Zizka the One-eyed

Written by Jim Fuxa
Review by Steve Donoghue

One-eyed Jan Zizka is the unforgettable center character of Jim Fuxa’s historical fiction debut, a gruff, powerful man one of the book’s characters matter-of-factly refers to as “the most famous warrior in all Europe.” He gains that reputation mainly because when the beleaguered city of Prague pleads with Zizka to save it from the invading King Sigismund of Hungary, who has been urged on crusade against the rabble of Bohemia by the Pope himself.

Against enormous odds, he and his forces defeat this partisan crusade, but in the process he takes an arrow to his working eye, and among the many plot threads Fuxa follows with engrossing balance throughout his substantial book, the drama of Zizka’s angry, halting adaptation to blindness is the most memorable and moving. “No blue sky, no green hills in the morning mist, no pretty woman swaying her hips in a red skirt as she walks to market,” he laments at one point. “I’m already forgetting what colors look like. And so it will be, the rest of my life.” He is saved from the bitterness of self-pity by the love and encouragement of Sophia, the widowed queen of King Wenceslas, who coaxes him back to the thing he does best: leading men in battle.

From this less well-known material Fuxa creates a wonderfully earthy and panoramic warrior-centered historical novel reminiscent of Morgan Llwelyn’s Lion of Ireland. Highly recommended.