Well, I have read some more text from the Black Library and the latest novel is Knights of Bretonnia. I picked this book up back when I still had a Bretonnian army. The army is gone, but the book has remained.
This book is pretty much an omnibus (767 pages in all), containing 2 full-length novels, a short story, and two novellas. The books do a great job of reinforcing the cultural fluff from the army books. The one exception, would be that the effectiveness of a grail knight on the tabletop is nowhere close to how powerful the grail knight encountered in the books is. Unfortunately, I read the book a while back and have been lazy about posting my review, so the sequence of events might be off by a bit. I really need to do better at this… WARNING, there ARE spoilers ahead!
Also of mention is a character that features heavily in the stories (but I don’t feel is extremely interesting). Chlod is a peasant that you will see throughout the books doing various things, and giving you more insight into peasant culture in Bretonnia. However, I will take the approach of a Bretonnian knight here and pretty much ignore him in my review, especially since Calard is the focus of these books.
The story of Calard begins here at Castle Garamont, where you are introduced to his half-brother, Bertelis, and their household, located in Bastonne. Calard’s mother died in child-birth and his mother-in-law doesn’t seem to care for him too much (maybe because Calard is the oldest, and heir to the estate?). Also of note is that Calard’s father’s health is ailing (eventually, we find out that he has been poisoned), his sister was taken by The Lady and he is betrothed to a noble-woman named Elisabet.
It doesn’t take long until trouble shows up. A rider appears asking for aid in fighting off a horde of Greenskins from the neighboring Bordeleaux. Calard’s father gathers his knights and sends them off to help.
Calard, his sister, and company arrive at the camp where all of the knights are gathering. Calard has a run-in with his feuding neighbor, Maloric. People get to drinking and tensions escalate. Malaroc makes a comment about Elisabet and Calard retaliates, eventually resulting in a challenge being issued. Malaroic names a champion. Calard is willing to fight, but his father’s master-at-arms, Gunthar, talks Calard in to letting him champion him. Gunthar ends up winning the duel, but not before having the opponent’s sword thrust into his leg.
Somewhere in the mix of things, the grail knight Reolus arrives to support the battle, with a load of grail pilgrims following him. Also, of mention is that the Baron Montcadas is leading the army.
Things continue on with the knights patrolling from the camp, but being unable to locate the greenskin horde. As the knights are on patrol, they stop temporarily at a keep. It seems vaguely familiar to Calard. His sister, Anara, (a damsel of the Lady now) shows up and we learn that this is the castle where Calard’s mother died. She birthed some sort of abomination, and was so ashamed that she threw herself out the window.
Eventually, the Bretonnians clash with the greenskins and end up breaking them. As they pursue them into the forest, they find that something else has killed these greenskins. The Bretonnians are ambushed by the Beastmen, and Calard is narrowly rescued, but sustains injuries. One thing that is noticed is that the Beastmen are actually dragging captives back to their leader, instead of just killing them, like their lead is looking for somebody in particular.
As Calard is in his tent, recovering from his wounds, some men try to kill him. Their plot is foiled, but this will not be the last attempt on his life. (I think there is one at the very beginning of the book that I forgot to mention).
As the Bretonnians remain encamped on the hill, the forest starts to grow around them. Eventually, a large-scale battle is fought between the Beastmen and Bretonnians. Lots and lots of everybody (i.e. both sides) is killed. One of Calard’s household knights attempts to kill him, but his brother saves him.
The battle climaxes with Bertelis falling to the ground, but Gunthar selling his life to protect him. Reolus (the grail knight) is destroying pretty much everything that gets close to him. Calard manages to drive his horse through the fray to the enemy leader, a Gave (not really sure what that is). It turns out that Calard is what the Gave has been looking for. He ends up losing the fight against it, and it latches on to his head, and searches through his memories. It lets out a sound of triumph and leaves with its Beastmen, in tow.
Calard’s sister, Reolus, Calard, and a select few knights teleport back to Castle Garamont (via Anara’s magic). They fight that it is under assault by the Beastmen. They rush in and bar off the throne room. The Gave and buddies eventually bust their way into the throne room. The knights try to stop the Gave, but it eventually finds what it came for, Calard’s father. It turns out that the Gave is monstrosity that Calard’s mother birthed before committing suicide. Calard’s father couldn’t bring himself to kill it, so had left it in the forest (this is actually covered in the prologue, but I thought I would put it here). It has a bit of anger over the situation. After it kills Calard’s father, it just stands there, letting the knights kill it.
Calard accuses Bertelis’ mother of trying to kill him and of poisoning his father. It turns out that Elisabet (Calard’s betrothed) has been poisoning his father so that he could rule. Calard is a bit upset by this and sends her away. With his father dead, he has now become the lord of Garamont.
The book ends with a group of people discussing how Calard must be killed because his line is tainted.
Knight of the Realm
In this book, Calard is now the Lord of Garamont. Calard has taken a turn for the worse now. He is an extreme drunkard and doesn’t really seem to care about life. Calard and Bertelis are on their way to a tournament, but are taking their time getting there; wining and dining along the way.
