Swift, J.K.: Altdorf (The Forest Knights) (2011)

Altdorf
Cover design by Chris Ryan, collecula

“The Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Hospitallers, Order of Hospitallers, Knights of St John, Order of St John, and currently The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders during the Middle Ages.” (Wikipedia)

J. K. Swift writes historical fiction. This time he writes about the lives of ex-Hospitallers. What kind of person do you become after having been taken away from your parents at a young age and sent into the “Holy War” against those terrible heathen Jews and Muslims?

Like most people our ex-Hospitallers seem to be the same personality they were upon entering the Hospitallers. You know, just people – greedy, selfless, courageous, lonely and so on. Just people.

In the name of religion people sometimes do terrible things. Ignoring terrible actions carried out toward others is the most common one. To begin with Thomas ignores the plight of the citizens of Altdorf. But once the deeds of Duke Leopold of Habsburg touches closer to home, Thomas can no longer deny the unrighteousness of Leopold’s deeds.

Duke Leopold is a greedy man who wants to control the flow of merchandise through the pass of St. Gotthard. “The Gotthard Pass or St. Gotthard Pass (Italian: Passo del San Gottardo) (el. 2106 m) is a high mountain pass in Switzerland between Airolo in the canton of Ticino, and Göschenen in the canton of Uri, connecting the northern German-speaking part of Switzerland with the Italian-speaking part, along the route onwards to Milan.” (Wikipedia)

In The Empire of Man one even finds that “the College of Magic which studies Ghyran, the Lore of Life, is the Jade Order of Wizards. Jade Wizards, (also occasionally mistaken for druids to which their power is related), are powerful healers, who spend most of their time wandering the countryside of the Empire providing their services to rural communities. They construct monolithic stone circles around hidden groves where Ghyran is strongest, using them in their yearly rituals which they perform in order to channel their magic into the soil to provide fertility and abundance.” (Wikipedia) Seraina is a Priestess of the Old Religion, and the last Druid disciple of the Helvetii Celts. She has been gifted by the Great Weave to see what others cannot. In it she knows that she and Thomas will be needed in her people’s fight for freedom.

Part of my reason for digging a little into various sites had to do with the excellence of the novel. Altdorf made me curious about the background for the novel – beyond what the author tells. The whole area has a fascinating history and it was amazingly fun to discover that Altdorf (the area) is used in The Empire of Man.

Anyways, history and fantasy lesson over – except maybe a hint that you check out the background of the Wilhelm Tell myth – you know the whole shooting an apple off the son’s head story. It has relevance.

There is one scene that involves Pirmin that made a huge impression. Pirmin is a lovely character – full of life and enjoyment of life. Anyways, there is one scene that made me think – once again. Fantasy can do that to you. All of a sudden I see humanity in a new light or am reminded of a quality that some people do possess, even people I know.

The Forest Knights is a serial. You can walk away from the serial after Altdorf, but I believe you might regret it. I am going to get Morgarten myself – simply because I want to keep in touch with these people.


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