Set in the Dark Ages: an account of Roland, a champion whose heroic deeds and code of honour are in demand to protect King Charles. The story is a weaving of short related tales that paint the history, battles, valour, internal fighting, and politics during this time. King Charles must keep his throne from grim conspirators and claimants to the throne, constantly fighting Saxons and Emir Marsilion of Saragossa who plots to exact revenge against Barcelona and sees an opportunity to invade France too!
I agree that the stories were reminiscent of the tales of King Arthur – bravery coupled with the courting of beautiful Princesses. Along with the above, it did ignite that nostalgic classical feeling within me, when I watch such films, of times when knights lived and died by honour and the sword.
The plans between Kings, Emirs, and Emperors made Europe feel like an authentically constructed setting, and this was bolstered with battle that actually provided glimpses of how the events played out and circled around the hero Roland. Tragedy and blood was apparent in equal measure – it wasn’t all fantastical heroism.
Some of the following criticism is just personal preference, as a consequence of reading omniscient point of view, which I’m less familiar with. The scenes were shorter than I would have liked, which stopped the flow of events at times, though they worked well in prioritising the setting and circumstances the main characters were involved in. I would have liked a bit more characterisation too, such as the rivalry between Ganelon and Roland at the beginning, which carried the emotional intensity of boiling water, which was good. I did sometimes forget who was who with sub-characters, an exception being Saleem who had an interesting background as the ‘wrong son’ banished from Marsilion’s court.
There is a hint of dark magic, such as ‘shades’, dreams, and sorcerous mystery. It mixed in nicely with religious devotion during this time. It added that little extra flavour to the theme without overpowering the essentially medieval content, which was nice.
The ending was exceptional – the reader is given just the right amount of perception to build a picture of the final battle, and it made use of heroism, loss, friendship, and objects within the story to make it a truly epic tale. I’d read more books like this, and would watch more films like this. The Silver Horn Echoes: A Song of Roland is an astonishing and proud achievement, and as a reader I feel I’ve reaped the rewards.