Seven Noble Knights

Spain, 974. Gonzalo, a brave but hotheaded knight, unwittingly provokes tragedy at his uncle’s wedding to beautiful young noblewoman Doña Lambra: the adored cousin of the bride dead, his teeth scattered across the riverbank.

Coveting Gonzalo’s family’s wealth and power, Doña Lambra then sends Gonzalo’s father into enemy territory to be beheaded, unleashing a vengeance that devastates Castile for a generation.


A new hero, Mudarra, rises out of the ashes of Gonzalo’s once great family. Raised as a warrior in the opulence of Muslim Córdoba, Mudarra must make a grueling journey and change his religion. Then, he chooses to take his jeweled sword to the throats of his family’s betrayers. But only when he strays from the path set for him does he find his true purpose in life.

Inspired by a lost medieval epic poem, Seven Noble Knights draws from history and legend to bring a brutal yet beautiful world to life in a gripping story of family, betrayal, and love.

Based on 16 Reviews
Jay Ruud
July 2, 2023

5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Retelling

J.K. Knauss’s historical novel Seven Noble Knights is based on a legend of tenth-century Spain that survives in two late medieval chronicles. The legend, generally referred to as the Cantar de los Siete Infantes de Lara (“Song of the Seven Lara Princes”), is believed by some scholars of medieval Spanish history and literature to have existed as an epic poem before it was recorded in those chronicles—chiefly because the chronicles use what often seem to be lines of poetry in retelling the tale. Knauss, whose Ph.D. is in medieval Spanish, has recreated the plot of that non-extant epic in her own prose account, which recreates all the passion and love, sorrow and vengeance that would have made the original poetic version popular in the courts of medieval Iberia. If you’ve read your share of medieval epics, you may feel while reading Seven Noble Knights a bit of déjà vu when you recognize how the seven sons of the noble Lara family, sent to battle against the Moors of Spain, are betrayed by a relative they trusted, yet defend themselves against hordes of enemy attackers until finally succumbing, like Roland and Oliver at Roncevaux Pass. And the second half of the novel, like the second half of the Chanson de Roland, focuses on revenge for the disaster of the first part: in the French Chanson, of course, it was Charlemagne avenging Roland on the whole Moorish army. In Knauss’s modern Cantar, the revenge is just as satisfying, though it comes twenty years later. Like the Roland legend, the Lara family slaughter probably does have a kernel of historical truth in it, but shaped by the art of narrative the story has become a powerful exemplum of honor, shame, and revenge. Knauss turns that core narrative into a contemporary novel that does justice to the legend but reshapes it for a twenty-first century reader. The plot of Seven Noble Knights begins in Castile in 974. The seven sons of Gonzalo Gustioz, lord of Lara, have established themselves as the bravest and noblest knights of Christendom while fighting under their uncle Ruy Blásquez. García Fernández, Count of Castile, rewards Ruy for his victory by granting him as bride the Count’s beautiful kinswoman Doña Lambra. The lady, however, would prefer to marry her arrogant cousin Álvar Sánchez. When the wedding is disrupted by a quarrel between Sánchez and Gonzalo, the youngest and most rash of the Gonzalez sons, a tragedy occurs that has Doña Lambra demanding vengeance. Lambra’s husband Ruy, convinced by his implacable wife to pursue revenge on his own nephews, brings that about with the assistance of his ally Almanzor, the Moorish commander in Córdoba. Ruy also sends his brother-in-law Gonzalo on what he hopes will be a suicide mission to Córdoba. As it turns out, though, it is from Córdoba that a hero emerges who will avenge the honor of Lara. This is the youth Mudarra. In the chronicle versions of the legend, Mudarra’s vengeance is relatively short in the telling. In other retellings of the epic tale that have appeared in the centuries following, Mudarra’s importance is secondary—even in the drama El Bastardo Mudarra by the greatest playwright of the Golden Age, Lope de Vega, Mudarra’s role is perhaps simply the stereotyped avenger. Knauss’s most original contribution to the legend is her rounding of the Mudarra character, who, raised as a Muslim, gives us a far more sympathetic view of Islam than any eleventh-century Christian text—e.g. The Song of Roland—ever gives. His love of his enemy’s daughter, Blanca Flor, also forces him to consider the morality of vengeance and the tempering of justice with mercy to an extent that the monomaniacal avengers of other medieval legends—the Icelandic sagas, for example, or the Nibelungenlied—never reach, but that makes him far more sympathetic to modern readers than the original Mudarra must have been. Stylistically, Knauss has managed to evoke the grandeur of the original epic—if there was one—while adapting it for contemporary readers without damaging the medieval fabric of the story. In doing so she has recreated a classic, and given us a gem of a novel to read.

Tinney S. Heath
April 20, 2021

5.0 out of 5 stars A legend comes to life

One of the more difficult tasks for a writer of historical fiction is to take an ancient legend or myth and turn it into a living, breathing story about people who feel real and believable. Knauss has accomplished that here. The legend of the Seven Noble Knights comes alive, steeped in the colorful world of medieval Spain and brimming with vivid characters. The author’s encyclopedic knowledge of this time and place are put to good use here, providing an irresistible context for the story. One thing that struck me throughout the book was the skillful use of all the senses. Very different and contrasting areas of Spain are presented through their sights, sounds, scents, tastes, and tactile features, resulting in a real treat for the reader. I recommend this book if you would like to immerse yourself in an exotic world that somehow feels both far away in time and yet very immediate.

