‘Fate of the Saracen Knight’ On Sale!

Gustave Dore, the 19th Century French artist, is a personal favorite. I own the Dover Book editions of his illustrations for the Bible, The Divine Comedy, and for Rime of the Ancient Mariner (and look forward to seeing one day his pictures for Shakespeare’s Tempest and for Paradise Lost). My favorite collection of Dore drawings, though, is for Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso.

My guess is that you’re much more familiar with Christian scripture, Dante, Coleridge, Shakespeare, and Milton than you are with Ariosto. I confess to never having heard the name until I started tracking down mythological creatures in Harry Potter; the hippogriff is the preferred means of travel in Orlando Furioso. The book itself is an epic poem, actually the completion of or sequel to Boiardo’s Orlando Innamarato, and it plays an outsized influence, not only on J. K. Rowling, but in Spenser, Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Calvino, Borges, and Rushdie as well. The plot goes something like this:

Orlando is the Christian knight known in French (and subsequently English) as Roland. The story takes place against the background of the war between Charlemagne’s Christian paladins and the Saracen army that has invaded Europe and is attempting to overthrow the Christian empire. The poem is about war and love and the romantic ideal of chivalry. It mixes realism and fantasy, humor and tragedy. The stage is the entire world, plus a trip to the moon. The large cast of characters features Christians and Saracens, soldiers and sorcerers, and fantastic creatures including a gigantic sea monster called the orc and a flying horse called the hippogriff. Many themes are interwoven in its complicated episodic structure, but the most important are the paladin Orlando’s unrequited love for the pagan princess Angelica, which drives him mad; the love between the female Christian warrior Bradamante and the Saracen Ruggiero, who are supposed to be the ancestors of Ariosto’s patrons, the d’Este family of Ferrara; and the war between Christian and Infidel.

I have known and admired Linda McCabe since the dawn of Potter Punditry, which, if we have to have a date of its beginning would have to be the virtual reality of the ‘Harry Potter for Grown-Ups’ website or the Nimbus 2003 conference at Disney World in Orlando that year organized by the same group. She was active in both, and, though we disagreed mightily about the direction of the Hogwarts Saga, our conflicts were cordial and bound by mutual respect. We have been correspondents ever since.

And what does this have to do with Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso

I learned when we finally met at the 2009 HPEF Azkatraz Conference in San Francisco that Linda by day is a clinical laboratory scientist (medical technologist, ‘lab rat’); at night, though, and on her vacations, she has, since 2005, devoted herself to transforming the largely impenetrable-for-moderns poetry of Boiardo and Ariosto into novels for people-like-us. Her first book, Quest of the Warrior Maiden, about Bradamante and Ruggiero was published in 2011. I asked her to tell HogwartsProfessor readers all about it then and she did: ‘Hippogriffs, Epic Fantasy, and Warrior Maidens’ is a short history of Linda’s life in Potter fandom and her quest to bring Ariosto and his unforgettable story to a larger audience.

It’s really good; as I wrote in a blurb at the time, Quest is “a grand and engaging re-telling of the original ‘star crossed lovers’ epic with everything Orlando – chivalry, romance, fights to the death, hippogriffs, madness, and beauty! As engaging a story as I have read this year, I couldn’t put it down and I urge you to pick it up today.” It won Best Historic Fantasy by the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) and received an Honorable Mention for Genre-Based fiction by the Hollywood Book Festival.

I write about it in 2018’s closing days because the long awaited sequel, Fate of the Saracen Knight, again with Ruggerio and Bradamante, is finally available. If you read the archives of Linda’s weblog, you will learn about her trips to Europe to research everything Medieval, about the adventures she had and discoveries she made that have delayed the sequel more than a few years, and made it even better than the original. Linda is offering a deep discount on both books in the first month of Fate of the Saracen Knight‘s publication.

If you’ve read the first, you probably have already stopped reading this to buy the second. If you’re new to Ariosto and Orlando, I hope you will give Quest of the Warrior Maidena try. You won’t regret it.

After the jump, a letter from Linda to me about Orlando and the new book — and an interview she gave Professor Nokes aka “Dr Awesome.” Enjoy!

[Nota Bene: Linda’s annotations for this interview follow the note below!]

Hello John,

Over the years the question of “when is your sequel coming out?” has been a frequent topic of discussion at gatherings. At times I have regaled the questioner with glimpses of what was to come by telling them about something I was currently writing, such as “I have been stuck in the Underworld and will soon be done writing those chapters.”

I was grateful to be asked, because it meant that my writing touched a chord with people and they were interested in knowing what came next.

