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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking read
Simon Scarrow is one of very few authors whose new book I'll buy without checking synopsis or previews, and this doesn't disappoint. It's a very personal view - so necessarily one-sided - of the Siege of Malta by a once-disgraced knight, who is summoned to the desperate fight to halt the advance of the Moslem armies. There are plenty of bloody battle scenes, reflecting...
Published on 27 Oct 2012 by Mr. C. J. Nicholls

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment
I am a big of Simon Scarrow's Cato and Macro and Welington and Bonaparte series so this was a must-read for me. However, this was, for a me, a disappointment. Scarrow's main strength in his novels has always been his description of battles and conflict and in this book he does not disappoint. The violence is suitably detailed and bloodthirsty, there is a ring of...
Published 4 months ago by Matthew Turner


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking read, 27 Oct 2012
By 
Mr. C. J. Nicholls (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Hardcover)
Simon Scarrow is one of very few authors whose new book I'll buy without checking synopsis or previews, and this doesn't disappoint. It's a very personal view - so necessarily one-sided - of the Siege of Malta by a once-disgraced knight, who is summoned to the desperate fight to halt the advance of the Moslem armies. There are plenty of bloody battle scenes, reflecting the desperate plight of the Christian defenders and the determination of their enemy. The hero has grown to doubt his belief in God, a heretical view in those times; we may wonder at the fanaticsm, and the willingness of the knights and others to "die for the faith" rather than surrender, but it makes for a gripping read. A natural five-star read.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an amazingly engaging read., 25 Oct 2012
By 
Parm (A bookshop near you) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Hardcover)
Review

This book covers an amazingly complex time in history, and a particularly thorny issue in modern times. In nearly 450 years we really have not come that far in terms of religion. What amazes me is how little I knew about the siege of Malta and the total change it would have had on the face of europe if the Knights of the Order of St John had lost.

I have been to Malta a few times and have seen so many of the places, stood on some of the streets and monuments written about in this book, and yet I still didn't truly comprehend the momentous battle that took place. To have lost would have probably meant the sweep of Islam into western Europe, changing the entire face of history. There are very few times in history when the world and its current order have been balanced on a knife-edge.

Other moments in time that spring to mind (with great books attached) The Mongols sweeping into Europe, if not for the death of Ogedai they would have carried on unstoppable all the way to the English Channel and beyond (read Conn Igguldens Conqueror series) also the battle at Marathon, where a Greek loss would have meant Greece falling under the dominion of Persia, there would have been no classical period, there may possibly have been no Rome or at best a greatly altered Rome. So much art and culture lost and changed, the whole mediterranean dynamic would have changed, (Read the Long War series by Christian Cameron).

When you understand the above it makes the writing of this books seem so ambitious to border on nuts. Yet Simon Scarrow in his own unique style provides the perfect narrator in the form of Sir Thomas Barrett. As usual the lead character engages the reader from the start, you sympathise with his situation in life and root for his underdog situation, and sympathise with the way life has treated him, the book makes you feel the characters. Then you add in his vivid description of the places, the battles, both sides of the fight. He brings to life the roar of the cannon, the desperation of the siege and the courage of both the defenders and the fanatical courage of the attackers.

The bravest part of this book though, has to be the perfect balancing act between Christianity and Islam. At no point does Simon denigrate either religion, he doesn't push an agenda for either religion, he just tells you what happened and leaves you to think for yourself about the insanity religion brought, brings and will keep bringing to this world. Killing in the name of doctrine differences is wrong, but that is my conclusion, not Simons, he provided me the history and the framework to make that decision, and he did it with an amazingly engaging read.

This is Simons best work to date and well worth £10 of anyones money

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sword-Scimitar-Simon-Scarrow/dp/0755358368/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348083290&sr=1-1

Highly recommended

Parm

Book Description

1565; In its hour of greatest need, Malta must rely upon the ancient Knights of the Order of St John for survival. Bound by the strongest ties: of valour, of courage and of passion, the Knights must defend their island against ferocious and deadly Ottoman attack. For Sir Thomas Barrett, summoned by the Order and compelled by loyalty - to the Knights, to his honour and to his Queen - returning to the besieged island means revisiting a past he had long since lain to rest. As the beleaguered Knights grapple to retain control, decade-old feuds will be reawakened, intense passions rekindled and deadly secrets revealed.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, 16 Aug 2014
By 
Matthew Turner "loyalroyal" (Reading, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Hardcover)
I am a big of Simon Scarrow's Cato and Macro and Welington and Bonaparte series so this was a must-read for me. However, this was, for a me, a disappointment. Scarrow's main strength in his novels has always been his description of battles and conflict and in this book he does not disappoint. The violence is suitably detailed and bloodthirsty, there is a ring of authenticity of the horrors of mortal combat.

