Folville’s Law is the first of the John Swale chronicles, written by author David Pilling. Set during the final year of the reign of Edward II, we follow Swale, one of Hugh Despenser’s loyal knights, as he goes on a mission to the Midlands. There, he meets the dangerous and ruthless outlaw Eustace Folville and his Brotherhood, and a rich widow, Elizabeth Clinton. These meetings change his life; but for better or worse? Can Swale remain loyal to Despenser and the crown when the queen and her lover Roger Mortimer threaten to invade England?
Switching between the points of view of Swale, Folville, Hugh Despenser, Isabella and others, we hear about the events in each part of this story. This is what made the story brilliant for me; seeing things from all points of view kept the action going. The story does not stagnate and the point of view switches are not confusing.
The use of language is fabulous in this novel and David’s historical knowledge is obviously excellent. The historical timeline is stuck to and no facts are twisted or sensationalised. David has respected the fact that the characters in his book were real people, which is something I admire in an author.
Character wise, everyone is developed well with a good side and a bad side; they are also men and women of their time, and not twenty first century moralists in a fourteenth century setting. It was nice to read a novel about this period in history that does not completely whitewash Isabella of France. John Swale is an excellent protagonist; his loyalty and determination are admirable yet infuriating, his desire for marriage is understandable and I really cared about him. Eustace Folville, our ‘bad guy’, is well written, and the relationship between Edward II and Hugh Despenser is handled really well.
On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I am looking forward to reading the next in this series.