I had no idea how much time would be involved when I made the decision to adapt two of the largest contributions to the legends of Charlemagne into novels for modern day audiences. That was back in 2005. I was so naÏve. I thought I could do it in one volume.

I made my outlines, made decisions how to structure my story, evaluated the maps for locations, etc. Once I began writing and allowed the drama to play out, I soon realized that this was not going to be done in one volume – not unless it was over a thousand pages. That’s just not realistic book length for an undiscovered author.

At one point, I thought I could do this series in two novels. That idea was also dispelled once I began writing volume two and saw the page count continue to climb with a large number of chapters yet to be written. Currently my plan is for a trilogy.

I thought I should share how I began writing this series. Back in 2003, I read my first epic poem. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a life changing experience for me. I was doing a little bit of research and had originally intended on only reading a few cantos of Orlando furioso and used an online English translation because it was free and readily available. It was confusing, and so I switched to reading Barbara Reynolds’ two-volume set. I became entranced by the epic story with an expansive cast of larger than life characters and multiple interweaving plotlines. The love story of Bradamante and Ruggiero became the one plot thread that captivated my attention most of all and I found myself skimming ahead until I found their storyline resumed. I was astonished at the idea that 500 years ago there was a brave warrior maiden in literature sent on a quest to rescue her beloved. I felt cheated that I had never heard of Bradamante before.

Two years later, I decided to embark on this ambitious project  I wanted others to know about these fantastic characters and their incredible storyline. I knew from the outset it would be an ambitious project, but I had confidence I had the talent and stamina to complete it. As I embarked on my literary journey to adapt Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto and Orlando inamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, I thought it would not take me as long to complete my task as it took the poets to write their masterpieces. Now, thirteen years later, I am proud to announce the publication of Fate of the Saracen Knight, volume two in my trilogy.

Here’s some context: according to the Encyclopedia of Italian Studies, Boiardo began his work on Orlando innamorato in 1478. The first edition of his poem was published in 1483. Boiardo died in 1494, leaving his poem unfinished. He wrote his poem for sixteen years. 

Ariosto was later given the task of finishing Boiardo’s poem and his work began in 1505. The first publication of Orlando furioso was in 1516, taking only eleven years. A further expansive version of his epic poem was published in 1532, sixteen years later, for a total of thirty-two years spent on his magnum opus.

The focus of my work is on the love story of Bradamante and Ruggiero, so I am not attempting to adapt the entirety of both poems. That was part of my hubris in thinking my adaptation wouldn’t take as long as it did the poets to write their stories. Thirteen years later, and I’m not finished yet.

I began this work not having been a devotée of the Medieval period. However, I have a Masters Degree as an Historian of Science from Sonoma State University and was mentally prepared for the challenge. I plunged in the deep end, learning as much as I could about medieval life, medieval history and Charlemagne. Part of my research included my husband and I traveling to France to see the places I was writing about and museums. On subsequent trips, we visited Aachen, Germany to see Charlemagne’s seat of power and to Ferrara, Italy where the patrons of Boiardo and Ariosto lived.

To help celebrate the launch of my second volume, both volumes are discounted during the month of December. Here are links for the ebooks of Quest of the Warrior Maiden  and  Fate of the Saracen Knight from Amazon.com, and the trade paperbacks of Quest and Fate. The books are available on other Amazon outlets throughout the world, but availability of trade paperbacks depends on the country. The prices will go up in January.

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes, Professor of Medieval Literature from Troy University said this about my writing. “Readers will be gripped by the epic sweep of the Bradamante & Ruggiero Series. This second book ratchets up the narrative tension and leaves the reader emotionally invested not just in the Fate of the Saracen Knight, but the fates of all the characters.”

Please consider giving the gift of reading this holiday season for yourself or for others, and supporting an independent author who shares your passion for fantasy, heroic characters and the Medieval period.

Thank you and may you have a fabulous holiday season,

Linda C. McCabe

Update: Annotations for Interview

At 2:04 I mention that my series is based on the legends of Charlemagne that were told and retold in the south of France and north of Italy for several centuries. For those interested in learning more, Fordham University has a website dedicated to those legends. 

2:55 I mention one of the most famous contributions to the legends of Charlemagne, The Song of Roland or La Chanson de Roland. Here is a link to Fordham University’s online translation and a link to Amazon.com’s trade paperback version.

