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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

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Leaden storytelling
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...
Published 23 months ago by Sam Quixote


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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
(REAL NAME)   
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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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2 of 2 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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35 of 40 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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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 Not just a book for the boys!, 7 May 2013
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
I have usually steered clear of Simon Scarrow in the past, as there is a bit of a perception of him being a 'man's author'. I've always been interested in the Knights Hospitaller, Templars et al and thought that this would be a good book to acquaint me with the authors style.

Set in 1565, Sword & Scimitar is not only the story of the siege of Malta, it is also the story of Sir Thomas Barrett. Barrett was banished from the order when he fell in love with a noblewoman promised to another, whom he had rescued during one of the book's many sea battles.

20 years after his banishment, Sir Thomas is recalled to the order to held defend their stronghold on Malta against the encroaching Islamic armies. He is also charged with recovering a document, believed to have been in the possession of one of his fellow knights. This document could have serious repercussions for the British Crown if it fell into the wrong hands. He is charged with taking one of the governments pies with him as a squire, and helping him recover the document.

Sir Thomas returns to Malta to find that old friends are there to welcome and forgive him, but that old enemies still bear a grudge.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sword & Scimitar. The fact that it was set in a period of time that I find interesting doubtless helped. However, Scarrow's understanding of his characters and knowledge of the period, greatly enhanced the book. Sir Thomas is an intriguing character; a skilled knight; ruthless and at times arrogant, he is also fiercely loyal and capable of great love. For his comrades as well as his lost love.

I will freely confess to shedding a few tears during the course of the book. The characters are so richly drawn that it is easy to get attached to them!

The only tiny, tiny criticism I have is maybe a girl thing; some of the descriptions of the sea battles and military strategem were a little over long. I found my mind wondering off a little at times. However, I would still rate this book very highly as it is a fabulous story, well written and still very pacey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but undemanding read, 4 May 2013
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
After being sent away from the Order of St John in Malta, disgraced knight Sir Thomas Barrett is called back to Malta 20 years later in 1665 to help defend the island and fight with the Order again against the Islamic Ottoman Empire who want to wipe out the Order and use Malta to expand into Europe.
It was a pivotal moment in history, in the war that had raged between Islam and Christianity for centuries.

It's not a period of history that I was familiar with and so it was fascinating to read about what happened for the first time.

It is a good light read. I enjoyed the story, and read it fairly quickly, within 3 days, eager to learn about what had happened. It did give a good overview of what happened to Malta in 1665, however I was a little disappointed when I had finished, not that I had finished it but that it had seemed to promise more than just that. I was left feeling a little bit short-changed. This is because the main characters' stories felt a little rushed and lacking great depth as to why they acted/felt as they did, as if the author was ticking boxes for what needed to be covered in as brief a time as possible so he could move on to the next part.

It was really obvious where the characters personal stories were heading, as probably there wasn't enough space to be more subtle. It almost felt as if there was too much story for such a relatively small book, even though it was 573 pages long. The author was trying to put as much detail in as possible about too many situations, which meant there weren't all the details there could have been in the book to make it a great read rather than just an easy light enjoyable read which did not especially linger in my thoughts after it had ended.

I would recommend reading it if you want an undemanding adventure story that will introduce you to a fascinating period in history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Woven Story, 7 May 2013
By 
atticusfinch1048 - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
If this were a video game it would carry an 18 rating as the violence within the pages holds no punches. The imagery that the Simon Scarrow uses in Sword & Scimitar is that good and also historically accurate.

The book is based on the Turk/Ottoman Empire siege of Malta in 1665, even though the book starts 20 years prior as the hero of the story Sir Thomas is cast out of Malta for falling in love with a woman. In the intervening years Sir Thomas had worked as a mercenary and lived on his estate in England. Then he was disturbed one winter by a messenger of the Order of St John requesting that he return to Malta help with the forthcoming war with the Turks. Christianity v Islam. At the same time he is summoned to London by Cecil and Walsingham to take on a mission to protect the country by taking a young squire with him to Malta.

It is through the enthralling pages of the book we discover the love that had been lost and regained to finally loose again, a son and heir found, the saving of Christianity and Malta.

This is a wonderful book where historical facts and people are interwoven in to the narrative so that everything is accurate about the period and the siege. The book is a wonderfully absorbing read and well worth buying.
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Seige of Malta, 9 May 2013
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
I love historical novels and I love Malta. So based on this, this should be an enjoyable read. It did not disappoint. The novel centres around Sir Thomas Barrett, a Knight of Saint John. He falls in love which is reciprocated but she is betrothed to another. He is forced into exile in disgrace. After years serving as a mercenary Sir Thomas is recalled as Malta needs everyman it can get to face a vast Ottoman army. There is also a document in Malta that if it became public knowledge could blow the English monarchy wide open.The description of the siege is well handled as are the atrocities on both sides. There are twists and turns, some of which you can see coming but some you do not. Not many characters so it is easy to remember who is who. A nice easy read which will have you holding your breath in places.If you have been to Malta you will recognise the places mentioned. If not, after reading the book, why not make it your next holiday destination?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars breathtakingly dull, 11 July 2013
By 
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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