Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Master of War" - a review...

One of the good things about owning a Kindle is the options it gives for reading new and hitherto unknown authors cheaply, and so it was in this case as I'd never heard of David Gilman (apparently he's better known as a script writer for the Frost detective series on ITV). The reviews and subject matter were both good though, and as it was on an introductory price* I went for it, and damned pleased I did....

The book is set in the The Hundred Years War, and in particular the campaign that culminated in Crecy (1346). The story is about English archer Thomas Blackstone, a young stone mason (he's about 16 years old) who has had a better education than most thanks to a French mother. He has also been trained in the war bow by his father, an archer who saved the life of their local Lord in a previous battle.

Both parents are dead, and his only remaining family is his slightly simple, deaf and mute brother who is accused of the murder of a local girl. In order to escape the death penalty both brothers enlist in the troop of their Lord destined to join the army of Edward III who is about to sail to Normandy to reclaim his lands from the French King.

There then follows a very colourful and descriptive account of what it must have been like to fight as an archer in a medieval army - care of the bows, how they are made, what the archers ate, the complex relationship between the hugely skilled and valued archers and their commanders, the tensions that existed in a "British" army at the time which comprised mostly English and Welsh troops both at each others throats except when they were fighting the French.

The book is also very good on the campaign, the struggle to find a river crossing that would allow the army to get back to the coast, and which culminated in the battle of Crecy.

Gilman's description of the battle is also very good and is in the same vein as Bernard Cornwell - there's lots of mud, blood, pain, wounds, injuries, and death, both human and animal - the description of how the English and Welsh archers brought down the first charge by the French knights is mind boggling (broad headed hunting arrows shot at their unprotected legs...)

The battle ends with Thomas  trying to save his brother from being killed by French knights in the final attack, but in the process also helping to save Edward the Black Prince - he sustains huge injuries but the Prince is so impressed he knights him on the battle field..

There are a few unanswered questions, and I for one am looking forward to the next book (released summer this year post edit: January 2015) enormously!

Very good - Steve the Wargamer rates this one as 9 out of 10

* At the time of writing the book is still available for 99p on Kindle - quite possibly one of the better pounds you would have spent this year if you go for it.. 

11 comments:

  1. Excellent! Will order right now... Love your book reviews!

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    1. Legatus - many thanks.. one to enjoy on the next flight to Bogota..!

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  2. I have just ordered this on my kindle following your recommendation. At 99p it a bit of a no brainer. These daily deals sometimes come up trumps. A couple of weeks ago I bought the 5 Conn Iggleton books in the Emperor series for 99p each. They do get a bit of a slating in the Amazon review section for playing fast and lose with historical fact but for light bedtime reading they hit the spot.

    regards,
    Guy

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    1. Guy - let me know what you think of it when you've finished... :o)

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  3. Yep,the Kindle has some very good deals from time to time. I picked up Henry Hyde' s Wargaming Compendium for under £5
    At these prices you can afford to 'try' new authors for very little cost

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    1. Nigel J - now that was a bargain - but you'd have to have the hard copy as well so you can enjoy the pictures... :o)

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  4. Hmm? Sounds interesting and for 99p too! Bargain!!!!

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    1. Ray - not much not to like about Black Prince/archers/Crecy... still 99p... get in there! :o)

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  5. I love the Hundred Years war and would love to do a big campaign set in it.
    Sadly I don't have a Kindle so this one will have to wait

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    1. Paul- not necessarily... all you need to do is download the version of Kindle app for the device you wrote your comment on and way you go... I recently stepped into the 21st century and downloaded the Android version and have t say that it is now my favourite way of reading Kindle books as I always have it at hand...

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    2. PS. It's also available in hardback I think, but not such a bargain.. :o)
      PPS. The various Kindle apps are free....

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