England is on the brink of civil war in the 13th century as Simon de Montford and the barons of the realm challenge the power of Henry III. Caught between the battle for reform or obedience, young squire Adam de Norton longs to be a knight and win back his father’s lands. This is the first novel that I have read by author Ian Ross, but the quality and richness that he delivers in this medieval tale has ensured that it won’t be the last.
Focusing on Adam de Norton, Battle Song pairs the young squire with Sir Robert de Dunstanville, a hardened man with a fearsome reputation. Ross deftly makes the reader care about these two characters, even with Robert’s brutality shaped by a harsh world and tough decisions and this adds to the tension as the characters find themselves in life-threatening situations throughout the course of the story. Adam’s growth as a young squire looking up to a hardened veteran and trying to earn respect is well-written and reminded me of some of the best historical fiction released in recent memory by Matthew Harffy (Forest of Foes, A Time for Swords) and Bernard Cornwell (The Last Kingdom, The Empty Throne). There are even aspects that reminded me of the Alwyn Scribe from Anthony Ryan’s excellent The Pariah. Needless to say, fans of such work are in for a treat.
Battle Song draws you into the world of 13th century England with all the tension, fear, and excitement that you can expect from such a time. It is a well-researched novel with a land that feels real and immersive for the reader, never taking you out of the moment but instead matching excellent prose with gritty realism that can be found in the great works of historical fiction based around this period. Battles and jousting tournaments don’t feel romantic and glorious; they are brutal and bloody. There is always a sense of danger and this element allows readers to fully immerse themselves into Ross’s story and push Battle Song to greatness.
Battle Song is a must-read for fans of historical fiction. Its blend of politics, battles, tournaments, and war are mixed together with vivid characters to root for to make a story that will leave you begging for the sequel. Ian Ross has written one of the best pieces of historical fiction in years and I can’t wait to continue the journey!