3:50 I show my copies of Barbara Reynolds’ translations of Orlando furioso. Here are links to those copies on Amazon.com Part One and Part Two.  Those books are my preferred version of this epic poem. They are in verse and there is a lot of white space, so I find it easier to read. Guido Waldman has a one volume version, and it is written in prose. I find it difficult to read because the font is so small, and there is little white space. Here is a link to his version on Amazon.com 

A free online version by Project Gutenberg can be found at this link. A fair bit of warning though. This is the William Stewart Rose translation. I started reading this epic poem by printing out a few cantos of this version and found it utterly confusing. Later, once I read the versions by both Reynolds and Waldman, I went back and checked a few choice passages. Rose refused to translate some of the bawdier ones. Bummer.

(As a side note: I do not recommend the latest translation of Orlando furioso by David R. Slavitt. That is because his publisher heavily abridged his work and deleted numerous cantos that cover the Bradamante and Ruggiero story. I disagree with the editorial decision to cut my favorite storyline from the poem, and so I cannot recommend that version. )

5:50 Professor Awesome asks me to define Saracen. Here is a link to one online definition from the Online Etymology Dictionary.

I use Saracen in my title as one of the magic terms that helps to conjure the genre, time period and meaning of the novel in as few words as possible. Fateis reminiscent of the Oracle of Delphi and those in Greek mythology trying to change their destinies. Saracen is a term that went out of use after the Medieval period. Knight is also a Medieval term used in regard to war and chivalry.

Together the three terms should help readers know this is an epic historic fantasy set in the Medieval period.

8:50 I show my copy of Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, translated by Charles Stanley Ross. This is the full unabridged version by Parlor Press. Here is a link to Amazon.com’s trade paperpack.

Warning: there is a previous edition by Ross that was abridged and did not include Book III of Boiardo’s tale. Bradamante and Ruggiero meet in Book III, Canto iv. I was disappointed after finishing that abridged version to realize that it did not include the scene that I most wanted to read.

10:00 Discussion about fantasy elements in realistic settings.  I realize in retrospect, I didn’t really answer Professor Awesome’s questions about this aspect of my story.

I agree that it is difficult to strike a balance between fantasy and realism. I am retelling a story about a war that never took place between the North African Muslim army and Charlemagne’s Frankish army. My goal was to make the setting feel like Medieval Europe (and North Africa) that would include historically accurate details about Roman artifacts, cultural beliefs, religious restrictions, etc. And then, there is magic, but few have the ability to cast magical spells. They are: Atallah, Melissa, and Maugis. Aistulf was given a magical book which has allowed him to cast some spells, but he is not a wizard.

For the most part, the characters live in a realistic and non-magical world, but there are times when flights of fancy come into play. The flights of the hippogriff is the most notable.

Orlando furioso included iconic visits to the Underworld and the flight to the moon by Aistulf. I had to include them, but I wanted more realism in the storyline to at least help me to “buy the premise.” I feel that if I can’t buy it, I can’t sell it.

22:15  I mentioned writing a Master’s Thesis. For anyone interested in it, here’s a link to Sonoma State University’s library copy of The Cultural Evolution of the Cave Man.

And here is a link to the Fifth year Harry Potter Fic that I wrote back in 2003.  It won the Readers’ Choice Award for novel length story on the now defunct website Portkey.org

24:30 Question about how to begin becoming a writer.

25:15 My answer: find a writers group or club. I mentioned the California Writers Club.  My branch of that statewide organization is Redwood Writers.

Here are links to other writers groups that focus on genre fiction:
Romance Writers of America.
Sisters in Crime. 
Historical Novel Society.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

27:00  I mentioned the challenges of getting the Point of View or POV correct. To give a little more information here is one article about the differences in POV choices. Here is a link to an article about POV violations.

And here is where my annotation, really takes off. There are many other aspects of the craft of writing that I learned over the years from belonging to my writers club. My branch has had workshops about various topic as well as talks at our monthly meetings or sessions in writers conferences. Each one of these topics is worthy of extensive blog posts or entire books.

Here are two books that I recommend:

David Corbett’s book: The Art of Character
Jordan E. Rosenfeld’s book Make a Scene

Other topics that perhaps I should try to expand on as topics in the future include:

Compelling dialogue
Establishing setting

***One thing that I meant to bring up in my discussion with Professor Awesome, but forgot are the sheets of paper affixed with blue painters tape to the wall behind me. Those are the months of June, July, August and September of the year 802. That was one way for me to determine when different plot events took place.

The calendar was found at www.timeanddate.com This also includes the phases of the moon.  I include that information in my story. If there’s a mention of a full moon, I’m not making it up. And, if I have my characters do something outdoors at night and I don’t want a full moon’s worth of light – I will make it rain or overcast or foggy.

