Andrzej Sapkowski is considered the finest author of fantasy novels in Poland. After finishing his astonishingly popular series about the adventures of the witch-man Geralt of Rivia, the author embarked upon a trilogy of novels whose hero is the physician and sorcerer Reynevan, beginning with the book Narrenturm. The new series is historical fantasy, and takes place against the backdrop of the fascinatingly portrayed period of the Hussite wars. God’s Warriors is the second part of the trilogy, and details the adventures of Reynevan and his close friend from 1427 to 1428. Reynevan starts out in the Czech lands, then leaves for Silesia, where he carries out a dangerous secret mission entrusted to him by Hussite commanders. While there, he tries to avenge the death of his brother and find the woman he loves. He’s always getting himself into trouble and is constantly pursued by numerous enemies. Sapkowski’s wonderfully written novel will ensure his readers—this is undoubtedly one of the author’s greatest strengths—a variety of different reading pleasures. Readers who devour exciting plots will find God’s Warriors an absorbing book with plenty of twists and mysteries, with added elements of magic and Sapkowski’s characteristic humour (at times a bit coarse). Others will enjoy tracking the intertextual games in the book. And fans of historical works will learn about the medieval events portrayed here by the author.
- Robert Ostaszewski
Even from a distance he could see that there was something wrong at the monastery... Usually the gate was closed up, but now it was gaping wide open... Outside, in the courtyard, silhouettes of people and horses flickered by. . Reynevan hunched down in his saddle and urged his mount into a still more frantic gallop.
And then they caught up with him.
First came the spell, the curse cast, the powerful lighting strike that put the horse in a panic and knocked Reynevan from his saddle. . Before he could get up again, a dozen or more people came out of the ditches and from behind the trees and fell on him. . He managed to get his knife out of his boot, hitting two of them with wide strokes, putting a stop to a third with a quick stab in the face. . But the others got him. . They stunned him with heavy blows, and knocked him to the ground. . Kicked him. . Smothered him. . Overpowered him. Twisted his arms behind his back.
“Tighter,” he heard a familiar voice. “Pull the ropes tighter, don’t hold back! Not much of a loss if you hurt him. Let him get a little taste of what he’s in for.”
They pulled him upright. He opened his eyes. And started shaking.
Before him stood Pomurnik. Birkart Grellenort.
His eyes were shining from the blows to his face, his cheek and eye burned as if they had been seared with an iron. Pomurnik swung back and struck him once more, this time from the left with the back of his gloved hand. Reynevan tasted blood on his lips.
“That,” explained Pomurnik quietly, “was just to get your attention. To make you concentrate. Are you concentrating?”
Reynevan didn’t answer. Turning his head, he tried to see what was going on behind the monastery gate and work out who the men riding on horseback and the foot soldiers running around were. One thing was sure—they were not the Black Riders of Rota. The ones holding him looked like ordinary hired thugs. Near the thugs stood a man with a round face and attire that betrayed him as a Walloon, and eyes that betrayed him as a sorcerer. It was that Walloon, guessed Reynevan, who had knocked him out of his saddle with that spell.
“You thought,” murmured Pomurnik, “that I would forget about you? Or that I wouldn’t find you? I warned you that I have eyes and ears everywhere. He swung back and struck Reynevan again, right in his now swelling cheek. His eye, sore from the last time he’d been hit, began to water. Tears welled up in his other eye as well, and his nose started to run. Pomurnik leaned toward him. Very close.
“I felt,” he hissed, “that you still weren’t giving me your full attention. And I require your full attention. Exert some mental effort. Hear out my proposition. You got caught. You won’t escape with your life. But I can get you out of this. I can save your skin. As soon as you agree to take me to… You know who. That astrologer who masquerades as a big idiot. I’ll spare your life if you take me to him…”
“Ho! The Great Grellenort!”
From the height of his saddle a knight in full plated armour looked down at them. His horse was covered in sky-blue and silver restrictive armour. Reynevan recognised him. He remembered.
“The prince demands that he be delivered to him. Immediately.”
“Have you made up your mind?” Pomurnik hissed. “Will you take me?”
“You’ll regret it.”
The courtyard of the monastery was seething with men on horseback, swirling with men on foot. In contrast to Pomurnik’s thugs, in multihued, even shabby clothing, the marksmen and the foot soldiers in the courtyard were attired respectably and identically, in black and green. The men on horseback were mostly armored, armigers as well as heraldic soldiers.
“Give him here! Give me the Hussite!”
Reynevan recognized that voice. He recognised that stature, that charismatic masculine face, the nape of the neck shaved according to the fashion then among the knights. He recognised the black and red eagle. The men in the monastery courtyard were led by Jan, Prince of Ziębice. The Prince himself was in a coat stitched in stoat over Milanese armour.
“Bring him here, closer,” he nodded authoritatively. “Marshal Borschnitz! Grellenort! Bring him here! And get that Walloon out of my sight! I can’t bear these magicians!” Reynevan was brought closer. The prince looked down at him from his saddle. He had bright, blue-grey eyes. Reynevan realised who he reminded him of, with his eyes and the shape of his abbess’ face.
“God is slow but just,” announced Jan of Ziębice, ceremoniously, through his nose. “Slow, but just, yes, yes. You have denied religion and the cross, Bielau, you Judas. You have persevered in the dark arts. You have plotted to assassinate me. You will pay for your crimes, Bielau, you will pay for your crimes.”
By the time he finished the sentence he wasn’t looking at Reynevan anymore, but rather at the courtyard. There were four nuns standing there. The abbess was with them.
“Hussites were concealed,” Jan announced loudly, standing in his stirrups, “in this monastery! Spies and traitors were given asylum here! Someone must pay for this! Do you hear me, woman?”
“You won’t punish me,” said the abbess, in a charming, undaunted voice. “Not you! You’re breaking the law, Prince Jan! You’re breaking the law! You have no right to enter the grounds of the monastery!”
“It’s my land, and I have full authority over it. It’s thanks to my ancestors that this monastery is even here!”
“It’s thanks to God it’s here! And it is not subject to either your authority or your jurisdiction! You have no right to enter here, nor to stay here, neither you, nor your army! Nor that scoundrel, nor his thugs!”
“And he,” said Jan of Ziębice, standing in his stirrups, indicating Reynevan, “had the right to be here? All summer? Are you allowed to hide heretics, Sister? Like the one lying there?”
Reynevan looked in the direction in which the prince was pointing. In the place where the wall surrounding the courtyard met the infirmary wall, covered in dried clusters of ivy, lay Bisclavret. Reynevan recognised him by the made-to-order calfskin jacket the Frenchman had recently commissioned, expecting everyone to admire it. It was only because of the jacket that it was possible to recognise him. The corpses had been hideously massacred. The fair-haired miles gallicus, once Ecorcheur, Obłupiacz must have put up a serious fight when they surrounded him. And he must have refused to be taken alive.
Translated by Jennifer Croft