Giveaway Winner--Charlotte Wills
Please welcome Evan Ostryzniuk as part of his virtual tour while promoting his novel, Of Fathers and Sons.
How Niccolo d’Este became great
The grand historical figure that resides at the heart of my latest novel, Of Fathers and Sons: Geoffrey Hotspur and the Este Inheritance, is Niccolo d’Este (1383-1441), Marquis of Ferrara and future Renaissance Man. As an adult, he was a respected military commander, major patron of the arts, kingmaker in regional politics, rapacious consumer of knowledge, culture and women, and a brilliant swordmaster. He was one of few men who truly epitomized the age of the Renaissance. He has been lauded by contemporaries and historians alike, and left a powerful legacy. But what of his childhood?
Of Father and Sons delves into the lesser known story of how the boy became the man. Children, on the whole, are absent from the records of the time and poorly represented in historical fiction. Nevertheless, I endeavor to show the origins of not just any prince of the era, but the prince, the prototype ruler for Machiavelli. What research I was able to collect strongly suggested that the seeds of Niccolo d’Este’s greatness were very much sown in childhood. He was the only (illegitimate) son of the previous Marquis of Ferrara, who from the moment he donned the mantle of power at the tender age of ten years old was betrayed by a clique of vassals and threatened by his uncle. He was tutored by some of the best and most progressive minds of the day, took arms training from one of the European masters, and entered the cutthroat world of Italian politics while more of his contemporaries were still playing with their friends.
Of Fathers and Sons joins Niccolo at the most pivotal point in his life. His lands are being governed by a regency council; he has not completed his education or training; he has no battlefield experience; his allies are wavering; his uncle has just won a series of military encounters, depriving him of land and men. In short, he is comprehensively insecure, and so he cannot wait any longer to decide his own fate. Should he fight on? Should he hide behind the regency council? Should he run away? How might he satisfy his father’s legacy? When must he assert himself as ruler?
To recreate the life of Niccolo d’Este as a twelve year-old boy caught in the maelstrom of medieval intrigue, I studied his life as an adult, collected the few sources available about his childhood, plotted his whereabouts during these tumultuous months, reviewed the key decisions made during the early years of his rule, considered the unique situation of Ferrara, considered his enemies, and examined his father’s legacy. Then, from this mass of information I calculated his likely doubts and how he might have responded to them. Niccolo was wisely counseled, to be sure, but the failure of his regency council to end the threats to his rule up to the point of the beginning of the novel must have exasperated and frightened him.
Yet, during those crucial early months of 1395, somehow he was able to keep his act together, so to speak, then gain the advantage that saved his reign and propelled him into a fantastic career. There must have been a series of catalyzing events that transformed him. After all, he was heavily outnumbered, had lost a lot of territory, allies had not yet come to his aid, vassals were leaving him at an alarming rate, was bereft of practical experience, and was very young. I speculate that someone from outside his retinue had a brief but profound influence on him, pushing him to grow up fast and make tough decisions. After all, he married several times, was head of a papal army at the age of twenty, had one wife and son executed, made the University of Ferrara one of the best in Europe, was not afraid to take in refugee scholars and artists, and ensured that his lands were wealthy, strong and intact for his heirs. And that influence might have come from somebody like the wayward squire Geoffrey Hotspur.
About the book:
Publication Date: March 6, 2013
Knox Robinson Publishing
Of Fathers & Sons is the second book in the English Free Company series set in the late Middle Ages. The English Free Company is led by Geoffrey Hotspur, an orphan-squire and ward of the mighty Duke of Lancaster, whose driving ambition is to become a knight and serve a great lord. Anyone who enjoys the stories of Bernard Cornwall and Jan Guillou will find more than an echo of their exuberant prose and lively characters in Of Fathers & Sons: Geoffrey Hotspur and the Este Inheritance. Supported with extensive research done by a professional historian, Of Fathers & Sons utilizes true personages and events to weave a vivid tapestry of this exciting time of transition.
Of Fathers & Sons: Geoffrey Hotspur and the Este Inheritance takes place in 1395 when the conflict between rival branches of the mighty Este family over the succession to the strategic Marquisate of Ferrara reaches its climax. The Este lands are vulnerable. The unexpected death of the powerful Marquis Alberto d'Este in 1393 has left his ten-year old son, Niccolo, as his sole direct heir. Though born out of wedlock, the pope himself legitimized the boy’s birth, but in an age when great lords ruled by the sword as much as by the laws of inheritance, having a boy lead the family can be a sign of weakness.
Made unhappy by the father, several Este vassals want to humble the son, and they see their opportunity in the essential weakness of Niccolo’s minority rule. Championing their cause is the head of a humiliated branch of the Este family who is not only a famous condottiere, but also a powerful captain of the ambitious lord of Milan. Fearing that civil war will lead to a shift in the already fragile balance of power in favor of the hated Milan, the city-states of Florence, Venice and Bologna combine to keep the Este inheritance in Niccolo’s hands. If Niccolo falls, the great powers of Italy will be plunged in to war.
Geoffrey and Niccolo are confronted by the same questions: How can an orphan find his place in a society informed by patriarchal relations? For how long must a son honor the wishes of his father? When does the boy become the man?
Before Henry won his miraculous victory at Agincourt, before the Borgias became infamous, before Constantinople fell to the Turks, there was Geoffrey Hotspur, a man as tall as Charlemagne and armed with a sword that rivaled Excalibur. With little money, fewer friends and no name, Geoffrey Hotspur has little choice but to forge his own path towards knighthood.
A thrilling continuation of the story of Geoffrey Hotspur and his English Free Company, Of Fathers & Sons: Geoffrey Hotspur and the Este Inheritance is at heart a squire’s tale of hope, adventure and ambition in a time of great uncertainty.
About the author:
Evan Ostryzniuk was born and raised on the prairies of western Canada. After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a B.A. in History and Modern Languages and an M.A. in Modern History, Evan crossed the ocean to do post-graduate work at the University of Cambridge, concluding four years of research with a doctoral thesis on the Russian Revolution. He then found his way to Eastern Europe, where he took up positions as a magazine editor, university lecturer and analyst in the financial services sector before rising in the ranks of the local publishing industry to become Editor-in-Chief of a popular weekly.
Evan Ostryzniuk currently resides in Kyiv, Ukraine near a very large candy factory. He has travelled extensively, including the locations of his novels. Of Fathers and Sons: Geoffrey Hotspur and the Este Inheritance is his second novel.
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Watch for my review of Of Fathers and Sons...coming next week!
One hardcover copy of Of Fathers and Sons to a winner in the U.S. or U.K. Please leave a comment and be sure to leave a way to contact you if you win (email address, Twitter handle, etc). Last day to enter is Wednesday, June 19 at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!