A crusade is called to aid the Kingdom of Azgald in the distant Nordslands, and the young idealistic knight, Godfrey, does not hesitate to volunteer. Yet Godfrey soon learns that the greatest threat to the expedition’s success is not the savage clans under High Warlord Alvir and the Great Witch of the North, Nera, or the orcs and cyclopes that fight beside the clans but the rivalries between the crusaders themselves. Can Godfrey interpret the vision granted to him by the gods and unite the crusaders with his holy blade? Will his love, Madeline, be able to keep her magical powers hidden from suspicious priests and opportunistic lords? Will they be able to stop Nera and Alvir from unleashing an ancient evil upon Azgald or will Godfrey and his friends all meet a bitter end in the frigid Nordslands?
Godfrey's Crusade is the first book and the introduction to the Griffin Legends series, written by Mark Howard, a low fantasy proposal with epic touches, a mix between an inspiration on Crusader Europe and classic fantasy elements.
In this book, we are going to be following the adventures of Godfrey, a young and idealist noble, son of the Bastogne's Duke; and we will get to also observe his first adventure before getting ordered a knight. And shortly, while Godfrey's still high with his success, a crusade gets declared. The Nordslands have been invaded by savage clans, with High Warlord Alvir and The Great Witch of the North Nera leading them; and it's time to unite all the different armies and orders under the banner of faith in order to liberate them.
Godfrey impulsively joins the crusade, seeing it as the right way to behave, taking the crusader's vows. With relative success in the recruitment, several armies join faith's cause, and travel to the North. Soon, he will start realizing that the Northmen are not the only danger around him, as in the North armies there are also creatures like orcs enrolled; and let's say that each one of the leaders has different interests, that may not be aligned with the crusade's noble intentions.
Characters are quite interesting in this novel, despite the epic scope of it. While the main character, Godfrey, starts being a really naive young man, he fastly realizes that not everybody has the same noble intentions regarding the crusade. As somebody who mainly has grown up listening to knight's chansons, he lacks real-world knowledge, and at the start, he thinks all the people share his noble intentions. He also gets to experiment his first love, and in general, he conducts his life following the knight's values. Despite starting to get aware that not everybody is as noble as him, Godfrey doesn't renounce living by these values and honouring the vows he took, even when the tragedy hits him.
The rest of characters get less spotlight, but it is worth talking a little about Madeline, a strong young woman, the romantic interest of Godfrey, but also a remarkable character, as she's a sorceress in a world where magic gets persecuted. She has grown to hide her powers, but she will need to use them in these special situations. Antagonists also deserve a mention, especially those that are part of the Crusade army; with Tancred being kinda the most important, as he's the father of Madeline, and a contradicting character, as it is divided between being a parent, and trying the best for his possessions.
Worldbuilding in this book is also one of its strongest aspects, drawing many aspects of Medieval France and feudalism, with an identical structure of a king over all the nobles, vassals of the king. Religion is a power on its own, having the power to call to a Crusade, when they feel land is in threat; and as we can see in Godfrey, people tend to really have religious convictions. We get to see a big part of this world, especially due to the travels done in the Crusade. To these elements that are taken from real history, fantasy ones get added, such as orcs and elves, without twisting them much, being close to the classic tropes.
The pace is good, despite I feel it could have started faster, as the introduction to the world and Godfrey takes around 25% of the whole novel (but it includes some action scenes, like the fight with the vampire, so even in this part, we have some spice). It reaches its top once the battles start happening, making great use of the description to make these action scenes work perfectly, a sort of ordered chaos.
Godfrey's Crusade is a strong debut, and perfect for those that prefer a low fantasy novel, which sometimes can feel like historical fiction, but with most of the elements of the classic fantasy. I personally enjoyed reading it, it felt really short, and honestly, can't wait to see more adventures of our young crusader.
I’m thrilled you’re here, about to go on this crusade with me. It’s been a long pilgrimage already, writing this book. It started as a few short scenes I typed out during my freshman year of college when I probably should have been studying. Looking back on it, the first draft wasn’t exactly what I would call good now. I spent the rest of my undergraduate chasing girls, playing video games, and wondering why my grades weren’t better.
I had this story in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to change it in the second draft, so I kept putting it off. In 2014, I had my bachelor’s, and I decided to start writing again in earnest. There were only two problems. I now had a wife and a small baby to provide for, and I also decided to pursue a master’s degree at this time. This, and that I scrapped most of the ideas from the first draft outside of a couple of characters and the setting, meant that the next draft took another five years to complete. I think the work in front of you is much more mature thanks to my experiences in the interim. My master’s degree gave me a much greater depth of historical and literary knowledge to draw inspiration from, and my time as a husband and father working through grad school broadened my personal experiences enough to give my characters the depth they deserved.
I’ve always wanted to be an author. My wife shares in this ambition for herself, and we intend to make this book the first in several series of books set in this world we’ve created. If you enjoy what you read, please post a good review online. That will help us bring more books to you, and in a more timely manner. Thanks!