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8 Reviews
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent Fun, But it's No Sharpe, 6 April 2003
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Set in 1854, some forty years or so after the bulk of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books, this first entry in Kilworth's"Fancy Jack" series finds the British Army in rather dire straights in the Crimea. The hero is a Sergeant in the 88th regiment (the mainly Irish Connaught Rangers aka The Devil's Own), who is an outsider in more ways than one. Born and bred a gentleman, "Fancy Jack" Crossman has done the unthinkable and renounced his upbringing and entered the army as a ranker. While in the Sharpe series, we see a lowborn orphan rise though the ranks, here we have a highborn Scotsman in much the same situation. Mostly hated by those below for his education and manners, he's also mostly hated by his superiors for being a class traitor.
Kilworth seems to be attempting to emulate Cornwell's template in presenting an unvarnished ground-level view of historical military exploits. The book is full of details on equipment, procedures, social composition of the British forces, et., plus a parade of real historical figures. However, it's not done nearly as smoothly and seamlessly as Cornwell (or George McDonald Fraser's Flashman series for that matter). Clunky prose and exposition somewhat mars the storytelling, as Fancy Jack is sent on a few secret missions behind enemy lines with a band of misfit soldiers. For example, we're told three different times that the Allied (British/French/Turkish) forces number 55,000. We're also privy to a number of scenes of high-level commanders bickering that don't have much to do with anything other than to get across the historical reading Kilworth's on the ineffectiveness of the leadership. And in case you didn't get how devastating cholera was to the army the first time it's discussed, don't worry, you'll get several more chances to absorb the information. Kilworth has apparently written a number of children's books, and often the prose reads as if it's intended for a younger audience.
But the battle scenes are plenty gory, and there are plenty of "adult themes", and a requisite love interest. All in all, it's a decent page turner, but not nearly as good as the Sharpe books. The Fancy Jack saga continues with Valley of Death, Soldiers in the Mist, and The Winter Soldiers, and perhaps in these later volumes Kilworth touch becomes more subtle.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cornwell, you've got competition, 29 Aug 2004
By 
Sober_Alcoholic_235 (Enniskillen, Fermanagh United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
In my view this is an excellent book, brilliantly researched, and excitingly written, BUT: (sadly) not without its flaws.
The main character Sgt Jack Crossman is an excellent creation, and a polar opposite of Sharpe ( sharpe being a commoner who has risen through the ranks and crossman is a noble who joined in the ranks) and most of the other characters are equally well written.
Private Skuggs, however, the villian on the peice, is poorly develloped and his transition from a freindly yorkshireman to a villain is rocky at best, and somewhat perplexing. Rupert Jarard, a journalist seems to have been inserted solely so the author can show how well he has researched the subject matter, whereas Cornwell( in my opinion) would have intergrated this into the prose.
The Main battle is excellent ( if somewhat detached) and it really shows how unpleasant warfare was. In the battle scenes Crossman seems more human than Sharpe ( who seems on occasion not to show fear) and Starbuck (who seems to enjoy hacking his enemeis down)
All in all excellent
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Ripping Good Yarn!, 13 May 2003
By A Customer
Not bad at all. If you're twiddling your thumbs awaiting the next Cornwall or Mallinson novel you'll like this. It doesn't have the detail of a Mallinson, but this serves to keep the momentum up much like a Sharpe novel. The formula is the usual fare with the hero possessing incredible guile and luck, but it's nevertheless thouroughly enjoyable . Well, I enjoyed it!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Devil's Own, 4 Nov 2003
I thought that it was a marvellous book - great for adults and children alike. I enjoyed the 'Sharpe' series and thought that this is a worthy rival. It is packed with action (though a bit gory in some places!) It really gives you an idea of the horrors of the Crimean war. The characters are colourful and imaginative and this really helps to capture the reader's attention. I would definitely recommend this and the other books in the series, which are just as exiting, action packed and emotional.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new hero for lovers of Allan Mallinson/Bernard Cornwell, 7 Mar 2001
By 
A. Coombes "AAC" (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you like Bernard Cornwell's RICHARD SHARP and Allan Mallinson's MATTHEW HERVEY you cannot help but enjoy this story in the same mould. You will not want to put it down. The main characters will grab your imagination and when you finish reading you will eagerly look for the next in the series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars INTRODUCING FANCY JACK, 22 Mar 2012
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A cracking read, characters are engaging and storyline satisfies both the need for entertainment and thirst for a bit of historical knowledge. Would recommend this to fans of Richard Sharpe as it's sufficiently different to be interesting but enough the same to be enjoyable.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Start in a New Series !, 8 May 2000
By A Customer
Very much in the vein of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, but set a few years later during the Crimean War, this is an excellent debut to the adventures of Sergeant Jack Crossman. Born into the upper classes, Crossman has nevertheless decided to make his own way in the army, rising to the rank of Sergeant by his own merits. Here he undertakes a series of secret mission behind enemy lines, which will keep the reader engrossed until the last page. The sequel "The Valley of Death" has already been written and I hope there are many more to come.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent Fun, But it's No Sharpe, 6 April 2003
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Set in 1854, some forty years or so after the bulk of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books, this first entry in Kilworth's"Fancy Jack" series finds the British Army in rather dire straights in the Crimea. The hero is a Sergeant in the 88th regiment (the mainly Irish Connaught Rangers aka The Devil's Own), who is an outsider in more ways than one. Born and bred a gentleman, "Fancy Jack" Crossman has done the unthinkable and renounced his upbringing and entered the army as a ranker. While in the Sharpe series, we see a lowborn orphan rise though the ranks, here we have a highborn Scotsman in much the same situation. Mostly hated by those below for his education and manners, he's also mostly hated by his superiors for being a class traitor.
Kilworth seems to be attempting to emulate Cornwell's template in presenting an unvarnished ground-level view of historical military exploits. The book is full of details on equipment, procedures, social composition of the British forces, et., plus a parade of real historical figures. However, it's not done nearly as smoothly and seamlessly as Cornwell (or George McDonald Fraser's Flashman series for that matter). Clunky prose and exposition somewhat mars the storytelling, as Fancy Jack is sent on a few secret missions behind enemy lines with a band of misfit soldiers. For example, we're told three different times that the Allied (British/French/Turkish) forces number 55,000. We're also privy to a number of scenes of high-level commanders bickering that don't have much to do with anything other than to get across the historical reading Kilworth's on the ineffectiveness of the leadership. And in case you didn't get how devastating cholera was to the army the first time it's discussed, don't worry, you'll get several more chances to absorb the information. Kilworth has apparently written a number of children's books, and often the prose reads as if it's intended for a younger audience.
But the battle scenes are plenty gory, and there are plenty of "adult themes", and a requisite love interest. All in all, it's a decent page turner, but not nearly as good as the Sharpe books. The Fancy Jack saga continues with Valley of Death, Soldiers in the Mist, and The Winter Soldiers, and perhaps in these later volumes Kilworth touch becomes more subtle.
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