Originally posted on 15 Feb 2023

1 minute read

My friend Jill told me about this book a few weeks ago and I immediately reserved it from my local library. It seemed like it was going to be along the lines of what if by Randal Munroe or How to Take Over the World by Ryan North: a book that takes a goofy premise and presents real world solutions. The difference being this one was going to be historically correct. That’s a great idea for a book. Bring it on!

Except that’s not what this book is. I mean, the author tries to give it that veneer, but it feels half-hearted at best. Instead, it’s as though the author thought (quite correctly), “Hey! I know a whole lot of cool stories from the middle ages! I should share them in a book!” Each chapter bears a “How to” title, and each then proceed to tell historical tales often tenuously related to the topic at hand, which never actually end up fulfilling the promise of the chapter title.

The writing style is intentionally casual and conversational, which I appreciate…to a point. You can’t read more than a sentence or two without hitting a parenthetical or aside, and it made it difficult for me to get through the book. It had zero flow for me.

It’s obvious that the author really knows her stuff and is capable of writing an engaging book, but this one was too burdened by her trying to make her writing clever rather than effective.