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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting
This is an exhaustive study - it is also an exhausting one. But bear with the near 800 pages, because you will be richly rewarded and put down the book afterwards with the feeling that you yourself were involved in this chapter of the First World War. In itself, this is a true measure of a first rate writer's skill; Robert Massie again shows he is unquestionably that...
Published on 4 Dec 2011 by Is It Worth It?

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could Do Better - Oops, You Already Did!
I came to Castles of Steel not long after reading Massie's Dreadnought, and consequently full of fervour for this next instalment in his politico-maritime history of imperial conflict.

Yet, oddly, where his first work was undoubtedly a masterpiece, this volume palls very rapidly. To be sure, it provides an adequate description of the paths to and through the...
Published on 30 July 2007 by R. J. Bowen


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, 4 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Castles Of Steel: Britain, Germany and the Winning of The Great War at Sea (Paperback)
This is an exhaustive study - it is also an exhausting one. But bear with the near 800 pages, because you will be richly rewarded and put down the book afterwards with the feeling that you yourself were involved in this chapter of the First World War. In itself, this is a true measure of a first rate writer's skill; Robert Massie again shows he is unquestionably that. He provides some astonishing revelations regarding the workings of the British and German Admiralties and very interesting explanations about the U-boat threat; how the `moving square' for convoys defrayed that threat; the real reason Americans joined the war (very late) and why the German naval forces came so close to mutiny in the closing months of 1918. Key dramatis personae such a Fisher, Beatty, Jellicoe, Hipper, Scheer and Ludendorff are less fully drawn than those Massie so comprehensively describes in his Dreadnought, which is perhaps a shame. However, one does get a workable indication of the personalities - Lloyd-George comes out as a petulant, unpleasant, `Welsh Windbag' of a man and Beatty seems a duplicitous fair weather friend. But Jellicoe is undoubtedly the true and modest hero whose grasp and retention, against all arguments, of the Grand Strategy is the true measure of the man who won the war at sea. That he was so shabbily treated at the closing stages does some of his colleagues plus British government generally, and Lloyd-George in particular, no credit whatsoever. The battles are describe in immense detail, almost as blow-by-blow accounts - they would become boring without Massie's skill in setting the stage and progress of the engagements, coupled with his insights and descriptive power regarding, for example, the comparative advantages of ballistics and armour, the horrifying injuries and the huge dedication of all involved at the face of battle. All in all, Castles of Steel serves to underline how shockingly awful this war was, and why, with the entrenched prejudices of the time, it couldn't possibly have been avoided by Britain if Europe, and she herself, were not to be smothered by Germany's autocracy.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, 6 Nov 2008
By 
An avid reader (Newcastle upon Tyne) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Castles Of Steel: Britain, Germany and the Winning of The Great War at Sea (Paperback)
A magnificent book that should be read inconjunction with Dreadnought (the prequel to this tome).

Personally I preferred this book over Dreadnought as this focuses more on the personalities, 'action' and battles of the World War I rather than the politics that comprise the majority of Dreadnought, I thought this was the slightly easier read of the two. Reading some other reviews it seems that the preference between the books depends on which one you read first.

Overall a highly recommended read.

The best book on the subject by a (nautical) mile.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Castles of Steel, 16 Aug 2004
By 
Bigwig (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I have been a fan of Massie since reading his superb book 'Dreadnought'. I bought his latest book as soon as I saw it was available. It is very informative about sea warfare during WW1, without getting bogged down in detail. No doubt fine detail may be necessary if the subject is being studied for an exam, but not for those of us who simply wish to enjoy our historical reading.
I found it particularly interesting to discover the extent of the role of submarines during WW1.
Whilst perhaps not quite up to the superb standard set by 'Dreadnought' (hence 4* instead of 5), I am sure it will not disappoint.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History should always be like this, 23 Feb 2005
By A Customer
Having read Robert Massie's earlier book Dreadnought, which I enjoyed so much I read it twice, I waited impatiently for this promised sequel, and I was not disappointed. Some books you hope will never end and this is one of them. There is not a dull page in the book. Massie brings characters alive with amusing anecdotes. You have probably read other accounts of the WW1 sea battles but they are dry by comparison. His cannot be equalled for well-paced storytelling, scholarly research and balanced judgments. He uses official and unofficial publications and diaries from both the British and German sides to describe the dilemmas the opposing commanders and politicians faced and why they acted as they did, situating each battle in its strategic context. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be the definitve work on the First War Naval Conflict., 24 July 2007
To get the best out of Castles of Steel, it would be helpful to read Masssie's previous work Dreadnought, which charts the coming of the great war.