Unknown to Calard, Elisabet (his ex-fiance) has returned to a hag (Hagtaesse) that she visited to receive the poison for his father. The hag is glad to see her and takes advantage of the situation by performing some ritual where they swap bodies (Haggy’s idea, not Elisabet’s).
Happening around the same time, some Chaos Warriors have decided that it is a good time to visit Bretonnia. Their warlord is looking for a wife that will bear him a son, and his Shaman tells him that this is the time to find her. Also of note is that the Shaman previously lived in Bretonnia, but had the gift (magic). Well, nobody seems to know what happens to little boys taken by the damsel so he got away and became an apprentice to the previous shaman. He doesn’t have fond feelings for Bretonnia.
When Calard and Bertelis eventually arrive at the tournament, they meet up with their buddy from the previous book, Baron Montcadas. The Baron seems to be trying to hook up his niece with Calard. The tournament commences with Bertelis entering in the single combat event. Since the sacrifice of Gunthar to protect him in the last book, Bertelis has focused more on his training. He ends up making it to the finals, but is bested by a pale knight who is way too quick for him.
Eventually, they perform the field jousting, where it is essentially lines of knights riding against each other. This sounds like an extremely bad idea to me, and turns out that it is. Outside of the expected few casualties, a splinter from a lance goes into Baron Montcadas’ eye, causing him to now be blind, since he had previously lost the other eye in battle.
In the midst of this, word comes that Lyonesse is under attack. So, everybody gathers up and heads toward Lyonesse to kill some barbarians.
In the meantime, Haegtesse, is headed to Lyonesse with her new body and the Shaman heads off to look for her with a small contingent of marauders. They meet up and journey back to the warlord for some baby-making.
The Bretonnians meet the chaos warriors on the field of battle. Things seem to be going well for them until the Chaos Dwarf starts firing his Hell cannon, which seems to single-handedly destroy the Bretonnian army and rout them back to the island castle in Lyonesse. During the battle, Calard sees Haggy (but he thinks it is Elisabet) with the warlord and it turns out that he still has feelings for her.
It turns out that Haggy wants to make a demon baby, so she prepares a very involved ritual and makes the baby at the right time and everything for it to happen. The shaman is less than pleased and has a rather elaborate contraption put on her to prevent her from using any further magic.
Somewhere in here, Reolus (the grail knight) and Anara show up.It turns out that the Lady wants the baby that the evil people made, so Calard, Reolus, Anara, and some others get to go the the island where they are holed up. They get to fly on some pegasi that the boys from Parravon brought.
Anara performs some sort of enchantment so that they are all invisible, but they can’t talk or draw weapons or it will be broken. They find where Haggy is located, all bound up in a building. Also, turns out that her baby is coming much faster than a normal baby (i.e. she is extremely pregnant) I forget what exactly happens, but somehow the enchantment is broken, and lots of fighting happens. Anara gets the gag off of Haggy, only to find out that this really isn’t Elisabet. She starts summoning shades and stuff.
A big brawl goes on with Bretonnians, Chaos Warriors, and shades. Anara manages to knock out Haggy and the Bretonnians make an honorable (?) retreat with her. As one might expect, this abduction angers the chaos lord a bit, and the boats head back to the castle to finish the job.
Anara performs some sort of exorcism to return Elisabet to her body, where she unexpected finds out that the renter didn’t really take care of herself. She just has to buckle down for delivering this baby.
Chaos comes knocking and the Bretonnians do alright in holding them off… until the Hellcannon starts firing again, flattening the castle. Seeing how bad it is to let that continue on, Reolus, Calard, and some knights ride out a secret way (thanks to some Moses-like work from Anara) to take it out.
Even with the Hellcannon gone, the barbarians just wear down the defenders. Also, Chlod helps to lead them into the castle via the cistern system, so that doesn’t help any. During all of the fighting, the child is born.
The warlord strikes a deal with the Bretonnians. Let’s settle this all by single combat. Reolus accepts. Anara is a bit upset, partially because she loves Reolus and also because it wasn’t his place to make this deal.
Reolus is killed by the warlord and the Bretonnians honor the deal, much to the chagrin of Anara. The warlord makes some comment about how he will return when his son has grown and Calard lets him know that he will be waiting (foreshadowing anyone?) During this exchange, Elisabet tries to interfere. Bertelis shows her the back of his hand, and unfortunately, she falls and dies. Calard gets a bit upset and runs off his brother.
At the end of the book, Merovich, the guy who defeated Bertelis shows up and offers to train Bertelis. When he smiles, he has pointed teeth. I wonder what that could mean?…
I forgot to mention this in the story, but people are trying to kill Calard in this book, too. I think it was his cousins or something. They were people close to him. It turns out that the seneschal of Castle Garamont is the ring-leader of the whole operation to kill him.
This is a short story about how Calard has taken up the quest for the grail, so he is now a questing knight. Also, to be mentioned is that Chlod is his servant in this quest. He tracks a wyvern down to its den and kills it for some townsfolk. The locals chase him down the next day and call him a liar. He returns, and sure enough, the wyvern is back.
