Book reviews and articles

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The White Company Book Review

The White Company review

 

  When you say the name Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the first thing that comes to mind is Sherlock Holmes. In fact he did such a good job of writing the character of Sherlock Holmes that many people to this day do not know that Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character who never really existed!

 

   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a master story crafter that lived in the shadow of his own great work, a shadow so large that he tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes in the story The Final Problem, so that he could concentrate on his other works that he felt were more important.

 

No No Yes Conan Edition

Conan, what is best in life?

 

  The White Company was one of these works that lingered in the shadows. Doyle himself saw The White Company as his Magnum opus saying "Well, I'll never beat that" after he had finished writing the last line of The White Company.

 

  The White Company is historical fiction at its best, interlacing just enough history to draw you into the period with rich details and yet full of colorful character's that you believe could have been real people living at that time.

 

  The novel is set during The Hundred Years' War, focusing on the tale of The White Company, during the Castilian Civil War around the years 1366-1367.

 

  The protagonist of the novel is young Alleyne Edricson an acolyte who has lived most of his life secluded within the walls of the Abbey at Beaulieu. Upon reaching the age of twenty it was the wish of Alleyne's now deceased father that he be sent out into the world to decide for himself what path his life should follow.

 

  Alleyne decides to spend one year discovering what life is like outside of the abbey before he takes his final vows. He soon meets up with and befriends John of Hordle, a man who until recently was a member of the same order as Alleyne, that is until he was cast out for some less than monk like activities by the Abbot.

 

John Hordle Demotivational poster

John Hordle, Anger management candidate.

 

  The duo travel together for a time as Alleyne's makes his way to his brother, Simon Edricson the Socman of Minsteads land. Along the way they meet and befriend Samkin Aylward, a mercenary archer who is heading to Christchurch to rejoin his fellow soldiers in The White Company. After hearing about his mercenary adventures in France and a small bet involving a featherbed, John Hordle decides that he too will enlist his services as a soldier in the free company.

 

The three friends

Not the three Musketeers, but still awesome.

 

  Alleyne continues to journey to Minstead were he encounters a young damsel in distress that he rescues from a ruffian who turns out to be none other than his brother Simon. Heartbroken that his brother is the evil man that he was always rumored to be Alleyne decides to rejoin his companions and the trio heads off to pledge their service to The White Company under the banner of the poor yet noble knight Sir Nigel Loring at Twynham Castle.

 

Sir Nigel Loring

Sir Nigel Loring, just looking for an excuse to smack you down with some honor.

 

  The rest of the novel follows the three companions and Sir Nigel Loring along with the other members of The White Company on their adventures, as they travel across Europe seeking out fame and fortune.

 

  The White Company is a fascinating look into the lives and times of those who served and fought in the various free companies that battled across Europe during The Hundred Years' War. The novel invokes the style and feel of a three musketeer esque story, but with a very English bent to the characters.

 

The White Company

 

  Following the growth and change of Alleyne from a young pious abbey clerk to veteran soldier to knighthood is well worth the journey, as it never seems like a forced evolution for the character. The character of Sir Nigel Loring is the epitome of the noble knight despite his physical stature and frailties.

 

  Much like d'Artagnan of The Three Musketeers, Alleyne's story would not be complete without the colorful antics of his companions John Hordle and Samkin Aylward. The comic relief is welcome and never reaches the point where it is found to be annoying. I find that many authors struggle with this type of balance.

 

  If only more readers would take the time to look beyond Sherlock Holmes, they would find that Doyle has created many more literary treasures for us to behold.

 

Shelock Holmes Statue

This could have been a statue of a white company archer...

 

  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was correct; The White Company was his Magnum opus. Even if Sherlock Holmes was his most successful commercial endeavor. Remember dear readers to always look at what is hiding in the shadows; you never know what you might find.

 

Final Verdict: The White Company 10/10

 

  -Professor

 

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