Ever since reading his signature instructional book on Italian Longsword,
the Swordsman's Companion,
I have been a fan of Guy Windsor.
So when I was going through some of my old books looking for some basic sword fighting tips suited for absolute beginners while writing the new page on Sword Fighting, and not finding what I was looking for, I stumbled upon this new book on Amazon.com
The title alone and the caliber of the writer had me sold, so without even reading all the reviews I ordered the kindle version for my iPad (yes, yes - I know and agree, kindle is no substitute for a real book. But traveling around as much as I do, and needing it NOW - Kindle just makes sense to me. Anyway, I blame Tinker for getting me started on Kindle when he released his book that way, and I had to get a copy..)
Straight from the opening first few paragraphs, I began to suspect that something was amiss. The book had gone through several working titles including 'Principles of Swordsmanship' and 'Sword Fighting for Geeks and Gamers' and the more I read of it, the more I began to feel that it wasn't quite hitting the target because it was - as I continued to read - for the most part a collection of articles taken from Guy Windsors blog..!
I am not sure how I feel about books that are basically a compilation of previous works, copied ad verbatim.. I do understand that re-writing something that has already been written is tedious, and with an author as prolific as Guy is, a pain in the butt to do. But because of this, each chapter 'jumped' from one thing to another and this was somewhat off putting, disrupting the flow..
Now don't get me wrong, the topics were interesting and there is a lot of detail there - information on historical sources, how HEMA research is conducted, and a ton of personal anecdotes. But I could not help buy feel that some of these blog posts felt like padding - and started to skim a bit when confronted with a ton of Italian sword fighting terminology - and can only imagine that at that stage of the book, many would be writers or game developers would be skimming even faster looking for the 'meat'..
However, I slowed back down in chapter two 'lessons from the art' which had some very personal stories from Guy in there, such as how his training helped him when facing the possible death of his wife and soon to be born new baby daughter from eclampsia, anxiety at boarding school and quite a few of his inner fears and demons were laid bare in a very disarming way..
From here, the book felt a little bit like a roller coaster, with chapters jumping from one topic to another due to the 'blog' format, covering one topic after another - martial arts training principles. why and how to train with sharps as well as blunts, disdain for aluminum wasters, etc. And finally, what the game designers or writers might be looking for - a chapter detailing some of the mechanics he used for a card game he was involved with - and then some tips on healthy lifestyle, the importance of squatting in daily life (?!) - and then a little bit more for writers, but it was all glossed over and less than a page long!
This left me with mixed feelings about the book, especially if it was really aimed at game developers and writers to create more realistic sword fights - something we all would appreciate as enthusiasts.
I was kind of expecting some analysis of sword games and movies - what is wrong with them and how it should have been done better. Maybe some illustrations of sword fighting moves that were historically used, or some easy to follow drills. But this was completely absent - and if I was a game designer or writer I would have become frustrated at the 'fluff', enjoyable to read as it may be, BUT - and this is make or break time - I WOULD come away with a better understanding of Sword Training and Fighting in General, and would - if I had the budget - decide to call Guy and see if he was available as a consultant..
Perhaps that is what the aim of the book was - to position himself to come to the attention of writers or game developers who are attempting to make a realistic as possible game, book or movie. And honestly, that's not a bad thing - we NEED more realism in how sword fighting is portrayed. But a more casual developer who bought the book hoping it would give them easy answers is going to be disappointed.
Overall, I don't really think the book hit its mark - partly because it feels to me that the mark was not clearly defined from the outset. It would have a been a lot better if it had more original content, and the blog posts were edited and worked into a flowing text rather than just thrown in, warts and all.
But at the end of the day, it was still a worthwhile read - and has quite a few gems in there for sword enthusiasts in general and I would recommend you read it. But not - if you are a game developer or a writer..