He investigates the cave and finds a pool. Seeing nothing better to do, he dives into the pool and finds some strange land, where he also notices the bones of a wyvern. After spending days in the land, he encounters another questing knight there who tells him some about the wyvern. It turns out that the wyvern is continually reborn. The knight believes that his duty is to stay here and kill the wyvern as it is reborn over and over again, and it is nice that Calard has arrived to relieve him of that task.
Eventually, Calard discovers the knight’s bones. It turns out that the guy was killed trying to stop the wyvern, and his restlessness keeps the wyvern being reborn. Calard bundles up the bones and returns to the real world. He buries the bones of the knight and the wyvern crumbles to dust. It reminds me of what I hear some of the English podcasters say: “Done and Dusted”.
Calard has become quite the warrior on his quest for the grail. He has killed lots of big baddies and decides to his previous home. He finds the castle in ruins and that Maloric has some of his people working the lands that his family used to own.
Calard decides to pay him a visit. It turns out that Maloric ended up marrying Baron Montacadas’ niece (this guy really has just about everything go against him). Calard has a vision at some point that shows him the shield of the knight responsible. They are able to help point Calard to the knight. It turns out that he lives in Mousillon. It also turns out to be that the knight is Merovich, the guy who defeated Bertelis in the tournament in the last book.
Calard heads over to pay the bad land a visit. He ends up in some tavern asking about Merovich and doesn’t get much help. The tavern ends up being attacked by a whole bunch of ghouls. Calard and one of Merovich’s men, Raben, escape. They end up going into these underground tunnels where they meet up with Morr’s children. Things look bad for them until Calard mentions that he is trying to kill Merovich.
They help lead him to the castle. Merovich is having a big party and he is able to get in with the help of Raben. I’m sure that this will surprise you, but Bertelis is there and is Merovich’s champion. Calard is trying to get close to Merovich, but his brother eventually spots him.
They end up fighting, which is not going well for Calard. In the meantime, Morr’s children manage to release (from what best I can tell), a Terrorgheist. In all of the chaos that ensues, Merovich kills the Terrorgheist and completes the ritual. Calard is aided by Raben, who dies, and ends up killing his brother.
Calard is then forced to flee when Merovich completes his ritual. It seems that he has managed to bring back some old vampire lords and things are about to get ugly.
As one might expect, this is the last book for Calard. Merovich and buddies are attacking Bretonnia and Calard is still on his quest.
This time, his quest leads him into the forest of Athel Loren, home of the wood elves. In the forest, he finds an elf who has been attacked and is not doing so well. He takes him to a cave, where he treats his wounds as best he can, but he is still poisoned. The elf comes to and luckily, he speaks Breton. Calard finds out some info before the elf collapses, mainly that Drycha’s people are after him and that he needs to be taken into the forest.
Calard bears him in and encounters some more wood elves who aren’t very happy to see him. They are led by a veiled lady, who doesn’t seem to be as bothered. They have a little bit of time to talk before Drycha’s ladies show up and cause them to form into a fighting retreat.
Calard and the veiled lady head toward the Oak of Ages. It turns out that Drycha has caused an unnatural winter by messing with it. Apparently, a ritual needs to be completed for the King in the Forest to be reborn (you can probably see the Wood Elf fluff for more details on this process).
Calard enters the tree and ends up fighting Drycha. After he battles through her mind games, they get to fighting. He ends up coming out on the wrong end, with both of her fists stuck in his chest. Luckily, while he kept Drycha occupied, the wood elf that he saved earlier, snuck in and planted a kiss on the lips of the sleeping elf queen, banishing the winter.
Calard ends up awakening, only to be greeted by the Green Knight. After much combat, Calard comes to a realization of what he must do. He is finally rewarded with his drink from the grail.
Now, as a grail knight (and not dead for any who were wondering), he exits the Tree of Ages. It turns out that the veiled lady is actually his sister. Also, Ariel and Orion (wood elf queen and king) are very grateful for his assistance and gift him with a lance. They also show up to help him go fight Merovich and his buddies that are ravaging Bretonnia.
Calard gets his revenge by offing Merovich, after which his host drops dead on the spot (talk about a lousy leadership roll). The book ends as Calard is waiting on the shore for the approaching longboats. Calard and the warlord engage in some banter and then Calard and the warlord’s son engage in battle.
Overall, I enjoyed the reading of this book. Although it really seems that nothing works out for Calard (losing family, loved ones, battles, etc) until the very end, I remained interested in the story the whole time. As I alluded to at the very beginning, I wasn’t super-interested in the Chlod storyline, but it didn’t intrude too much. I am noticing a theme in these Black Library books, and that is: lots of people dying. Probably each of the first two books had tens of thousands of Bretonnian knights (not to mention those who aren’t knights) dying. The Bretonnians must have an extremely high birth rate or way too many nobles. I highly recommend the book for anybody interested in Bretonnians and I think that it would be good for anybody interested in the Warhammer world.