2008, Medieval Romance (Early 1200s England)
HQN, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373772459
Part of a series
I enjoyed reading the first third of Margaret Moore’s Knave’s Honor, the third book in her King John series, but after a promising start, the story fell victim to the Saggy Middle Syndrome.
The story begins with plenty of action: As Lizette d’Averette, a young heiress, returns from a wedding, a large group of rogue knights attacks her entourage. They plan to kidnap Lizette and take her to Lord Wimarc. She is rescued by Finn, a handsome and charming lower class thief with the ability to masquerade as a nobleman.
Lizette wants to find out why Wimarc tried to kidnap her. Finn knows, though; Wimarc has already imprisoned his brother and utilizing his favorite form of punishment, is starving him. Learning that a young couple, Lord Gilbert and Lady Helewyse, are traveling to Wimarc’s estate, they kidnap the couple and take their place at the castle. They stash the couple in a small cottage to be looked after by Finn’s young accomplice, Garreth and Lizette’s maid, Keldra.
Under their new guises, Finn and Lizette ride into Wimarc’s castle and after that action ceases, even though the story should have become more suspenseful. There is a lot of scheming, plotting and planning, which went on for far too long. The author fails to build the suspense needed to carry the story forward. I became bored and started to skip ahead to watch two side stories - involving the kidnapped couple and the only other survivor of the attack - develop. Unfortunately, these subplots dangle for too long, contributing to the sagging middle.
As for the leads, we are informed that Lizette is a courageous and clever young woman. While she behaves bravely during the kidnapping attempt, and is the one who comes up with the idea to kidnap Gilbert and Helewyse, she also resorts to actions that seem foolish and/or foolhardy. Lizette's biggest problem is that she has the tendency to take on the hero’s role, and while I don’t mind a strong heroine, she needs a mate that is equal to her, and I do not believe that Finn is.
In fact, Finn really let me down. I guess the mention of outlaws, King John and the similarity in the names, made the comparison to Errol Flynn in Robin Hood inevitable for me, but Finn lacks the devil-may-care attitude and natural charm that I'd hoped to see. Instead, the occasions when the author specifically notes his charm have the effect of rendering him charmless, with a mechanical rather than natural grace. He does have his own sense of integrity, but he also has an inferiority complex due to his station in life and seems sullen at times because of it.
Finn may be lacking in the hero department, but Wimarc is all a villain should be, although without any nuance. The author does not provide his back story, so he is ambitious, abusive, and manipulative just because he wants to be, apparently. I did, though, like Garreth and Keldra; their sniping exchanges added some much needed comic relief to the story.
The action eventually picks up, but I doubt that I would have made it that far had I been reading the book for my own pleasure. That being the case, I cannot recommend Knave’s Honor. If you're already a Margaret Moore reader, and have read the previous books in this series, you may already know what to expect, but don't say I didn't warn you.
-- Carolyn Esau
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