Reinmar of Bielawa, sometimes known as Reynevan, is a healer, a magician, and according to some, a charlatan. When a thoughtless indiscretion forces him to flee his home, he finds himself pursuednot only by brothers bent on vengeance but by the Holy Inquisition.
In a time when tensions between Hussite and Catholic countries are threatening to turn into war and mystical forces are gathering in the shadows, Reynevan’s journey will lead him to the Narrenturm — the Tower of Fools. The Tower is an asylum for the mad…or for those who dare to think differently and challenge the prevailing order. And escaping it, avoiding the conflict around him, and keeping his own sanity will prove more difficult than he ever imagined.
Thank you to Gollancz and Will O Mullane for providing me an ARC of this novel in exchange for a review.
This novel is basically about a young man consistently getting involved in escapade after escapade. And then, becoming involved in the Hussite Wars which will change Eastern European history forever. Reynevan is stupid, he’s an idiot, a man that’s addicted to love. But he’s young. Men around his age are always like that. When he can’t see the big picture, he’s thankfully assisted by very many helpful characters along the way, but when you’re young, you don’t have a broad picture of the world as you would wish. Some clever, intelligent men around your age will. Reynevan isn’t that.
This novel is full of Christian lore and the complexities of the Hussite Wars that occurred during this time. There’s many competing factions: The Duchies of Silesia and Bohemia, the Holy Roman Empire, the Teutonic Knights who are still licking their wounds after the Polish-Lithuanian army defeated them at the battle of Tannenberg in 1415. Mind you, that battle was more about the expansion of Teutonic influence in Poland than anything else. You will have seen witches, magical creatures and so much more in this novel. I am glad that Andrzej added the fantasy elements which I’ve always seen in medieval manuscripts. It really brings the world alive.
But then, there’s also the fact I discovered: The Hussites have been declared heretics by the Church in Rome. For those familiar with European medieval history, the Church in Rome decreed many movements that were ‘heretics’. The Cathars, for one, were wiped out, the Huguenots another. They were considered ‘heretics’ for what, exactly? For the Church in Rome had become corrupt, corruption, selling fake bones as the relics of a lost and great saint. You’ll see very many religious debates going on this in this time. And a lot of Latin. A lot of latin. Dare I say, they had become more corrupt than the Greek-Roman Paganism priesthood had been. Everyone in this novel is acting in some peculiar way, for the will of God. But no one is following the commandments as set in the Bible. Not everybody of course is evil, let that be said. But you see where Andrzej got his inspiration from when he wrote the world of the Witcher. I loved Scharly, and the Giant named Samson. Two of the best characters in this novel.
This is a little confusing, what with all the names and duchies. As I am not too familiar with this area of history so much. But it is immersive. And a massive thank you to David French for taking on this arduous task of translating as it would not have been easy. Kudos to the cover designer team at Gollancz for making a fantastic effort. This is a historical fantasy, but to me it feels more light in terms of its fantasy content and delivers more on the historical fiction side. This could be because its setting the world up. I wonder if the developers at Kingdom Come Deliverance could hire Andrzej as their next writer for their upcoming games, because I see some similarities between the book and the video game which is set in Medieval Germany. Overall, this novel was great and I give it a 10/10!