Goodreads: Men of Iron
Published: April 2015
After Henry IV claims the throne, Lord Falworth is accused of treason for supporting Richard II and haboring one of Richard’s men. Years later his son Myles begins his training to become a knight, determined to champion his father and reclaim his family’s good name. But how does an unknown boy become a knight–and without anyone realizing his true identity?
Growing up, I loved stories of knights, princesses, and feats of arms. Furthermore, I loved Robin Hood and Howard Pyle’s version was my favorite. For years I looked for this title, believing that it would deliver all the romance and excitement I could ever want. Unfortunately, I soon realized I wasn’t that interested in the story.
I’ve seen Men of Iron described as a “coming of age” story and I suppose that description fits it well enough. It follows Myles Falworth as he trains to become a knight, showing how he picked fights with the other boys over supposed slights and how he learned of the disgrace upon his family and the hopes laid upon him by his elders. Once he becomes a man, the story wraps up quickly, even abruptly, as if there’s no more to be said.
I suppose I just didn’t relate to Myles. I have trouble respecting people who get into fights, even if their honor is supposedly at stake, and I thought it was strange he never questioned the fact that he was literally being groomed by a noble so he could restore this noble’s fortune to him. The noble pretended he was helping Myles reclaim his father’s honor, but self interest was clearly at work. But Myles is still ready quite literally to die in order to do whatever this noble told him. I think I was supposed to just accept that this was what men did in the Middle Ages–fight and die over ridiculous things.
Usually I don’t need women in a work to be interested in the story, but the girls here were quite a breath of fresh air after I had to watch the boys squabble over everything. I was disappointed we couldn’t learn more about them–since the story is told from the perspective of Myles, his interest in them seems to lie largely in how interested they seem in him. He also is attracted to one of them, for her beauty, but he doesn’t elaborate on that.
When Prince Henry appeared, I hoped the story would pick up, but he and his revels receive too little attention to enliven work. He works mostly as an interesting historical aside, making the story feel grounded in a particular point of the past. He as a character remains a little ambiguous since his role is too small.
Though I’ve enjoyed some of Pyle’s other works, I don’t foresee myself rereading Men of Iron. I simply don’t care enough about Myles and his somewhat over-exaggerated sense of self-importance to have to struggle through this story again.