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Jul 17, 2024

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Martin Releases Novel
On The Polish Hussars

James Conroyd Martin, author of The Poland Trilogy, has penned The Boy Who Wanted Wings, a novel featuring the Polish winged hussars at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Kirkus Reviews has called it “a gripping transporting story of self-determination set against fate.”

The Story

Aleksy, a dark-complexioned Tatar raised by a Polish peasant family, holds in his heart the wish is to become a Polish hussar, a lancer who carries into battle a device attached to his back that holds dozens of eagle feathers. As a Tatar and as a peasant, this is an unlikely quest. When he meets Krystyna, the daughter of the noble who owns the land that his parents work, he falls hopelessly in love. But even though she returns his love, race and class differences make this quest as impossible as that of becoming a hussar. Under the most harrowing and unlikely circumstances, one day Aleksy must choose between his dreams

The Background

On the eve of September 11, 1683, a massive Muslim Ottoman horde was besieging the gates of the imperial city of Vienna and had been doing so since the previous July. Now, however, they were just hours from capturing this capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The Turks’ intent was to bring Islam to all of Europe, and this city was seen by East and West alike as the gateway. With the window of time closing for Vienna, the walls were about to be breached on September 12 when the vastly outnumbered Christian coalition, led by Polish King Jan III Sobieski and his legendary winged hussars, descended Kahlenberg Mountain to engage the Turks in an attempt to lift the siege. As crucial and consequential as the 1066 Battle of Hastings, the ensuing battle changed the course of European history.

Was it a coincidence that Al-Qaeda chose September 11, 2001, for their attack on New York and Washington? Or had the battle of Vienna—as seminal in human history as the 1066 Battle of Hastings—inspired a symbolic message that the time had come to resume the struggle of 1683?

the-boy-who-wanteforwebThe Hussars

The Polish Hussars were the most unique and elite components of cavalry in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from the sixteenth century into the eighteenth century. The typical unit of “winged” hussars consisted of heavily-armed lancers each of whom carried vertical devices bearing feathers, either attached to the saddle or on a backplate.

Beginning with the Battle of Lubiszew in 1577, the hussars fought in many battles leading up the Battle of Vienna in 1683 and beyond. They were victorious in nearly all of them despite sometimes facing overwhelming odds. Theories abound regarding the purpose of the wings. Some believe the sight and sound of the wings frightened both the enemies and their horses. Certainly, with King Jan Sobieski’s string of victories, just the knowledge that the hussars were descending the Kahlenburg ridge must have spiked intense fear in the hearts of the Ottoman Turks.

Reviews for The Boy Who Wanted Wings

“A poor archer in medieval Poland takes aim at the love of his life in this epic novel from Martin. The anxious Aleksy Gazdecki, a young farmhand, embodies the ethnic and political tensions of Europe during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. . . . The believability of this novel, which is sprinkled with period-specific details, is never in question. Martin sets the stage so tidily that the plight of Aleksy and Krystyna, who desire to move beyond the social classes that keep them, apart, transcends the historical moment. Underneath the story of the sweethearts’ labyrinthine struggle lingers the question of what it means to fight for one’s country but against one’s relatives—a situation in which Aleksy, as a Tatar, finds himself. Sprawling but never slow, the plot moves naturally from battle to intimacy and back again. A gripping, transporting story of self-determination set against fate.” ~Kirkus Reviews

“Amidst class and religious warfare, this alternately romantic and brutal love story is also a reminder that the struggle between Christianity and Islam is a great deal older than 2001. Culminating in the re-creation of the Siege of Vienna in 1683, this is a meticulously researched and convincingly written tale of love’s triumph that will surprise historical fiction readers with its little known historical backdrop. The main characters struggle with loyalties to family, race, and country as they come to understand that no fear or evil is unchangeable.”  ~Leonard Kniffel, Director, Polish American Librarians Association

The novel—in paperback or hardcover—is available at online bookstores. Ask your bookstore or librarian to order it for you. The e-book is available at (Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-997894516; Softcover

ISBN: 978-0997894509

Contact the author at,, Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.