Profile for David J. Kelly > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by David J. Kelly
Top Reviewer Ranking: 21,052
Helpful Votes: 443

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
David J. Kelly (Scotland)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11
pixel
Empire of Silver (Conqueror, Book 4) (Conqueror 4)
Empire of Silver (Conqueror, Book 4) (Conqueror 4)
by Conn Iggulden
Edition: Hardcover

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best series in historical fiction, 1 Dec. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The year is 1229 and the successor to Genghis Khan as Great Khan of te Mongol Nation is about to take place. The heir is Ogedei, Genghis's third son and chosen over his ekder brother Chagatai. On the night before the confirmation of Ogedei as Khan of the Nation Chagatai's troops storm his palace in the new city of Karakorum and attempt to murder him so that Chagatai can claim to be Khan. The attempt fails and Ogedei send his brother to conquer the south. He sends his father's general, Tsubodai, west into Europe and he goes east to China to further conquests.

In this book we see the continued expansion of the Empire founded by Genghis. Iggulden brings us the politics and daily life of Karakorum, the newly built capital of the Mongol Empire as well as the start of the "Golden Horde", the Mongol Khanate that was to dominate Eastern Europe for many years. He also introduces the next generation of Mongol rules Guyuk Khan, Batu Khan and Mongke Khan who will no doubt be the main characters in future volumes. He describes Tsubodai's brilliant campaign of mobile warfare in Eastern Europe and shows how if the Mongol Armies had not been recalled in 1242 they would have reached the Atlantic.

This has a pacy narrative and there are not too many characters to follow. The author admits that aspects of the account are fictionalised but he describes the Mongol's strategic genius and how they used their intelligence and mobility to defeat their "cvilised" opponents with their reliance on heavy cavalry and infantry compared to the light horse archers and lancers of the nimble Mongol Tumans. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to lovers of historical fiction.


The Crown of the Blood
The Crown of the Blood
by Gav Thorpe
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A rather mixed bag, 1 Dec. 2010
This review is from: The Crown of the Blood (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book, although it wasn't obvious, is the first in a series set in a fantasy world. The dominant power is the Empire of Ashkor which is modelled on the Roman Empire with legions and a mission to conquer the world. The plot hinges around a General Ullsaard who decised to usurp the ruling house despite the law stating that inheritance is strictly "salic", ie the eldest legitimate son of the King inherits. Ullsaard starts a civil war to wrest the "Crown of the Blood" from the king. There are excellent descriptions of the fantasy world but, as is often the case, the fantasy is just a little too unfantastic. The armies ride to battle on giant mountain cats, snakes and giant lizards but people seem to have sheep, goats and oxen too, although horses are never mentioned.

Overall I enjoyed the book. it's well written, pacy and masculine but it didn't sit all that easy with me. The female characters are not characters but are used as plot devices. The mystery of the temple which features throughout the book is not revealed but there is a link between the building of Ashkor's Empire and the need to "feed" the Temple's purpose. I expect that this will be unveiled in subsequent episodes of the series. In summary, The Crown of Blood was okay but it was a bit too macho.


The Fort
The Fort
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1000 Scots versus the state of Massachusetts, 22 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Fort (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book fictionalises the story of the largest American naval expedition of the American Revolutionary War and the United States' worst naval defeat until Pearl Harbor, the Penobscot Expedition was the largest American naval expedition of the American Revolutionary War and the United States' worst naval defeat until Pearl Harbor. The fighting took place on both land and on sea, near the twon of Castine on modern day Maine.

It is June 1779 anda thousand Scottish soldiers have built a set of fortifications centered on a fort located on the Bagaduce Peninsula in Penobscot Bay, with the goals of establishing a new British colony called New Ireland. This provkes the state of Massachusetts, with some support from the Continental Congress, raised an expedition to drive the British out.

The Americans land in late July and attempt to establish a siege of the British fort in a series of actions seriously hampered by disagreements over control of the expedition between Commodore Dudley Saltonstall of the Continental Navy and General Solomon Lovell of the Massachusetts Militia. The operation ends in disaster when a Royal Navy fleet under the command of Sir George Collier arrives, driving the American fleet to flee up up the Penobscot River where most of it is burnt to prevent capture. The surviving Americans then have to make an overland journey back to more-populated parts of Massachusetts with minimal food and armament.

