Jesse's Reviews > The Walking Drum

The Walking Drum by Louis L'Amour
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's review
Sep 25, 09

bookshelves: fantasy, historical
Read in September, 2009

This was the second L'Amour novel I've read, the first being The Haunted Mesa nearly a decade ago, and I have gained an enormous new respect for the author. Known primarily for his Westerns, L'Amour tackles an entirely different venue with this story that sweeps across all of Northern Europe, the Eurasian Steppes, and on down through Constantinople all the way to Persia and beyond, near the end of the 12th Century. The geography involved is as thorough and accurate as any of Mr. L'Amour's depictions of the American Southwest, and is even displayed as a map on the pages before the first chapter, in much the same fashion used by modern fantasy writers to show the details of their imagined kingdoms. In addition to the landscape, the customs, languages, and even styles of dress of the time are remarkably well-detailed and represented; also, as I'm learning should be expected in a L'Amour novel, the very names and likenesses of Emperors, nobles, and high-class individuals of the period are expertly brought into use. As a student of histories, having earned a double Bachelor's in Archaeology and Classical Civilizations, and routinely indulging my lifelong interest in Medieval times, I must admit to being humbled - Louis Dearborn L'Amour, a man who received no schooling past the age of 15 and no formal training in research, could have put my own abilities to shame.

Regardless of the historical accuracy and other technical aspects of the novel, as a reader and lover of stories I was thoroughly entertained by The Walking Drum's hero, Mathurin Kerbouchard, and his adventures and endeavors. L'Amour's work exhibits that rarest of talents in an author, to present great amounts of detail and create a realistic, believable world, while simultaneously keeping the story moving at a very engaging pace. I found myself routinely intending to put down the book and take care of other things, only to continue turning the page and launching into the next chapter. Perhaps the only flaw encountered was the occasional confusion of perception: L'Amour described his own work as more in keeping with oral tradition and intended to be read aloud, likening it to stories told by traveling bards; however, this particular piece is written in the first person. The result is a feeling within the reader that you are more often experiencing Kerbouchard's trials and successes through his own eyes, but occasionally being jerked out of time to view events from the modern perspective, looking back. Still, this being the single qualm I had with the novel, and the transitions being well smoothed-over, it hardly comes close to spoiling a highly enjoyable read of an absolutely stupendous book.

The Walking Drum should be on the reading list of any fan of historical fiction, any enthusiast of Crusade-era Europe, anyone who enjoys a thrilling adventure story, and, well, just about anyone else who can read.
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