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on 15 October 2010
They are certainly well researched and moves at a good pace. However, sometimes too good, it's almost as if he wrote the whole series in a hurry (maybe to meet a deadline). Some scenes have quite a bit of detail and then suddenly a whole series of events will happen over a page or two.

I have greatly enjoyed his other books (in whichever of his guises) and these have been more leisurely constructed but these three books should, perhaps, have been four or even five.

All in all they have ended up as one long holiday read rather than true historical novels
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 August 2010
This is, supposedly, Tome 3 of the epic "Conquest" trilogy. However, and rather obviously for someone who knows a bit of the period, it seems that the author has been a bit too prolific and could not finish the story of Robert and Roger the Hauteville within his trilogy, as expected. So he cuts it off after the fall of Palermo (1072), given the impression that Sicily was as good as conquered by then. In fact, it took another 19 years for Roger to complete the conquest of the island while his brother Robert would live on another 13 years, conquer Salerno, invade the BYzantine Empire twice and march against the German King/Emperor to rescue the pope.

This is in fact my main grip with this tome: it is a historical fiction, not a historical novel, meaning that the author has taken a lot of liberties with the actual facts and has presented a rather biaised version - very pro-norman (and especially pro-Roger) - of what happened. A few examples (but they are in fact many more):
- the book opens up with a Norman siege of the port of Brindisi with help of a Venetian squadron of galleys to blockade it by sea. Rather unrealistic since the Venetians were (in theory, by that time) vassals of the Byzantine Emperor and would in fact become his allies in fighting against Robert Guiscard. Anyway, the would never have sided (and didn't) with the Normans, especially to help them in wresting the ports of Apulia from which they could control traffic along the Adriatic
- the siege of Bari is also a bit of a fantasy. The byzantine military commander (Paternos) was the Catepan (not the so-called "Bisanzio", which seems to have been a nickname for the head of the pro-byzantine faction amonf the - mainly Lombard - citizens of Bari). Paternos did not die during the siege. In fact, and after a spirited defense of the city, he surrendered on terms and he, his garrison of professionnal byzantine soldiers and many sailors from Bari participated in the siege and storm of Palermo a few months afterwards
- A more general problem is the overall impression given throughout the book, which is largely inspired by the (pro-norman) sources. The conquest of Byzantine Italy and of Muslim Sicily were no walk-overs: each took about 30 years to complete. Resistance was both fiercer and more effective than what the book makes out and the Normans were not always victorious
- Another point is the way the author has chosen to depict the characters: the faithful and brave Roger and his cunning, powerful but mean elder brother Robert. This comes directly from Goeffrey Malaterra's "biography" of Roger, who commandered the work. Needless to say, the story it tells is not exactly unbiaised. In fact, both brothers were essentially driven by self-interest and survival: they would be allies as long at it suited them and/or as long as one could oblige the other to comply. Interestingly, after the fall of Palermo, Robert never came back to Sicily, leaving his younger brother to cope on his own for the rest of the conquest. Roger did not participate in Robert's the attacks against the BYzantine Empire, some 10 years latter because he obviously had no interest to do so. In both cases, each brother could have done with a bit of help... The only time when they collaborate was against the German Emperor and to defend the pope (Gregory VII - Hildebrandt) that had legitimized their rule. So much for the family fealings that our heroes were supposed to have, according to the sources and this book
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MERCENARIES - WARRIORS - CONQUEST by Jack Ludlow
Having already sampled the work of this author, who also writes under the pen-name of David Donachie (19th. c. seafaring novels), I expected this fictionalised biographical trilogy to be of a good standard, both historically accurate and a good read. All three volumes were certainly that and more. The author admits that some small liberties have been taken with time lines to maintain the fictional flow but these books are without a doubt an interesting and absorbing read. I do not believe that the de Hautville family who dominated the Norman conquest of Italy and Sicily and subsequently the Holyland have been previously featured in historical fiction since Alfred Duggans novels were published in the 1950s a much overlooked important episode of feudal history.
Buy this series, read them, keep them....they are that rarity in fiction that readers will return to an re-read over again.
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on 12 December 2010
This is the third book in this very good trilogy. A must for all those who love historical fiction, these three books are so well researched that they open up a new window in history. A family of Norman Knights in the 10th century creating new kingdoms in Italy. Exciting and very well written, I could not put them down.
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on 17 April 2012
Great read for anyone who likes historical fiction.The author had clearly done a lot of research into the characters and the events happening at that period in history.
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on 12 July 2014
Although I enjoyed a recent TV documentary about the Norman empire in Italy, I've never read anything about it, and discovered this trilogy by chance, but am glad I did. It is very detailed, and true to life, according to other non-fiction sources on line. It is very well written, and I like his style, though the grammatical construction of many of his sentences cause some annoyance - but that's just me. A fine trilogy of adventures, well worth five stars.
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on 1 April 2013
this is a book that my dad has bought he is into these sort of books and he enyoyed reading it
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on 13 March 2012
This is a much better effort than the second book in the trilogy and introduces the last de hautville named roger.The constant bickering between him and his brother robert and the battles in calabria and sicily make this a very enjoyable read just go and buy it.
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on 6 July 2011
Although not a fantastic book it is definitely worth a read for those who enjoy military based action books with a decent historical storyline.
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on 11 March 2015
What an outstanding end to a great trilogy I throughly enjoyed all 3 books with the final one leaving me wondering what happened next?
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