The book is even handed and all the major characters were real people. John Moore, who died at Corrunna fighting the French, really did see his first battle here and Pauk revere was the rather incompetent commander of the rebel artillery. It contrasts the not the differences between the Americans and the British but those between the professional redcoats and the Continental Marines from the amateurs of the Militia. The British commander, Francis MacLean, is a veteran professional compared to the hestitant and indecisive Lovell or the headstrong Revere. It starts off quite slowly as the British arrive in Maine and then the Ameicans prepare their force but then the pace picks up as the American try to first assault and then lay seige to MacLean's fort. They need to capture it before a relief force can arrive from Canada.

Cornwell is an expert at describing battles and his descriptions here are as good as any. The book paints a picture of the British forces that contrasts with the American legends about the redcoats. The Americans in contrast are a more mixed bunch with the Continental Marines showing all the qualities of the the Corps which succeeded them while the Militia are amateurish and barely competent. The main American character who comes out well is the second in commad, Peleg Wadsworth. In the end I enjoyed this book as I enjoy all of Cornwell's books, he is the master of military, historical fiction.


The Draining Lake (Reykjavik Murder Mysteries 4)
The Draining Lake (Reykjavik Murder Mysteries 4)
by Arnaldur Indridason
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Another detective with a complicated private life, 29 Oct. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The title of this Icelandic book is based on a real Icelandic lake, Kleifarvatn, which began draining away in 2000 following an earthquake. In the novel, the dropping water level reveals a body long hidden in the lake discovered by a hydrologist. When the police investigate the scene they find the body has been tied down with Russian made espionage equipment dating from the Cold War. Detective Erlendur, yet another fictional detective with a dysfunctional family life, and his colleagues than have to investigate the mystery to discover who the body belongs to and what the connection is to Warsaw Pact spies watching the NATO bases on Iceland during the cold war.

The book is part of a series and the author has won Crime Fiction prizes for books in this series. He takes the cliches of detective fiction and sets them in the wide open volcanic landscape of Iceland. Here the population may be widely scattered, except for in the capital Reykjavik but there are so few of them that it can seen claustrophobic. This affects the outlook and character of the people and I think that Indridason captures this and this gives this series an interesting variation on the typical detective novel. I enjoyd it a lot.


The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend (Penguin Hardback Classics)
The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend (Penguin Hardback Classics)
by Peter Ackroyd
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Medieval Romance Updated, 29 Oct. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Peter Ackroyd has modernised the late medieval novel of Sir Thomas Mallory about the Knights of the Round Table, originally published by William Caxton in 1485 and which has been in print ever since. Herein lie the familiar tales of Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristram and Isolde, the Quest for the Holy Grail and the final battle between Arthur and Mordred, his son from his incerstuous liason with his half sister Morgan Le Fay. Ackroyd has changed the language and tex to make the stories easier to read for modern tastes without losing the essential medieval essence of Mallory#'s retelling of these stories. The stories are based on French versions of ancient Celtic myths from the dark ages.

I read Mallory's original as a teenager, or tried to, and I found that Ackroyd's starker modern retelling to be easier to read and I found that I enjoyed it. Ackroyd has not lost the themes of the original where Knights battle for honour, the pagan spiritual lives alongside the Catholic so that the Lady of the Lake and Merlin are written about alongside the Joly Grail and visions of the Holy Trinity. Here also we see the flaws of the great characters of Lancelot, Guinevere, Gawain and the brief life of Galahad, the perfect knight. It is full of violence, intrigue, adultery, magic and religion, all written from the point of view of a 15th Century Knight from the midlands of England.

I think Ackroyd has made this early English classic available for a whole new generation of readers who would not have the will or the patience to wade through the original or the later interpretations which are currently available.


