18 Feb 2014

I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince Rosanne E Lortz

Published 2009, 372 Pages

A Tale of Arms, of Death, of Love, and of Honor.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of the Hundred Years' War, I Serve chronicles the story of Sir John Potenhale. A young Englishman of lowly birth, Potenhale wins his way to knighthood on the fields of France. He enters the service of Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, and immerses himself in a stormy world of war, politics, and romantic intrigue.

While campaigning in France, Potenhale develops an interest in Margery, a spirited lady-in-waiting with a close-kept secret. He soon learns that Sir Thomas Holland, a crass and calculating baron, holds the key to unlock Margery's mystery and possesses the power to overturn all of his hopes.

When the Black Death strikes Europe, however, Potenhale realizes that the fiercest enemy does not always appear in human form. Seeing the pestilence as a punishment for the sins of his generation, he questions his calling as a knight and considers entering the cloister. Margery or the monastery? Torn between losing his soul and losing the love of his life, he finds friendship with a French knight who might--just possibly--help him save both.

Personally, I found it quite a welcome change to discover a book written by an American set during the Hundred Year War which was not anti-English. I Serve was such book, it was critical of my country folk at times and sometimes perhaps a little uncritical of the French, but generally presented a balanced and detailed representation of the period. Replete with realistic battle scenes, romance, and the life experiences of a young man at arms the service of his lord.

The style appeared to be emulating the works of Victorian authors such as Howard Pyle, with more pseudo-archaic language towards the end of the book, and a rather narrative style of recounting the major events. This may not be according to everyone’s taste but as the work covered and long and complex period, it was in some way necessary.

Many Americans know about Joan of Arc, but perhaps not so many are familiar with England’s great King Edward III, and his famous son Edward, the Black Prince of Wales. Rosanne Lortz book brings these figures and their compatriots to life with a host of colourful characters in a world of knights, tournaments, chivalry, villains and warfare. A world of changing certainties in which the Protagonist, Sit John Potenhale (who was a real person) questions the morality and honour of knighthood, and the worth of high position in the wake of the Black Death.

The bibliography in the back of the novel attest to the level of research and author's belief in the importance of reading primary sources. So the book is largely accurate- though I did notice one or two errors-like the reference to something looking like stripes of a skunk, a species indigenous to the Americas which the average 14th century Englishman would have had no idea about the appearance of.
The characters seemed to be very much ‘of their time’ which is, in my view a good thing, but could raise issues for others. Namely, they do believe in revering Relics and praying to Mary. This used to be a real issue for me, however I now accept that is a reflection of the time, without condoning it.

With skilful use of contemporary ideas, introduced by one Geoffroi de Charny, and French knight who wrote a book on knighthood the rights and wrongs of the vocation are explored, and the possibility of just war being compatible with Christian ideals. Did being a knight mean a man could not be saved, as Potenhale feared? The solution raised is both touching and relevant, and since I have read the book in question, something I could perhaps identify with more readily.

There did seem to be a tinge of scepticism, perhaps even bordering on ridicule of those who believed the plague to be the judgement of God, as most were presented as being ill and losing their minds. In fact, many people in England believed the Black Death to a judgement, not just a few isolated fanatics or those driven mad by their affliction as seemed to be portrayed. Technically, there is no gospel message, as we would recognize it, but there is some emphasis on Christian themes, the aforementioned being the only aspect which really bothered me.

Overall, I Serve is recommended, although those who are not used the writing style may have some issues.

6 Feb 2014

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi

My first ever review of a non-fiction title on this site! I don't think there will be many, but its a requirement and the book was excellent!

Audiobook Approx: 7 Hours 30 Minutes
Expected Release: Febraury 11th 2014
Zondervan, Brilliance Audio

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is in some sense self-explanatory- the testimony of a devout Muslim who finds Christ. Nebeel’s life however, was not a dramatic one. He grew up in Scotland and America, a son of living parents, and the member of an Islamic sect which eschewed violence and embraced pacifism. 

What I personally found most compelling and interesting about the work was the way in which the author explores and reveals details of his culture, from family, to social expectations, and the nature of authority. Not only is in the belief in Western ‘permissiveness’ which can cause a cultural claas, but many other differencea which could prove an obstacle to understanding and witnessing. For instance, the Eastern concept of ‘authority’ is one that emphasis the learning and acceptance of authority figures, rather than personal inquiry.  However, by bringing these to light, the author may help overcome these obstacles. 

Also, in setting out his path to faith, the author takes a methodical approach, addressing particular questions, issues and Islamic teachings and theology in depth. His was a logical approach, and as the author found the answer to his questions, and also tells the audience how and what these answers were. 

Thus this is a book I would recommend for everyone, whether or not they know or witness to people in the Islamic faith. For those who do, I would certainly suggest passing this book onto them. It is also recommended reading for its own sake to  get to know more about the cultural and spiritual background which to a greater or lesser extent, has an influence over one sixth of the world’s population. 

I downloaded this audiobook for free through the christianaudio.com reviewers program in return for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive one. For more information and products visit http://christianaudio.com 
Bio from Amazon.com: Dr. Nabeel Qureshi is a former devout Muslim who was convinced of the truth of the Gospel through historical reasoning and a spiritual search for God. Since his conversion, he has dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel through teaching, preaching, writing, and debating.
Nabeel has given lectures at universities and seminaries throughout North America, including Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, New York University, Rutgers, University of Ottawa, University of North Carolina, Eastern Virginia Medical School, and Biola University. He has participated in 17 moderated, public debates around North America, Europe, and Asia. His focus is on the foundations of the Christian faith and the early history and teachings of Islam.
Nabeel is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA from Duke University in Religion.
Follow Nabeel on Twitter: @NAQureshi
Visit his website: www.NabeelQureshi.com
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