Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Traitor's Blood" by Michael Arnold

I have to say that this book was a delightful and very pleasant surprise... Why? Well I almost didn't buy it due to the fact that some spotty publishing house advertising prat had seen fit to put a sticker on the front of it intimating that the hero of the book was "another Sharpe".... I hate it when they do that, what kind of pressure does that put a new author under??

Happily, as the book was half price in a sale I decided to buy it anyway..

..what a good decision that turned out to be - for a début novel this is an absolute cracker.

Set in the early years of the English Civil War this novel is the first in a series of books. This one has as its background the Battle of Edgehill (Kineton Fight), and the subsequent Royalist march on London.

The hero of the book is a spectacularly ugly (as in appearance rather than character!) captain of foot in the Royalist army who goes by the name of Stryker. As so many of the officers and men who enrolled in those early Civil War armies must have been, Stryker is a veteran of the 30 Years War in Europe, a mercenary and a professional soldier - he is good at his profession, and as a result of those years in the low countries has many influential friends in the Royalist Army - not the least of whom is Prince Rupert who he has served with before....

Stryker owes his looks to a botched attempt to kill him by the main villain of the book, one Captain Eli Makepeace. Some years earlier Stryker had caused Makepeace's brother to be given the lash for cowardice, as a result of this shame, the brother went on to kill himself, and Eli had sworn vengeance. Shortly after he attempted to kill Stryker but failed, and having made himself scarce at the time not surprisingly he then turns up all those years later in the Royalist army. The stage is set for one of story lines in the book...

The main story line however, starts with Stryker at Edgehill (and Arnnold does a fantastic description of an English Civil War battlefield - his descriptions of push of pike are particularly good) where he is given the task by Prince Rupert of going to capture a spy who has been discovered as a result of papers found following the battle...

With just a handful of trusted men (all of them are lovely characters - very believable) Stryker sets off to capture him and the book covers his adventures to complete this mission.

On the way he meets clubmen (armed civilians protecting their homes against both sides), wandering Parliamentarian cavalry patrols, his old lover who had nursed him after the botched murder and who he thought was dead (! what an amazing girl by the way - a secret agent for Queen Henrietta Maria - Charles I's wife - she has her own story line), battles, skirmishes, and Eli Makepeace (of course!) who is working secretly for Parliament and trying to get the same spy away before Stryker arrives..

The denouement is set against the desperate battles fought by the Royalists to take London - first at Brentford where Parliament fought it's first delaying action to stop the Royalists securing the crossing of a minor stream. For Parliament it was a race against time in order to allow them to prepare the defences for London. The book describes this very well and the description of the fighting in the streets of Brentford is enough to make any normal man start another wargaming project there and then! Of course the Parliamentary tactics worked, but how close were the Royalists to victory in that first year of the war..

An excellent book - can't wait for volume 2 to come out... Steve the Wargamer rates this one as a damned catchy and readable 9 out of 10, and quite possible the straw that broke the camels back with regard to starting a whole new wargame period...

4 comments:

  1. Stryker, now that's a good name for a hero, hey.. wait a minute!

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  2. You are obviously in the pay of wargaming companies, Steve.

    Yes, surely their spies have tole you that I've been dreaming of doing an ECW project . . . so you are deliberately trying to entice me to buy this book.

    *Sigh* . . . I have so little resistance . . . and, yes, I know that "resistance is futile."


    -- Jeff

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  3. Hah! Just picked this out as my next book to read so after the first line of your review I had to stp reading!

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  4. Picked up a copy on your recommendation!

    Christopher

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