Henry VI, Part 2 ★★☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry VI, Part 2
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 276
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The play begins with the marriage of King Henry VI of England to the young Margaret of Anjou. Margaret is the protégée and lover of William de la Pole, 4th Earl of Suffolk, who aims to influence the king through her. The major obstacle to Suffolk and Margaret’s plan is the Lord Protector; Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who is extremely popular with the common people and deeply trusted by the King. Gloucester’s wife, however, has designs on the throne, and has been led by an agent of Suffolk to dabble in necromancy. She summons a spirit and demands it reveal the future to her, but its prophecies are vague and before the ritual is finished, she is interrupted and arrested. At court she is then banished, greatly to the embarrassment of Gloucester. Suffolk then conspires with Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Somerset to bring about Gloucester’s ruin. Suffolk accuses Gloucester of treason and has him imprisoned, but before Gloucester can be tried, Suffolk sends two assassins to kill him. Meanwhile, Richard, 3rd Duke of York, reveals his claim to the throne to the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, who pledge to support him.

Suffolk is banished for his role in Gloucester’s death, whilst Winchester (Cardinal Beaufort) contracts a fever and dies, cursing God. Margaret, horrified at Suffolk’s banishment, vows to ensure his return, but he is killed by pirates shortly after leaving England, and his head sent back to the distraught Margaret. Meanwhile, York has been appointed commander of an army to suppress a revolt in Ireland. Before leaving, he enlists a former officer of his, Jack Cade, to stage a popular revolt in order to ascertain whether the common people would support York should he make an open move for power. At first, the rebellion is successful, and Cade sets himself up as Mayor of London, but his rebellion is put down when Lord Clifford (a supporter of Henry) persuades the common people, who make up Cade’s army, to abandon the cause. Cade is killed several days later by Alexander Iden, a Kentish gentleman, into whose garden he climbs looking for food.

York returns to England with his army, claiming that he intends to protect the King from the duplicitous Somerset. York vows to disband his forces if Somerset is arrested and charged with treason. Buckingham swears that Somerset is already a prisoner in the tower, but when Somerset enters (“at liberty”), accompanied by the Queen, York holds Buckingham’s vow broken, and announces his claim to the throne, supported by his sons, Edward and Richard. The English nobility take sides, some supporting the House of York, others supporting Henry and the House of Lancaster. A battle is fought at St Albans in which the Duke of Somerset is killed by York’s son Richard, and Lord Clifford by York. With the battle lost, Margaret persuades the distraught King to flee the battlefield and head to London. She is joined by Young Clifford, who vows revenge on the Yorkists for the death of his father. The play ends with York, Edward, Richard, Warwick and Salisbury setting out in pursuit of Henry, Margaret and Clifford.

My Thoughts:

This is exactly why I don’t read history for fun. People being incredible jackasses while claiming the moral high ground in any area they can.

As one anonymous blogger would say “Why did Shakespeare even get out of bed in the morning to write this stuff”? I have no idea. If my ego wasn’t so big that I wanted to be able to say that I’d read all of Shakespeare’s works, I’d stop reading him right now.

But my ego IS that big and I didn’t actively hate this, so the journey of 10,000 papercuts continues!

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Flashman ✬☆☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Flashman
Series: The Flashman Papers #1
Authors: George Fraser
Rating: 0.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 231
Words: 100K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Plot introduction

Presented within the frame of the discovery of the supposedly historical Flashman Papers, this book chronicles the subsequent career of the bully Flashman from Tom Brown’s School Days. The book begins with a fictional note explaining that the Flashman Papers were discovered in 1965 during a sale of household furniture in Ashby, Leicestershire.

The papers are attributed to Harry Paget Flashman, the bully featured in Thomas Hughes’ novel, who becomes a well-known Victorian military hero (in Fraser’s fictional England). The papers were supposedly written between 1900 and 1905. The subsequent publishing of these papers, of which Flashman is the first installment, contrasts the public image of a (fictional) hero with his own more scandalous account of his life as an amoral and cowardly bully.

Flashman begins with the eponymous hero’s own account of his expulsion from Rugby and ends with his fame as “the Hector of Afghanistan”. It details his life from 1839 to 1842 and his travels to Scotland, India, and Afghanistan.

It also contains a number of notes by the author, in the guise of a mere editor of the papers, providing additional historical glosses on the events described. The history in these books is largely accurate; most of the prominent figures Flashman meets were real people.

Plot summary

Flashman’s expulsion from Rugby for drunkenness leads him to join the British Army in what he hopes will be a sinecure. He joins the 11th Regiment of Light Dragoons commanded by Lord Cardigan, to whom he toadies in his best style. After an affair with a fellow-officer’s lover, he is challenged to a duel but wins after promising a large sum of money to the pistol loader to give his opponent a blank load in his gun. He does not kill his opponent but instead delopes and accidentally shoots the top off a bottle thirty yards away, an action that gives him instant fame and the respect of the Duke of Wellington.

Once the reason for fighting emerges, the army stations Flashman in Scotland. He is quartered with the family of textile industrialist Morrison and soon enough takes advantage of one of the daughters, Elspeth. After a forced marriage, Flashman is required to resign the Hussars due to marrying below his station. He is given another option, to make his reputation in India.

By showing off his language and riding skills in India, Flashman is assigned to the staff of Major General William George Keith Elphinstone, who is to command the garrison at the worst frontier of the British Empire at that time, Afghanistan. Upon arrival, he meets a soldier who relates the narrow escape he made in November 1842, on the first night of the Afghan Uprising. After Akbar Khan proclaims a general revolt which the citizens of Kabul immediately heed, a mob storms the house of Sir Alexander Burnes, one of the senior British political officers, and murders him and his staff. The soldier, stationed nearby, manages to flee in midst of the confusion.

This tale sets the tone for Flashman’s proceeding adventures, including the 1842 retreat from Kabul and the Battle of Jellalabad, in the First Anglo-Afghan War. Despite being captured, tortured and escaping death numerous times, hiding and shirking his duty as much as possible, he comes through it with a hero’s reputation … although his triumph is tempered when he realizes his wife might have been unfaithful while he was away.

