This short early novel by Gore Vidal takes on the story of Blondel and Richard I. If you are like me and don’t or didn’t know the story, basically, Blondel is a famous French troubadour, who befriended Richard during one of his Crusades, and when Richard was captured and imprisoned by the Leopold, Emperor of Austria, and held for ransom. In the novel, Blondel helps to rescue Richard from this captivity and then proceeds to fight alongside him against King John in Nottingham, restoring his reign as king.
The novel is short and pithy, straightforward in its action, narration, and plot. It’s effective in the sense that it’s enjoyable and readable, which can get dicey with some historical novels. The biggest criticism I have is that the novel has an epic scope to it, and tells an epic story, but tells it in an almost abbreviated or abridged way.
What I find interesting is how little I actually know about Richard I except for appearance at the end of various Robin Hood movies, especially for me as Sean Connery showing up at the end of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which I have seen about 20 times. It’s not a story I otherwise know at all. Except, that is, that I just so happen to have read The Lion in Winter last week and it’s the story of Richard and Henry, and without it, I would have been somewhat…if not lost, then without context. I think it speaks to the difference of education that Gore Vidal would have gotten in the 30s and 40s that this story seemed relatively familiar to him.