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4.1 out of 5 stars29
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 9 June 2012
Furst's novels are multi-layered, atmospheric affairs, full of crafted prose and understated plotlines. Kingdom of Shadows is no different. An awful lot happens in what is a normal length novel, as Morath criss-crosses Europe sliding in and out of various scrapes, and yet the pace seems leisurely and evocative. Furst is very good at setting a scene, placing the reader into a landscape, and in providing in an economical fashion the contextual politics both locally and at a European scale. In this sense, the reader comes to understand the fully geopolitical complexity of what was going on, without it swamping the narrative. That takes some skill and yet Furst makes it look effortless. As with his other novels, various strands are left somewhat ambiguous, a snapshot of one set of social relations at a particular place and time. My only critique is sometimes the storytelling is a little too understated, especially when something truly dramatic is taking place (being shot at and chased has the same tone and feel as meeting a girlfriend), and there is a little too much ambiguity at times. But when all said and done, Furst has a distinctive voice and its always a pleasure to read one of his books.
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VINE VOICEon 11 January 2002
Hanging over Paris--nay, all of Europe in l938-39 like a Spectre
is the visage (and vandalism) of Adolph Hitler. However, as we well know, this was no mirage and eventually the Nazis were goose-stepping their way down the boulevards of The City of Light. Thus, with this somber--and agreeably frightening--spirit enveloping the continent, Alan Furst's "Kingdom of Shadows" mesmerizes its readers and we wait for the action to play out. Of course, we know the historical outcome, but Furst is able to paint an atmosphere that is both real and surreal.
The Nazis are coming, the Nazis are coming!
Furst's central character forty-ish Nicholas Morath loves Paris, where he's been living for some time now as a (not "an") Hungarian expatriot (which translates, in those days, as an aristocrat!). Indeed, a bon vivant in his own right, Nicholas' life even borders on the boring, despite the prestigious life style he enjoys--his uncle is a count; he moves in and out of Parisian high life.
But he's not French. He's Hungarian and the winds of war certainly are undeniable. He also is privy to the covert Nazi political machinations and, like Cassandra, knows the future only too well. Thus, he is enlisted by his uncle to "help the cause" and he goes about with the energy of a true patriot.Furst treats us to a geography lesson as well,as Nicholas hops, skips, and jumps his way across the path of the German war machine, from Paris to Budapest to Bratislava to Antwerp,and so on. The atmosphere Furst creates works well with the geography of the land, the political climate of the time, and the naivete of much of the "modern world." This is not to say that "Kingdom of Shadows" is dull reading--far from it. The author has no difficulty in catching--and holding--the reader's undivided attention. His dramatic pacing, his power of description and episode--all blend into an excellent read, one that, due to its historical implications, certainly cannot contain a "and they lived happily ever after" ending. We know what Hitler did in l939 and that he continued for a few more years. Furst doesn't take us past 1939.
This is an excellent read--not just for studetns of history, but for anyone who delights in being caught up in a plausible--yet exciting--storyline. (
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VINE VOICEon 30 November 2010
The enigmatic world of espionage sixty and seventy years ago has attracted a number of novelists: Eric Ambler set standards that have been aspired to, but not often matched, by such as Philip Kerr and David Downing more recently. The problem is, research can only go so far. By contrast, Alan Furst seems to have thought himself into the feel, the sounds and the smells of the era.

Kingdom of Shadows has Furst's favourite city, Paris, as its focal point, but it ranges across Europe in a series of tense episodes as the continent progresses unstoppably towards World War Two. Credibility of place extends to credibility of character. Nicholas Morath, the central figure, is a Hungarian emigré torn between duty to his country and the women he loves: the Argentine hedonist Cara, and the vulnerable Mary Day - also easily believable portraits. Morath's ambiguous uncle, Count Janos von Polanyi de Nemeszvar, is a memorable string-puller from the wings.