My Thoughts:

The byline by one paper’s review (on the cover but probably illegible at that size) is “Villainy Triumphant”. That is the most apt description for this book.

This was a vile piece of filth, a vomitorium of trash, something so wrong that it left me sputtering because I couldn’t finds to express my utter disgust and horror that something like this could exist.

Flashman lies, cheats, murders and rapes his way through this book and is not only unrepentant but glad he did everything he did. He also considers anyone not looking out exclusively for themselves as idiots of the first order. While Flashman might be a fictional construct, the author thought this up and I trust he will be judged in the end for having created something so vile.

Evil and vile are the two words that spring to mind. I am sickened and appalled that someone would write something like this for entertainment.

This month is not turning out well for me and books.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Sharpe’s Prey ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Sharpe’s Prey
Series: Sharpe #5
Authors: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 246
Words: 103K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The year is 1807, and Richard Sharpe is at a very low point in his life. His beloved aristocratic lover, Lady Grace Hale, has died in childbirth, along with their newborn son. Her family’s lawyers then took all of Sharpe’s wealth (loot he obtained fighting in India), claiming it was Grace’s and that it now reverts to her family. Destitute and relegated to the menial job of quartermaster, Sharpe is on the streets of London, contemplating leaving the army.

First though, he revisits the foundling home where he was raised to get his revenge. He robs and kills Jem Hocking, his childhood tormentor.

Then a former commanding officer, Major General David Baird, finds him in a pub. Captain John Lavisser was assigned a bodyguard for a secret mission to Copenhagen, but the bodyguard was killed, supposedly by a common footpad, and a replacement is needed immediately. Baird persuades Sharpe to take the job. Lavisser does not want a bodyguard since he already has a huge servant named Barker, but orders are orders. Lord Pumphrey of the Foreign Office gives Sharpe a contact in case he runs into trouble.

Denmark is neutral, but has a powerful fleet. Napoleon wants to replace the ships France lost at the Battle of Trafalgar, and Britain is equally determined to see to it that does not happen. Lavisser’s task is to bribe the Danish crown prince to hand over the fleet for safekeeping. (Lavisser’s grandfather is the prince’s chamberlain, and they are also related by marriage.) If that fails, the British will have to seize the ships by force.

When they go ashore in Denmark, Sharpe narrowly escapes being killed by Barker. He walks to Copenhagen and goes to see Ole Skovgaard, the emergency contact. Skovgaard turns out to be the main spy for Britain in Denmark. Meanwhile, Lavisser defects to the Danes and “confesses” that the British have sent an assassin to kill the crown prince. Skovgaard reads this lie in the newspaper and locks Sharpe in a room to await Lavisser. Sharpe escapes just in time. Lavisser turns out to be in the employ of the French; he and his men torture Skovgaard for the names of his contacts throughout Europe. Sharpe manages to kill some of Lavisser’s henchmen and drive the rest off. During his stay at Skovgaard’s house, he and Skovgaard’s beautiful widowed daughter, Astrid, become attracted to each other. They eventually sleep together, and Sharpe contemplates settling down in Copenhagen with her.

When the British besiege Copenhagen, Sharpe joins them. The Danes refuse to surrender their fleet, so the British bombard the city. Sharpe, by now knowing the general layout of Copenhagen, guides a small force to the Danish ships, which have been prepared for burning in case the British break in. The men hide aboard the ships and safeguard them against burning. Meanwhile, Sharpe goes to Skovgaard’s, only to find he has been captured and tortured again by Lavisser, who obtains the names of the British spies. Sharpe rescues Skovgaard, kills Lavisser and Barker, and gets the list of names. The city surrenders, and the Danish fleet is captured intact.

Skovgaard will no longer work for the British after what they have done to his city. He also orders Astrid to break up with Sharpe, which she does. Lord Pumphrey has Sharpe sent back to England, as he does not want the rifleman to learn that he must have the Skovgaards killed; they know too much.

My Thoughts:

My issues with Sharpe and his behavior continue and as such I think I’m going to call it quits. I also really disliked that Cornwell, the author, kills off a woman and child to propel Sharpe on his continued path of anti-hero. Just like I discussed last month in the “Project X – V” post, villains are bad, and anti-heroes are not much better in my eyes.

So while the writing is great, the over all story is engaging and very interesting and I like reading these adventures, the in your face immorality of Sharpe and Cornwell’s philosophy of anti-hero’ness are too much to overcome.

If neither of those things bother you, then I would recommend trying out this series if you want some action packed historical fiction. If you would like a more positive set of reviews, Jenn at Eternal Bookcase has been reviewing the Sharpe books as well.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Henry VI, Part 1 ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry VI, Part 1
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 249
Words: 72K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The play begins with the funeral of Henry V, who has died unexpectedly in his prime. As his brothers, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, and his uncle, the Duke of Exeter, lament his passing and express doubt as to whether his son (the as yet uncrowned heir apparent Henry VI) is capable of running the country in such tumultuous times, word arrives of military setbacks in France. A rebellion, led by the Dauphin Charles, is gaining momentum, and several major towns have already been lost. Additionally, Lord Talbot, Constable of France, has been captured. Realising a critical time is at hand, Bedford immediately prepares himself to head to France and take command of the army, Gloucester remains in charge in England, and Exeter sets out to prepare young Henry for his forthcoming coronation.

Meanwhile, in Orléans, the English army is laying siege to Charles’ forces. Inside the city, the Bastard of Orléans approaches Charles and tells him of a young woman who claims to have seen visions and knows how to defeat the English. Charles summons the woman, Joan la Pucelle (i.e. Joan of Arc). To test her resolve, he challenges her to single combat. Upon her victory, he immediately places her in command of the army. Outside the city, the newly arrived Bedford negotiates the release of Talbot, but immediately, Joan launches an attack. The French forces win, forcing the English back, but Talbot and Bedford engineer a sneak attack on the city, and gain a foothold within the walls, causing the French leaders to flee.

