Knight’s Pawn

Written by A. L. Kucherenko
Review by J. Lynn Else

In 1066, Alaric supports Duke William’s claim to the Englelond throne, even though his family is siding with the Saxon king, Harold Godwinson. Alaric believes William can unify and protect his birth land, but the price of conquest is high. Alaric’s family is killed, and whispers in the dark imply that a count under William’s protection is responsible their deaths.

Before long, Alaric receives command of William’s western forces; however, Alaric is forced to marry the niece of Count Eustace, his family’s murderer. It’s a blood price ensuring Alaric cannot move against the count. Or, in this deadly political game, could his new bride and her wealth be just the pawn Alaric needs to avenge his family’s honor?

There’s a large dramatis personae, and it’s clear the author has researched the people and places extensively. Disappointingly, most chapters start after major events, like the Battle of Hastings, being knighted into the king’s royal order, or Dreux and Alaric’s first meeting after a fire. The narration is exposition-heavy as men sit around and talk about politics and past, non-narrated events.

The narration and its few battle-ish scenes are chaotic. There’s a riot of dialogue without defined speakers, and events occur without a clear defining thread pulling things together. The plot comes to conclusions without letting readers in on the reasons behind things, like the betrayal of Clare, a disgraced thegn’s daughter and love interest of Alaric’s best friend, Dreux. Alaric’s bride Genevieve’s storyline has more in-the-moment narration and is more engaging. She asserts herself in a world of men, and she’s one of the few likable characters.

More development of characters and historical moments would really make this novel shine. Too many impactful, character-defining junctures happen behind the scenes. While the book feels disjointed from chapter to chapter, there are lots of historical gems to discover.