Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Brothers in Arms"..

Just finished the latest offering from Iain Gale in the "Jack Steel" series - this is number 3, and deals with the Oudenarde campaign and its aftermath...

As seems to be usual with Iain Gale's books it actually opens with the battle itself - always slightly unnerving to be tipped full scale into the battle from the moment you open the first page, as most authors (and I guess Bernard Cornwall's Sharpe books are the perfect example) usually spend the book working up to it, setting it in context, etc. Either way up, the battle is well described - it's clear that Gale is most comfortable when describing the battle scenes...

Where he seems to fall down is the non-battle scenes... I find his characters a little shallow in terms of characterisation, and the plots a little thin & easy. For example, in this book Steel is asked to adopt disguise and travel to Paris to meet with a contact in the French army so as to deliver a personal letter from Marlborough to Louis XIV hoping to bring the war to an earlier close - which he then does, despite the obvious difficulties this would have caused him! With little French, he walks straight into the middle of Paris, straight into the headquarters of the French army (which somewhat interestingly was housed in the Hopital des Invalides at the time, I didn't know that) and handed over his message... OK he's captured but it all seems a little "easy" - all the issues he has are easily bypassed, enemies are persuaded to ignore him by the easiest of excuses and subterfuges....

Having got back from Paris he then finds himself embroiled in the siege of Lille which Gale likens (very heavily) to the experience in WWI, and having taken command of a converged grenadier battalion he then goes off to rescue his wife, gets involved in the battle of Wijnendale (I hadn't heard of this battle, but it sounds like it would make an interesting research topic as it featured a very small contingent on each side - no more than 15 regiments a piece) and generally performs prodigious and many feats of derring-do....

So - did I enjoy it?? Yes.. Would I buy the next one?? Yes... Mr Gale needs to develop his characterisation - give them some depth - but his plots fairly race along and are always exciting...

Steve the Wargamer rates this one as 6 or 7 out of 10.


  1. Oh dear, I am probably going to have to get these. This however could plunge me even further into Tricornicitus!

  2. Agree with Characterisation comment the names of the leading characters make me cringe a little Steel & Slaughter! but a good enjoyable holiday/weekend read. I just got the latest today.

  3. Perhaps it was the old Jedi mindtrick-"I am not the British Officer you are after"?
    Plus it sounds like Saving Private Ryan at the beginnig?

    I have a WHSmith book token and will buying the book this weekend!



  4. Forgot this was due out - now ordered!

    Wynendale was refought by us at the Grimsby club last year. Hardbattle to refight since it's very akin to a tricron version of Agincourt. Waves of French funnelled into the waiting English between two woods.

  5. Shadows of 'Dire Straits'... off topics,sorry! ;-)