Booklist review for THE BOOK OF SWORDS, August issue
Monday, July 6, 2009 at 5:07pm
*Starred Review* The Book of Swords. By Hank Reinhardt.
A man who made his passion his life, Reinhardt died suddenly, leaving an incomplete (a chapter on Arab swords remained to be written) first draft of this labor of love. Fortunately, if ever there were proof of Allen Ginsberg’s maxim First thought, best thought, it’s Reinhardt’s manuscript as shepherded to print by his widow. Intact in it, and what might have been polished out of subsequent drafts, is a frank, personal, and personable voice, just witty enough (never supercilious or condescending), like that of the presenter of your dreams in a hands-on (if only!) workshop. The subject is, of course, the longest-employed basic weapon in recorded history. Reinhardt seems to know every sword ever made, from early clay, bronze, and iron models to the steel examples that predominated during the past three millennia. He explains their manufacture and various shapes through the ages, and his accounts of their usage are informed by his personal experience of wielding them as well as by weapons historiography. Moreover, his experience came not just from the sport of swordplay but in trials of thrusting and cutting techniques conducted on large pork roasts—the closest thing to the human body that’s legal for such purposes. For anyone at all interested in historic combat, this well may be the book of the year. —Ray Olson