The Gate of the Dead
To call this an action/adventure story is a massive understatement. The action is relentless, the body count is countless. But then this is a story about a mercenary soldier in 14th– century Europe.
This is the third book in Gilman’s series following the career of Thomas Blackstone, one-time archer who becomes a knight and is now the leader of a band of condottieri (hired soldiers) in central Italy. After some furious Italian bloodletting Thomas receives a royal summons to return to England, where he fights a joust with the Black Prince. I am not sure why, and I don’t think Thomas does either. After that it is back to the Continent to plunge into the three-way civil war in France, including the revolt of the Jacquerie (the French version of the Peasants’ Revolt). Everyone wants to kill Thomas, but he is almost the only one who isn’t killed. The message is that the Middle Ages were filthy and extremely dangerous.
The individual combat scenes are very good, as is the high tension escape by Thomas’ wife and daughter from the Jacquerie. I wish, though, that Thomas had more time to relax and enjoy life. However, to be anachronistic, you certainly get plenty of bangs for your buck.