series of books I shall not name, here the bad guys actually get their comeuppance. And it’s glorious!
- There are magic swords. Do I really need to say any more?
The Plague of Swords
- Yes, there’s a plague. And there are swords. Duh, it’s medieval fantasy.
- So. The end of the world is coming any day now. There’s a new enemy out there that makes zombie warriors out of peasants. What do you do? Have a tournament, of course!
- A love-sick griffon with the personality of a 16-year-old teenager
- A medieval sea battle with corrosive sea monsters and Kraken
The Fall of Dragons
- Zombie dragons. Zombie mammoths. How do you defeat them? Using rare thirteenth century proto-canons called gonnes. Naturally.
- Portals into other universes. Yes, in a medieval fantasy book.
- Even more mythical creatures you’ve never heard of, including spontaneously combustible dog-like creatures with lamprey mouths called… Salamanders? What?
- And yes, the dragons do fall… but you’ll have to see for yourself what that actually means.
Go get the series! You won’t regret it.
(Note: all images are drawings inspired by the series, copyright Dmitri Bondarenko. Thanks to Miles Cameron for allowing me to use them.)
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