Men of Iron

Set in early fifteenth century England, just after the victory of the Lancaster King Henry IV over his Plantagenet predecessor Richard II, this is a juvenile coming of age story in which the author has the reader experience the medieval entry into knighthood through the eyes of a young squire, Myles Falworth, who was only eight years old the day a knight in black rode into the courtyard of his father’s castle with murderous intent. The knight, who Myles later learns becomes the Earl of Alban, kills Sir John Dale, a friend of his father’s who had fled to the Falworth castle for refuge after the struggle between the two kings, and triggers a chain of events that brings disgrace to the house of Falworth as his father is accused of treason agains the king.

At age sixteen young Myles, in spite of his family’s disgrace, quickly wins a reputation for courage and independence while in training as a knight at the castle of his relative, the great Earl of Mackworth. It is during his three years of training that one day Myles discovers that his blind father has been condemned for treason and is being hunted by a powerful enemy who is close to the King. During a visit by the King and his French ally the Comte de Vermoise, Mackworth arranges for Myles, whose identity is unknown to Henry, to joust with the Sieur de la Montagne, a great French knight who is accompanying the Count. Myles wins and is knighted by the King. In Chapter 24 the knighthood ceremony is presented and described as it would be in a non-fiction work on knighthood and chivalry.

After six months of fighting for the Count in France, Myles returns to England and ultimately faces the Earl of Alban to avenge his unjustly accused father and restore his family’s rights. Those who like to read about medieval times should really enjoy this book. It is reminiscent of G. A. Henty’s works. Myles, though having to learn to control his impulsiveness and other foibles, is a model of loyalty, honesty, and uprightness. There is no really bad language, just a few instances of swearing by the saints or “My Lady.” A couple of references to drinking wine or ale are found. And there is mention of various religious practices, such as making the sign of the cross and counting beads, which were common when the Roman Catholic Church was the nearly universal religion of Europe. However, this book incorporates fascinating historical information about life in a medieval castle, knighthood, and chivalry into a fast-moving and entertaining story.

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