Back in England, a petty quarrel between Richard Plantagenet and the Duke of Somerset has expanded to involve the whole court. Richard and Somerset ask their fellow nobles to pledge allegiance to one of them, and as such the lords select either red or white roses to indicate the side they are on. Richard then goes to see his uncle, Edmund Mortimer, imprisoned in the Tower of London. Mortimer tells Richard the history of their family’s conflict with the king’s family—how they helped Henry Bolingbroke seize power from Richard II, but were then shoved into the background; and how Henry V had Richard’s father (Richard of Conisburgh) executed and his family stripped of all its lands and monies. Mortimer also tells Richard that he himself is the rightful heir to the throne, and that when he dies, Richard will be the true heir, not Henry. Amazed at these revelations, Richard determines to attain his birthright, and vows to have his family’s dukedom restored. After Mortimer dies, Richard presents his petition to the recently crowned Henry, who agrees to reinstate the Plantagenet’s title, making Richard 3rd Duke of York. Henry then leaves for France, accompanied by Gloucester, Exeter, Winchester, Richard and Somerset.

In France, within a matter of hours, the French retake and then lose the city of Rouen. After the battle, Bedford dies, and Talbot assumes direct command of the army. The Dauphin is horrified at the loss of Rouen, but Joan tells him not to worry. She then persuades the powerful Duke of Burgundy, who had been fighting for the English, to switch sides, and join the French. Meanwhile, Henry arrives in Paris and upon learning of Burgundy’s betrayal, he sends Talbot to speak with him. Henry then pleads for Richard and Somerset to put aside their conflict, and, unaware of the implications of his actions, he chooses a red rose, symbolically aligning himself with Somerset and alienating Richard. Prior to returning to England, in an effort to secure peace between Somerset and Richard, Henry places Richard in command of the infantry and Somerset in command of the cavalry. Meanwhile, Talbot approaches Bordeaux, but the French army swings around and traps him. Talbot sends word for reinforcements, but the conflict between Richard and Somerset leads them to second guess one another, and neither of them send any, both blaming the other for the mix-up. The English army is subsequently destroyed, and both Talbot and his son are killed.

After the battle, Joan’s visions desert her, and she is captured by Richard and burned at the stake. At the same time, urged on by Pope Eugenius IV and the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund, Henry sues for peace. The French listen to the English terms, under which Charles is to be a viceroy to Henry and reluctantly agree, but only with the intention of breaking their oath at a later date and expelling the English from France. Meanwhile, the Earl of Suffolk has captured a young French princess, Margaret of Anjou, whom he intends to marry to Henry in order that he can dominate the king through her. Travelling back to England, he attempts to persuade Henry to marry Margaret. Gloucester advises Henry against the marriage, as Margaret’s family is not rich and the marriage would not be advantageous to his position as king. But Henry is taken in by Suffolk’s description of Margaret’s beauty, and he agrees to the proposal. Suffolk then heads back to France to bring Margaret to England as Gloucester worryingly ponders what the future may hold.

My Thoughts:

OH NOES, KENNETH BRANAUGH IS DEAAAAAAAAAAAD!!!!!

While not exactly how things start, it does start with Henry V’s untimely death, while the French are rebelling. So Henry VI has to take over and nobles are squabbling and fighting and betraying and in general it’s a right mess!

This was about 70% longer than Henry V and it is only Part 1 (I believe there are 3 parts). Ol’ Shakes really let himself go here. In other plays he’ll dismiss a whole battle or 2 years with a simple line or two. Not here though. We get the down and dirty on the whole shebang, to the point where I just wanted it to be over. Everyone is a horrible person to boot.

I did wonder what happened to the Queen Mother. She’s french and this whole English/French thing is a pretty big deal. Then throw in the damned Roman Catholic Church (and as an SDA I mean that damned literally) and my goodness, this was horrible.

So why the 3stars? Because it is still Shakespeare, you dunderhead! My goodness, bunch of barbarians out there. Show some class. Or I’ll pound yer head in for ya!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sharpe’s Trafalgar ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Sharpe’s Trafalgar
Series: Sharpe #4
Authors: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 306
Words: 131K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

In 1805, Richard Sharpe is to sail to England from India aboard the East Indiaman Calliope to join the 95th Rifles. He is swindled after purchasing supplies for the voyage. After finding out, he gets not only his money back, but also helps fellow victim Royal Navy Captain Joel Chase do the same, saving Chase from great financial embarrassment. Chase wants to show his gratitude, but is under orders to destroy a French 74 named the Revenant that is raiding the Indian Ocean.

The Calliope’s passengers include the lovely, young Lady Grace Hale and her much older husband, Lord William Hale. Sharpe is also astonished to find aboard Anthony Pohlmann, a renegade and former Maratha warlord (defeated by Arthur Wellesley in Sharpe’s Triumph), traveling under a false identity – Baron von Dornberg – but sees no reason to denounce his former foe.

Peculiar Cromwell, captain of the Calliope, spots the jewels (looted from an Indian ruler) Sharpe has sewn into his clothing and insists that Sharpe leave them with him for safekeeping, to avoid tempting his crew.

Sharpe becomes obsessed with Lady Grace, but his attempts to become better acquainted are unsuccessful, at first. However, she later questions him in private about “Dornberg”; while Cromwell and Dornberg denied knowing each other, she has observed them conversing frequently. Sharpe protects Dornberg as best he can. When Lady Grace gets up to leave, a sudden movement of the ship causes her to stumble, and Sharpe ends up with his arm around her waist. They eventually become secret lovers.

Cromwell leaves the safety of a slow convoy with his fast ship. Lady Grace becomes worried that they are sailing near French-held Mauritius. She ends up spending the first of several nights with Sharpe. Malachi Braithwaite, Lord Hale’s secretary, finds out and is angered, as he is attracted to Lady Grace too. Sharpe threatens to kill him if he tells anyone.

