1356 is a richly detailed story of events leading to the Battle of Poitiers, one of the great battles of the Hundred Years War between France and England. The characters, both historical and fictional, are realistically depicted and the plot is, with a few exceptions, plausible and engaging. It makes a great story and a delightful inside look at the brutal and primitive world of medieval Europe. The author seamlessly drops in details of clothing, armaments, battle strategy, the decay of the French countryside in the aftermath of the Black Death, chivalric tournaments, profanity, the relationship of the sexes, even how sewage was removed from villages. The result is an intimate look at a world long gone that is eminently enjoyable and fascinating.
The narrator did an exceptional job depicting the various accents: English and French aristocracy, English and French soldiers, Scots, Gascons, clerics, women, villagers. It was convincing and made the narrative come alive. Excellent performance.
The book provides a engaging tale in early Reformation Bavaria. The mystery plot is reasonably well done, though there is no shocking surprises at the end. While there is an overall predictability to how things would end up, there are enough plot twists to keep it interesting. The descriptions of the witch-hunt mentality, from the aristocracy to the peasantry, appear authentic. The characters have believable and varied personalities that make them enjoyable, although one does not become deeply attached. I found it a very intriguing window into an area I knew only tangentially, and it made for most engaging listening.
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