on 21 August 2011
This is my first time with Adrian Goldsworthy and I must say what a pleasure it has been . Anyone who steps into the world of Sharpe leaves himself open to comparison ,but it is a long time since Sharpe has taken to the field and it is about time we revisited the world of Napoleon and Wellington , although in this adventure we are with General Sir John Moore who has pushed deep into Spain and must retreat through the mountains to reach the port of Corunna and the ships that will carry them home. Ensign Hamish Williams has the makings to stand alongside Sharpe and Matthew Hervey and as they often found themselves separated from the regiment, so does our hero as he hunts for Jane MacAndrews, the daughter of his commanding officer who has got lost between the rear guard of Moore's retreating army and the advancing French. After rescuing Jane from the French cavalry he starts to make his way back to the regiment and on the way he picks up a rag-tag band of fellow stragglers who he must rally as he discovers that the French are trying to outflank the retreating British and the only thing standing in there way is Williams and his rag-tag band of stragglers. The research and the detail for the period that Adrian Goldsworthy brings to the page soon has you in the thick of the battle and I for one felt that I had walk every step of the way with Williams as he must decide whether his life and that of his rag-tag band are the price he must pay to save the army. I will now look forward to the next outing of Ensign Williams and the 106th as they take on the French ,with the same anticipation as I did when a new Sharpe appeared.
on 21 January 2012
There are only six reviews to date. The reason for adding this one is that I firmly believe this series of novels deserves more attention. This is far from simply a 'me too' novel, many of which frankly cannot hold a candle to well known authors such as Bernard Cornwell.
Book 1 was good; this was better. Perhaps I just prefer my heroes to be under-stated and far from perfect, but it's allied with decent measures of drama, history and sparkling dialogue. I hope that formula will win people over.
on 25 October 2012
Beat the Drums Slowly is the second novel in Adrian Goldsworthy's series on the Peninsular War. It follows on from the events of his first novel, True Soldier Gentlemen. I found Goldsworthy's first novel a refreshingly good read, which provided a decent and authentic account of the hardship endured during the early phases of the Peninsular War. Beat the Drums Slowly shares many of the same qualities as its predecessor. The novel follows the men of the fictional 106th regiment of foot in Britain's army in the Peninsular, now led by General Sir John Moore. After pushing deep into Spain, the British find themselves hugely outnumbered by the French forces. In a desperate bid to escape the danger, the British retreat to Corunna, through the mountainous north of Spain in the midst of winter. The setting provides great drama, and the narrative zips along with commendable gusto. Goldsworthy wonderfully captures the fear among the ranks that arises from their situation. The sense of terror during the set piece battles is transmitted to the reader particularly well.
The development of Goldsworthy's characters however, sets this novel apart from the first. One of the few criticisms of True Soldier Gentlemen was that there were too many characters for a book of its size, thus no protagonist featured enough. In this instalment, Goldsworthy focuses the plot on Hamish Williams. Williams, who is frustratingly shy towards women, finds himself separated from the army as he hunts for the missing Jane MacAndrews, a woman he adores. As the events of the campaign unfold, Williams' mission to see Miss MacAndrews return safely to the army is sidetracked when he learns of a French plan to secretly outflank the British forces. With the foundations of these characters already established in True Soldier Gentlemen, Goldsworthy is free to elaborate on their personas, and does so brilliantly. Throughout the book, the conversations that take place are often entertaining and amusing, even amongst the lesser involved characters. Billy Pringle's continuously varying opinion of his erratic one-eyed horse `Bobbie' is particularly noteworthy.
As Goldsworthy's novels focus solely on the Peninsular War, they are destined to be compared to Cornwell's Sharpe series. However, Goldsworthy writes in a very different style, which conveys a more authentic atmosphere. As a result, Beat the Drums Slowly is not an action-packed blockbuster. Instead, it provides a slightly more realistic but entertaining story on one of the lesser known campaigns in the Spanish Peninsula. For historians and readers interested in a little more authenticity than Cornwell has to offer, Beat the Drums Slowly is highly recommended.
on 8 March 2012
I enjoyed True Soldier Gentlemen (hopefully the first of a long series to come) and was optimistic that this book would continue in the same high standard. The characters are becoming more fleshed out, and the author once again superbly evokes the period.
This title concentrates far more on Hamish Williams, making him the prime character of the novel where the last one spread the load about. The book doesnt suffer much for this, as Williams is a likeable hero, pretty reminicent of Sharpe, but he is his own man enough to not feel like a carbon copy.
The subject is Sir John Moores famous retreat to Corunna. The British army was dangerously far out into enemy territory with Napoleons vast army of veterans shadowing its every move. Goldsworthy does well to evoke the sheer chaos of the retreat, and again the stark violence of the Penninsular War is vividly depicted. For me the Penninsular Wars are sort of like Britains version of the Homeric wars, there are so many heroes and characters that stand out, and Sir John Moore is a slightly overlooked one, so it is brilliant to see a novel about this amazing retreat and how the army under the command of Moore managed to deal with atrocious conditions, drunkeness and occasional panic to evade the French war machine dogging their heels.