The Revenant appears. Before the Calliope is captured, Sharpe hurries to retrieve his jewels from Cromwell’s safe, but they are not there. Sharpe suspects both Cromwell and Pohlmann aided the French; both men board the Revenant. A prize crew starts sailing the Calliope to Mauritius. Later, the lieutenant in charge tries to rape Lady Grace; Sharpe goes to her rescue and kills the Frenchman in a swordfight. The French understand and do not punish Sharpe. One day, another ship is spotted. Sharpe manages to cut the tiller ropes controlling the rudder, slowing the Calliope. This enables Captain Chase’s Pucelle to capture the Calliope.

Chase invites Sharpe to transfer to his ship; Sharpe is reluctant to accept, until he discovers that Lord Hale has insisted on switching to the faster Pucelle, along with his wife. Chase confides to Sharpe that a French agent, probably Dornberg’s “servant”, negotiated a secret treaty with the ablest of the Indian Maratha leaders. If it is delivered to Paris, the French might send arms to the Marathas to start a new war against the British.

Chase does everything in his power to overtake the Revenant. Sharpe trains with the Marines for shipboard fighting and is introduced to a seven-barreled Nock gun (a weapon which future friend Patrick Harper will favour). A ship is spotted. The Pucelle gives chase, but loses it.

Meanwhile, Lady Grace tells Sharpe that Braithwaite is trying to blackmail her. He ambushes the man. Braithwaite produces a pistol and tries to negotiate, claiming he left a letter describing Sharpe’s affair, but Sharpe kills him. When the corpse is found, people assume Braithwaite had a fatal fall.

The Revenant is spotted, and a long chase commences. One night, Lady Grace hesitantly informs Sharpe that she is pregnant with his child, unsure of his reaction. He is delighted.

Just when it seems that the Revenant will get away, the combined French and Spanish fleets sortie, with Admiral Horatio Nelson’s fleet in pursuit. The Revenant joins the enemy fleet, while the Pucelle comes under Nelson’s command. When Nelson summons Chase to a meeting, Chase brings Sharpe along and introduces him to his friend the admiral.

When the British attack the enemy fleet, commencing the Battle of Trafalgar, Chase points out the Revenant to Sharpe. Chase sends the Hales to safety, over Lord Hale’s protest, while Sharpe joins the Marines. The Pucelle and the Revenant pound each other. The Revenant is captured. Pohlmann is killed by a cannonball. Sharpe finds the French agent and tosses him into the sea; the man cannot swim. Cromwell survives; Sharpe retrieves his jewels before reluctantly handing him over to Chase.

When Sharpe goes to find Lady Grace, he discovers that she has killed her husband. While the battle was raging, Lord Hale had confronted his wife over Braithwaite’s letter. He eventually told her that he would kill her and make it appear a suicide. He also promised to sabotage Sharpe’s life secretly. Sharpe sees to it his body is taken up on deck so it will seem that he was killed in the fighting. Upset at first, Lady Grace realises she is now free to do as she pleases.

My Thoughts:

In some ways this was better than previous books (no blasphemous Hakeswill misusing Scripture) but at the same time, it was worse as Sharpe commits adultery blatantly as can be and commits murder to cover it up. It reminded me of King David and Bathsheba, but sadly, without the repentance at the end.

I did enjoy the naval aspect of the story, which was quite different from Sharpe’s usual infantry fights. There’s a quick ending with the Battle of Trafalgar where the Frenchies got their backsides handed to them and Napolean’s dream died.

Overall, I had a good time reading this but am continuing to have issues with Sharpe as a person. I’ll try one more book, as I am enjoying these, but from everything Inquisitor Jenn has said, Sharpe stays the same, so I’m not expecting to go beyond the next book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Henry V ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry V
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 160
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The Elizabethan stage lacked scenery. It begins with a Prologue, in which the Chorus (a lone speaker addressing the audience) apologizes for the limitations of the theatre, wishing for “a Muse of fire”, with real princes and a kingdom for a stage, to do justice to King Henry’s story. Then, says the Chorus, King Henry would “[a]ssume the port [bearing] of Mars”. The Chorus encourages the audience to use their “imaginary forces” to overcome the limitations of the stage: “Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts … turning the accomplishment of many years / Into an hour-glass”.

Shakespeare’s plays are in five acts. In Henry V, the first act deals largely with the king and his decision to invade France, persuaded that through ancestry, he is the rightful heir to the French throne. The French Dauphin, son of King Charles VI, answers Henry’s claims with a condescending and insulting gift of tennis balls, “as matching to his youth and vanity.”

The Chorus reappears at the beginning of each act to advance the story. At the beginning of Act II, he describes the country’s dedication to the war effort: “Now all the youth of England are on fire… They sell the pasture now to buy the horse, / Following the mirror of all Christian kings ….” Act II includes a plot by the Earl of Cambridge and two comrades to assassinate Henry at Southampton. Henry’s clever uncovering of the plot and his ruthless treatment of the conspirators show that he has changed from the earlier plays in which he appeared.

In Act III Henry and his troops siege the French port of Harfleur after crossing the English Channel. The Chorus appears again: “Grapple your minds to sternage of this navy/And leave your England, as dead midnight still”. The French king, says the Chorus, “doth offer him / Catharine his daughter, and with her, to dowry, / Some petty and unprofitable dukedoms.” Henry is not satisfied.

At the siege of Harfleur, the English are beaten back at first, but Henry urges them on with one of Shakespeare’s best-known speeches. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; / Or close the wall up with our English dead….” After a bloody siege, the English take Harfleur, but Henry’s forces are so depleted that he decides not to go on to Paris. Instead, he decides to move up the coast to Calais. The French assemble a powerful army and pursue him.

They surround him near the small town of Agincourt, and in Act IV, the night before the battle, knowing he is outnumbered, Henry wanders around the English camp in disguise, trying to comfort his soldiers and determine what they really think of him. He agonizes about the moral burden of being king, asking God to “steel my soldiers’ hearts”. Daylight comes, and Henry rallies his nobles with the famous St Crispin’s Day Speech (Act IV Scene iii 18–67): “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”. The French herald Montjoy returns to ask if Henry will surrender and avoid certain defeat, and ransom his men’s survival; Henry bids him “bear my former answer back,” saying the French will get no ransom from him “but these my joints.”

