MEDIEVAL BOOKS: Hot New Releases – January!

MEDIEVAL BOOKS: Hot New Releases – January!

Christmas has come and gone, and now that we’re deep into winter’s grips, it’s a great time to grab a book, a blanket, and a hot cup of tea and hunker down for a good read while the wind and snow are blowing. This month, we have a release that take a look at the medieval world of the popular fantasy series Game of Thrones. What research went into the creation of the series? What medieval elements were used to create the myths and symbols of the series? Next, we have an examination Elizabeth Woodville’s love life. Love her, or hate her, the much maligned lady of late medieval England is a fascinating character. Travel lover? We have a new release detailing everything and anything you want to know about travel and exploration in the medieval world. Another controversial figure makes our January hit list – Edward II. A book that attempts to separate the myths from facts about this (in)famous English king. Last but not least, our historical fiction entry for January: medieval fiction veteran Bernard Cornwell debuts his ninth instalment of the making of England in Warriors of the Storm.

2016 will be the #yearofthebook on Medievalists.net., and across our sister sites Early Modern England and History of the Ancient World. Every month you can look forward to book reviews, and the latest and greatest in medieval history, fantasy, and historical fiction.

~Sandra Alvarez

Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones

Author: Carolyne Larrington
Publisher: I.B.Tauris (January 30, 2016)

Game of Thrones is a phenomenon. As Carolyne Larrington reveals in this essential companion to George R R Martin’s fantasy novels and the HBO mega-hit series based on them the show is the epitome of water-cooler TV. It is the subject of intense debate in national newspapers and by bloggers and cultural commentators contesting the series’ startling portrayals of power, sex and gender. Yet no book has divulged how George R R Martin constructed his remarkable universe out of the Middle Ages. Discussing novels and TV series alike, Larrington explores among other topics: sigils, giants, dragons and direwolves in medieval texts; ravens, old gods and the Weirwood in Norse myth; and a gothic, exotic orient in the eastern continent, Essos. From the White Walkers to the Red Woman, from Casterley Rock to the Shivering Sea, this is an indispensable guide to the twenty-first century’s most important fantasy creation.

Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance
Author: Amy Licence
Publisher: Amberley (January 19, 2016)

When the tall, athletic Edward of York seized the English throne in 1461, he could have chosen any bride he wanted. With his dazzling looks and royal descent, the nineteen-year-old quickly got a reputation for womanizing, with few able to resist his charm and promises. For three years he had a succession of mistresses, mostly among the married women and widows of his court, while foreign princesses were lined up to be considered as his queen. Then he fell in love.

The woman who captured the king was a widow, five years his elder. While her contemporaries and later historians have been divided over her character, none have denied the extent of her blonde beauty. Elizabeth Wydeville had previously been married to a Lancastrian knight, who had lost his life fighting against the Yorkists. When she tried to petition the king to help restore her son’s inheritance, reputedly waiting for him under an oak tree, the young Edward was immediately spellbound. But this did not prove to be just another fling. Conscious of her honor and her future, Elizabeth repelled his advances. His answer was to make her his wife.

It was to prove an unpopular decision. Since then Edward’s queen has attracted extreme reactions, her story and connections reported by hostile chroniclers, her actions interpreted in the bleakest of lights. It is time for a reassessment of the tumultuous life of the real White Queen and her husband.

Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia (Routledge Encyclopedias of the Middle Ages)

Author: John Block Friedman and Kristen Mossler Figg
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (January 22, 2016)

