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The Last Troubadour: Song of Montsegur Hardcover – September 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
The 13th-century French inquisition that targeted the heretical Cathar sect provides the backdrop for Armstrong's action-packed second novel (after The Game), the first in a planned trilogy. Ramon, "last of the Occitan's famous heretical troubadours," and his motley band of allies take on the forces of evil as personified in the witch-hunter known as the Diableteur, whose scarred and burnt face strikes terror in those who behold him. The Diableteur was responsible for the burning at the stake of Ramon's mother decades earlier, and the minstrel's desire for revenge remains strong. Workmanlike prose and superficial characterization make this a less satisfying read than Zoe Oldenbourg's Destiny of Fire, which likewise centers on the Cathar heresy.
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In his follow-up to the excellent The Game (2007), Armstrong takes on a whole new set of challenges, with mixed results. The story (which is set in the mid-thirteenth century) is intriguing: a motley trio of heroesa troubadour, a Templar, and a beautiful womanmust find the world's most important religious relic before the evil Diableteur, a disfigured witch hunter who is working for the pope, gets to it. At stake: the future of the Catholic Church. The characters are amusing but perhaps a little too cartoony to shoulder the burdens of the elaborate story. Likewise, the dialogue, while entertaining, crosses the line a few too many times between comic and comic book. But despite feeling slightly out of focus, the novel is thoroughly readable and has more than a few moments of near brilliance in which Armstrong blends comedy, parody, and adventure in genuinely innovative ways. A slight misstep, then, but an ambitious attempt all the same from a writer of abundant talent. Pitt, David
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It's 1241, Pope Gregory is soon to die and the Inquisition is responsible for the torture, murder and burning of those deemed heretics. Dame Esclarmonde de Foix, the High Lady of the Carther Christians has been captured and brought to Carcassone to be tried as a heretic.
Ramon is a Troubadour whose mother had been burned at the stake. With the aid of a scores, a Templer, the Baug Balar entertainers and other friends and allies, Ramon has a plan has a plan to rescue the Lady.
What a remarkable book. Armstrong symbolizes each of the main characters with a card from the Tarot deck, but each character is also taken from history and the events of the time. It is not necessary to have any knowledge of the Tarot to understand or enjoy this story, yet I found it interesting to learn how old it is.
It's hard to say enough about the characters. Many of them develop as the story progresses. There is Ramon, the talented, fair and roguish troubadour; Arnot, the strong and tattered Templar, Nevarra, an albino woman with a white owl who can cast magic; and many others. They become real; you cheer for the heroes and heroines and you despise villains.
The story is set after the Crusades to the Holy Lands and the Cathar Crusade, during the time of Inquisition. Armstrong, through his sense of place and the characters, illustrates the brutality of the period. The descriptions of the battles, torture and deaths are graphic and horrible. These are offset these with scenes of humor, charm, romance and a touch of magic; black and white. The action in the book escalates with each chapter to a wonderful conclusion.
But it's not the end. Book 2 of the trilogy, "The Last Quest," is due out October 1st and I've placed my order.
It was the RELATIONSHIPS that pulled me in-- and the characterizations. I loved Armstrong's visual style of writing. Ramon's courage was striking. Adelais' rebellion and self-determination... but the character who really got to me was Seigneur. The author masterfully transformed him from an icon of darkness to a symbol of hope-- and that's not an easy thing to do. I was cheering for his survival and anxious that he would die in the joust.
Courage, compassion, and justice-- those ideals resound through The Last Troubador. I can't wait for the next installment!
We meet a one-eyed Knight, who rides with his men under no colors (rather ... his color is the color white); a giant of a man who may or may not be a Templar; a witch with the ability to see into the future, to heal, and to "trick" when the need arises (and who may have designed her own Tarot deck!); and a Dandy, who holds more secrets than one might think.
Each of the major characters are plotted as one of the archetypes from the Tarot. The power of the Tarot is in the story that it tells, and through these characters the story grows to mythical proportions!
The story is in and of its time ... bawdy, humorous, mysterious and mystical, all at the same time. As an aficionado of the Tarot, and someone with a keen interest in the Knights Templar and the actions of the Catholic Church during this time period, I found this book to be fast paced, never dropping my interest, and providing great insight into the people and the culture that it reflects.
I hope that Derek Armstrong and his publishers do as has been indicated here on [...], and issue a Tarot deck with the second book in this series that reflects the background of the book.
By the way ... have I mentioned the evil Diableteur? An archetypal Devil (complete with scyth), he is working with the Pope to find the world's most important religious relic - an act that is keeping the current Pope alive by dint of his will. In the shadows, two other men vie for the bounty ... and the Pope's office once he passes on!
For anyone who enjoys mysteries, the Tarot, and the background of the 13th century, this is a must have book ... and no doubt will be a must have series!
Most recent customer reviews
As soon as I found there was a quest for a holy relic, I was hooked, and stayed hooked until the conclusion.Read more