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4.2 out of 5 stars
Rebel (The Starbuck Chronicles, Book 1)
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2001
At first i was dissapointed, both in the amount of time it took to get anything to actually happen to Starbuck and the character of Starbuck himself. This is a slow and very slightly boring book but vital if you want to enjoy the delights of Cornwell's American Civil War series which is easily as good as his famous Sharpe series. Starbuck takes the entire book to transform from the indecisive, lost little preacher's son to the intelligent, decisive rebel captain of the next book. As an introduction to the series i was almost put off but i persevered and was grateful for doing so, Starbuck ends up just as strong and entertaining as the great man, Sharpe himself and i'm already eagerly searching for the next book in my series. The end of the book is well worth the wait though and the battle scene is wonderful, describing the ineptitude of both armies and the emotions of the men fighting their first war. The Starbuck chronicles are great and i strongly recommend this book to get into them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2012
I am quite a fan of Bernard Cornwell , one of the great historical novelists of today,. his books are both easy to read and difficult to put down, I have not yet read the Sharpe series, but have read the Saxon Chronicles, The first book in the Warlord Series, the Grailquest series, , Stonehenge, and the historical detective novel, Gallows Thief.
This book, the first in The Starbuck Chronicles did not disappoint. It is both grittingly realistic and exciting. It explains how Nathaniel Starbuck, the son of a fiery anti-slavery preacher, (who treated his own children no better than the slaves he championed)came to fight for the Confederacy It traces Starbuck's development from a less than confident seminary graduate to a crack soldier. It brings the American Civil War and the America of the time to life, focusing on characters from across the social spectrum.
Starbuck serves the father of his best friend, Washington Faulconer, a wealthy Virginian landowner who raises the Faulconer legion, various other friends and foes populate the novel including the antagonist Ethan Ridley, who Starbuck vows to murder following his cruel betrayal of the beautiful girl from a humble background Sally Truslow.
The narrative in interesting and it is a treat for every history buff and a vivid tale of men at war, with detailed and gory battle scenes
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2008
Bernard Cornwell is best known for his Sharp books, set in the napoleonic war. I've never actually read any of those, but I've seen the TV series (it still counts). I have read a couple of books in his Grail Quest trilogy however, and found its setting of the hundred years' war fascinating. The book Rebel is the first of a quartet set during the American civil war. He seems to like his wars does Mr Cornwell.

Rebel fits firmly into Cornwell's usual formula. The protagonist is an officer who doesn't quite belong into the army he is fighting for. There is a roguish streetwise sergeant sidekick, a bumbling and incompetent superior officer, and of course the mandatory bloody great big war.

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Rebel moves across the pages most agreeably. But I have been spoilt for historical novels by George MacDonald Fraser's excellent Flashman series. Rebel's Starbuck seems a little bland when compared to the magnificently amoral Harry Flashman. In addition I didn't come away from the book actually feeling like I'd learned anything. Sure the book was packed full names, locations and strategies of the battle of Bull Run (the first major conflict of the American civil war); but to be honest I'm not convinced much of it will stick. Perhaps it is a little unfair to blame Cornwell for my own intellectual failings however.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 1998
A rather ropey start sets this novel of the American Civil War off on the wrong foot, but stick with it few the first half dozen pages and you're in for a treat. Good characterisation and wonderfully patient description rub shoulders with high action in a novel which shows Cornwell is capable of a good deal more than the Sharpe novels which brought him to fame. Rebel is the first of a series of novels (subtitled The Starbuck Chronicles) which chart the history of Nathanial Starbuck, a Northerner who turns his back on his own kind to join the Confederate army of the South. In addition to the jibes and aggravation of his new brothers in arms, Starbuck must deal with the ethical problems of fighting against friends and family through some of the biggest battlkes of the conflict. All in all a cracking good read and highly recommended to anyone with an interest in America's most turbulent times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2012
Like many others, I found this slightly slow to start with while you get to know the characters, and Starbuck himself starts off as an unlikely hero. However it is well worth sticking with. As soon as the battles commence the book becomes totally absorbing, and I went straight on to the next 3 in the series immediately. The series as a whole I would definitely rate as 5 star, and needs to be read in order so as to appreciate the development of all the characters. Cornwell is an excellent writer, and has awakened in me a new interest in the Civil War where I've gone on to delve more into the history of some of the battles and events.
Once you get into the character, Starbuck is every bit as interesting a hero as Sharpe, and the quality of Cornwell's narrative is superb. I only wish he would go on and write the promised 5th Starbuck novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2012
The American Civil War - as seen by a Northerner rebelling from his father's authoritarianism. The hero is the son of a fire and brimstone preacher from Boston. Led astray by a woman, he abandons his theological studies at Yale and heads south and escorts her southwards, reaching Virginia just in time for the fall of Fort Sumter as the Confederate states rebel against the Union. Rescued from a lynch mob by his friend's father, he becomes a junior officer in the Confederate Army, despite being a hated Yankee.

