I am a big fan of ancient historical fiction. Some of my favorite historical fiction books are the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell mainly because it helps me feel like I am learning about a time long forgotten and being supremely entertained at the same time—don’t yell at me, I know historical fiction is Fiction with that capital “F” and lots of liberties are being taken, but a good historical fiction will inspire you, me, and maybe your mom too, to go out and then learn more about that time, or at least Google it for the next two days. That’s what “The Silver Horn Echoes: A Song of Roland” did for me. You see, I was 0% familiar with “La Chanson de Roland”, the epic poem/story this novel is based on. It’s the story of the most honorable of knights in the Christian Frank Kingdom as he protects his king and country from the Emir of Saragossa. Who is Roland’s king that he becomes the champion for? That he’ll stand against countless waves of enemies for, and uncover murder plots for? Oh, just the guy who later becomes known as Charlemagne, maybe you’ve heard of him?
If you’re a fan of Arthurian fantasies with a sprinkling of a Romeo and Juliet vibes, I have found your next read! Both Roland and King Arthur fall into this “too good to be true” type of camp. Both are honorable to a fault, desperately love their leading ladies, and both show this classic, chivalrous idea of knighthood. But where the end of King Arthur’s stories herald the start of the Dark Ages with his bright light being put out, the end of Roland’s story signals the start of the Renascence period, at least according to history. So there’s more a sense of hope then what Arthurian fantasies may leave you with. The way the story is written also captures that feel of the epic poem it was based off of, everything from how the characters speak to how the locations both feel very real but larger than life at the same time. Like, they seem to get across most of Europe pretty quickly, but when they are fighting at the gates of the city, you can practically smell the burning walls.
The book is also wonderfully campy. I do mean that as a compliment, because you have these amazing heroes that can stand against literal hordes of enemies, and they prevail against nearly impossible odds. It’s almost impossible not to be swept up by Roland’s flowing golden locks as he triumphs against superior numbers and always seems to arrive in the nick of time to save his king. He’s got a loyal best friend where the two of them have a lovely bromance together, and he also has a barbarian Saxon sidekick who pledges loyalty to him after Roland bested him in combat. I mean, really, how do you not laugh at and also love a main character like that? Plus, Roland’s lady love braves her own foes and races across the country to warn her husband of danger; she never appears to be the stereotypical damsel all too common for these kinds of stories, and I loved that!
Honestly, my only complaint is that the book, while full of exciting combat and courtly intrigue, felt a bit slow at times. You have multiple POV’s so who the traitor is in the king’s court is never a secret, his plans are never hidden from the reader, which diminishes some of the suspense that may have made this novel read more like a page turner. Plus, there is a really uncomfortable relationship between the king and his daughter that never sat well with me—I don’t think it’s supposed to, but I question why it was included to the degree it was because it made me never really like the king, either. And this is where the downside of being swept up in historical fiction comes in. Because of that really bad relationship, I went down the Google rabbit hole to see if that was true. It might have been? But what is more accepted is that Charlemagne, aka Charles the Great, had a thing for his sister, Roland's mom. So it is far more likely that Roland's dad was also his uncle... Got to love those perverse royal practices! Anyway, I didn't know that before reading this book, and probably would have never cared enough to learn more if it weren't for this book, so yay? Regardless, this was a fun historical fiction told in a unique voice which inspired me to look more into the history surrounding Roland, which is what a good historical fiction should do! So I’m giving this book a delightful 4 stars, and thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for an honest review.
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