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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 August 2013
Writer for classic television detective series Touch of Frost, David Gilman has switched his talents to The Hundred Years War and presents the story of English longbowman Thomas Blackstone during the Battle of Crécy in 1346 and its bloody and dangerous aftermath. Thomas Blackstone is a young mason (about 16 years old) and little more than a peasant, although better educated and better favoured than most thanks to a French mother and a brave archer for a father who had saved his lord's life in battle. When Thomas's deaf and mute younger brother Richard is accused of murdering a local girl, there is no option but for both brothers to enlist in the troop of their lord's knight in order to avoid a death by hanging. The fact that both are highly skilled with the longbow makes them invaluable in these early years of The Hundred Years War. Edward III is about to sail to Normandy to reclaim his lands from the French King. His ships are filled with archers.

The novel is divided into three parts and the battle of Crécy takes place in the first. This gives you an idea that while the book seizes your attention with such a major event early on there is also much more to it than that. The mix of nationalities and allegiances works well - there is almost more tension between the English and Welsh than there is between Norman and English or Norman and French. No love, though, is lost between English and French - too much harm has been done by both. The theme of chivalry runs through the pages. A man such as Thomas might deny its place in a `modern' battle but its codes colour the actions of many of the characters in the novel. When they're broken or when promises are found to be false, there is outrage. This is felt not least by Thomas. Also effectively evoked is the landscape of Normandy and France with its cities, castles, villages and abbeys. Its scenes of war are truly brutal and terrifying and mesmerising.

While I did enjoy Master of War very much, this was lessened slightly by its treatment of women. This is very much a novel about war and it makes no pretences otherwise but women are featured and in comparison with the men have very little colour. Thomas's relationship with Christiana is not very believable to me and felt tagged on. Women throughout are treated with very little respect and while this may well be a reflection of the times it did get a little tiring.

Master of War is an extremely exciting novel. Its pace rarely pauses. But above all else it is steeped in the blood, rage and grief of war, where death can come from every side at any time and in the most horrible of ways, where life off the battlefield can be almost as fragile as on it and where love and friendship have a price. Life was short for archers, knights and the poor. No wonder then that Thomas changes before our eyes to a man that even his friends fear as a harbinger of death. I hope we get a sequel. I'm grateful for my review copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The English archers were, of course, the secret of success at the battle of Crecy (as they were at Agincourt). Gilman has given us a worthy hero in Thomas Blackstone, a young (only 16 at the beginning of this novel) stonemason, who, together with his younger deaf mute brother, Richard, finds himself wielding his bow on behalf of King Edward III in France.

The action, and there is a lot of it, is vividly described. The reader almost imagines himself at Crecy in the first part of the book, willing on Thomas to greater and greater glory. And, as the battle is finally won by the English (not a spoiler to anyone who ever had history lessons at school). Thomas is fully acknowledged as the hero he is.

But this is not just a story about one of the greatest battles of the hundred years war. It is the story of a common, coarse Englishman who, through valour, hard work and sheer bloody-mindedness, becomes a knight feared and admired throughout France. And it is also a moving love story as Thomas strives to win the heart of the beautiful Norman girl, Christiana.

Master of War is a gripping story, just as gripping as any great thriller set in the 21st century. It is sad that many admirers of modern thrillers will never bother to read this book, because they will know that it won't have all those wonderful up-to-date guns and gadgets. The loss is all theirs.

Highly recommended.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 14 November 2013
In 1346 in England, young Thomas Blackstone and his brother Richard are given two choices - death at the end of a rope, or fighting for their King, Edward III in his war in France. Blackstone's father was held in high esteem so the young men are taken into the warband with no problems. But for Thomas in particular the life is very different from what he's used to, and the horrors of war change him for ever.

This is a great novel, written by somebody who obviously has a very clear idea for the `picture' of his words - the scene painted by his writing is clear and very visual. And of course, the brutality of medieval war in all its horror and screaming men and horses is brought home very clearly. There is heaps of action in this novel, as you would expect of a medieval war novel, but the reader also gets the chance to see the human side of the characters - the usual mix of nasty and brutal, and good and kind, but none of them are ever shallowly drawn; there is a real depth to the characterisations which it is refreshing to find in an historical novel. There is no glossing over the nastiness of the fighting, but the strategic decisions and the overall arc of the war is written very well into the story of the Blackstone brothers, and Thomas in particular. Definitely recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2014
A brilliant story of the 100 Years War - the opening battle of Crecy is simply stunning. David really shines as a, historical author, something I hope I can at least have 10% of his skill. Thomas Blackstone is a young hot head, (in the vein of Bernard Cornwell's Thomas of Hookton trilogy and as Le Batard in the Poitiers tale). Excellent story and I can;t wait to read more of David's work.