Shakespeare does not describe the battle in the play. Though the French in one scene complain that ‘Tout est perdu’, the outcome is not clear to Henry, until the French Herald Montjoy tells him the ‘day is yours’. The battle turns out to be a lop-sided victory: the French suffered 10,000 casualties; the English, fewer than 30. “O God, thy arm was here,” says Henry.

Act V comes several years later, as the English and French negotiate the Treaty of Troyes, and Henry tries to woo the French princess, Catherine of Valois. Neither speaks the other’s language well, but the humour of their mistakes actually helps achieve his aim. The scene ends with the French king adopting Henry as heir to the French throne, and the prayer of the French queen “that English may as French, French Englishmen, receive each other, God speak this Amen.”

The play concludes with a final appearance of the Chorus who foreshadows the tumultuous reign of Henry’s son Henry VI of England, “whose state so many had the managing, that they lost France, and made his England bleed, which oft our stage hath shown”. Shakespeare had previously brought this tale to the stage in a trilogy of plays: Henry VI Part 1, Henry VI Part 2, and Henry VI Part 3.

As in many of Shakespeare’s history and tragedy plays, a number of minor comic characters appear, contrasting with and sometimes commenting on the main plot. In this case, they are mostly common soldiers in Henry’s army, and they include Pistol, Nym, and Bardolph from the Henry IV plays. The army also includes a Scot, an Irishman, and an Englishman, and Fluellen, a comically stereotyped Welsh soldier. The play also deals briefly with the death of Sir John Falstaff, Henry’s estranged friend from the Henry IV plays, whom Henry had rejected at the end of Henry IV, Part 2.

My Thoughts:

Back in May of ’21, I decided to Take A Break from Shakespeare. I was just burned out and even Henry V, the play I am most familiar with and enjoy, was not working for me. I had thought about taking an entire year off (you know you are getting older when planning your reading schedule now encompasses years instead of weeks or even months) but was a bit afraid that if I stopped that long that I might not get back on the horse. So here we are.

In highschool I had watched the Kenneth Branaugh production of Henry V. It really hit home to my teenage self and ended up occupying a place in my mind where I judged all other Shakespeare films to it. I still do in fact. So while I was reading this I had scenes from the movie interjecting themselves into my brain. I also had the Musical Score running through my head. Man, that is some good music!

All of that is to highlight just how biased I am in this play’s favor. I enjoyed reading this. It was interesting and having the “histories” lining up chronologically allowed me to have a fuller grasp of Henry as a character, as well as a few of his “old crew” who got themselves into various sorts of trouble.

It was encouraging and refreshing to enjoy Shakespeare again. While I have had, and will continue to have, issues with the Bard, they aren’t big enough to stop me from reading him. At least as long as I’m not approaching burn out. I’m going to try reading him until the end of ’23 and see if two years is a good period or not. Three years was definitely much too much.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sharpe’s Fortress (Sharpe #3) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Sharpe’s Fortress
Series: Sharpe #3
Authors: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 274
Words: 114.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

In 1803, Arthur Wellesley’s British and sepoy army is in pursuit of the Mahrattas in western India, having beaten them in the Battle of Assaye. Ensign Richard Sharpe, newly made an officer, is beginning to wish he had remained a sergeant, as most of his fellow officers look down upon him, including Captain Urquhart, his commanding officer. Urquhart suggests he sell his commission if he is not happy.

Manu Bappoo, the younger brother of the Rajah of Berar, decides to turn around and fight the British again, with his best unit, composed of Arab mercenaries, leading the charge, but he is again routed. During the fighting, Sharpe is impressed by the bravery of a teenage Arab boy, Ahmed, and saves his life when the boy is surrounded. Ahmed becomes his servant.

After the battle, Urquhart reassigns Sharpe to the 95th Rifles, an experimental unit, though the transfer cannot be completed while the war rages on. For the moment, Sharpe is sent to manage the baggage train, under the command of Captain Torrance. The army is short of many desperately needed supplies, and Sharpe soon discovers why. Lazy and deeply in debt, Torrance has been selling them to the merchant Naig, with the assistance of Sharpe’s old nemesis, Sergeant Hakeswill. When Sharpe finds many of the stolen supplies in Naig’s tent, Torrance has his associate hanged immediately to avoid being implicated. Jama, Naig’s brother, is not pleased, so Torrance agrees to betray Sharpe into his hands. Hakeswill is only too glad to waylay Sharpe; besides their mutual hatred, he rightly suspects that Sharpe has a fortune in jewels looted from a dead enemy ruler.

Hakeswill ambushes Sharpe and takes him prisoner. He steals all of the jewels Sharpe has hidden on his person, then hands him over to Jama. Fortunately, Ahmed witnesses Sharpe’s kidnapping and gets away. He finds Sharpe’s friend, Syud Sevagee, who rescues him. Sharpe decides to let his enemies believe he is dead. Using this ruse, he catches captain Torrance alone and kills him in an act of summary justice.

The Mahrattas take refuge in Gawilghur, a seemingly impregnable fortress, perched high on cliffs above the Deccan Plain. Wellesley, despite his deep misgivings, has no choice but to attack anyway. Gawilghur is composed of an Outer Fort and an Inner Fort. While the Outer Fort is formidable, the Mahrattas expect the British to take it, though at heavy cost. However, the Inner Fort is so strong, they are confident it cannot fall. Once Wellesley’s army has been bled dry trying to capture it, the Mahrattas plan to emerge and destroy the survivors.

When two of Hakeswill’s henchmen are killed, Hakeswill realises Sharpe is responsible, so he deserts and finds service with the renegade Englishman William Dodd in Gawilghur. Who rules in Gawilghur, it is said, rules India, and Dodd intends for it to be him. When the Outer Fort falls, Dodd orders the gates of the Inner Fort be kept closed, trapping Manu Bappoo outside to be killed by the British. Dodd also murders Beny Singh, the weak commander of Gawilghur. However, Sharpe finds a way into the Inner Fort, a section of the wall which is weakly defended because it sits atop a steep cliff. The cliff, however, can be scaled. When Captain Morris, Sharpe’s commanding officer, refuses to give him men, Sharpe beats him, then takes charge and leads a group of soldiers inside and opens the gates. He then finds and duels with Dodd, only to find that Dodd is by far the better swordsman. It is Dodd who gives Sharpe the scar on his right cheek. Ahmed appears unexpectedly and attacks Dodd. Dodd kills him easily, but a cavalryman shoots him in the shoulder, and then Sharpe is able to kill him.