The King of Kahel
The King of Kahel
by Tierno Monénembo
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Misadventures of a colonialist, 23 Oct. 2010
This review is from: The King of Kahel (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The King of Kahel is a fictionalised account of the efforts of the French explorer and adventurer, Olivier de Sanderval, to lay claim to his own kingdom in the Fouta Djallon highlands of modern Guinea. Sanderval was an inventor, scholar and heir to a fortune who believed that the key to winning the continent of Africa resides in the mysterious kingdom of Fouta Djallon, where the headwaters of the rivers Niger, Senegal and Gambia plunge from grassy hills through forested valleys where the dangerous and slippery Fula people have a kingdom. Sanderval wants the Fula's theotocratic muslim ruler to grant him trade rights, land and allow him to build a railway to connect the uplands to the coastal ports. He believes that this is the key to French domination of sub-Saharan Africa, and that it will frustrate British colonial expansion in the area.

He lives among the Fula and becomes involved in their intrugues and politics all the while trying to persuade the French of the value of his vision. He finds the French simply want to annex the kingdom while he becomes a King of a small plataeu area of Kahel where he hopes to build the railway terminus. He finds the Fula more agreeable than his fellow Europeans who want to pursue their own personal and nationalistic interests. Sanderval comes across as an eccentric who believed in many strange ideas which are even stranger to modern minds.

This book was difficult for me to get into. I did not find the character of Sanderval sympathetic, he is aristocratic,single minded, a colonialist, an adulterer and a racist. In the end I enjoyed the book as it shines a light onto a small part of what became known as the "Scramble for Africa" when the European powers raced to secure territory in Africa. Sanderval, for all his faults, wants to develop the Kingdom for all its inhabitants, not simply steal it from the Fula.


The Road to Rome (Forgotten Legion Chronicles)
The Road to Rome (Forgotten Legion Chronicles)
by Ben Kane
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.89

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Should've started at the beginning, 22 Sept. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I received this book without realising that it was the end of a trilogy and I compared it to Napier's Atilla trilogy and Sidebottom's Warrior of Rome trilogy. There seems to be a lot of fiction around at the moment about the Imperial Roman military, This book is set at the end of the Republic and follows the twins Romulus and Fabiola in their lives after escaping respectively from the gladiatorial school and the brothel. Fabiola is now the lover of a friend of Julius Ceasar's and a madame in her own right while Romulus and his freind Tarquinius are legionaries in Ceasar's Armies as they fight in Egypt, Anatolia and North Africa in the civil wars between Ceasar and the Pompeian conservatives and their Pontic allies.

I read this quite quickly and found it easy going with a lot of research. A reviewer of this series complained about the mysticism but these were superstitious times and people thought that all that soothsaying and stuff was real and believed in it. If the characters had been hard headed, empirical logicians then that would just have been unrealistic. The book captures the squalor and magnificence of Rome and brings out the charisma of Ceasar as a general and politician. The descriptions of the battles are good but I think the author has simplified them, as he would have to. Overall a good read for by the pool on holiday, which is where I read it. And I will try and read the other two books now.


May 1812
May 1812
by M.M. Bennetts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.31

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Marriage interrupted by war and espionage in Regency London, 21 Sept. 2010
This review is from: May 1812 (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's the Spring of 1812, the pivotal year of the long struggle between the old European monarchies and revolutionary France led by Napoleon Bonaparte. In London the Earl of Myddleton is a code-breaker and translator in the foreign office, working long hours to translate and decode intercepted French communications to aid the British in their war against French tyranny. His life is turned upside down by the revelation that he has to marry an 18 year old girl who his father had promised her father that he should marry her in return for repaymen of debts. If Myddleton does not marry he will lose his estate and wealth. He travels to the country and marries Jane Heron, taking her back to London where he resumes his work.

The story looks at Myddleton's involvement in the foreign office and the war effort, the mores and conventions of the regency society and his growing relationship with his new wife. Myddleton is sent abroad on a hazardous mission just as he is about to consummate his marriage and this causes terrible problems with Jane's uncle and raises the potential for a sex scandal which will ruin him.