Using a calendar to structure your underlying plot will give backbone to your story. I recommend all writers have a beginning day and year in mind. Then establish your timeline of events accordingly to that date. It will help you to avoid continuity errors.

I had a friend whose manuscript I read as a critique group partner. Her novel had the climax of her story being on the Thanksgiving holiday. The problem was that she had not been as careful in planning the events as she should have been and she had two Wednesdays worth of chapters. There was a line where she stated it was Wednesday, but I knew it wasn’t. That’s because I ground myself on the days of the week and other nitpicky details. I then gave suggestions as to how she could move certain events to still make her climactic events happen on the day she wanted.

The use of a calendar to determine the dates of plot points is something I recommend every writer use.

The calendars on my office wall are hard to see, but the events in the months of July and August
are written in pencil, because those already took place in Quest of the Warrior MaidenFate of the Saracen Knight takes place in the months of July and August. The different color Post-It notes represent different character POVs that are being represented in chapters or are background information for me to know who was where and doing what on that day. For example: blue is for Bradamante, dark orange is for Ruggiero, yellow is either Renaud or Aistulf, light orange is for Rodomont or Akramont.

I tend to write one action/adventure sequence before switching to a different character’s action/adventure sequence. Later, to balance the work I will shuffle the chapters together. To achieve balance, I may have to switch the days of different plot points. Having those plot points on color coded Post-It notes helps me visually re-organize and balance my storyline.

Once I start working on Volume III, I will update those calendars and create new months. ***

32:30 I couldn’t remember the name of this website that is accessible to all writers wherever you are: Absolute Write online website. There is also Absolute Write Chat and forums.

Wattpad is another global forum for writers and readers.

So if you live in a rural area and/or cannot find any writers groups in your local area you can try one of those two online websites. Go schmooze, find like minded people and engage with them.

38:30 I recommended the book Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff. Oops. There are twelve guideposts for actors, I misspoke and said ten. Humor is Guidepost 4. Here is a small excerpt to demonstrate why I adore Shurtleff’s book and his advice.

“Humor is not jokes. It is that attitude toward being alive without which you would long ago have jumped off the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge.

Humor is not being funny. It is the coin of exchange between human beings that makes it possible for us to get through the day. Humor exists even in the humorless.

There is humor in every scene, just as there is in every situation in life. There is humor in Chekhov (too seldom found) and even in Eugene O’Neill (virtually never found). When we say about a life situation, “And it’s not funny, either,” we are attempting to inject humor into a situation that lacks it. We try in life to put humor everywhere; if we didn’t, we couldn’t bear to live.” – page 53

So yes, as writers, we need humor in our writing. Even if the only humor in a scene is gallows humor.

44:30 There was a mention of Medieval Conferences. I twice attended the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I delivered papers about Carolingian legends and Ariosto. I will be delivering another paper in May 2019 in a session organized by the Société Rencesvals. My paper is titled “To Die For: Duels by knights in Orlando innamorato and Orlando furioso over swords, horses, heraldic symbols, and women.”

I delivered the paper “Orlando furioso’s archetypes and the twisting of expected plot conventions” at the 15th Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society in 2016. 

Here is the website for the International Courtly Literature Society North American Branch and to Academia.edu if you are interested in seeing my paper.

( I should at some point finish writing citations of the two papers I delivered at Kalamazoo and upload them to Academia.edu. One of my papers, “Ludovico Ariosto’s Legacy: Inspiring Countless Artists, Playwrights, Novelists, Filmmakers, and Puppet Theater” was filled with images and the challenge I have is finding good online sources for those images and then go through the cumbersome process of MLA citation. That shows my work ethic that I don’t want to publish a paper online without my citations being in order. That will probably wait until some rainy day when I am procrastinating from doing other writing.)

I think that’s all for now.

Here’s a reminder that both Quest of the Warrior Maiden and Fate of the Saracen Knight are discounted in the month of December. If you know someone who loves reading and would like to fill their physical or digital bookshelves, please send them the gift of reading. Or give yourself a gift and be transported back to the time of Charlemagne.

Cheers and may all your holidays be joyous occasions,



  1. Sir John Harington’s 1591 English translation of Orlando Furioso was much reproached by his godmother, Queen Elizabeth, for corrupting the ladies in her Court of their maidenly values. He was banished for awhile, then upon returning he wrote, in 1596, the Metamorphosis of Ajax, concerning his invention of a flushing toilet. Sir John is now famously known to many as an ancestor to Kit Harington, John Snow of Game of Thrones. Perhaps Kit would consider playing the Saracen Knight in a movie version of the books by Linda McCabe.

