[personal profile] jaipur
In the plane on the way back from ACNP I picked up The Walking Drum, by Louis L'Amour. I'm generally a fan of Louis L'Amour; I appreciate that Zane Grey is the better writer etc., but I find his stuff a little dry. L'Amour's stuff is simpler, always black and white, good and bad, with a minimum of romance and a maximum of action. I read one of the Sackett series and was hooked, way back when. It's all cowboys and desperados and strong men and noble women etc.

But The Walking Drum is his book set in the 1100s, with our hero starting out as a young man in Brittany having had his family all killed by a rival while his father was out being a pirate around Sicily. So he has to solve that problem and then head off to find and rescue his dad, being a galley slave and a scholar and a magician and all sorts of stuff along the way.

Reminiscent, actually, of Sea Hawk by Sabatini, where our hero ends up as a galley slave through no fault of his own and has to make his way through the Caliphate to rescue the woman he loves. Or Dragon Weather that I read earlier this year, where our hero loses his family to dragons and ends up in the mines as a slave, and has to escape and right all the wrongs through his own wits and strong right arm.

I sense a theme, here. :) Apparently stories that start with a massive wrong that our hero has to set right, growing up along the way and becoming strong and smart and clever and competent etc. is a common trope, that I am fond of. Much more so than the trope of the kid being told he's special and is the only one who can save the world and now he must go on a quest. Huh.

As it turns out, I've read this book before and completely forgot it. For all I know I've even written about it here before. ;) It seemed familiar as I was going along--the fellow who did the massive betrayal I remembered, and the importance of the horses, and the final scene where he saves his dad I remembered, but the details in the middle were a blur. It's picaresque, so you get to see Cordoba, Sicily, the assassins of north Africa, the great fairs of medieval Europe when he's traveling with a merchant company, etc.

There are a surprising number of pithy sayings that seem fairly deep, about philosophy and life and the intellect and politics, etc. But I didn't mark them, and can't find them now. But the importance of learning, in this story, is surprisingly emphasized. He spends the best time of his life being a scholar in Cordoba, which I can totally empathize with. His ability to read, to discourse, and to think is as important to his success as is his ability to fence. :) It's not the usual Sackett hero who is strong and silent and competent but not really bright.

L'amour really can't do women; some of them are innocent, some of them are worldly wise, some of them are competent and some are evil. In this case they are all gorgeous in one way or another, and our hero falls in love many times over, and loses them all one way or another. But none of the characters other than the hero really get any depth, so it's not like the women are getting much worse treatment than the men. Everyone is kind of a foil, a place holder to keep the plot moving along. In this case, there are a lot of historical asides as well as philosophical comments. He's no Tolstoy, but it's a fun read. :)



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