A Spanish novel, and I don’t think it’s been translated into English. The title could be roughly translated into “The Transparent King’s Story”. I was given this as a gift ages ago, and only now (having a hankering for historical fiction that I could not resist) read it. I cannot believe it took me so long to read this!
Set in a 12th century battlefield, Leola, a teenage peasant, strips a dead knight and puts on his clothes to protect herself against the hordes of soldiers and slaughter. The premise seems quite simple, but Leola soon meets a witch, Nyneve, who follows and leads her into a world she never dreamt of knowing.
The one thing that drew me in right at first was the style and wording: so good! Montero does these really amazing things with words, that make everything so serene and calming, even in the most gruesome of scenes. It reminded me of a way a painter must look at an object, noticing bits and pieces the rest of us wouldn’t. For example, when she wants to say there is a group of soldiers passing by, she’ll just write “there were heavy flashes of silver running in front of her eyes, darkening as they went”. It’s so good! I can’t explain it!
Do you know those scenes where the author will describe exactly how many creases are in a sheet? That doesn’t happen here. It’s not too terribly descriptive, just enough, so that I can imagine freely what everything looks like. The setting isn’t important, the characters are, and it focuses heavily on how they view and world and how events affect their views of it.
There are so many subtle and intricate subplots that when they pop up, they’re not blatant and obvious. For example, the Transparent King’s Story is told by several minor characters throughout, in completely random moments. There’s also the longing for Avalon and King Arthur’s myth too. It’s amazing, just amazing, you she managed to wove this really intricate storyline together.
The characters are fantastic. There’s criticism to the Church, and it’s a bit of a love letter to love itself. Love in all forms, love for God, for friends, for lovers, for things, for animals. It’s all good, really.
And since this is historical fiction, I must nitpick: IT’S SO ACCURATE! It’s really gross sometimes, because things were gross in the 12th century, and no woman wears her hair down, and everyone has bonnets, and just ugh, so many little details that were incredibly well-researched. The author took some liberties with the timelines and characters, but at least she has the decency to tell us about it in the epilogue.
I loved, loved this book! It’s one of the best I’ve read, hands down. It’s kind of up there with Wolf Hall. Have I mentioned it’s really good? It is!