Cover Crush: The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby

I first heard William Marshal’s name when I was about ten years old, though didn’t learn much about him, perhaps because our lessons at that time focused on Magna Carta, as opposed to individual figures. I wasn’t a gigantic history buff back then, though the medieval captured my attention on any day and I loved to listen to tales of jousting knights, well-dressed horses and beautiful standards that fluttered in the breeze. This sort of perspective lent very well to the cover of Georges Duby’s William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry, which I think I first saw when I was perhaps fourteen or so. I have always liked it, this lovely cover image, registering various thoughts throughout time as to why something was placed or created as it was. Quite recently I began to put the pieces, in my head, together in a more formal, specific sense, beyond just that it is a beautifully constructed piece of art. We are so frequently told not to judge a book by its cover, though this is exactly what we do, and publishers know it. Nothing on a cover is accidental; it is created to attract particular attention, which this one does with grace and style.

Designed by Paul Gamarello with hand lettering by James Lebbad, this cover is a PR dream – the background pink and red horses are within the family of color most able to efficiently capture the human eye. Once the attention has been roped in, the clearly medieval image, Codex of 1028 A.D. from the Encyclopedia of Mauro Rabano, is one of action and pairs with the energy, passion and danger of the red horses. Lest it evoke a too-strong perception of brutality, the muted, rosy pink tempers this, with its feminine and romantic feel. Here is where the lettering also joins the duty roster, with its font evocative of a flowering vine, a visual to carry on the title’s floral theme. Its teal also contrasts remarkably with the background pink, even helping to bring out the medieval manuscript lettering of the more distant background, conjuring more of the Middle Ages that many are familiar with and even admire. The variety of lettering takes it all one step further by linking to the playfulness associated with pink and forming a smaller O in between the L and W of Flower, sort of superscripted, bestowing upon it a lively, spirited sort of feel matched only by the dot in the center of of’s O, perhaps to remind that even the serious Middle Ages had a frisky side to it. We don’t often see this in the many drawings we are shown in school, the style of which is also not quite that of this cover’s. Like many of its day, this battle drawing lacks depth, but with its round-headed horses and soldiers that appear to be of more modest stature, it doesn’t strike the eye as quite so distant. This could also be because we see their faces, unlike so many other drawings, which show helmeted knights, whose thoughts, intentions, worries and dreams—their humanity—we so often cannot look into on so many images. Here we can gaze upon their being to get a better idea that they are not quite so distant or different to us as we often are led to believe.

Book Information and Blurb:

 William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby

Published 1984 as Guillaume le Maréschal by Librairie Arthéme Fayard

Translated from the French by Richard Howard, 1985, Pantheon

Georges Duby, one of this century’s great medieval historians, has brought to life with exceptional brilliance and imagination William Marshal, adviser to the Plantagenets, knight extraordinaire, the flower of chivalry. A marvel of historical reconstruction, William Marshal is based on a biographical poem written in the thirteenth century, and offers an evocation of chivalric life—the contests and tournaments, the rites of war, the daily details of medieval existence—unlike any we have ever seen.

“Behind the silhouette of his hero, Georges Duby re-creates the whole theater of chivalry—the splendor of its rituals and its decorum, the strength of its moral code. Through this code, to which William Marshal clings with all his strength, all his immense energy, Duby tells us of the last glories before its decline, the vestiges of a world coming to an end, and we quickly understand that the best of the knights will also soon be the last.” –Le Nouvel Observateur

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Cover Crush: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

I’d never actually even heard of The Dictionary of Lost Words until I saw it spotlighted over at Stephanie’s blog, but one look at the book made me want to do a Cover Crush. I was so attracted to the vines, softly spread across the cover as they perhaps danced lightly in a breeze. The contrast of golden against the black fits perfectly in color scheme as well as mood or even theme with the suitcase as it reminds me of travel—perhaps that undertaken by words as they make their way through time and across continents, influencing wars and ways, thoughts driving human behavior for better or worse.

Such contraries might be represented by the cup of tea and poppy, both resting gently on top of the suitcase’s contents, belonging perhaps to these traveling words who must do duty by gentility and barbarism alike. Dangerous men go home at night to tender children, pretty words styled by syllables that dance across tongues like leaves in the wind often masking the cruelty they so often designate.

What iniquities might these be? Perhaps they are hidden in that suitcase words carry through the ages until they reach us, and we are thus confronted with the legacy they leave wrapped in the cloaks that shroud both love and loss, and everything in between.

Book Information and Blurb:

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

Published: April 6, 2021 by Ballantine Books|ISBN 978-0593160190

Format: Hardcover | Pages: 400

 In this remarkable debut based on actual events, as a team of male scholars compiles the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of their daughters decides to collect the “objectionable” words they omit.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip, and when she learns that the word means “slave girl,” she begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.

As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded. And so, she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.

Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement and with the Great War looming, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Inspired by actual events, author Pip Williams has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell this highly original story. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.

