Thursday, 13 August 2009

Historical Romance Novels & The Silver Knight

It was only recently that I actually considered the fact that I am an author of at least one novel that falls under the category of historical romance. Despite my intentions of high art and historical accuracy that ultimately led to the first novelistory, The Silver Knight, I never once possessed the deliberate intention to create a story based around a romantic theme or classical chivalric romance. However, it would appear that such a premiss is ultimately endemic to any storyline that entrenches itself either in the middle ages or action-based drama of any genre.

Historical romance is, of course, a style of prose belonging to high culture that itself was formed during the High Middle Ages – a period that took place shortly before that in which The Silver Knight was set. The general themes of fantasy and adventure often featured a chivalrous and usually heroic knight who would be assigned a quest that conflicted or at least entwined with a tale of courtly love and romance. Perhaps the first (and best known) example to be recorded in the written form of what we now know to be a novel was Thomas Malory’s historical romance Le Morte d'Arthur. (this being a re-working of the Legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table).

For those of you who have read The Silver Knight, you will know that Malory himself features (albeit briefly and insignificantly) in The Silver Knight, during a scene at court. As I have mentioned, the primary objective of the novel was to be historically accurate and resist (as far as possible) the temptation to embellish and fictionalise fact. The fictional characters are not re-workings of actual characters – only those of whom there is precious little knowledge are fashioned into something more substantial – the best example of this being Sir John Fastolf. It is interesting, though, that the characters of Katherine and Elizabeth formed through the classical and almost typical guise of romance. Whilst Elizabeth’s position follows the template of courtly love, Katherine is a more modern femme fatale; and yet they both contribute to the element of historical romance that allows comparison with more traditional examples of the genre. Jack Templeman, on the other hand, is a real character. He does not possess super-powers or magical ability. He is flesh and blood and therefore finds the challenges and tasks his faces of great burden. Perhaps that is where The Silver Knight differs vastly from the likes of Le Morte d'Arthur.

And that, I imagine, is the very point about subjective and retrospective classifications of literature (in my case, speculative historical fiction). Whilst genres are lose and ever interweaving, the core elements of classic narratives will always remain. I can’t foresee that changing with The Silver Knight series!

No comments:

Post a Comment