Before the battles begin, few (North or South) believe that Americans will actually go round killing each other. The first battle - at Manassas or the Bull Run river - ends that hope.

Interesting, informative, and a warning message to people who say "it could never happen".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2011
This book did not really come alive until the battle scenes near the end. Considering that few authors manage such scenes at all, it is surprising that in this instance that is the best part of the book. Characters are not as well drawn as might have been expected. In fact, I have just checked the chronology of Cornwell's writing, and was surprised to find that this was not one of his earliest attempts. The Major who leads the Legion into battle is an example of a character who barely registers until that portion of the book. Perhaps reading more of the series will make the storylines come alive a bit more. Would have helped to have a map showing a wider geography.

Slightly sad that the first Cornwell book I have reviewed gets 3 stars, when all of the Sharpe series would get 5 stars!
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 November 2002
One of my favorite writers of historical fiction kicks off his Civil War series with this remarkably tepid tale. A number of flaws make themselves manifest over the course of the book, the foremost of which is an unlikable hero. Cornwell seems to have decided to take the hero of his wildly successful Napoleonic era series, Richard Sharpe, and make his new hero come from the exact opposite background. Unfortunately, while one is naturally inclined to root for an orphaned, gutter-bred, ill-mannered rogue who rises through the ranks due to sheer merit, one is much less likely to root for the privileged scion of a Boston abolitionist preacher who joins the Confederate forces as an act of rebellion against his strict upbringing! Indeed, while Sharpe grows and learns a little in each book, the only thing Starbuck seems to learn in this first volume is to devalue human life! Indeed, his overall transformation seems rather forced.
It doesn't help that Cornwell appears to be creating the same setups as in the Sharpe series, giving his hero a dangerous and loyal sidekick, a passel of idiotic officers, with one or two sprinkled in who recognize the hero's value. There's even a tempting woman to lead all the men astray! It's also rather slow and plodding compared to the Sharpe books, although granted, it appears to be designed more as a prelude to the series than anything else.
The story follows 20ish Nate Starbuck, as he enlists in a local Confederate force being mustered by the fabulously wealthy and dangerously vain father of his best friend. The book sees the slow build to war, as the "Faulconer Legion" equips and readies itself, before finally getting into action at the Battle of Manassas (aka Bull Run 1). The battle/action scenes are adequate, but not as gripping as his Napoleonic stuff. I suspect this may be because the Civil War is more familiar to us Americans-we've seen it in print, on TV, in film, even reenacted!-whereas the Napoleonic battle has the allure of something new.
As always with Cornwell, there's a ton of interesting little details, and various historical figures popping in and out of the plot. He does seem to play rather loose with a number of facts, but it is fiction after all. I'll read the next in the series, but this one was a serious disappointment for this Cornwell fan!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2013
I enjoyed this book. It fits plausible characters into a strange time in US history. Clever use of one character, Nate Starbuck, into the mix allows the view of both sides to be aired. Starbuck being a Bostonian fighting for the South.
The book goes at a good pace and is very informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2013
This is the second Bernard Cromwell book that I have read, and like the first, ("Sea Lord"), I was most impressed with they way Mr Cromwell draws the reader into the story and involves you with the "nitty gritty" of the story. In this case it is the lead up an involvement of a North American youth masquerading as a Southern Army officer who against his Fathers wishes gets involving in fighting the Civil War and in particular the Battle for Bull Run. The soldier has a history, and that is equally laid out in this really involving statement of all that is good and bad in human relationships.
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