One of the chief attractions of reading (and writing!) historical fiction is that it is set in a world far different than the world we live in today. That different-ness, however, also poses one of the greatest challenges for historical novelists. We must understand the unique situation faced by the citizens of an older era, and then convey it to our readers in such a way that they can relate to our characters.
The fourteenth century provides the setting for my book I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince. It was a grim time—one of the greatest disasters imaginable overtook the Western world, with nearly half the European population perishing in the Black Plague. It was a bloody time—France and England became locked in the interminable struggle known as the Hundred Years’ War, with the Scots, the Spaniards, and the Germans participating intermittently.
But despite these harsh realities, the fourteenth century was also a seminal time—an era of change, courage, and determination. Strong men and women saw the world they had been given, took it in their hands, and molded it into something new. In religion, literature, societal structure, and warfare, mankind made monumental strides, preparing the way for the more earth-shattering changes that the Renaissance and Reformation would bring.