However, the fighting aside, the book was a bit dull and I found it a struggle to maintain the enthusiasm to continue reading. Against the backdrop of the siege of Malta we have Sir Thomas Barrett being sent to recover a document of high significance to Elizabeth I, Francis Walsingham and Robert Cecil, which if it came to light, would cause untold damage to England. Despite this, the document plays only a minor part in the plot. We also have the destroyed friendship of Barrett and Oliver Stokely over a woman they both love (Maria). This is mixed in with the love story between Barrett and Maria. And then there is Richard, Barrett's young co-spy to retrieve the said document and whose origins become apparent early on. Despite all this, I did find the book a tad slow. I am also sure Robert Cecil should have been his father William Cecil as Robert Cecil would have been a toddler at the time of the siege, unless there was a another historical Robert Cecil. The secret document itself, once we know it's contents, is a little underwhelming. With what we know of Henry VIII it is unlikely he would have written such a thing.

Finally, I found Sir Thomas Barrett to be an unlikeable character. Given what had happened to him before the siege and during it, I suppose he has cause to be a short-tempered prig. He also appears to have been living in the wrong century. As the novel progresses he loses his faith and becomes an anti-war, anti-extremism, anti-religion spokesman. This eventually become grating and anachronistic. Of course I'm sure there were some atheists or skeptics in the 16th century but Barrett come across more as a Hitchens or Dawkins than a man of the 16th century. He even quotes Epicurius's 'then why call him God?'.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not his best, 22 July 2013
By 
Paul Harris - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
I bought this as I love Scarrow's Cato and Macro series. This book doesn't belong in the same room. My wife asked if it was his first novel, an understandable mistake given how poor this is.

The story of the siege of Malta is told in a cursory fashion with no real sense of the peril, horror and courage that should have been conveyed. That's the entire plot.

The characters are laughable, mere ciphers with bits of story hung on them. I was begging for the main character to die by about halfway through, when he had to clench his fist to drive his anger down again. One of his fellow knights would appear to be in the book only to provoke him. The love story is hilarious and if you can't guess all the ins and outs of it at least a hundred pages before they happen, then you probably don't read very much. There is not one single surprising plot twist in the entire novel.

I can honestly say that if this hadn't been by Simon Scarrow, I believe it would have been rejected very swiftly by any publisher.

Very, very poor, not worthy of the man's talents.

If this is your first Simon Scarrow book and you disliked it, I'd say to you, please try again. The Wellington and Bonaparte books are excellent as are the Macro and Cato series. Give it another go, I'm sure you won't regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars breathtakingly dull, 11 July 2013
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This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
I have read enjoyed the Cato and Macro novels and was looking forward to this. I expected so much more. the characters are dull and unengaging, I felt no sense of time or place, the plot feels desperate to provide a different take on the siege. I love Malta and have read many of the source books and was surprised that a novelist of Scarrow's skill leaves out many dramatic events and to place his main character unconscious for some weeks of the siege was just a cop out. The central love story is just soooooo absurd and the big reveal stretches credulity. If you want to read a brilliant, gripping, engaging novel about the siege of Malta choose The Religion by Tim Willocks a real masterpiece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly crafted, 17 Jun 2013
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Somewhat wet and predictable with cringing dialogue - not Simon S's finest hour as a novelist - a shame as I have been a big fan of his other series
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scarrow not on form, 25 May 2013
By 
Flemming Nielsen (Denmark) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Hardcover)
This is, far and away, the worst Simon Scarrow book I've read. The main characters are not really very engaging and the evil enemies lack both depth and colour. The language, especially the dialogue, is often stilted and so overly emotional that it becomes annoying, at least to me.
This next bit contains spoilers:
The story itself is too full of plot twists and "side quests". Scarrow has tried to make the siege of Malta even more exciting by adding further elements to his story. The result is rather messy and unfocused. Sword and Scimitar is a love story, a spy novel, a siege story, a father and unknown but estranged son get reunited and found a strong bond story, an anti-war and anti-extremism story and probably a few other side stories, but I kind of lost track.
All in all; it doesn't work for me. Scarrow should have adhered closer to the main point of the story and focused more on the siege itself. A lot of his sub-plots could probably have been contained in this setting and the story could have been more streamlined.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Leaden storytelling, 16 May 2013
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
This is actually my first Simon Scarrow novel though I'm aware of his books having seen them on shelves - he writes historical/military books and "Sword and Scimitar" is exactly that.