February 6, 2021

5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction Done Right

Wow, what an amazing, emotional ride! I love when my personal tastes synch so well with a novel. “Seven Noble Knights” by J.K. Knauss is historical fiction done right. Based on an old Spanish legend, this book takes the reader back to 10th-century Hispania, a land divided among different cultures, Christians to the North and a Muslim Empire to the South. Much bloodshed and calamity occur and many years later, a hero arises to avenge family honor. In the County of Castile, the seven sons of Gonzalez Gustioz are known as the bravest, strongest, most noble knights in all of Christendom. The story begins as the knights fight under their uncle Ruy Blasquez to capture enemy territory. We are introduced to Gonzalo, the youngest of the brothers, impetuous, yet honorable. Although an omniscient narrator takes us inside the heads of multiple characters throughout the book, it’s from his perspective that much of the first portion of the story is told. As a reward for taking the castle, the older, grizzled Ruy is gifted with a beautiful, young noblewoman, Dona Lambra, to marry. Lambra, however, resents this union, as she had wanted to marry her handsome and arrogant cousin. She is a cunning, spiteful creature and although the reader is never placed directly in Lambra’s head, it’s plain to see her evil personality behind the beautiful face. A violent tragedy ensues at the wedding due to Gonzalo’s hotheadedness and Lambra calls for justice, which is promptly given by the Count. However, it’s not enough for Lambra, who plots all-out revenge against the Gonzalez family and their seven sons. As I read the book, I was kept anxious, knowing what was going to happen, but hoping, in vain, that it wouldn’t. My eyes were glued to the pages and I kept blowing off my responsibilities so I could finish each chapter. “Just one more chapter,” I’d tell myself, ignoring the growing piles of laundry I had to fold and dishes in the sink. The story is set in both the dusty, plains of Castile and the beautiful paradise that was Al-Andalus. Both people of those lands have their codes of honor that they value greatly. From the Muslim caliphate, there will come a champion to enact vengeance against the ones who harmed the Gonzalez family. Here, in the second portion of the book, we meet Mudarra, nephew of the great chamberlain of Cordoba. Mudarra is youthful and lives an idyllic life. Is he up to the great challenge before him? Can he commit to his plan when so many roadblocks seem to fall in his way? Does destiny await? A few times when reading historical fiction, I get the notion that some authors don’t like nor respect the people or the time period they’re writing about. Or, they infuse their contemporary beliefs into what or whom they write. Not here in “Seven Noble Knights.” These characters felt wholly authentic, a people of their times. Yes, the story does have some fantastical elements in it and reads like an ancient fairytale, but the individuals feel like real people. The villains are villains, but we can understand why. The heroes are imperfect, yet are committed to doing what they must. The side characters are more than just placeholders, they’re people with wants and desires beyond the plot. If you enjoy historical books that actually transport you back to previous times, with genuine characters that make you believe you are living their story, I heartily recommend “Seven Noble Knights.” It’s a shame this book has just a few reviews and ratings because it really is a fantastic work of historical fiction. 5 stars

January 18, 2021

Vendetta in Medieval Spain

I am used to read books from Bernard Cornwell and other historical fiction best sellers. As I am bored of so many Vikings and Arthurian stories, I decided to give a try to medieval Spain with Seven Noble Knights. The book is divided in two parts, I found the second part better. The historical notes at the end were very useful to understand some situations in the story. Mudarra is a character with a lot of potential, so I believe there will be a second book.

May 17, 2019

Betrayal and revenge of a Spanish medieval family

A wonderful adaptation of an ancient Spanish medieval legend of 10th century. The author through a magnificent study and documentation work move us to the medieval Spanish reconquest. A great job and a great historical novel

Kim Rendfeld
June 21, 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars Love and Vengeance in Medieval Times

In “Seven Noble Knights,” J.K. Knauss explores family love, betrayal, revenge, identity, and destiny. Her complex tale gives us two heroes, hot-headed but noble Gonzalo and his brother the brilliant Mudarra, and many well-drawn fascinating characters who are true to their time and have their own virtues and flaws. The tale transports us to 10th century Spain, where diverse religions and cultures sometimes coexist and sometimes conflict. The story take the readers to the depths of despair and destruction to the heights of redemption and justice. It shows the devastation of vengeance and the power of love. Highly recommended.

Seymour Hamilton
December 20, 2016

5.0 out of 5 stars Immerse yourself in an era more real than any made-up fantasy.

According to Jessica Knauss’ novel Seven Noble Knights, medieval family values were not to be trifled with. Crossed in love and prisoner of a rigid code of aristocratic honour, two families about to be joined by a dynastic marriage instead exact bloody revenge on each other over two generations of intrigue and murder, with a side order of battles in which whole cities are collateral damage. All of these people are Christian Spaniards. By contrast, the Moors who occupy the more pleasant parts of the Iberian peninsula, who have an important role in the story, are reliable, decorous, honourable, gracious, sensible about sex, and take a great many more baths than the seven Spanish knights and their relatives. Knauss’ writing gets us involved with her characters, despite their extremely bloody behaviour. Her background in Medieval Spanish Literature gives not just authenticity to the story that she draws from a poem of the same name, but also puts us into the time, place and social mores so that we see the action from the point of view of someone of that era. She never looks down on her characters from a 21st Century point of view. Though the action is at times cinematic, her descriptions are convincing because they come from a familiarity with Spain both then and now, not from Hollywood-ized swords-and-armour epics. This is historic novel writing that makes the time, place and characters real — as they were.

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