  2. First off, thank you John for your generosity in posting about my new novel. I appreciate it and hope to one day soon set some time aside and write a post regarding the latest Fantastic Beasts movie and give it my unique obsessive nitpicker take.

    I heard a slightly different take on the genesis of Harington’s translation. He had only translated one passage from Ariosto’s work. This was a story about Giacondo and is one of the bawdier parts of the epic poem. Harington shared his translation with Queen Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting and the queen was not amused. Her punishment was to banish him from court until he translated Ariosto’s work in its entirety.

    Here’s a link to an article by the University of Houston that goes on about the invention of the toilet and Ajax as you mentioned. https://www.uh.edu/engines/epi846.htm

    As for a movie version of this series, I would love that to happen. Of course, it would probably be better served as a Netflix, Amazon Prime or HBO series. Do you know anyone in those companies that are in project acquisitions?

  3. David Ewald says


    I believe that you are correct about his earlier translation of the one passage, originally begun in college for the amusement of fellow students before spreading into the Queen’s ladies in waiting chambers.

    The original idea for the flushing jakes began at Wardour Castle with John Harington, the Earl of Southampton and his sister Mary, wife of Thomas Arundell, Thomas and his father Matthew Arundell, and Sir Henry Danvers, in the early 1590’s. A very careful reading (along with an active imagination) of the 1602 first quarto of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor suggests that he may have read Harington’s Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596) before writing what could have easily been titled: The Metamorphosis of a Jack. Jack Fastaff went from a scheming old lech to dirty laundry on a Skimmington Ride, a witch, a disgraced version of Herne the Hunter, and finally the cause and witness to the marriage of true love between Fenton and Anne Page. Urinals are mentioned in relation to Dr. Caius, Caius’ French accent sounds out third as turd, Harington mentions dirty laundry in Ajax, and a version of the word Metamorphosis (metamorphised youth) occurs in the 1602 version relating to Falstaff, but does not occur in the First Folio version of 1623.

    Unfortunately I don’t know anyone that would be helpful at Netflix, HBO or any other production companies. Perhaps you could attempt to write a screenplay to present to an agent in that field. Perhaps Kit Harington has a production company, and since he proudly announced on late night American television that his ancestor invented the flushing jakes, he may be interested in producing some more endearing accomplishment by him. I began reading your first book today and find it to be quite captivating. Nicely done!

  4. David,
    I am glad to hear that you are enjoying my work. That’s great news.

    I will have you know that the story about Giacondo that Harington translated many years ago is included in “Fate of the Saracen Knight.” You will find a version of that in Chapter Fifty-Two.

    I shall have to defer taking any time adapting my tale into a screenplay until after I have completed the third installment of my trilogy. Lest I be compared to George R.R. Martin who still has not completed writing his epic series, but will have the televised version finished first!

    Cheers and happy reading!

  5. David Ewald says

    Thank you Linda for the heads-up on Harington in Saracen Knight, I look forward to reading it.

    I did a little research and found that Kit Harington recently Executive Produced and starred in a TV Series for the BBC (HBO, later in America) about the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 London. He played one of the primary instigators of the plot, Catesby, who was a direct ancestor of his. He does have a profound interest in his ancestors, especially if they are ‘bad boys’, so you might be able to begin researching the production company that produced that show to make some contact with them to feel them out. John Harington appears to be just the kind of character that Kit would be interested in, though he may prefer playing his character rather than a story interpreted by him, but you never know until you ask.

    Any comparison like that to Martin would probably be a good thing, however, you probably would be better served finishing the trilogy…unless Kit comes a calling!

    Good luck!

  6. David,
    Thank you again. I have a new mini-series on HBO to watch and do some research.

    Who knows? Maybe if I write him a nice letter, send it to his production company, and enclose copies of my novels he will feel compelled to give them a read. Then, perhaps he will be hooked and want to transform it into a project for HBO.

    I think he’d be a little old to play Ruggiero once any production would actually start, but there are many roles he could play as an actor. He might also try his hand at directing, since many actors feel compelled to try their hand at that as well.


  7. David Ewald says


    The production company that produced Gunpowder is a British company called Kudos, and it appears that Kit likely approached them with the idea because of his ancestral relation to the plot. Kit would be difficult, at best, to contact, but Kudos should be relatively easy, as their website has a contact format to work with. Looking at some of their past productions, it appears that your books could be of interest to them, especially if they approached Kit as an Executive Producer and possible Director, to generate extra interest from the public.

    Best wishes

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