I found this book hard going, the whole aristocratic, georgian world seemed alien to me and I found it difficult to follow the dialogue, especially where the author attempted to use Georgian expressions. A lot of the characters were not attractive to me, Napoleon is depicted as an evil, vainglorious tyrant (which I think he probably was) as opposed to the reasonable, liberal English toffs. Yet these people opposed the emancipation of Catholics, sat at the top of an unequal and iniquitous class system and went out and stole other people's countries and goods in the name of Empire and commerce. In the end I would say i enjoyed the book and learnt a few things I didn't know from it. You should see how much these people drank every day!


The Tiger
The Tiger
by John Vaillant
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the taiga, the mighty taiga, the tiger sleeps tonight, 5 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Tiger (Hardcover)
The Amur Tiger is the largest species of living cat in the world. It doesn't live in the warm, tropical jungles of southern Asia, it is the top predator in the snowbound forests of pine, oak and poplar of the Russian Far East. Here these huge cats hang on along the border with China and North Korea, a remnant of their former range which stretched from the eastern mountains of Turkey through Asia to the Pacific. One day, one of these cats decides to kill a poacher and this book follows the progress of the Russian wildlife authourities as they track down and kill the maneater through the midwinter in the Taiga.

This is no colonial tale of killing man eating cats in Kenya or Raj era India, these hunters are "policemen" whose normal role is to prevent the killing of tigers but they are in post communist Russia. Here free market capitalism has run riot so that a few oligarchs and their associates get rich quick while the rest of the population struggle in near abject poverty. Where people had jobs and income before this has been swept away leaving hoplessness, alcoholism and poaching the forest. The mos valuable "product" in the forest is the tiger which can be sold over the border in China for a samll fortune. The hunters in this tale are following the creature they spend their lives trying to protect.

This story is not a novel but it as as exciting as one. Here in the human desolation of the post Communist far east the author puts the tiger into its many contects for the local inhabitants, whether European Russian colonists or aboriginal tribesmen. He tells of the impact of perestroika and what came after on both the tiger and the people and describes the efforts to save the tiger and its forest while the locals are left at the mercy of the rich "entrepreneurs" and vodka, so that they have to survive on the products of the taiga - fur, honey, pine nuts and tigers. The story is put in context by explanations of the history, culture and biology of the interaction between man and tigers in the Taiga. An unusual, humane and interesting book which could pass for a thriller.


Siege
Siege
by Jack Hight
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.19

4.0 out of 5 stars A novel about the event that probably created modern Europe, 2 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Siege (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Siege of Constantinople in 1453 is one of the pivotal events in European history, more important than the battles of Crecy, Agincourt or Bannockburn or whichever other nationally important battle your history teacher taught you about. It was the real end of the Roman Empire and the confirmation of the Ottoman Turks as the most powerful state in the eastern Mediterranean. Refugees from the city brought knowledge west into Europe that added fuel to the Renaissance. It really was a last stand, the end of one civilization and its replacement by another.

This book chronicles the last days of Byzantium as Mehmed II, Sultan of the Ottoman Turks sets out to make Constantinople his capital. Opposing him is Giovanni Giustanini Longo, a Genoese soldier to whom the Emperor Constantine XI has entrusted the defence of the Queen of Cities. The emperor's niece Sophia is betrothed to Loukas Notaras, megadux of Constantinople, but she is attracted to Longo. While Longo and Notaras try to defend the city the hard line Orthodox clergy plot to preserve their independent church and sabotage any union between the Catholic Church and their own, the Pope's condition for calling on the European Catholics to relieve the city. At the same time there is intrigue and plotting at the Turkish court and in the harem as the Sultan's officials and wives jockey for position and favour. The vizier, Halil, plots with the Sultan's first wife against his unfaithful concubine Gulbehar.

I liked this book, as an adventure and as a fictionalisation of history. The author captures the declining yet cosmopolitan city with its traditions and rituals and those of the opposition, he Ottoman Court (the "Divan") and the harem. The plotting and intrigues are well done and the battle scenes are exciting and fast paced. It's not a work of history but you do get how important an event in European history this was. If you like historical fiction and books about military history then this is one you should enjoy.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11