David Cook, author of Liberty or Death: 1 (The Soldier Chronicles),Heart of Oak: The Soldier Chronicles: 2,Blood on the Snow (The Soldier Chronicles Book 3) and Marksman (The Soldier Chronicles Book 4).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2014
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Having downloaded it on a whim, I found it an extremely exciting, fast paced and powerful book.

Fiction is just that, and some people may find the story a bit too good to be true, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thomas Blackstone and his brother are unwilling coerced into joining the invasion of France. A few acts of bravery and heroism later, Thomas is elevated to start commanding small groups of men. He then becomes romantically entangled with the political power struggle in Normandy before setting out to make his own mark on Norman France.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 August 2013
Is Rome becoming the period of the past? More and more books and series seem to be gravitating to medieval periods and warfare. This is no bad thing, a change to different times, different outlooks on the aspects and manner of war. A change in weapons and a change in the pre-eminent
There are as many rich periods and great battles to centre a series around, and so many more nations to look at and explore.
Of all the battles and wars David Gilman has chosen one of the true stand outs; The battle of Crecy, set during the Hundred Years War.
My personal knowledge of the period is not the best, and that's what I love about more and more authors writing in this period, it's a chance for me to learn something new. Can I be educated at the same time as entertained?
In Master of War we the reader are introduced to one of the kings archers, Thomas Blackstone, a boy trained from childhood (as were all boys) to master the English longbow. The longbow was at the time THE weapon of destruction, ranks of archers firing bows of over 100lb draw, with a destructive force that could pierce plate armour, thus nullifying the French superior numbers in chivalry.
This book is a brilliant mix or characterisation, intrigue, battles, nationalities, history, enmity, courage, cowardice, fear and bravery. But ultimately for this period it is Chivalry that rules the day, the rules of chivalry that bind nobleman or all nations, as long as you are of noble blood, the peasants are as ever...fodder for the mill of war. This does not lessen the brutality of war, it does not reduce the death count in the field or war, in the destruction of castles and sieges, it just adds a set of rules, rules iron clad and the breaching of such would lead to outrage, ridicule and shunning by all sides.
Thomas soon becomes a man to know, and a man to fear, a bringer of death in a world or death dealers. Life is short and to be lived to the full, love is quick, and comradeship earned, won, lost and grieved over many times in short periods. It's a harsh life and one that Thomas Blackstone is good at.
I was very impressed an immersed in this book, the only bits that brought me up short were the depiction of the ladies and attitudes towards them. While I know we are in a period where women were chattel for many men, they were also many strong women, women who led through a power behind the throne, and some who were a lot more overt, and I'm not sure that all men were so universally of that opinion. But this was my only nit-pick with the book, a book that I really enjoyed and look forward to more.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2014
I'm not surprised that the other reviewers rated this book highly. It is well written and Gilman is a good story teller. The main protagonist, Thomas Blackstone, an archer with Edward III army at the battle of Crecy in 1346, is well rounded and I look forward to reading about his further adventures in forthcoming books by the author. The novel certainly compares well with Bernard Cornwell's 'Heretic' series.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2014
A very enjoyable read set in the initial years of the 100 years War. The main heroe Thomas Blackstone develops into an adventurous character fighting in wartorn France for the cause of King Edward III and his son The Prince of Wales later known as The Black Prince. I gave it a 4 star rating due to the battle scenes not described as well as by other authors such as Cornwell, Iggulden or Scarrow. But the storyline is very exciting covering the events of the landings in France of the English King's army, the subsequent Battle of Crecy, the political games played out by Norman Barons, The Black Death and the seige at Calais. A lot to fit into one novel and perhaps the author could have dedicated more pages on these events instead of concentrating too much on Blackstone's rehabilitation period in a Norman nobles castle. Nevertheless, the novel is very well written and the characters surrounding Blackstone are developed well albeit towards the end of the book. I shall definitely buy the next book in the series which no doubt will be even better. I recommend the book to all historical fiction lovers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2014
An historical novel of fiction but utterly enveloping in both detail and pace. Well set and with exactly the right amount of contrast between background detail and the action which supports each other seamlessly. David Gilman has a talent which transports you to the moment and the book will delight any reader with even a small interest in the period. An excellent read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2014
Having always been a huge Bernard Cornwell fan, I tend to judge all othe historical novels by that yardstick and, until now, none have measured up. However, Master of War defintiely does with a well crafted plot, well constructed characters, plenty of intrigue and, of course, some excellent battle scenes. Can't wait for the next one.
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