Hakeswill tries to flee, disguised as a British soldier, but Sharpe finds him. Sharpe retrieves most of his jewels from him, then backs Hakeswill up until he falls into a pit filled with poisonous snakes.

My Thoughts:

This was a good adventure story. Without a side character who is religious and devout, Cornwell didn’t seem to have a target for his religious vitriol and thus didn’t use Sharpe as a mouthpiece. Hakeswill is still around, but he talks a LOT less, so his abuse of the phrase “Scripture says” was cut down to a palatable amount.

Speaking of Hakeswill. The book ends with Sharpe pushing him into a pit of poisonous snakes and then Sharpe just walks away without confirming that Hakeswill dies. How stupid is Sharpe? He’s tried to feed Hakeswill to tigers AND have an elephant crush him but he never verifies. So I am fully expecting Hakeswill to survive and come back in the next book to cause problems yet again. Honestly, I’m surprised Sharpe just doesn’t bring him up on charges for not saluting him and have him flogged to death. What’s the point of being an Officer if he’s still going to think and act like a soldier of the line?

I am not at all familiar with the history of Britain’s conquering of India, as I’m more concerned with the American and British bit of history, so this has all been brand new stuff to me. I rather like it and am enjoying the story. There was talk about Sharpe being transferred to another company somewhere in this book and I think they were located back in England, so this might be the last of the Indian scenery. I guess I’ll find out in the next book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sharpe’s Triumph (Sharpe #2) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Sharpe’s Triumph
Series: Sharpe #2
Authors: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 279
Words: 118K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Sergeant Richard Sharpe and a small detachment arrive at an isolated East India Company fort to transport 80,000 recovered rounds of stolen ammunition to the armory at Seringapatam. Whilst Sharpe and his men rest, a company of East India Company sepoys arrive under the command of Lieutenant William Dodd. Dodd abruptly has his men massacre the unsuspecting, outnumbered garrison. Sharpe is wounded and feigns death, allowing him to escape Dodd’s determination to leave no witnesses.

Back in Seringapatam, Sharpe’s friend, Colonel McCandless, whom Sharpe met four years earlier during the siege of Seringapatam (Sharpe’s Tiger), questions him about Dodd. Dodd deserted the East India Company, taking with him his sepoys, and McCandless has been tasked with bringing him to justice, lest it give others similar ideas. McCandless orders Sharpe to accompany him since he can identify Dodd.

Dodd joins Colonel Anthony Pohlmann, commander of Daulat Scindia’s army, at the city of Ahmednuggur and is rewarded with a promotion to major and command of his own battalion. Since the Mysore Campaign, the British have been pushing further north into the Maratha Confederacy’s territory. Scinda is one of the Maratha rulers who have decided to resist the British advance. Scinda orders Pohlmann to assign a regiment to defend Ahmednuggur, so Pohlmann gives Dodd command of the unit and instructions to inflict casualties on the British, but most importantly, withdraw and keep the regiment intact.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill correctly guesses that Sharpe killed the Tippoo Sultan four years earlier at Seringapatam and looted the corpse. Hakeswill frames him for an attack on his former company commander, Captain Morris. Given a warrant to arrest Sharpe, Hakeswill recruits six cutthroats to help him murder Sharpe, so they can steal the treasure.

Sharpe and McCandless travel to the British army, escorted by Syud Sevajee, the Maratha leader of a band of mercenary cavalrymen working for the East India Company. They reach the army, now under the command of Major General Arthur Wellesley, Sharpe’s former regimental commander and the future Duke of Wellington. Upon arrival at Ahmednuggur, Wellesley quickly launches a risky escalade without the usual days-long artillery bombardment, in a bid to take the enemy by surprise. He quickly captures the poorly fortified town, to the amazement of Dodd, who has a poor opinion of Wellesley. Despite this, Dodd manages to extract his troops from the rout and retreats to Pohlmann’s army, much to McCandless’s anger. In the chaos of the battle, Sharpe rescues Simone Joubert, the French-Mauritian wife of a French officer in Dodd’s regiment. Under the pretext of returning Madame Joubert to her husband, McCandless hopes to be able to reconnoitre the Maratha army. They do not leave immediately, however, and Sharpe spends the night in Ahmednuggur with Simone.

The next day, they reach the Maratha army. Pohlmann deduces McCandless’s real intentions, but knowing that his army vastly outnumbers the British, allows McCandless to see everything he wants. At the same time, Pohlmann tries to recruit Sharpe, offering to make him a lieutenant. He tells Sharpe of the various successes that lowly Europeans have had in India, including his own rise from East India Company sergeant to commander of Scinda’s army. That evening, Sharpe considers defecting, but, before he can make a decision, his and McCandless’s horses are stolen, with McCandless being wounded. Sharpe apprehends one of the thieves, who turns out to be one of Dodd’s men. Both Sharpe and Pohlmann suspect that Dodd ordered the theft, but Pohlmann only has the thief executed. Meanwhile, Hakeswill takes his request to arrest Sharpe to Wellesley, who informs him that Sharpe will not return for some time. He assigns Hakeswill to the baggage train in the meantime, infuriating the impatient sergeant.

The Maratha army moves on, leaving McCandless behind, at his own request. Sharpe decides to look after the wounded colonel, which he uses as a reason to refuse Pohlmann’s offer. Nevertheless, he begins to wonder about how he might become an officer. Recognizing the ambition Pohlmann has stoked in the sergeant, McCandless cautions Sharpe. At the time, almost all of the officers in the British Army came from wealthy families and paid for their commissions. Those exceptional few who rose from the ranks were resented and had little chance of advancement. Whilst McCandless recovers, Syud Sevajee locates them and delivers McCandless’s report to Wellesley.

