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In Extremis: Book Seven of the Latter Annals…

In Extremis: Book Seven of the Latter Annals of Lystra

by Robin Hardy

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As with all that came before in this series In Extremis groans under the burden of various historical inaccuracies, anachronisms and out of place modern terms and phrases, Americanisms and colloquialisms. This may seem pedantic, but I for one find it hard to take characters seriously as medieval people when they are speaking like modern Texans.
It takes a lot more than people using swords and riding horses and a peppering of a few period terms and phrases (or indeed an impressive sounding Latin title) to constitute historical authenticity and realism, something this series seems to be sadly lacking.

The novel recycles a number of scenarios and plot devices (perhaps coming to be a little over-used) from previous novels which make it seem all the more with yet more cunningly disguised secret tunnels which another character gets stuck in and sliding panels. The good ol’ slave traders are back again, the assorted bunch of nasties (‘cos everyone knows slavery is evil, right?) who have provided the characters with plenty of opportunities to catch and kill them.
Apparently, Lystrans aren't too keen on the common medieval pastime of hunting cute animals for sport. They do however have another of their favourite activities to keep them occupied- humiliating their guests.

This involves ‘scaring off’ an unwanted suitor for the ruler’s daughter with the usual tactics of subjecting him and his fellows to a round of insults and public humiliation. However, when behaving like this towards someone they don’t like (which seems to happen rather often), the stock of Lystrans royals and nobles show themselves to be entirely lacking in the most basic social graces and common courtesy, for their victims are their guests, partaking of their hospitality, and the incident in question as usual takes place at the dinner table.

Even today, insulting and humiliating one’s guests in such a way could be considered bad manners. However, for Medieval royals treat their guests who also happened to be Royal with such flagrant contempt and disrespect would appear entirely unacceptable for the period. Never mind that their behaviour is infantile, childish and quite simply pathetic.

Their guest (and the father of the suitor in question) called one of the Lystran royals names Renee a nasty name 17 years before, and instead of getting over it and moving on, the Lystrans take it upon themselves to punish him by calling him the same nasty name to make everyone laugh at him.

They seem to like making men out to be fools in this way, and particularly enjoy making fun of others an belittling those they don’t like for their own amusement.
It is not only men who fall foul of the Lystrans sadistic tendencies however, as Renee takes it upon herself to punish another character guilty of the heinous crime of having called her an ‘Old woman’ (Old witch old tart would be more fitting) several years before in much the same way.
Lystrans it seems cannot tolerate the same treatment as they dish out to others.

Men seem to get something of a raw deal in this novel and series. The male characters whom Renee, Nicole and her daughter Bonnie choose to pick on seem to be depicted lacking the wit, intelligence and backbone to stand up to or rebuff the onslaught of their apparently smarter female counterparts.

There also is one passage towards the end in which the main female protagonist Nicole, the wife of the ruler complains because the traditional betrothal vows her daughter takes require women to be virgins on their marriage but not men.
Like a modern day liberal whining about ancient customs which are not politically correct, Nicole wants to have them changed because she finds such a notion ‘inconsistent’ and unfair.
Like most other Lystrans, she believes in gender equality- because men are allowed to sleep around before they get married women should be allowed to as well.

Altogether, In Extremis proves to be another disagreeable seventh instalment in the rather sorry excuse for a ‘medieval fantasy’ saga that is the Latter Annals of Lystra.
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  Medievalgirl | Oct 4, 2016 |
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