What It’s About:
In the midst of the devastating Hundred Years’ War between France and England, Jean de Carrouges, a Norman knight fresh from combat in Scotland, returns home to yet another deadly threat. His wife, Marguerite, has accused squire Jacques Le Gris of rape. A deadlocked court decrees a “trial by combat” between the two men that also leaves Marguerite’s fate in the balance. For if her husband loses the duel, she will be put to death as a false accuser.
While enemy troops pillage the land, and rebellion and plague threaten the lives of all, Carrouges and Le Gris meet in full armor on a walled field in Paris. What follows is a fierce duel, the final one sanctioned by governing powers, before a massive crowd that includes the teenage King Charles VI, during which both combatants are wounded—but only one fatally.Goodreads
The Last Duel was a fun book to read. I watched the movie before I read the book and I think it added to my overall experience reading. First, I liked that The Last Duel was just under 300 pages, which made it for a quick read. The author’s writing style had a nice balance of storytelling, drama, and historical information. I liked how Jager used history and drama to build up the scenes to have a big impact. With my memories of scenes in the movie combined with reading the book, I was able to clearly visualize everything that was going on.
I enjoyed the historical research about the locations, customs, and events that added more depth to the overall story. The book includes images of castles, maps, and manuscript illustrations were helpful in creating a visual of the story as well. The laws and judicial practices of the time were really interesting to me. Especially the laws regarding rape. It was considered a very serious crime, yet there were so many factors that played into whether charges were pressed. Such as social status, profession, witnesses/proof, and the shame/stigma that is involved. In the author interview at the end of the book, Jager makes an interesting point that even in modern times, society still brings those factors into rape allegations and cases.
The Last Duel certainly has a more specific audience. If you have an interest in medieval history, true crime, or legal stories, you might enjoy reading this book. The movie was also great and would probably be enjoyed by a wider audience. Be warned, it is 3 hours long though! It’s divided into 3 sections, telling the story from the three main characters’ point of view. It was fun to see how each point of view was different. The final duel scene was amazing and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.