When McCandless is recovered enough, he and Sharpe rejoin the army as it advances towards Borkardan. Using some of the Tippoo’s jewels, Sharpe buys one of Wellesley’s horses for McCandless, though he pretends to Wellesley that McCandless is the purchaser. The surprised McCandless learns about Sharpe and the Tippoo’s death. The next day, Hakeswill attempts to arrest Sharpe, but McCandless smudges the ink on the warrant so that it reads “Sharp”, not “Sharpe”, and refuses to let him take Sharpe.

After weeks of aimless marching, the Maratha leaders meet and finally decide to engage the British near Assaye. Pohlmann is given overall command. The British have two forces, one under the command of Wellesley and the other under Colonel Stevenson. Pohlmann plans to fight and defeat them separately, before they can join forces. Wellesley discovers that the enemy is closer than he thought and fully aware of the situation, but is still determined to attack.

Pohlmann sets a trap. He deploys his army at what he is told is the only usable ford of the River Kaitna, but Wellesley deduces that there must be another one between two villages on opposite banks of the river. Using the second ford, Wellesley crosses the river to try to launch a flank attack, but Pohlmann redeploys to face him. Wellesley’s aide is killed, and Sharpe takes his place. Back with the baggage, McCandless confronts Hakeswill about the warrant and warns Hakeswill that he knows he lied and that he will inform his commander. On the British left, the 78th Highland Regiment and the sepoys advance through heavy artillery fire and rout much of the Maratha infantry. On the right, however, the 74th and some picquets advance too far towards the village of Assaye and are forced to form square against attack from Maratha light cavalry. Dodd’s regiment then attacks the two pinned-down units.

Meanwhile, some Maratha gunners retake their guns and fire them into the rear of Wellesley’s men, so Wellesley orders a cavalry charge. During the fight, he is unhorsed alone amidst the enemy. Sharpe launches a savage attack, saving his commander and single-handedly killing many men. Friendly troops arrive, and a shaken Wellesley leaves. With the collapse of the Maratha right, Dodd is forced to retreat. Hakeswill finds McCandless alone and kills him to save himself.

As the Maratha forces flee in disarray, Sharpe comes across Pohlmann, but does not apprehend him. He also finds Simone Joubert. Dodd killed her husband during the retreat, so Sharpe takes her under his protection. Eventually, he catches up to Wellesley’s staff and is astonished when Wellesley rewards him by giving him a battlefield promotion, making him an ensign in the 74th. Afterward, Hakeswill tries again to arrest Sharpe, but Sharpe’s new commanding officer points out that the warrant for Sergeant Sharpe is useless against Ensign Sharpe. Sharpe forces Hakeswill, who initially refuses to acknowledge Sharpe’s new rank, to address him as “sir”.

My Thoughts:

I’ve been trying to think what to say about this book and author. I enjoyed my time reading this. Cornwell can write and write well and engagingly. The people, the situations, they’re all quite fleshed out and drew me in.

At the same time, the titular character, Richard Sharpe, is a godless, immoral jackass with an attitude. It makes it very hard for me to want to like him and I don’t want to read about a character who I don’t like. Cornwell, who I have gathered has a thing against Christianity, never cross the line. But he’s exactly like that annoying kid in the back seat who puts his finger ON the line and starts denying that he’s done anything wrong. The only real Christian character is an old doddering man who is so uptight that he could run a grandfather clock for a decade. It isn’t that that isn’t inaccurate, but it is that that is the only example Cornwell chose to use. Like I said, finger on the line.

I was introduced to Sharpe by Inquisitor Jenn. So when she read a much later book (Sharpe’s Rifles) I asked her if Sharpe still had his attitude on. Apparently, he still does. Which means the finger is staying on the line and it’s going to feel like Cornwell is going “neener, neener, neener” to me while I holler at our parents “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, make Bernard stooooooooop” and he’s screaming “But I’m not touching him!”

With all of this, I’m going to read the next book and see if Sharpe’s attitude bugs me still. It might just be that it bothered me this time because like Scrooge, I had a sandwich with too much mustard or something. Or it could be that Sharpe IS a real jerk. I’ll be making up my mind next book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sharpe’s Tiger (Sharpe #1) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Sharpe’s Tiger
Series: Sharpe #1
Authors: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 287
Words: 121.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Richard Sharpe is a private in the 33rd Regiment of Foot in the British army. The British invade Mysore and advance on the Tippoo Sultan’s capital city of Seringapatam. Sharpe is contemplating desertion with his paramour, half-caste army widow Mary Bickerstaff, due to his sadistic company sergeant, Obadiah Hakeswill. Hakeswill lusts after Mary, so he provokes Sharpe into hitting him before witnesses, company commander Captain Morris and Ensign Hicks. Sharpe is court-martialled; Lieutenant William Lawford, who is supposed to act as his defender, is absent and Sharpe is given the virtual death sentence of 2,000 lashes. However, the regiment’s commander, Colonel Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington), halts the punishment at just over 200 lashes. Lawford has been offered an extremely dangerous mission and has requested Sharpe. Sharpe agrees to go along if he is made a sergeant if they are successful.

Lawford and Sharpe pose as deserters to try to rescue Colonel Hector McCandless, Lawford’s uncle and chief of the British East India Company’s intelligence service. Sharpe’s flogging inadvertently makes their cover story more plausible. Sharpe quickly takes charge and brings Mary along, to protect her from Hakeswill and because she speaks several of the native languages. They are soon captured by scouts from the Tippoo’s army and taken to Seringapatam where they meet Colonel Gudin, a French military adviser to the Tippoo. During their interrogation, the Tippoo enters and orders them to load muskets. He then orders Sharpe to shoot a British prisoner, Colonel McCandless; he does, having noticed that the “gunpowder” he has been given is fake. The musket does not fire. After covertly telling McCandless that he is a spy, he is told by McCandless that the British must not attack the seemingly weakest portion of the city walls. (It is later revealed that the Tippoo has had mines buried there to blow up the British when they enter the trap.)

