Book Review: The Scourge: Nostrum by Roberto Calas

In these times of madness, only madness will save us.

Zombies, knights, hilarity, Sir Tristan.  I’m in love….

nostrum

This is the second book in The Scourge Series by Roberto Calas, here is my review for book one.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Sir Edward Dallingridge survived his journey through the anarchy that is now England, leaving in his wake the bodies of mad lords, foul invaders, friends, and the risen dead. There was nothing on earth that could keep him from the woman he loves.

Nothing but the horror that has already consumed her.

His journey is over, but his mission is far from complete. As a knight of the realm, he has defended England from every enemy it has. But how does one drive away a plague sent from hell? His only hope lies in the rumors of a cure–a treatment concocted by a strange man on an island fortress. Edward will do everything in his power to find this alchemist and to bring Elizabeth back from the walking terror she has become.

This book is again a serial, and is a bit darker, considering  the end of the first book.  The adventure continues for Sir Edward and Sir Tristan, but with the addition of others such as Belisencia, a “nun” they come across in their journey.  Her presence adds some much needed female comic relief and her interactions with Sir Tristan are hilarious.  And again, Christianity and the church are often the butt of the jokes:

“Barbaric?” Tristan asks. “And why are they any more barbaric than Christians?”

Belisencia scoffs and looks away.  “There’s no sense talking to you about it.”

Tristan laughs.  “Go on, tell me.  I would like to know what’s more barbaric than drinking the blood of our savior every week.  Or eating his flesh.” He laughs again and sweeps his hand to encompass the countryside.  “Maybe all of these plaguers are just good Christians that got carried away.  They’re drinking everyone’s blood.  Maybe they are more devout than any of us.”

I love how the zombie apocalypse in medieval England pretty much mirrors the zombie apocalypse in every other time period and part of the world that I’ve read.  Makes me think that no matter where or when, humans are humans and will probably devolve to their baser elements when the fabric of society is torn apart:

The afflicted are not the worst thing about this new England. Plaguers are hungry and desperate.  I understand those motives.  What, then, are the motives of the survivors?  Power?  Avarice? Cruelty? Of the two groups, the unafflicted survivors are the greater threat.  I am uncomfortable with what this implies about my kind.

Like I said in my earlier review, I know NOTHING about this time period, outside of what I’ve seen in Monty Python.  And this reminds me much of Monty Python.  But Mr. Calas is very gifted at understanding that not all of us readers know what a bevor (?) is, and works very diligently to make sure we aren’t completely lost.  He makes all of the knight stuff palatable.  And funny:

Every priest dreams of sainthood.  Every merchant dreams of riches.  And every knight, no matter how much he may deny it, dreams of slaying a dragon.  It is in our blood. Tristan and I nearly knock each other to the ground in our haste to reach the creature.

Another feature I love of these books, maybe it is just a serial thing, is the historical notes at the end.  Mr. Calas has done extensive research into his writing.  Sir Edward was a real person with a real castle.  A good number of the events were based in some sort of reality.  Even the dancing mania AND the dragon (you have to read about it).  I truly appreciate these types of works that are based in some sort of reality.  And then the author just runs with it.

Again, I highly recommend this series.  Fulfills my zombie requirement, humor requirement, history requirement all in one book.  A must read.  I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

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Book Review: The Scourge by Roberto Calas

scourge

 

Back to the zombies.  I figure Easter is coming…

This time it is zombies in medieval England:

God has forsaken this land.

A mysterious plague descends upon 14th century England, ravaging the country and trapping the souls of the afflicted in eternal madness. The feudal hierarchy–and even the church itself– slowly crumbles as the dead rise to feed and the living seek whatever shelter they can. The bishops of England call for calm and obedience, but one man isn’t listening.

Sir Edward of Bodiam has been separated from the woman he loves and nothing on heaven or earth can stop him from seeking her out. 

Edward and two of his knights travel through the swiftly changing landscape of England, a countryside now overrun by the minions of hell. The knights encounter madness, violence, and sorrow, but Edward fights his way ever deeper into the thickening darkness of unholy terror. 

Roberto Calas brings you along on a dark, historical tale full of love, death, and black humor. Follow Edward as he journeys to save his wife, his kingdom, and his very soul.

Very similar to The Zombie Bible series by Stant Litore.  But where Mr. Litore is poetic and philsophical, Mr. Calas is humorous.  Think Monty Python with zombies.  But not so campy.

I know next to nothing about this time period in history.  My husband is a huge fan of medieval history, weapons, warfare, etc.  When he starts going on about the battle of Agincourt my eyes start to glaze over.  It’s not that it isn’t interesting, it just doesn’t interest me.  But Mr. Calas made it interesting.

Many people say that chivalry is a dying notion.  That honor is dead.  This may be true.  but no knight I have ever known can resist a maiden in distress.

Intermixed with all of the knightly adventures and the quest for Sir Edward to return to his wife, Elizabeth, are zombies.  My husband seems to think that zombies would be easily dispatched in medieval times, but he didn’t count on the power of the Catholic church.  It is thought that the zombies just have the plague:

The noises that come from the plaguer are those of an animal.  Growls and shrieks.  There is no reason.  There is no humanity.  I can feel his teeth scraping at the bevor upon my neck.  His hands shove at my helmet.  I see three red circles above his thumb.  I shove at him, but he has latched on to me, with one arm under my head.  He pulls me toward his mouth like a hungry lover and I scream.  Not in fear but in anger.

I’m always intrigued by the little differences that the authors of zombie books weave into their stories.  Be it the way the zombies began (plague, gas, aliens, or no reason at all) or how they move and act, this always fascinates me.  These zombies feel pain.  Which must make it difficult to kill them.

On his quest, Sir Edward has Sir Tristan and Sir Morgan with him.  Sir Morgan is devoutly religious.  He is always quoting scripture.  Sir Edward and Sir Tristan kind of give him hell for it.  But their discourse highlights the way Catholicism permeated everyday life during this time period.  Sir Morgan actually believes that holy relics can cure the plague.  And by the end of the book, Sir Edward starts to believe him as well.  The religious conversations were hilarious, however:

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

“This is the same Lord who says we shouldn’t kill?” Tristan asks.

“No, it’s the Old Testament God,” I say.  “The grumpy one.”

“You have two Gods?” Zhuri asks.

“Just one,” Tristan says.  “But he had a troubled childhood.”

I was struck at the similarities between this work and the other zombie books I’ve read.  Particularly the ones set in modern times in the US.  Apparently when the dead start walking, the world goes to shit.  There is a fundamental breakdown in society, even in the “dark ages”, and the desire to rule one’s own little kingdom is powerful.  Even at the price of precious human life.  If you are a Walking Dead fan, think “The Governor”.  These knights find this all over England.

There is a situation the knights in this story find themselves in that is quite absurd.  Think zombie bears.  Edward remarks to himself after they have barely gotten out alive (again):

I wonder how many mad tyrants rule in England now.  How many lunatic kings sit in dung-pits and throw men to their deaths.

Overall, a great read.  Full of adventure, strong characters, humor and strong relationships.  Very different from typical zombie stories in that you actually LEARN SOMETHING about history while reading them. Much like Stant Litore’s work.  I look forward to the next installments.

Oh, and a quick note, this book was originally written as a serial for Amazon in 2012.  Each episode seems to end in a cliffhanger because a new episode would be released each week.  It doesn’t detract from the work at all, but I didn’t realize that at first when I was reading, and it made sense in the author’s notes in the end of the book.

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