This may not be Aan Furst at his supreme best - the tale's episodic nature and the only half-fulfilled ending militate against a fifth star - but it still overshadows most of its rivals.
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on 7 December 2014
Having read several of Alan Furst's novels, I am inclined to agree with the reviewer who said that they are all a bit similar. So, why do I keep coming back to them? Well, Furst evokes the approach to WWII and the War itself in such an atmospheric way, that you're drawn in immediately. His characters are well-written and believable - yes, the central character needs to be able to move about relatively freely in Occupied zones, so Nicholas Morath in this story might seem a little contrived, but I'm reading a novel and my disbelief is accordingly suspended. I enjoyed 'Kingdom of Shadows' immensely.

Each of Furst's novels is very well-researched, and I find I'm learning new aspects of this period in history each time - perhaps because Britain (with the exception of the Channel Isles) didn't experience Occupation - the focus on Continental Europe, and Russia, is edifying. With his depiction of the everyday, mundane moments that contrast with the action and heroism, Furst writes about an era that is incredibly well-documented, yet manages to sustain the reader's interest as if the events are unfolding now. No mean feat.
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on 30 July 2010
Like Alan Furst's other novels it is strong in background and atmosphere. The Parisian and Central European sections make you feel you are there. The plot is a little complicated (at least for those of us who read it in seperate sessions) but revolves around the 1938 Czechoslovak crisis. This is a reissue of a 2000 novel. It is well worth reading even if you have not read any of his other novels.
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on 3 January 2001
Alan Furst does it again!!.As with all his previous novels he has been able to bring a slice of European pre-war espionage/war build up to vivid life.Via an almost completely new range of characters-spending only some of their time in his beloved Paris-he has given us all something to ponder. Working from Hungarian and Czech angles which have been perhaps been conveniently forgotton has come a slighly changed feel to his writing -Morath is under less constant threat than say Casson-but the taste of fear/betrayals during the cynical and inevitable rise of Hitler reeks from the pages . The story line is as ever well put together with the complex threads cleverly woven .I suspect alas that it is only a matter of time before Film or T.V starts changing his endings beyond recognition Selfishly that will be some time away perhaps giving his New Cast time to take to the pages again.The author has certainly given himself the time leeway to do so and it maybe that like Red Gold part two will be better than part one
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on 1 March 2001
I have recently discovered Alan Furst - surprising, since he's an American. Years ago, I started reading Eric Ambler (and I've reread him over the years). I never thought anyone else could transport me back to the world of espionage in the 20's, 30's and 40's, but Alan Furst can. He is an excellent, very involving writer. Be prepared for a wonderful experience. Don't read just KINGDOM OF SHADOWS. Read them all - and beg for more.
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on 15 April 2008
'Morath lay back in the bath in the cooling water of the bathtub, smoking a Chesterfield and tapping it, from time to time, into a mother-of-pearl soap dish, Cara, my love. Small, perfect, wicked, slippery. 'A long, long night', she'd told him. 'He was doomed to live with a certain heaviness of soul; not despair, but the tiresome weight of pushing back against it'. I found Nicholas Morath to be an interesting character, decent and brave. He gets involved in a number of adventures as he helps people and gets drawn in deeper into danger. I liked this for the style but the content left me slightly unsatisified. It has an exciting end.
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on 26 November 2000
Furst once again proves he has no equals in the genre of WWII era international intrigue. Kingdom of Shadows may be his finest offering yet.
Indeed, Mr. Furst seems to have access to a time machine, so detailed and realistic are his depictions of that dark time in world history.
But his protagonist and supporting cast are, as always, what makes this novel one of the best reads of the year. The depth of these charactors and their very real reactions to a world gone mad is what makes Furst the king.
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on 15 April 2010
This is an enjoyable novel but I found the plot oddly unsatisfying. The story seems to conclude much too hastily and leaves many of the plot's threads simply hanging in the air. Did Mr Furst run out of time? Also, as often happens in historical fiction, some of the period details tend to seem a bit forced. I would advise those interested in pre-WWII espionage fiction to read all of Eric Ambler's novels before trying this one.
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