A novel more crowded with beauty and incident than this new romance of love and adventure would be difficult to find. Young Beltane, growing up in the care of Ambrose the Hermit, knows naught of men and women and teeming cities, but one day a mysterious stranger appears, presenting Beltane with a sword and giving him daily lesson in sword play and horsemanship. Lady Helen of Mortain, as she rides thorough the greenwood, meets Beltane and here is the first love scene - indeed the love interest is one of the strongest notes in this remarkable novel.
d youth; take it not amiss that I have worsted thee. 'Tis true, had I been so minded I might have cut thee into gobbets no larger than thy little brush, but then, body o' me! I have lived by stroke of sword from my youth up and have fought in divers wars and countries, so take it not to heart, good youth!" With the word he nodded and, stooping, took up the sword, and, thereafter, cast his cloak about him, whereat Beltane lifted his head and spake:
"Art going, sir? Wilt not try me once again? Methinks I might do a little better this time, an so God wills."
"Aye, so thou shalt, sweet youth," cried the stranger, clapping him upon the shoulder, "yet not now, for I must begone, yet shall I return."
"Then I pray you leave with me the sword till you be come again."
"The sword--ha! doth thy soul cleave unto it so soon, my good, sweet boy? Leave the sword, quotha? Aye, truly--some day. But for the nonce-- no, no, thy hand is not fitted to bear it yet, nor worthy such a blade, but some day,
I first read "Beltane the Smith" when I was fifteen,53 years ago. I fell in love with it then and, at long intervals, have returned to it from time to time ever since. With the possible exception of the two pirate romances, it is Farnol's best book and is darker and less formulaic than his usual output.It is true that to modern readers the cod-medieval language is trying and much of the dialogue is excruciating, but the plot is interesting, the action sequences exciting and Farnol's descriptions, particularly of the greenwood, very beautiful.
Jeffery Farnol is a wonderful author, but of all his great romances Iíve read so far, I enjoyed this one the least. It is a knightís tale and written in an Old English style that slowed my reading down. For me, the story had too much death and suffering, including women and children, some of which would have been prevented if Beltane had brought justice to two of his enemies when he had the chance. The cruelty in the book overwhelmed the romance and though it strived for a happy ending, too much had been lost to enjoy it.