Review: “As Only True Men Can: Nikola Zrinski’s Last Stand at Sziget”

As Humanity is tentatively trying to enter into an obscure New Age, we realize how much we need heroes. True heroes, real men from the past whose deeds we can rely on.

We are in an age-between age when the old values seem to have faded away but the new world has not arrived. Quite similar to the time of King Arthur, when the legions of Rome had gone but the glorious and so-awaited peace had not yet taken shape. We are in grave need of heroes as anyone can tell after taking a quick glimpse around.

Zed Zidar is telling us the true story of a real hero who fought against the mighty Ottoman army, Nicholas Zrínski aka Miklós Zrínyi, a Croatian lord from Hungary’s Borderland, in the throat of the enemy.

A warlike lord, a Christian lord, a renaissance lord. He and his men blocked Sultan Suleiman’s army from marching straight into Vienna. Also, they died by doing so, just like so many heroes of the 1,000-mile-long Borderland between 1396 and 1699. According to Cardinal Richelieu, they indeed saved Western civilization.

And now we can read all the details as to how it happened. 

The story was written with academic precision but gives us much more than a dry history book: the Author teaches us everything we must know about heroism and patriotism in an exciting and uplifting way.

It is not just that this is the first modern book written by a Croat in the English language about the Siege of Szigetvár Castle of 1566 but also it is a gap-filling work in many respects.

As I am a Hungarian, I am glad to see how gently-balanced this writing is because the Author has never belittled or falsified the role of Hungarian heroes in the siege of Szigetvár or elsewhere. I wish all history books written by the neighbors of Hungary were as fair and trustworthy as this one.

Having read the last page, I felt one step closer to the traditional Hungarian-Croatian friendship and comradeship.

On the other hand, I have experienced by running my Facebook page “Hungaries 1632” that the world is thirsty for reading more in English about these crucial centuries when Europe’s Borderland was being defended against the invading Ottoman Empire.

Unfortunately, the vital roles of Hungarians and Croatians are marginalized, falsified, or ignored entirely by the so-called science TV channels which sell popular history to the people who would not likely read an academic book about the topic.

Alone, academic books are not always effective in fighting against popular propaganda, but Zed Zidar’s work is different as it is an entertaining page-turner.

We are entering a New Age. It is worth looking back to the noblest deeds of our history to take courage.

After all, weren’t the authors of the Renaissance age doing the same as Zed Zidar by bringing the heroes of ancient times to life again?

May the book “As Only True Men Can” by Zed Zidar (Željko Zidarić) help us in bringing about our modern age of Renaissance.    

You can obtain this great book on Amazon:

Here is the introduction as Zed had written it:

“On August 1, 1566, as Sultân Süleymân marches toward Sziget, with an army of over 120,000 soldiers, castellan Nikola Zrinski speaks to his 2,300 soldiers and promises to them: “I, Nikola Zrinski, do solemnly swear, first of all to Almighty God, then to his Majesty, our glorious king, to our tormented suffering Homeland and you, my valiant knights gathered here with me, that I will endure with you all that happens, whether good or bad. I will never abandon you. I will fight and suffer by your side, and together we will either win or die. So help me God!”

On September 7, 1566, after almost 7 weeks of brutal siege, Nikola Zrinski speaks to his soldiers once again, but now there are a meager 180 remaining, with no hope left for victory. With only two options available, surrender or death, Zrinski says to his men: “I will not dishonor the oath I swore at the start… I have lived free and I will die free! Therefore, I want to be the first to go, in front of you, and you will follow me. What I do, you do the same – as only true men can. Believe me, my beloved brethren, even unto death I will never abandon you!”

This is a story about what happens between those two speeches, August 1 and September 7, when an unstoppable force (Sultân Süleymân) hits an almost immovable object (Nikola Zrinski) at the fortress of Sziget, on the borderlands between Europe and the invading Ottoman Empire, in 1566. The bravery of Nikola Zrinski and his soldiers, brave underdogs fighting against an overwhelming force, can be compared to heroes such as Leonidas fighting to protect Greece from the Persian invasion at Thermopylae, and William Wallace protecting Scotland from English conquest. The story is more interesting and important than the story of William Travis at the Battle of the Alamo in Texas. The story of Zrinski making a stand against Süleymân at Sziget is on par with the stories of Leonidas, Wallace, and Travis all merged into one.

Of Nikola Zrinski and the defense of Sziget, was said:

Cardinal Richelieu, a statesman, and minister to King Louis XIII called the Siege of Sziget: “The battle that saved civilization.” and also wrote: “A miracle was needed for Europe to survive, and this miracle happened at Sziget. The question was decided at Sziget whether the cross or the crescent would leave an indelible mark for centuries on the major parts of Europe.”

The Ottomans, who fought against Zrinski, also respected him. Ottoman historian İbrahim Peçevi wrote: “The master of the fortress, Nikola Zrinski, was a notorious kâfir (infidel) with a great reputation for his heroism.”

While numerous historical accounts of the siege exist in the Croatian, Hungarian, and Turkish languages there has been no definitive story in English, until now. After almost three years of research and fitting together details found in a multitude of sources the story is now told in richer detail than told in any language to date. This story, like an old damaged painting, required some repairs to convey the magnitude of the siege and make the story more engaging but a high level of historicity is maintained by ensuring that the creative elements align with the spirit of the event and time. This story might at first glance, due to the story format, appear to be historical fiction but it is very much non-fiction.

Technical notes: This is a beta release, version 0.84. This means that is the story is not yet perfect. I hope that others that have pieces of the puzzle that I do not have will contribute to the story and sometime in the future, the story will be improved.

The format of this ebook is in the Amazon version of a pdf. This was done to maintain the layout, including footnotes, as would be seen in a physical book. This will look good on laptops and tablets, but might not be readable on small-screen ebook readers. A reflowable version, lacking the nice formatting, is also available.” 

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