Did Not Finish, Historical

Review: The Walking Drum

Cover of "The Walking Drum," featuring a caravan of people in medieval-style peasant clothing
Image from Shonari

Title: The Walking Drum

Author: Louis L’Amour

Genre: Historical

Back Cover:

Warrior, lover, and scholar, Mathurin Kerbouchard is a daring seeker of knowledge and fortune bound on a journey of enormous challenge, danger and revenge. Across Europe, the Russian steppes and through the Byzantine wonder of Constantinople, gateway to Asia, Kerbouchard is thrust into the heart of the treacheries, passions, violence and dazzling wonders of a magnificent time. From castle to slave gallery, from sword-racked battlefields to a princess’s secret chamber, and ultimately, to the impregnable fortress of the Valley of Assassins, Kerbouchard is on a powerful adventure through an ancient world.


I had not planned on reading this book. Louis L’Amour writes westerns, after all. But my dad told me that The Walking Drum wasn’t a western, and he liked it. My father and I have similar tastes in books (sometimes), so I decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately, I didn’t end up finishing it.

Mathurin Kerbouchard wasn’t exactly a bad main character. He was brave and daring and chivalrous, and loved to learn. My main problem with him was his problem with women.

It seemed that every five chapters or so, Kerbouchard fell “in love” with a new woman. They were together for a few chapters. Then they separated for one reason or another. Next thing I know, he’s come across another woman.

And for the most part, it seemed his romances were the main plot. Sure, I knew he wanted to find his father and get revenge on the guy who killed his mother. But he got his revenge before the halfway point, and at page 250, where I gave up, his quest for his father had just started in earnest. Page 250 was just over halfway through the book.

One thing I did like was the historical details. For the most part, they were worked into the story so it didn’t feel like the author was mentioning facts for the sake of mentioning facts. And they were actually interesting. I’d never really thought about this time period – I believe it was second-century Europe – before.

But overall, The Walking Drum was a super-long book with hardly any plot. I am not a fan.


Review: The Hessian

Cover of "The Hessian," featuring a blue-and-black sketch image that is hard to decipher
Image from the LDL

Title: The Hessian

Author: Howard Fast

Genre: Historical

Back Cover:

When a troop of Hessians hangs half-wit Saul Clamberham, everyone living on the Ridge panicked. They call out the militia and ambush the Hessians, killing all but the drummer boy, who escapes. The ruthless and unrelenting hunt for the boy is on, but doctor Evan Feversham isn’t sure he wants to be involved. And when a Quaker family calls on him to take a bullet out of a Hessian’s back, he begins to doubt that the boy is really a threat. But if the terrified villagers get their hands on him, the fact that he’s sixteen and wasn’t a part of the hanging won’t matter…


I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own. I don’t usually like historical novels, and this one didn’t seem to have much of a plot. But it was a book club book, and so I read it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it.

Evan Feversham, the narrator, was a wimp. He didn’t do much, rarely made a decision (to paraphrase his own words, “most decisions are best left to God”), and generally went along with whatever people wanted him to do. When it came to the Hessian, there are at least three scenes where he just laments to his wife about not knowing what to do. And he ends up doing nothing. At all.

Other than him, there’s a handful of characters that move in and out of the story – members of the Quaker family, so many of them that I can’t seem to keep track of them, even now; Abraham Hunt, the hotheaded jerk who led the hunt for the Hessian, the Hessian himself, who is semi-unconscious for two of the four scenes he’s in.

I was right in my judgment about the plot, too – there wasn’t much of one. Most of it was Evan Feversham trying to decide if he should turn the Hessian in or not. Maybe the main plot was his emotional journey? Either way, I was not interested.

This story is set in the Revolutionary War era (I believe just before, but I can’t be sure), and it reads like it was written back then – and not in a good way. It was dense and stodgy with a very old tone that reminds me of the kind of classic nobody reads.

Overall, this was seriously not my thing. Characters, plot, writing style…I wasn’t a fan of any of them. This is one of those books that you won’t miss anything if you decide to skip it.