The Last Knight by Norman F. Cantor

I picked up The Last Knight by Norman F. Cantor (Harper, 2005) at some vintage store I’m sure, a good while ago, and thought it made a nice coffee table book at my last place. I only got around to reading it lately, but as an amateur Medieval history fan, I was pretty excited!

And boy was I let down!

The Book Sucked

The Last Knight covers John of Gaunt, a wealthy nobleman and influential prince. Well, it claims to. It does mention him a lot, but it’s far from a biography, which is what you would assume from the title anyway.

No, it actually covers a very broad range of time, from the mid 1000s to the mid 1500s. Okay…

the last knight by norman f cantor

It doesn’t go in chronological order. Nothing of the sort. Instead it sorts by topic, with chapters like “Church”, “Romance”, “War”, etc. This wouldn’t be so bad if every chapter didn’t re-introduce everything the last chapters covered. Apparently these were all written as separate essays, and boy, you can believe it!

Norman Cantor used to be a best-selling, but controversial author. This is his last book, and he died around the same time it was published, at 75 years of age. I think his publisher just really wanted to squeeze one last payday out of him, which is a shame – I’ve never read any of his past work, but I assume he was pretty decent, but this book stains whatever legacy he would’ve had, and certainly puts me off of reading anything else by him.

I Didn’t Even Finish

I tried, let me tell you. I really worked on this book. It was a struggle. There were typos. There were things that were blatantly, factually incorrect. And Cantor sure liked to guess and assume and make stuff up. His political views were incredibly clear, and it seemed like he was using John of Gaunt and the time period as allegories for his rants on the wealthy today. He also liked to make up fake letters and dialogue.

It was all a load of crap, really.

I hate giving up on books, but it got to the point where I was two-thirds in and I realized I was just wasting my time here. So I went to the last chapter, just to see if it was a nice summary, and instead found that by that time he had went full-on political rant.


I can’t believe I spent as much time I did on this thing. Please, don’t buy this book. Don’t do it to yourself. This book was dismal.