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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Sunday 14 March 2010

Guillou - Crusades Trilogy

Missed my wargaming fix this weekend as I am streaming with a cold. Particularly annoying as we have our open FoG competition Schiltron and a club day today when we were going to try Black Powder rules with my Napoleon in Egypt figures. The cold started when I was up in Stornoway on business; given the usual hospitality on the islands, it is obviously a myth that whisky cures a cold!

My hotel room overlooked the old harbour and it isn't difficult to imagine the galley fleets of the Lord of the Isles docked there. I say galleys, but these would have been Berlinns, small galleys with up to 18 oars that were the mainstay of the largely independent Lordship of the Isles. Nigel Tranter's fictional account of the life of Somerled is a good introduction to this period. For a real history I would recommend 'Kingdom of the Isles' by R.McDonald. I have never built a wargames army for this period but Viking types are a good starter. For a card cut out model visit the Comunn Birlinn site.

Carving of a Birlinn at Finlaggan

Anyway back to the subject of this blog. Being ill I finished my latest book The Road to Jerusalem by Jan Guillou. This is the first of his crusades trilogy and was made into a film in 2007. It tells the story of Arn de Gothia from his upbringing in 12th Century Sweden to becoming a Templar knight.

This series has had some good reviews, but I regret I can't agree with them. His early life in a monastery together with the domesticity of medieval Sweden doesn't exactly make a racy read. The action is an occasional diversion from this. The back cover describes the book as "An epic tale of bloody battles and deep held beliefs, of forbidden love and heroic people" - frankly this is seriously overhyped, particularly the 'bloody battles' bit.

The author clearly knows his subject - but he could have spared us a lot of the detail. After sleeping with two sisters he is banished to join the Knights Templar at the end of the the book. The rest of the trilogy therefore holds out more promise, although the pedestrian writing style will need to improve to tempt me to complete the trilogy.

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