Book Review: Godfrey's Crusade
Title: Godfrey's Crusade
Series: The Griffin Legends
Author: Mark Howard
Godfrey's Crusade is a solid Arthurian fantasy debut.
In a world of orcs, dwarves, dragons, and elves it would be very easy for the world that author Mark Howard has created to feel like "just another fantasy novel". But it doesn't. In fac,t the world feels far more akin to our own world and history than it has any right to.
The focus on chivalrous knights and far-flung crusades works extremely well. It takes you out of what might be considered the fantasy genre's "safe place" and gives you something that feels fresh. I think it's partly for that reason that I found this book such an easy read. The pages come and go at a relentless rate, much like the plot of the story.
By and large that fast pace is a positive. However, in the final third of the book particularly, I think the pace does the story at large a disservice. I found myself thinking that the story would be all the more impactful if there had been some breaths taken along the way, moments to reflect and build character. The final 50 pages of the novel are packed with story, action, and travel. They honestly could have been a novel unto themselves if given the room to breathe. In fact, that is probably my only major criticism. I think this is two or three novels crammed into 400 pages. This results in a climax with very little tension.
The characters range from solid to very good. Fortunately, it's our main character, Godfrey De Bastogne, who falls into the very good category. He is a young knight who is thrust into a position of authority and we watch as he struggles with some of the divisions that can cause and the strain it puts on him. This is only the first book in a series but I still feel as though the side characters could have done with more development. For example, there is a love story between two characters but it felt completely rushed and unearned. That's not to say that their scenes together were bad, because they weren't. But it didn't feel believable how quickly they fell in love. We know very little about the female love interest as a person, so it's difficult to feel overly connected to them later in the story.
The action scenes are wonderfully written and the military progress of the crusade is easy to understand. I think this is where the author exceeds and if I had to guess I would assume that the militaristic side of the story is where he has the most fun because it shows in the writing.
That action is also supplemented by strong worldbuilding. I mentioned earlier about how it doesn't feel like your standard fantasy world and the benefits of that. But having a strong base of worldbuilding also means that it is easier for readers to invest in that world and the consequences for the characters. I think Howard does that incredibly well.
I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Godfrey Under Siege, and I'm hoping that we can slow down that pace and give us more meat on the bones of some of the characters. With that this series will be able to go from strength to strength.
Final Rating: 7/10