November 17, 2004
IRONFIRE, by David Ball (Delacorte Press, 2004). I love good historical fiction, for many of the same reasons that I love good fantasy. I am a huge fan of Thomas B. Costain, Maurice Druon, Nigel Tranter, Cecilia Holland, and a number of other splendid historical novelists whose works are now sadly out of print. All is not lost, however; there are some excellent contemporary writers picking up the torch, including Bernard Cornwell, Stephen Pressfield, and now David Ball, whose IRONFIRE is one of the best historicals that I’ve read in years. Billed as “A Novel of the Knights of Malta and the Last Battle of the Crusades,” it is both an epic account of the Great Siege of Malta in the 16th century, and the story of Nico and Maria, brother and sister, a couple of Maltese peasant kids who are out playing one morning when they chance to stumble on some Moorish corsairs. Maria escapes them, but Nico is captured and enslaved, and their lives and fates are very different thereafter. Ball evokes the time and place wonderfully, and IRONFIRE moves at a headlong pace from start to finish and teems with colorful settings, memorable characters, advertures, escapes, battles, betrayals, and all that other good stuff. I will definitely be checking out David Ball’s other books. Meanwhile, all those of you looking for something good to read as you wait for A FEAST FOR CROWS should hunt up a copy of IRONFIRE.