Rise of a Champion (Legend of the Cid)

Written by Stuart Rudge
Review by Sally Zigmond

Antonio Perez is the younger son of a brave knight and warlord, but he prefers to study holy texts and contemplate the world around him. His father despairs. When his father is executed for alleged treason against Fernando, King of Leon-Castile, Antonio is furious and seeks vengeance on his father’s enemies and to clear his family’s good name.

He starts with youthful determination and soon learns to fight and kill, but he is shocked how the innocent suffer as much as the wicked. Things go from bad to worse when he is condemned into a life of slavery. Slaves are often traded between the various Spanish kingdoms and Antonio ends up serving a young knight named Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, a man later known as El Cid. Together they fight numerous battles and finally come face to face with the evil man known as Azarola, one of the most powerful lords of Leon, renowned for his cunning and malice.

Rise of a Champion is the first novel in a trilogy (followed by Blood Feud and The Fall of Kings) featuring that great Spanish hero, El Cid.  I chose to read and review this novel because, in the same way historical fiction set in England was my introduction to English history, I was looking for a similar entry into the history of Spain, particularly the Middle Ages. Although it took me a while to get to grips with Spain in the 11th century, with the help of the glossary and map, I was soon engrossed.

If you love your historical fiction full of bloody action and sharp steel and want a change from Bernard Cornwell’s Britain, The Rise of a Champion will be a welcome addition to your shelves.