The Knight and the Serpent by John Richard Gabourel

This retelling of a legend of medieval Normandy intrigued me from the start, because a major scenario centres on my home island of Jersey, at Grouville Beach, Gorey Castle and what is now known as La Hougue Bie Dolmen, places I know well. It’s an elaborate tale of loyalty and treachery, love, remorse and forgiveness. The complex plot with its religious and mystical elements is compelling, several characters are historical and the setting is very realistically and accurately portrayed.

We follow young Gaspard’s torn emotions as his heartthrob, the beautiful Lady Gisla de Grentmesnel, is married to his master Fulk Paynel, Baron de Hambie, and gives birth to a son, Raymond. The drama builds up as Gaspard encourages Fulk to challenge the mysterious Dragon, self-proclaimed King of Jersey, to a duel, whereupon both end up dead. Gaspard dares not tell Gisla the whole truth of what occurred. However, he does win her hand and is eventually welcomed into her bed, but the ever lowering dark forces then break out violently and cause unfathomable tragedy.

On the whole, Gabourel’s prose is vivid and the pace lively, but the book is somewhat spoiled by poor editing and the odd clumsy passage. Also, the occasional images are inappropriately childish, in my opinion.

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