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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 17 November 2005
This, in my humble opinion, is the best novel Wilbur Smith has ever written. I've read a lot of his books and enjoyed them very much. Elephant Song, A Time To Die, Eagle In The Sky, The Burning Shore, The Leopard Hunts In Darkness, Hungry As The Sea...
I first read When The Lion Feeds, The Sound Of Thunder and this novel about 15 years ago and have read them at least three times since. However, I'm always looking forward to getting to this novel.
I love the characters in this novel, Sean Courtney, of course; Mark Anders (the son Sean Courney never had), Storm Courtney. I feel a real connection to them all, even Dirk Courtney, Sean Courtney's handsome yet evil son.
The pace is swift and engrossing. The plot is vast in scope, from Flanders fields though the Johannesburg Strikes and the formation of land reform to conserve the animals that Sean Courtney made his fortune hunting.
General Sean Courtney first meets Mark Anders, a young sniper from his native Natal (Zululand). Mark is sent out to hunt a German sniper in no man's land and is badly wounded.
On returning to South Africa after months in hospital, young Anders discovers that his Grandfather has been murdered and his land taken by Dirk Courtney for an ambitious project to create farmland from Ladysburg to Chaka's Gate (a fictional wilderness) on the Indian Ocean coast.
Mark sets out to find what really happened to his Grandfather and to bring those to justice who killed the old man.
It seems Mark's and General Courtney's lives are destined to intertwine, but Mark doesn't know whether the man he admired in France is involved in the conspiracy.
The General's beautiful daughter, Storm (concieved in a thunderstorm during the beginning of the Boer War) is a spoiled socialite who Mark immediately falls in love with when she and her father enter the car show room where he works in Durban.
General Courtney is delighted to see the young man again as he greatly admired him as a young man of great destiny. He sets out to win over Mark and to mould him.
It is with a heavy heart that Sean eventually learns what his son has done and sets out to help Mark get the proof he needs.
Their relationship blossoms into that of a father and son, but tragedy is close at hand...
This novel has everything. It isn't a great work of literature by any means, but it is extremely engaging. Now that's not something you can say about some of the "great works of literature" is it? The writing is tight and well-paced and although the characters are not exactly three-dimensional, it works.
Can be read as a stand alone, but I recommend reading the previous two as you will get to know Sean Courtney better that way. But it isn't necessary, as I know people who have thouroughly enjoyed this novel as just that.
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on 17 February 2000
Spanning the twighlight years of Sean Courtney, Smith follows the old hero's return from the great war to his political career in South Africa.
A time of change in this fledgling country Sean faces the turmoil of brewing communism, racism and civil unrest against a background of his own family problems. His estranged son Dirk with his almost insane quest for power uses any means including murder to get what he wants. Dirk embodies everything Sean hates in a man but he is torn to emotional pieces by the dilemmas which face many parents with offspring who have strayed beyond redemption.
Sean's daughter Storm is the source of his greatest joy but has been brought up in a manner fitting the decadance of the time. Ruth is at his side throughout as his soul and anchor but Sean mourns the loss of his one remaining blood son in the war. Mark Anders fills this gaping hole in Seans life and awakening Sean to a new way of thinking about the land in which they live.
The story is laced with fact and centres on Mark Anders and his trials and tribulations with himself, his loves and his beliefs.
In the best Smith tradition you are taken on an emotional roller-coaster. With consumate ease he lays bare the hearts and thoughts of his characters in a way that provokes a searching of the soul even on the part of the most casual reader.
Africa is described in Smiths usual awe inspiring way and you are transported to this time and place without even realising.
There are defining moments in every nations history and the story ends at the dawn of wildlife conservation as we know it today - but it all could have been so different.
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on 7 August 2005
Wow, where do I begin!? Just finished reading this book, and it moved me so much that I felt the need to come on here and write a review. I've now completed the Sean Courtney trilogy and what is plain obvious is that all three books are quite exceptional. This, the third book in the series, takes us through the twilight years of our main hero Sean. New to the proceedings is Mark Anders, a young and gifted South African who in every way is brought to life in the same vain as Sean by Wilber Smith's amazing ability to create the most realistic characters you will come across. Such is Wilber's talent, you feel as though you are transported back in time and are actually re-living the events, experiencing them firsr hand. As with all his other books, Smith brings Africa to life. Once I had finished reading the novel and the whole story eventually started to sink in, I found myself swaring out loud at how moving and emotional this story was.
We begin in the first World War where Sean first meets Mark and there is an instant respect and fondness between the two. After coming back to South Africa only to find his grandfather dead, Mark embarks on a path which eventually brings him to the truth about his grandfather, to Sean and his family, to his life long abition protecting the wildlife, and to a girl who he falls in love with. Another string to Wilber Smiths bow is his brilliant description of romance and love. Its incredibly moving the way he describes the intimate scenes between a man and a woman. Without giving away anything, all I will say is that the ending to this book is so poignant and stunning that it will leave you shocked for a long while after you've finished it. Do yourself a favour, read this book, and its two predecessors, 'When the lion feeds' and 'The sound of thunder'. They will awake a new, special emotion within you that you never realised you had.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 16 September 2014
Despite not being in chronological order Wilbur Smith recommends that the books are read in the order that they were written and so the books When the Lion Feeds (1964), The Sound of Thunder(1966) and A Sparrow Falls(1977) are the first 3 books in the first series of some of the Courtney family ranging from about the 1870's to 1970's. I do think that to get maximum enjoyment these 3 books need to be read as a trilogy.

