The Firebrand by George Challis
(from the book jacket) The powerful lord of Perugia couldn't believe his own eyes. No Living man had ever escaped the locks and guards of his torture chamber - no one, that is, except his prize prisoners, Baron Melrose, and Tizzo, the laughing Firebrand who danced his way through perilous encounters with the finest swordsmen of Europe; Tizzo, whose woodsman's ax split helmets like kindling, whose dagger could find chinks in the strongest armor. It seemed that only witchcraft could account for his amazing prowess! In this tale of adventure, intrigue, and romance, George Challis has brought to like an exciting new character in the sparkling, daredevil youth who grew up to match wits and courage with the greatest villains of the day. Giovanpaolo, head of the mighty house of Baglioni, found the mind of Tizzo as keen as his sword; Henry of Melrose found that no friend of Tizzo died while Tizzo lived; and black-hearted Mateo Marozzo found that Tizzo ws no friend to treachery. And in one look at his flaming hair and blue eyes, the lovely Beatrice Baglioni knew why they called him the Firebrand.
The Firebrand is an exciting swashbuckling adventure. It is filled with breathtaking sword fights and daring rescues. It has loyalty, friendship and love. Challis makes all his characters big and bold, they swear loyalty to men they hardly know, they feel everything strongly, they love a good fight and a good fighter. The boldest, of course, is our hero, Tizzo, the Firebrand from the title. He is young and brash and people love him without really knowing why. He makes outrageous gambits and somehow always pulls them off. He is different from other men with his flaming hair and his choice of weapon, the woodman’s ax. Others find him so extraordinary that they say things like ‘not a cat, but a Tizzo could,’ not a giant, but a Tizzo could,’ like he is not just a remarkable man but a different breed altogether. He has a lady love who will fight beside him, friends who will risk life and limb to follow him and an enemy that will risk anything to destroy him. The story of power and betrayal and true love is fun and exciting. It is a story that is larger than life. The fights that are ‘aflash and aglitter with the swordplay’ are plentiful. Most of the book someone is fighting but it doesn’t become tedious and there is still plenty of plot in between the fights. It reads fast and moves quickly. Challis has written a wonderful adventure story with a hissable bad guy, a courageous hero, love that conquers all, improbably escapes, and lots of daring do. What more could you ask for? It’s easy to get swept up in it.