Friday, September 13, 2013

Men of Iron

As our family is on vacation this week, I'm pulling out some of the most enjoyable and relaxing reads that I've discovered over past summers. One of these gems is certainly Howard Pyle's Men of Iron, a smashing boy's adventure story set in the time of knights and fair maidens, when a duel and a joust were the most natural activities of the day. It's a fascinating period of history, one that I must confess I don't delve into often, and I can't even recall how I first came across this particular story. But regardless, when we took a trip one afternoon to the bigger library we have in town, there it sat on the shelf, and I promptly picked it up and brought it home.

 Being very bad about that sort of thing, I read the first couple of chapters, skipped about in the middle, and finished off with the end. (Take note, and do not follow my example. It was a most depraved thing to do.) Then I had to return it to the library, but the bits and pieces were so good that I always wanted to get it back and redeem myself at some future date.

 I did. I read it from beginning to end, with only a few surreptitious glances ahead at parts I especially liked. And it was so much better all as one tale, taken in order, that I would highly recommend anyone who reads it not to look ahead, but to savor the enjoyment of watching it unfold a chapter at a time.

 So here we are: Men of Iron, by Howard Pyle

 The Plot

When Richard II abdicates, leaving the throne to Henry IV, young Myles Falworth is taken by his parents into hiding. His blind father, Sir Richard, is stripped of his lands for his loyalty to Richard, and though he can do nothing to better his case, he bides his time and places his hopes in his young son's future.
The lad promises to be a fair fighter; skilled, and taking quickly to the lessons he is given. Myles is well-equipped at sixteen to take on the role of squire, and the Earl of Mackworth, kinsman to Sir Richard, agrees to have him.
Under the rough tutelage of an old friend, Sir James Lee, Myles grows up with a sturdy independence and a tenacious will to better himself. The first to claim his rights whenever they are violated, he grows up a leader among his fellow squires, winning their allegiance and respect.
He also manages, through secret visits, to fall in love with the Lady Alice, until her father finds out and puts an end to the acquaintance.
At nineteen years of age, Sir Robert's plans are ripe for action, and Myles is knighted as a Knight of Bath to make him eligible to win back his heritage by conquest. Brace in battle, skilled with the joust, he promises fair to win back his family's honor; and when King Henry allows him to challenge his father's enemy by combat to the death, Myles eagerly takes up the quest to win his father's honor and his own fair maiden all in one stroke.  

My Thoughts

The story is so good. It's a very G.A. Hentyish kind of tale, only I liked the characterizations slightly better than Henty (no disparagement intended, of course.) Myles Falworth is a valiant, manly, yet loveable hero, and I quite cheered him on during the entire course of his adventures. He's passionate, he's impetuous, and he takes the chances against all odds that all good knights must take. The best of books always ends with a battle of ultimate good against ultimate evil, where the stakes are so high they turn your fingernails ragged from all the biting, and though the climax in this book is fairly brief, it promises to offer all the high-stakes tension you could wish for (provided you don't look ahead, in which case the tension won't diminish a lick, but you'll know what happens after it.)

In an age of literature when the heroes were virtuous, except for the fault of courageous impetuosity, and the heroines were spotless feminine damsels worthy of any knight's hand, we're given an enjoyable tale of clearly cut good vs. evil. This is the perfect book to relax with on a summer's day, preferably by a small lake in a grove of pine trees; but if those luxuries aren't available, a cozy armchair will do just as well.  

 After seeing Howard Pyle's prowess with Men of Iron, I'm very much interested in checking out his version of Robin Hood. He wrote books specifically for children (though not childish in tone) so his purpose is generally to provide a good clean historical read suitable for family entertainment. While books with adult themes and more food for thought are enjoyable, it's always refreshing to find an author with material that one can read aloud without skipping.

 If you haven't yet read Men of Iron, be sure to check it out. A brave tale of a young man's journey to manhood, and one worth many a re-read.

 
Blessings,

Lady Bibliophile 

10 comments:

  1. Oh! I LOVE this book! No offence to Henty, but Pyle is much better, if you ask me. I reviewed it here: http://www.vintagenovels.com/2012/03/men-of-iron-by-howard-pyle.html

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    1. I liked Pyle over Henty too, much as I enjoy the latter. :) I remember your review! That was great fun. :D

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  2. "This is the perfect book to relax with on a summer's day, preferably by a small lake in a grove of pine trees" And don't forget the suger sand! ;) Sherlock Holmes is probably a bit sandy. **wasntme** But he's not wet and sand easily brushes off. **nods**
    Sounds like a great read. I love books with the knights/fair maidens/horrible villians. I think everyone does! :) ;)
    Love,
    Sister

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    1. You would like Howard Pyle, and I hope we can all listen to the Jim Weiss recording of this book eventually. :) But even if we don't, I think you would enjoy the book as well.

      Sherlock Holmes should not be getting sandy. It's not dignified. :P

      Love and cuddles,
      Sister

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  3. So, I have not heard of Howard Pyle before, but this book sounds really good, and it seems I shall have to add it to my reading list :) *heads over to Goodreads and adds it to 'to-read' shelf* - as though that helps any, but you know... it feels more organized.

    I am so glad you are having a wonderful holiday time, Schuyler. There is nothing like those times for good, wholesome readings. :D

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    1. I know what you mean! Even when one can't read a book immediately, it's always nice to add it to the list to keep track of it. :) Otherwise it's likely to be forgotten. Let me know how you liked Men of Iron, when you read it!

      We had a wonderful holiday, thank-you. :D Reading Fellowship was so nice, as well as another book, and taking a week off relaxed me enough so I could finish a review book yesterday as well. :) Now to get back into the regular routine!

      Love,
      Schuyler

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  4. I like Howard Pyle, and have heard much of "Men of Iron", but had no idea it was set in the early reign of Henry IV! I have a copy of that and intend to start it soon. : )
    Thank you for your post!

    ~The Philologist

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    1. You'll love it, and it really is a quick read! :) Can't wait to chat with you about it sometime, when you've finished it. Have a fantastic week. :)

      Love,
      Schuyler

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  5. The first time I read a part of this book was for my grade six reading curriculum. I loved it. I read the whole book a couple years afterwards, but I don't think we have it anymore. I'll have to read it again one day. :)

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    1. Now *that's* the kind of book to have in a reading curriculum! :)I wish all lit programs chose as well. :D

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