In this third book, A Sparrow Falls our hero Sean Courtney has finished fighting the Zulus and the Boers and is now looking for somebody else to fight so he ships over to Europe to fight for the allies in WW1 where he meets Mark Anders. Mark becomes a surrogate son to Sean taking the place of one dead illegitimate son by his twin brother's wife and a legitimate but evil son by a previous wife, now deceased, who Sean has disowned.

Eventually Sean returns home to his wife, Ruth, and Sean enters into politics but still has to contend with considerable turmoil in his life. A lot of that turmoil from his daughter, Storm, named after a clandestine liaison in bad weather with Ruth while she was married to Sean's new best friend, Saul.

Sean and Mark realise that the wildlife of South Africa is nearing extinction and attempt conservation measures only to be undermined by Sean's evil son, Dirk. Dirk is determined to ignore environmental matters and plough ahead destroying the country for massive profits leading to a showdown towards the end of the book.

All along we are told of the tempestuous relationship between Mark and Storm which adds a bit to the book even though Storm is portrayed as clever, shrewd and stubborn and her actions are petulant, disloyal and stupid.

A bit of a cliff-hanger to the end but setting the scene for the heroes of later books to have native man servants and similar characters and tactics and general verbosity. I did get a feeling of déjà vu at some points but still a good read.
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on 7 February 2015
This book does not quite follow Sean Courtney but rather one of his proteges. As usual with Wilbur Smith, one reads in fear for the hero/heroine. Extremely well drawn characters; wonderful descriptives of the land they belong to. Wilbur Smith is a master at drawing the reader into the drama, even when you may feel you do not want to follow. Always there is that doubt that the character you have become attached to will survive the turmoil of the story as it progresses relentlessly and often harshly through the lives of the people who live within the pages of a Wilbur Smith book.
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on 24 December 2012
After 'The Sound of Thunder', in 'A Sparrow Falls' we find General Sean Courtney, a man in his senior years, in the mud and turmoil of the Somme in WWI, where he comes across crack marksman, sniper Mark Anders, also from his native Natal, then a remote corner of the Empire. Mark Anders had grown up in the care of a grandfather who managed to become owner of a tract of wilderness at the centre of which stands the magnificent Chaka's Gate rock formation. In the course of the narrative, the two soldiers return to African soil, the older to his loving family, the younger to find his only relative deceased. When the men meet, little Storm Courtney has grown into a young woman, accustomed to all that beauty and her father's great wealth can give. But there is trouble in Paradise: Dirk Courtney, now a fine figure of a man, has returned from the Orient, but has become a very different character from his father.
These are the bare bones of what rapidly develops into a compelling human drama. It is not a story about the accumulation of wealth, or even much about man's conquest of women. Instead it traces the rise and fall of the personal fortunes of the protagonists, love, happiness, the ability to give and the inability to give, greed, power and ruthlessness, the mistakes we so often make and the price we pay for our mistakes. As one move leads to another the pace picks up and action and excitement draw you forward. Wilbur Smith is not only a master of the fast-moving narrative, his evocations of the African landscape and its inhabitants in their many moods and conditions is unsurpassed. To me, this book succeeds above all as a novel, even and balanced, yet engrossing to the end. If you feel for Africa, I urge you to read it.
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on 29 October 2015
This book is unfortunately the best of the first trilogy , Wilbur Smith has an exceptional way of describing life in this book almost to a point where the book feels part of you , the only way to understand it is to read all three this being the last . I only wish there were more pages and the story continued as every time I got closer to the end I hoped it would not end its just so amazing , I will miss Sean Courtney and he's adventures in and around the plains of South Africa , this book truly touched me .
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on 5 January 2015
Could not put this book down until the end. What a story!! They get better and better. Wilbur Smith is a master storyteller. The characters superb and so believable
The locations so skilfully described, I was there
On to the next story, am addicted.
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on 17 December 2013
Just love this book, just love Wilbur's brilliant story telling. The stories just illustrate the lives of the individuals and the country where they live, I almost feel I know the areas around Africa as though I've been there. Superb writing skills, the passion, the struggles all come out in vivid colour. I would recommend this book and all five books I have read by this prolific writer, unmissable!
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on 29 November 2013
Although I have not quite finished reading this book, I am enjoying it just as much as the previous two in the trilogy of the Courtneys.

The previous two were 'GREAT' stories and this one is not disappointing me at all. Great reads from Wilbur Smith, can't believe I have not read them before. If anyone is interested, his Egyptian stories are also brilliant - great stories from a great writer!!
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