The Last Crusaders: Ivan the Terrible

Written by William Napier
Review by Ann Northfield

If anyone was wondering why or how Czar Ivan got his nickname “the Terrible”, this novel will make the reasons for this very clear. In fact the adjective is rather mild, if anything. Without the historical notes at the back and previous knowledge, I might have found some of the events depicted somewhat hard to believe for sheer depravity and evil. However here is one example when truth really is stranger (and more gruesome) than fiction.

This is not a novel for the squeamish, as these really were violent times with burnings, beheadings and blood-letting in virtually every chapter. Elizabeth I sends a group of men on a mission to the Czar, but with the Tatars on the rampage, their task is not the easiest. At last we have a hero from Shropshire (my home county) in the shape of Sir Nicholas Ingoldsby, who with his companions in arms has to survive great dangers and rescue maidens with all the derring-do they can muster.

They have frightening encounters with the infamous Oprichnina, the Czar’s personal bodyguard who you really wouldn’t want to meet at any time, on a dark night or in broad daylight. They ride with severed dog heads attached to their saddles and destroy whole villages, killing babies just for fun. This really is high-action, edge of the seat, unconsciously breath-holding stuff – thoroughly enjoyable adventure with old-fashioned heroes who seem born for war and awful villains who deserve what they get. Very much recommended, and I could see it being made into an excellent action film.