The Cross-Time Engineer by Leo A. Frankowski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have to say I really struggled with putting a rank on this one. The books are like candy, they only last a moment, are probably bad for you overall, and are quite enjoyable.
The story revolves around Conrad Schwartz, aka Contrad Stargard (his given name sounded to German) being sent back to thirteenth-century Poland. After the shock of realizing when he was, he makes several friends. One of my favorite scenes in the early chapters is when he hire an underage girl who has been forced to sell herself to earn money for food, and then presses her on an inkeeper as a serving girl/cleaning lady. The innkeeper ends up marrying the girl.
That same theme from Ecclesiastes 11:1 of throwing bread on the water, is carried through many of Conrad’s actions. Something seemingly small done for the right reason turns into something larger and better.
I read the first book in the series when I was in highschool, and needless to say I am well past those years now. One of the things that didn’t strike me then was the way the young ladies in Count Lambert’s court are used, and at what age. I know a lot of people got really upset over this. Now that I am older I can see how it is a little bit creepy – but, at the same time it was never done in a creepy way. It might be every male’s dream to have partners, and maybe Leo took it a bit far, but at the same time, it is not overly graphic, it just is.
Anyway, Conrad makes several friends and ends up as a guard for a merchant, but only for a few days. After killing several brigands he ends up at the Count’s to weather out a snowstorm. The bread on water theme replays itself here, as the baby he refused to let die of exposure he found at the brigand camp ends up endearing all the keep fold to him.
Needless to say, Conrad’s knowledge and skills appeal greatly to the count, and he ends up hiring him away from Boris Novacek. Using his technical and military knowledge Conrad starts to build for his future goal, which is to be ready when the mongal hoard invades in nine and half years.
The book ends with the Duke granding Conrad the lands that Count Lambert assigns, willing to take the bet that Conrad’s overall goals are for the good of Poland.