As with True Soldier Gentlemen I believe Goldsworthy is showing burgeoning talent as a novelist, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you are a fan of the Sharpe series, or you have an interest in the Penninsular Wars; or simply like a gripping read you will enjoy this title.
on 7 September 2011
I'm already hooked on this series, after just this, the second book. A fresh breeze is blowing through this genre, previously dominated by Richard Sharpe. I read the Sharpe books from the very first and have been waiting for a long time for the gap to be filled, here, at last is a series that I think will qualify. Loved the second book more than the first, great story telling and attention to military detail. Loved the story line with Hamish and Jane and it's more than time that Sir John Moore was given space in a historical novel. A super read.
on 12 August 2013
Goldsworthy has written a book that is both authentic but readable as a novel, which is a difficult feat to achieve in itself as many historical novels are one or the other but rarely both. While I liked the prequel (True Soldier Gentlemen) this is a better book, being faster paced throughout and having a superior 'feel' for the period. It seems that Goldsworthy is becoming more comfortable writing about the Napoleonic era and I hope the sequels are as good as this is.
Beginning at the cavalry clash at Sahagun was a good idea as the reader is pitched straight into the action. The descriptions of real historical figures like Sir John Moore are well-handled and believable and I liked the portrayals of the common soldiers and camp life. Napoleon makes a brief appearance but I would have liked to have seen something of Marshal Soult (who fought Moore at Corunna - the final battle in this book). Yet you can only fit a certain number of these great historical figures into a book of this size though.
One description that made me laugh out loud was during the lead up to introducing Napoleon. About to meet the Emperor for the first time, a soldier reveals to a comrade what the grognards (veteran soldiers) were saying about their great leader: 'You would never credit it,' whispered the taller man to his burly companion. 'Yesterday they were cursing him with every breath as we slogged up that pass. 'Shoot him! Go on, Henri, shoot the old b******!', kill him, and then we can get some rest!', 'He's close enough, I couldn't miss from here!', 'If he does't stop and let us rest, I'll do it any minute, I swear I will, ' on and on as they waded through snow waist deep... we made it in the end... The men got billets in the villages, warm beds, food and drink. Today I saw those same soldiers screaming out 'Vive l'Empereur!' at the tops of their voices.' p48. While this is fiction, it has a real ring of authenticity about it and I picture a scene like that very clearly.
The action speeds up even more during the infamous retreat to Corunna and Goldsworthy adds some good depictions of the squalor, hardship and horror of the retreat, which I have read about in real-life memoirs of the period. This is intersperced with famous real life incidents like the shooting of a French cavalry general by Rifleman Plunkett. Even better though are nice touches such as accidents in war when a dispatch rider delivers his message to Moore having suffered a broken arm. This wasn't from enemy action, as the reader immediately assumes, but due to his horse shying and throwing him after an everyday occurrence. All of the above speaks of the author's careful research into the period, and the book is undoubtedly better for it.
The subplot of Ensign Williams (one of Goldsworthy's main characters in this series) rescuing the daughter of his commander during the retreat is well-handled. The ficticious, but believable, small unit action fought over a strategically important bridge is one of this books highlights and came as a surprise as I thought this would be the Battle of Corunna (although that is also well described).
In summary, this is an excellent book with dramatic action, great period feel and some surprisingly effective humour considering the subject matter. This series seems to be getting progressively better and I am looking forward to reading the sequels!
on 8 January 2012
If you have read my review of Adrian Goldsworthy's first venture into the world of a British line regment in the Peninsular War, True Soldier Gentleman, you will know that I am a fan: I look forward to these books enormously. I was not disappointed with this one either. Writing about any retreat cannot be easy; lets face it a retreat is a pretty depressing event for those involved and does not necessarily lend itself to fiction, but Adrian Goldsworthy has pulled it off brilliantly. The story line is for me, very believeable, with the events unfolding just as one expects might have happened to some of those involved in the retreat, of 1808/09, for real. A thoroughly enjoyable book and I hope the next adventure for Hamish Williams is published soon.
on 4 November 2011
This is a great sequel to "True Soldier Gentleman" and continues to follow the lives of the officers and men in the 106th Regiment during their campaigns in Spain, Portugal and the disastrous retreat to La Corruna.
The attention to detail to historical facts is excellent without seeming contrived. The fact that the book focuses mainly on the 3 officers of the Grenadier Company makes it much more interesting as you get to see different viewpoints. The characters are well defined and developing well. The key protagonist in this book is the newly promoted Ensign Williams who gets separated from the regiment and trapped behind enemy lines with his Commanding Officer's daughter, which leads to a good romantic side story.
I enjoy these books much more than I enjoyed the "Sharpe" series because they focus much more on Regimental Life.
I can't wait for the next book.
on 21 April 2012
A very well researched story. If you are interested in the history of the Pennisula War, what better way of finding out than having it wrapped up in an exciting story. This is Adrian Goldsworthy's second book in this series. I'm looking forward to a third book to continue the story of the characters of the 106th.
on 5 June 2013
For a researcher of Roman history, Adrian Goldsworthy makes an excelent Napoleonic novel writer! As a critic said " Jane Austin meets Bernard Cornwell". I could not put the book down. As each chapter ended, I HAD to read the next one! I cannot wiat until about October 2013, when the next instalment is due to be published.