Book Review: The last Duel by Eric Jager


Title: The Last Duel

By: Eric Jager

Genre: Historical

Pages: 256

Release Date: October 12th, 2004

Publisher: Crown

Rating: ★★★★☆


Summary from Goodreads:

"In 1386, a few days after Christmas, a huge crowd gathers at a Paris monastery to watch the two men fight a duel to the death meant to "prove" which man's cause is right in God's sight. The dramatic true story of the knight, the squire, and the lady unfolds during the devastating Hundred Years' War between France and England, as enemy troops pillage the land, madness haunts the French court, the Great Schism splits the Church, Muslim armies threaten Christendom, and rebellion, treachery, and plague turn the lives of all into toys of Fortune." "At the heart of the tale is Jean de Carrouges, a Norman knight who returns from combat in Scotland to find his wife, Marguerite, accusing Jacques Le Gris, her husband's old friend and fellow courtier, of brutally raping her. The knight takes his cause before the teenage King Charles VI, the highest judge in France. Amid Le Gris's vociferous claims of innocence and doubts about the now pregnant Marguerite's charges (and about the paternity of her child), the deadlocked court decrees a "trial by combat" that leaves her fate, too, in the balance. For if her husband and champion loses the duel, she will be put to death as a false accuser." Carrouges and Le Gris, in full armor, eventually meet on a walled field in Paris before a massive crowd that includes the king and many nobles of the realm. A fierce fight on horseback and then on foot ensues during which both combatants suffer wounds - but only one is fatal. The violent and tragic episode was notorious in its time owing to the nature of the alleged crime, the legal impasse it provoked, and the resulting trial by combat, an ancient but increasingly suspect institution that was thereafter abolished. 


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An incredibly savage story of love and honor.

This story really intrigued me after I heard of the movie with Matt Damon and Adam Driver. Still haven't seen the movie, but the book is somewhat of an oddity for me.

The author's writing style in this book is very history based. It was more of lecture in facts, than a smooth suspenseful story. My mind craved the drama, but the dry words left on the page made me wonder if I was going to be able to finish the book. The only thing that kept me reading was the completely insane laws the French had, and how the characters survived by the seat of their pants.

One fact that really stuck with me was the law about rape. If a woman confessed to being raped, and her husband decided to take vengeance on the man accused of raping his wife, if the husband lost the duel, not only would he lose his life, but his fie that was the victim of such a heinous act, would be burned at the steak as a liar. Why would any woman want to confess to such a horrible thing? History shows itself over and over again how deeply scared our justice system is.

This book was short and the history was interesting, I just wished the writing was a little less textbook and a bit more dramatic. Still, a wonderful read.

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