Lawford and Sharpe join Gudin’s troops, whilst Mary is sent to work as a servant in the household of one of the Tippoo’s generals, Appah Rao, a Hindu who, unknown to the Muslim Tippoo, is considering switching sides. As they search for their contact, a merchant who can pass along the vital warning to the besieging British forces. Gudin tests the pair further, giving them rifled fowling guns (Sharpe’s first exposure to a rifled weapon instead of a smoothbore musket). Sharpe’s shot is slightly high, but Lawford, to his mortification, ends up hitting a British scout.

As a further test, Sharpe helps defend a Mysore encampment which is attacked by the British. During the attack, Sharpe encounters Hakeswill and tries to kill him, but is stopped by Gudin, who wants prisoners. Back in Seringapatam, Hakeswill spots Lawford in the crowd, but does not betray him (yet). Sharpe is rewarded for his actions by the Tippoo and is allowed to visit Mary. He finds that she is attracted to one of Appah Rao’s men, Kunwar Singh, news which Sharpe takes in good grace. Meanwhile, the Tippoo orders the prisoners executed by his personal bodyguard, the fearsome Jettis, but spares Hakeswill when the sergeant betrays Lawford and Sharpe. The two are captured and Sharpe is tortured until Lawford reveals their mission. Gudin then tells them that the spy they sought in the city had been killed weeks before and fed to the Tippoo’s pet tigers. They are then imprisoned with McCandless and Hakeswill. During their imprisonment, Lawford teaches Sharpe to read and write to make him a more effective sergeant.

After days of bombardment, the British finally breach the wall and prepare to attack. With the assault imminent, Appah Rao orders Kunwar Singh to free McCandless, whilst the Tippoo orders Sharpe, Lawford and McCandless executed as a sacrifice to ensure his victory. Mary accompanies Singh and helps Sharpe escape. Sharpe, accompanied by Lawford, then sets the mine off prematurely. As a result, many of the Tippoo’s best soldiers are killed or stunned, and the British enter the breach in the walls. Rao decides to abandon the Tippoo and withdraws his men. Sharpe returns to Hakeswill and throws him to the Tippoo’s tigers, hoping they will eat the sergeant (though they inexplicably ignore him). Sharpe then encounters the Tippoo, who is trying to flee the city, kills him and loots his corpse.

The British capture the city and restore the Hindu rajah to the throne, as a British puppet ruler. Sharpe carefully takes no credit for killing the Tippoo to avoid having to surrender the jewels he looted.

My Thoughts:

I’ve got two gripes with this book then I’ll go into what I did like. One, this is chronologically the first book but not the first published book. I am a fan of reading a series in order of publication because of the layers involved that authors build up over time. Who knows what Cornwell revealed to me in this book that was a mystery in the earlier published books? Of course, now that I started out chronologically, I’ll be sticking to it. So poo to that! Second, Sharpe is an anti-hero asshole, at best. He’s the protagonist but by no means a hero. If he stays that way, we’ll have to see how many books I get through before giving up on this.

What I did like though, far outweighs those two things, at least for now. The writing. Just like any other hobby, once you’ve passed a certain level you begin to recognize when something is inherently correct and done well. That doesn’t mean you’ll always like it but you’re pigheaded to deny the craftsmanship behind it. Cornwell can write well and it shows. Each character is a “real” person in terms of personality and nobody is a cardboard cutout. When a book makes me see the events and not just “shown”, that also shows wordsmith skills.

This is “historical” fiction and while I’ve anecdotally heard that Cornwell is pretty good about keeping things faithful, that little word “fiction” makes that distinction pointless to me. What that practically means is that you won’t be hearing me write things like “Well, because of what I read by Cornwell, the blah, blah, blabbity blah, reasons, reasons, blah blah blah”. Ever. If Cornwell was a historian, he’d be writing dry, boring and dusty tomes (even though Matt might disagree with my assessment of most history books 😀 ), not adventure novels.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Eaters of the Dead ★★✬☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Eaters of the Dead
Series: ———-
Author: Michael Crichton
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 167
Words: 54K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel is set in the 10th century. The Caliph of Baghdad, Al-Muqtadir, sends his ambassador, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, on a mission to assist the king of the Volga Bulgars. Ahmad ibn Fadlan never arrives, as he is conscripted by a group of Vikings to take part in a hero’s quest to the north; he is taken along as the thirteenth member of their group to comply with a soothsayer’s requirement for success. In the north, the group battles with the ‘mist-monsters’, or ‘wendol’, a tribe of vicious savages (suggested by the narrator to have been possibly relict Neanderthals) who go to battle wearing bear skins.

Eaters of the Dead is narrated as a scientific commentary on an old manuscript. The narrator describes the story as a composite of extant commentaries and translations of the original story teller’s manuscript. The narration makes several references to a possible change or mistranslation of the original story by later copiers. The story is told by several different voices: the editor/narrator, the translators of the script, and the original author, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who also relates stories told by others. A sense of authenticity is supported by occasional explanatory footnotes with references to a mixture of factual and fictitious sources.

My Thoughts:

Earlier this year Dave reviewed this book and it caught my interest. I’d watched, and enjoyed the movie that was produced based on this book: The 13th Warrior. I’d seen this book on my libraries shelf ever since I was a tween but the title really turned me off. In all honesty, it still does. Without Dave’s review I never would have mustered up enough interest to dive into this.

Sadly, the book isn’t nearly as interesting as the movie and is filled with pointless and fake footnotes. This purports to be a historical document and as such is one of those “Historical Fiction” books where the author makes up wholesale yards of crap to further his story but will insert real historical bits and bobs as well. This has all the historicity of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

I was bored for most of this. It wasn’t exciting, fast paced or very interesting. While not nearly so boring as the Andromeda Strain (I read that back in 2001 but have not yet gotten the review into it’s own post) there were several times that I looked down at the percentage bar on my kindle to see how much I had left. That really isn’t a good sign.

On the bright side, I will end up watching the 13th Warrior sometime this year because of this and can expound on how the movie is a much better product than the book. Thinking about it, that seems to be the case for MANY of Crichton’s books. Feth, even Congo was a better movie than the book!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.