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Cover Crush: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Several years ago, a friend recommended Company of Liars to me and I loved it. I was quite taken with the cover as well, and in recent months it has been on my mind. It is tantalizingly adept at evoking images of the medieval; the author or publisher could probably have left off the subtitle and the cover would still retain its draw.* The red of the lettering and a lone cross provides a beautiful contrast to the background yellow, an easy yellow somewhat a mixture of the soft color people today refer to as “powdery” and the low light sometimes seen coming from windows at night. As the gaze moves over the page, it recognizes subtle spots of light brown, a shading that spreads as we come closer to the binding, and we half expect the aged page to crinkle were we to touch it.

Against this backdrop is illustrated the head of a wolf, a most fearsome creature to medieval people, this one in particular given its long, serpentine tongue, stretching from a mouth open wide enough to reveal fearsome sharp teeth on top and bottom. Here is where it gets slightly tricky as I have forgotten a few details about the book, though some generalities may be accurate when we look plainly. We cannot see his eye in this profile, yet there is almost a sense that he is laughing. At what? The people’s fear of him? Or how exaggerated it is because of their lack of real knowledge of him?

Continue reading “Cover Crush: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland”

Cover Crush: Knight Assassin by James Boschert

Knight Assassin is the Second Book of Talon by James Boschert, whose experiences and education in places such as Iran cause me to muse about how much of his own stories make their way into these adventures, whether poetic passages or information about secretive, dangerous groups. On this cover we are given closer look at a knight, presumably Talon, and an idea of how these men might have looked circa twelfth century. Beneath the mail and gauntlets I sense a brooding type of personality, perhaps a dangerous one, though not a reckless or casual threat. This is not a person who kills easily, but cross him at your peril.

I was also extremely attracted to the color combination, a swirl of blue and green, my favorite though not, in my experience, often seen in covers for novels set in this era. The thick layers of the knight’s clothing reveal nothing of his physical sense in much the same way his helmet conceals anything at all that he might be thinking, strategies, doubts or possibilities he may be experiencing. The image speaks of yet conceals much, captivates and whets the appetite as we seek more understanding of who this man is, where he comes from and what he is about. The title’s Persian font; a castle, set high on a hill behind him; and moon in the background introduce more intrigue and, paired with Talon’s one indication of to whom he is loyal—the Templar cross—our fascination is sealed.

Book Information and Blurb:

 Knight Assassin: Book Two of Talon by James Boschert

Published: March 14, 2015 by Penmore Press | ISBN 9781942756149

Format: Paperback | Pages: 520

 A joyous homecoming turns into a nightmare, as a trained assassin must do the one thing he didn’t want to do–become an assassin again. Talon, a young Frank, returns to France with his uncle Phillip, a Templar knight, to be reunited with his family who lost him to the Assassins of Alamut when he was just a boy. When he arrives, he finds a sinister threat hanging like a pall over the joyous reunion. Ruthless enemies, who will stop at nothing to destroy his entire family to achieve their ends, are challenging the inheritance of his father.

Talon will have to depend upon a handful of Welsh Archers, whom he met at sea, and his uncle’s trusty sergeant Max to help him defend his family from this plot. To accomplish that, however, he must also use the skills he learned as a Persian Hashshashin to tip the balance in his family’s favor.

Related posts –
Assassins of Alamut book review
Knight Assassin book review

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Cover Crush: The Liminal Zone by Richard Abbott

Today’s entry really lights a spark in our somewhat dormant Cover Crush series – from the moment I saw it. I’m far too greedy and undisciplined to actually carry a package home and unwrap it like in the movies. So of course I tore it open in the car, at first expecting the black of the previous two covers in the series, instead gasping at the lovely coloring of this one.

Like the other Far from the Spaceports covers, this one is a dead giveaway to its sci-fi content, which I never was a fan of until I began this series. But it moves away from run-of-the-mill coverage with the lovely green, darker toward the top, transitioning to a lighter shade as the eye moves closer to the image of the person in a spacesuit. What lies to their right is included in the picture: a somewhat stark environment also reflected in the suit’s visor, bringing us to understand that this landscape stretches before and beyond the person, with a tension further conveyed as the image spills onto the back cover.

The contrasting sandy brown at bottom serves to divide the cover roughly in half, its distant horizon adding to the barren feel, and is replicated in the visor’s reflection. What is this world? it makes me wonder, an inquiry only to be answered by opening the book.

The Liminal Zone – A Far from the Spaceports novel

Author – Richard Abbott

Selkies in Space? Nina Buraca, investigator of possible signs of alien life, has heard tales of mysterious events on Pluto’s moon Charon, where a science outpost studies extrasolar planets. Facing opposition from her colleagues, she nevertheless travels from Earth to uncover the truth. Once there, she finds herself working with a team of people who have many secrets. To make progress, she has to take sides in an old dispute that she knows nothing about. Can she determine who – or what – is really behind the name “selkies” that the station’s staff have given to this uncanny phenomenon?

The Liminal Zone, a novel in the Far from the Spaceports series, takes you a further twenty years into the future – and out to the edge of our solar system – for an encounter with the unknown.

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