The genre of medieval travel and exploration literature is fertile ground for academic research as well as for the imagination of the armchair traveler. Although modern travel literature is not difficult to locate, the literature of trade, travel, and exploration during the medieval period is often not easily accessible. The editors pulled together 435 entries by 177 contributors in this compilation, intended to be accessible to nonspecialist readers and a useful starting point for scholars in a variety of disciplines. Contributors were clearly chosen for their scholarly expertise; many are the authors of articles and books on their topics.The scope of the volume comprises “the history of travel, exploration, discovery, and mercantile activity in the Near East, the Far East, Central Asia, Africa, Scandinavia, and the New World,” as well as “purely fabulous regions” (Land of Cockaigne , Mountains of the Moon), from the fall of the Roman Empire to the “Age of Discovery” at the end of the fifteenth century. A chronological chart from 100 B.C.E. to 1500 C.E. entitled “Sequence of Events” places individuals and their works and material culture under the categories “Major Expansions and Explorations,” “Encyclopedists and Cosmographers,” “Travelers and Travel Narratives,” and “Maps.” Another table lists the regal dates of kings, popes, and other rulers such as the Great Khans and the Dukes of Burgundy. Introductory material includes a list of articles arranged by broad topic, such as “Crusades” and “Marvels and Wonders.”Articles are arranged alphabetically, using the variations of spelling most familiar to scholars or those used by the Library of Congress and in standard reference works (Tamerlaneinstead of Timur, Chinngis Khan instead of Genghis Khan ). The articles are clearly written so that they can be understood and enjoyed by nonspecialists as well as scholars. They often begin with basics and explain why the topic is important, such as describing Maritime law as “one of the major contributions of medieval culture to the modern world.” Length ranges from a few identifying paragraphs (Borgia map ; Knarr , a type of Norse sailing vessel) to surveys of about 5,000 words (Crusades; Geography in the Middle Ages; Navigation ).Because of the wide range of topics encompassed, articles reflect a diversity found in few other specialized encyclopedias. They include real and fictional individuals (Prester John, Sinbad the Sailor ), animals and natural history (Camels , Gems ), foods (Bananas, Pepper, Saffron ), real places (Malacca Straits , Venice ), imaginary places and creatures (Giants , Mountains of the Moon ), crusades and pilgrimages (the crusader castle Krak de Chevaliers, Pilgrim souvenirs ), and topical articles (Cannibalism , Slave trade ). The strength of the work is its coverage of topics relating to geography, cosmography, maps and plans, routes, and itineraries; technology of travel and exploration; types of ships; and travel writers. Many of these topics are not represented by their own articles in the comprehensive Dictionary of the Middle Ages (Scribner, 1982-). These include Caravans, Elephants, Piracy , and Vagrancy .Each entry includes a bibliography; most include about five to ten books, articles, essays, and primary sources. Contributors frequently cite French, German, Italian, and other languages because the “topics treated in this work have engaged the attention of writers whose language is not English,” and the bibliographies reflect that state of scholarship in these areas. Although the bibliographies are valuable for identifying articles, book chapters, and pamphlets that students might miss in standard OPAC and periodical database searches, some could have included more accessible items. There are only two publications, both in German, in the bibliography for Antipodes, and only one of the ten references for Pilgrimage, Christian is in English. The work concludes with a bibliography of general sources.This is clearly the labor of seasoned medievalists who saw the need for such a compilation in their own work. It will be equally useful to other medievalists and to students of medieval history, art, science, and literature. Its articles are lucid, its scholarship is superb and up to date, its illustrations are creatively chosen, and its bibliographies are generally useful for further study. Trade, Travel, and Exploration is an essential purchase for all academic and large public libraries and might also be considered for high-school libraries supporting medieval history units. RBB Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Edward II: The Unconventional King

Author: Kathryn Warner
Publisher: Amberley (January 19, 2016)

He is one of the most reviled English kings in history. He drove his kingdom to the brink of civil war a dozen times in less than twenty years. He allowed his male lovers to rule the kingdom. He led a great army to the most ignominious military defeat in English history. His wife took a lover and invaded his kingdom, and he ended his reign wandering around Wales with a handful of followers, pursued by an army. He was the first king of England forced to abdicate his throne. Popular legend has it that he died screaming impaled on a red-hot poker, but in fact the time and place of his death are shrouded in mystery. His life reads like an Elizabethan tragedy, full of passionate doomed love, bloody revenge, jealousy, hatred, vindictiveness and obsession.

He was Edward II, and this book tells his story. The focus here is on his relationships with his male ‘favourites’ and his disaffected wife, on his unorthodox lifestyle and hobbies, and on the mystery surrounding his death. Using almost exclusively fourteenth-century sources and Edward’s own letters and speeches wherever possible, Kathryn Warner strips away the myths which have been created about him over the centuries, and provides a far more accurate and vivid picture of him than has previously been seen.

Warriors of the Storm: A Novel (Saxon Tales)

Author: Bernard Cornwell
Publisher: Harper (January 19, 2016)

The ninth installment of Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling series chronicling the epic saga of the making of England, “like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer, London)—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit BBC America television series.

A fragile peace reigns in Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia. King Alfred’s son Edward and formidable daughter, Aethelflaed, rule the kingdoms. But all around the restless Northmen, eyeing the rich lands and wealthy churches, are mounting raids.

Uhtred of Bebbanburg, the kingdoms’ greatest warrior, controls northern Mercia from the strongly fortified city of Chester. But forces are gathering against him. Northmen allied to the Irish, led by the fierce warrior Ragnall Ivarson, are soon joined by the Northumbrians, and their strength could prove overwhelming. Despite the gathering threat, both Edward and Aethelflaed are reluctant to move out of the safety of their fortifications. But with Uhtred’s own daughter married to Ivarson’s brother, who can be trusted?

In the struggle between family and loyalty, between personal ambition and political commitment, there will be no easy path. But a man with a warrior’s courage may be able to find it. Such a man is Uhtred, and this may be his finest hour.

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