Friday, April 22, 2016

Men of Iron by Howard Pyle

When our sons were small we read them an abridged version of Men of Iron. They loved the scrapes that Myles Falsworth got into as a boy and also the battles he fought as an adult. When I saw it on sale at Audible, I decided to give the full-length book a try.

Men of Iron is a swash-buckling tale of 13th Century knights. The title refers to their armor, but also to the molding of the character of our hero, Myles. Richard II has been deposed and King Henry IV is enthroned.  Conspirators against Henry have been killed. Myles' father had been a faithful counselor to King Richard, but had no part in the conspiracies against the new king. Nevertheless he is branded a traitor and loses his position and his lands. Myles spends his life seeking to regain his father's honor.

Although occasionally verbose, the language is beautiful. A sample from chapter 28:

Myles went to France with Lord George. He was there for only six months, but those six months brought a great change in his life. In the fierce battles and the evil life which he saw in the Burgundian court - a court brilliant, wicked, witty and cruel - the wonderful liquor of youth had evaporated rapidly and his character had crystalized as quickly into the hardness of manhood. The warfare, the blood, and the evil pleasures which he had seen had been a fiery crucible test to his soul. And I love my hero that he should have come forth through it so well.

Modern readers may have difficulty understanding the need for men "to fight to the death" for their honor. Others may find it difficult to read a book with few female characters. It is not a romance, though Howard Pyle ends the book with, So Myles was married so how else shall the story end? 

I loved the gentle rhythm of each carefully crafted sentence. I appreciated Pyle's emphasis on manliness and nobility of character. And I relished the excellent narration by Robert Whitfield.

(Librivox has a free version with a mixed bag of readers, some of who have southern accents, which definitely does not fit the tone of this work of British historical fiction.)


CLL said...

Love the last comment! :) I'm a southern girl and do a lot of reading aloud but when it comes to those classic British books, I search out a well-done audio. We listened to Jim Weiss' recording of Men of Iron. We also just finished Pyle's Robin Hood on an audio.

Barbara H. said...

I will have to keep this in mind for classics reading. I can handle verbosity a lot better on audiobooks than in print, for some reason.

Beth said...

I read this aloud to my kids a few years ago and it was a favorite. In the middle of the book my kids recognized some of the story elements to be similar to the film The Black Shield of Falworth which we discovered was based on Pyle's Men of Iron.