SAS is about the Siege of Malta from 1565, a battle that changed the course of history - the Ottoman Turks, 35-45,000 of them were headed to Europe and were stopped by less than 10,000 including the diminished ranks of the Knights of the Order of St John. It was a massive event as, had the Knights and the defenders lost, Europe may well have become Muslim and the world would be a very different place today.

The story centres around Sir Thomas Barrett, an exiled knight from the Order who is nonetheless brought back into the fold as every knight is needed to meet this threat. Sir Thomas is a man undergoing a crisis of faith while fighting in the name of Christianity. There is also a sub-plot involving Queen Elizabeth I being blackmailed and Sir Thomas looking for a scroll that could ignite civil war in England.

Not being a man of any religion, I found the core of the book based around two of the world's biggest religions and the fanatics that support them to be a little distasteful. That said, Scarrow doesn't take sides with either religion, he just tells you what happened and lets the reader make of that what they will. It does show that religion as a concept is a powerful force for great pain and suffering and that in nearly half a millennia we haven't gone much further in our views on religion.

The story isn't badly written but it's not well written either - the prose is flat and uninspired and even in scenes where I thought I should be feeling something more than boredom toward a character, Scarrow's words failed to elicit anything emotional from me. I felt nothing towards any of the characters, really - this book is more about the plot than characters. But when most of the characters have the same background, values and beliefs, it's hard to become interested in them or see them as individuals. Sir Thomas himself is quite a bore as well, being terribly sanctimonious and monotonous at the same time. A crisis of faith is an interesting angle (though somewhat clichéd) but Scarrow does nothing new with it and Sir Thomas is just another quietly repressed Brit like the national stereotype.

And even though the book is more about the story than the characters, the plot is very predictable and uninteresting. I mean, granted that this is a retelling of an historical event so we already know the knights defeat the Ottomans, but even if you didn't know your history, you could tell what was going to happen well into the early stages of this book. As a result there's no narrative tension and coupled with the laboured prose and stilted characters and dialogue, it makes for a trudging read.

The Siege of Malta in 1565 is an interesting event but Scarrow renders it dull and unmoving. Maybe Scarrow is a fine writer and this is a poor example of his strengths as a novelist but after taking several weeks to make my way through this book (far longer than it usually takes me to read one), I'm in no hurry to repeat the experience again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Swashbuckling, 10 May 2013
By 
Angela (The North, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
Sword and Scimitar follows the story of Sir Thomas, a knight of the order of St. John, through the siege of Malta. In the 16th century the main threat was the Sultan's Muslim army, and this novel charts the struggle against the invasion.
I had not read any of Scarrow's books before, and had a few misgivings in the first few chapters. It is not politically correct, Muslims are called every name under the sun during fights, this does make the reader feel uncomfortable. It is corrected when the main character realises that faith does not make someone subhuman, so stick with it. There's a lot of detailed fighting and some quite gruesome moments. If you want to know the techniques and strategies used in battle at that time, then you will learn a lot reading this. I'd never heard of the siege of Malta before, so did not know what was going to happen next, and I think this is a definite advantage.

It was the story that made me carry on reading. Concepts of honour, and love are explored, and this could make this novel appeal to a wider audience. The love story is quite sweet, if somewhat predictable. There's a decent subplot involving spying for Elizabeth 1, and that does add a great deal to the book. The characters are all well written and are not two dimensional. The main character is your basic decent guy, who se circumstances conspire against him.

This may appeal to fantasy readers because there is definitely something epic about this story. Reading groups would have a lot to talk about, from the history, depiction of races, to the love story and characters. A decent read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining, 10 May 2013
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This was a good read. A real adventure story with interesting historical settings. I learnt a lot about this era from the book. Would recommend.
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Sword and Scimitar
Sword and Scimitar by Simon Scarrow (Paperback - 25 April 2013)
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