For the King, by Ronald Welch

March 10, 2011 at 02:51 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Highly Rated Books, Historical Fiction) (, , , , )

10/10

Ronald Welch is an unsung master of his genre, and an author whose command of his characters, his dramatic abilities and his accessibility is unrivalled. For the King, despite being woefully rare in its printing, manages to combine what practically no other writers of historical fiction manage: sincere and flawless historicity, and an exciting and compelling story.

In this amazing book, he manages to synthesise the essence of mid-1600s politics without appearing dry; to demonstrate intimate familiarity with contemporary technology and battle tactics, without becoming tediously technical or morbidly graphic; he plunges deep into the lives of his latest fascinating branch of the Carey family, without allowing them to distract him from telling a powerful and intense war story.

The only author who can match him in compelling battle narrative is Bernard Cornwell, and the only author who writes such lifelike historical figures is Rosemary Sutcliff, but neither of them have anything like the historian’s flair or the rigid adherence to the actual historical events. An unmissable book by an unimpeachable author.

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5 Comments

  1. David said,

    I’ve never heard of Welch, but I’m glad to read such a strong recommendation. I’ve added this book to my “To Read” list (yes, it is a real, literal list), and look forward to exploring it some time in the future.

    I have also yet to read Bernard Cornwell, though his name has popped up quite a bit recently. A young medievalist I met said that while Cornwell is a skilled writer, in his Warlord series he seems to have an obsession with attacking Christianity. This would irk me, if true…I shall have to find out for myself.

  2. J. Holsworth Stevenson said,

    There’s a connection there: William Stobbs illustrated both Welch’s book and one or two of Sutcliff’s, too. It’s hard to recall, but that might be how I found him. Apparently he was quite a prolific writer, publishing at least a dozen books in the ’50s and ’60s, with everything from serious historical fiction to science fiction. His books are pretty hard to trace nowadays, with few copies in libraries, and out-of-print editions selling for well over $50 each. Unmissable, yes; but sadly they might soon be unhittable, too.

    • David said,

      Yikes, you’re right: I just checked Amazon and they only have one copy of “For the King,” and it’s listed at $268.47 right now. And I used to think Sutcliff books were hard to find (most but her Roman Britain trilogy still kind of are, but can still be found on Amazon usually, or through an inter-library loan). At any rate, I’ll keep an eye out for his name. Perhaps at a used bookstore somewhere…

  3. Ignas Bednarczyk said,

    Pity no mention of the Illustrator who contributed so much to the original editions.

    • J. Holsworth Stevenson said,

      You’ll be referring to William Stobbs, I believe? Masterful artist, though that’s not really my area of expertise.

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