Castles of Steel is an impressive - and large - work, and offers the reader both the nuts and bolts of the naval battles and campaigns of the First World War, and a very strong insight into the political machinations that directed them. Massie's gift is that he can both narrate naval conflicts in gripping terms (and the complexity of Jutland tests any skills of narration), offer convincing analysis of both strategies and tactics, and simultaneously privide fascinating insight into the figures such as Churchill, Beatty, Jellicoe, Hipper, Scheer and the Kaiser - to name but a few of a very large cast. Few come out with much credit; the egotism and impulsiveness of Churchill and Beatty are there for all to see. Like Nigel Steel and Peter Hart, whose Jutland 1916 is strongly recommended as the next read for anyone hooked on the subject, Massie does vindicate the much maligned Jellicoe.

A couple of very minor niggles; the paperback edition is by no means full of illustrations. A few more, illustrating the differences between armoured cruisers, battlecruisers and battleships, given this is a time of unparalleled rapidity in warship evolution, would be very helpful. Whilst Castles of Steel has end-notes and a full bibliography, these are not referenced into the text, forcing the readers to break off and flick to the back, should they wish to investigate the source of a quote. As far as Massie's narrative is concerned, I have only one issue. The British blockade of Germany, which resulted in the deaths of 750,000 civilians, is often noted, but Massie does not investigate this critical aspect of the war, tending to stay within the military and political domains rather than pondering this significant pointer towards 'total warfare.' These are, however, minor niggles which should not detract from a significant work; I have read many books on naval history over the years, and without doubt this is one of the best. Highly recommended.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book, 27 Dec 2003
By A Customer
A marvellous evocation of the Great War at sea. Mr. Massie paints a breathtakingly broad canvas, filled with many characters with all their strengths and weaknesses, quirks and foibles. (He is unashamedly a fan of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, the engineer of the victory at sea of the First World War who was as shabbily treated as was Air Vice-Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the winner of the Battle of Britain in the Second. Funny people, the British.) He also captures technicalities, tactics, places, events with prose that never drops below readable and which is at times as exciting as any novel. A must-read for anyone interested in the history of the 20th century and a worthy follow-on from Mr. Massie's excellent "Dreadnought".
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent peice of work, 1 Dec 2005
Having never read much about European history I was completely converted many years ago after reading Dreadnought. It was a pleasure to find this book continues in the same manner and I was not disappointed in any way.
The most appealing aspect of the book is the way Massie brings to life the details of politicians/admirals and then links these events in a way that illustrates the part they played in the grand scheme.
In particular I was left fascinated and exasperated at the personalities involved and how an individual's whim could so badly affect the way important issues, as warship design or where to start a new front in the war, were decided. The description of the Jellico/Beaty debate left me frankly amazed.
However the key to the book for me is that the subject, the war at sea, is covered from such differing angles as the politicians involved to the accounts of people who played a small part in the action. Additionally it is written in such a way that even knowing who won didnt detract from the suspense.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read, 31 Mar 2006
I have always had a great interest in the first world war.
This book is the most complete and ( as far as I can tell ) the most comprehensive detail about the naval war between Great-Britain and Germany during the first world war.
It is written in a style that reads just like a novel, it was an absolute page-turner for me.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could Do Better - Oops, You Already Did!, 30 July 2007
By 
R. J. Bowen "fishcheese" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I came to Castles of Steel not long after reading Massie's Dreadnought, and consequently full of fervour for this next instalment in his politico-maritime history of imperial conflict.

Yet, oddly, where his first work was undoubtedly a masterpiece, this volume palls very rapidly. To be sure, it provides an adequate description of the paths to and through the First World War from a naval perspective, but it hardly adds anything that has not been said before and, indeed, borrows heavily from the author's earlier work.

Where it gets painful, however, is in the detail. Massie simply doesn't know enough about the subjects of his work. He doesn't know enough about naval strategies and tactics, he displays ignorance of naval architecture, of gunnery, of the fashions and thinking of the times; and he makes mistakes... albeit little ones, but they nevertheless irritated the heck out of me, and I'm not THAT much of an anorak to be bothered by trifles.

So, in the end, Castles of Steel seems to be something of an insipid failure, and I'm left wondering why. Very disappointing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the time and money, 12 Aug 2006
The book gives the ordinary person a very good picture of The Royal Navy and Imperial Navy during the First World War. It is written in an appealing style and cannot be left unfinished. I read this first and then Dreadnought - both engaging. Some errors are pointed out in another review - perhaps pedantic, but Sunderland isn't in Yorkshire.
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