1904 Rafael Sabatini novel concerning a Cavalier, embroiled in sticky personal affairs during the English Civil War, which doesn't make anything easier. Our protagonist, the eponymous Tavern Knight, is a surly drunkard but a good soldier, deprived of his patrimony in classical style, but the execution is appalling.

This short novel is, easily, the worst of Sabatini's stories. I haven't even read all of them, yet I'm confident that there cannot possibly lurk among his remaining works another tale as bad as this one. All of his flaws are on prominent, egregious display: protagonists making deliberately bad decisions to keep the plot moving; constant, ridiculous, immersion-defying coïncidences; and most notably, his stupidest use of that stock secret-relatives twist which he employed so fruitfully in the infinitely better Scaramouche. However, in this instance Sabatini isn't satisfied with just making his usual mistakes; instead he invents entirely new kinds of bungling to refresh his readers. On several occasions people fail to see the obvious when it's staring them right in the face and a three-year-old would call it out immediately; the credulity of various persons in authority is entirely adaptable to the needs of the moment rather than to a rendering of anything resembling a human being. Toward the end, a major plot point is resolved off-screen, and then a character conveniently arrives (at just the right moment!) and tells the protagonist about it, resolving a bunch of intractable difficulties all at once.

The truly strange thing is that people appear to exist who genuinely like this book. This is incomprehensible to me; one of nature's mysteries, like quantum mechanics or who was ever listening to Radiohead such that they made money. It's uncanny, and unpleasant.


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