A Company of Thieves (The John Swale Chronicles)

A Company of Thieves (The John Swale Chronicles #6)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

A Company of Thieves returns to the adventures of Eustace Folville and James Coterel.  Pilling’s next short work uses action to explain the difference in the bandits’ circumstances since the last time readers saw them.  With a few concise strokes and one completed mission, A Company of Thieves sets up the next stage in the feud between Folville and John Swale.

With the return of Swale’s nemesis, this book brings the series back to the excitement and drive of Folville’s Law.  The writing is concise and expertly wielded to pack the most story in this small amount of pages.  Old and new characters get excellent depictions in various styles.  A Company of Thieves returns readers to the landscape and politics of England itself.  After other realms and court commentary, The John Swale Chronicles are home again and my desire for the next full-length novel is stoked.

The King Stag (The John Swale Chronicles)

The King Stag (The John Swale Chronicles #2)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

The King Stag comes as a dramatic one-act play following the detailed plots that schemed through Folville’s Law.  It’s been four years since Isabella and Mortimer invaded England.  Now Edward III has decided to wrest the absolute power that should be his into his grasp.  However, The King Stag needs more than a coup to assert his kingship, particularly when other royals enter the picture.

This sequel effectively uses Edward III to push readers forward in time and tie up loose ends.  A very brief work, it resets the stage for the next long interlude without losing excitement or momentum.  By pulling the audience away from personal points of view, this work acts as a teaser trailer by touching on the intimate and emotional aspects of the characters without delving into them.  It’s a well-written advertisement that will keep readers reaching for the series.

Folville’s Law (The John Swale Chronicles)

Folville’s Law (The John Swale Chronicles)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2011
an historical fiction review

Queen Isabella of England prepares to attack her husband Edward II with the aid of her lover, Mortimer.  England’s lords and law keepers scramble to make the most of the weak king’s corrupt reign.  Hugh Despenser the Younger, the king’s favorite, feels his world threatening to crumble.  Hugh’s one loyal night, Sir John Swale, sets out on a simple mission and finds himself caught amidst outlaws, family feuds, and increasingly lethal encounters.  It’s the year 1326 and the law of the land is simple: there is no law, only different masters.

            Folville’s Law takes readers through many different perspectives.  Everyone’s world is narrow, full of their own ambitions and motivations.  David Pilling does an excellent job at keeping his audience abreast of circumstances from the individual to the international while juggling storylines and his characters’ perceptions.  All of the voices Pilling uses to tell his tale are strong, consistent, and eminently human.  No one is concerned with an overarching history more than their own welfare; no one is outside their immediate surroundings and limited knowledge.  Royals, bandits, and widows all show glimpses into different lifestyles, giving Pilling’s book a more up-front and direct feeling of authenticity than many.

          Folville’s Law fights and schemes through its pages, maintaining a quick and exciting reading pace.  The ensemble cast and swiftly switching perspectives draw readers into the history and action of the plot, but also make it difficult to connect to any of the characters.  The many actors and subplots make Pilling’s debut novel engaging, an excellent lead work for a series (now in its seventh book).  Throughout, Pilling wields a distinctive tone, a knack for explaining complications with flair, and a strategically balanced sense of pacing.

In a nutshell, Folville’s Law is a gritty, well-researched adventure without a hero, just an array of humans.  If you’re looking for romance, this is not the book for you.  For historical interest, action, and intrigue, I recommend this work.  It’s always good when I’m left still wanting to know what happens next.