By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions by Richard Cohen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A highly entertaining and very readable chronicle of the history of fencing, from the earliest era to dueling to modern Olympic competition, this book strikes an excellent balance between providing an overall historic and cultural perspective, and relating the stories of individuals - often with humor and/or drama. For my tastes, the later chapters on fencers in the 20th century were less interesting and took up more of the book than I would have wanted ... but that may show my bias more than anything else.
Particularly recommended for any fiction writer hoping to chronicle duels or professional sports - the book is a great source for insights on sportsmanship, legal challenges, honor, cheating, and other related topics that transcend fencing.
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(I don't usually post my nonfiction reviews on this blog, but this one is especially relevant to Things Fantasy, at least my Things Fantasy, and might be of interest to fellow writers.)