Mark Howard’s fantasy novel GODFREY’S CRUSADE follows the titular character on an epic journey to knighthood and a confrontation with a terrifying enemy. After succeeding in a series of increasingly dangerous pursuits, including killing a vampire, young Godfrey de Bastogne is dubbed a knight and given the job of leading an army to defeat the viking-like Nordsmen who are invading the land of Azgald. Godfrey’s strong sense of duty—to his duke father, to his king, and to the gods—propels him through battles with orcs and cyclopes and guides his relationships with his friends, family, and love interest Madeline. When a secret prophecy is revealed, Godfrey is compelled to undertake an even more dangerous mission than defeating the Nordsmen, and he pledges to either succeed or die.
Godfrey is both a valiant knight and a naïve young man. His story is both a gentle coming-of-age tale and a hero’s journey of epic proportions. His fealty, morality, and compassion for those he loves drives his actions and therefore the plot of the book. While other heroes might take on the dangerous mission Godfrey chooses out of ego, greed, or glory, Godfrey does so with humility and modesty. His repeated refrain is “May no one sing a shameful song about me,” rather than hoping for bards to sing songs of praise and adoration. He believes he has no choice but to lead the crusade and expects little for his success, which makes him an appealing main character. Minor characters, too, like the sorceress Madeline, have their own ambitions and loyalties that make them dynamic and expand Godfrey’s world.
Godfrey’s story is set in a world with historical parallels to our own. His people and the Nordsmen are analogous to the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings in medieval Britain, respectively. The vast worldbuilding evident in the thorough detail and layered interactions among characters from various cultures expands Godfrey’s story from a simple hero’s tale to a complex fantasy epic. While the book’s conclusion offers resolutions for most major plot strands—and leaves just enough unanswered questions to provoke excitement for a sequel—the quickness of the ending after the big battle does not provide adequate emotional resolution for Godfrey. He is provided ample time in prior chapters of the book to deal with the emotional wreckage of major scenes, deepening his character, but the ending falls short in this regard. Only a page follows the completion of his battle with the main antagonist, and neither he nor the reader has time to process its consequences.
Starring a humble hero with a strong sense of morality, Mark Howard’s exhilarating and well thought out fantasy epic, GODFREY’S CRUSADE, is a coming-of-age story with a vast, well-developed world.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader