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Customer Review

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good first novel, but improvements needed, 20 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Traitor's Blood: Book 1 of The Civil War Chronicles (Kindle Edition)
I wanted to like this book, I really did. The period's fascinating, and the potential for dramatic fiction is high. Michael Arnold's basic idea of a Sharpe-style hero getting involved in every major battle is a good one, and the character himself is serviceable enough - not as appealing as Sharpe, say, but he carries the story nicely. His backstory hints at service on the continent, and marks him nicely as a mercenary captain of the kind that were so common in the 17th century. The other characters, though, are a forgettable bunch - I kept failing to remember who was who, and just labelled them all as sidekicks in my mind. Maybe kill a few off next time?
The biggest flaw in the novel, though, was the plot. Quite often in the military history fiction genre, the protagonist is sent off away from the army, with just a few chosen companions, on a Mission That Will Alter The Course Of The War. Fair enough, it's a good device if used well. Here, it's not. The whole master spy thing's been done before, and it's hard to care here. What should be a rich, engrossing read about battles degenerates into a dull trudge through empty countryside, with the usual meaningless skirmishes along the way. I wanted Civil War action - the push of pike, Rupert's cavaliers! The book starts with the end of the battle of Edgehill (or Kineton Fight as it's referred to, which I really liked) and the reader sees very little of the action. Bad move, as when we do get to see the armies clash it's great. This is what I came for! I thought, as russet-coated captains yelled at doughty pikemen and musketeers popped away into the smoke. The climactic Battle of Brentford is fantastic!
One thing that irked me, but other people might not have a problem with, is the characterisation. I prefer my heroes a bit more morally ambiguous. At times, Stryker was a bit too good. His flaws, like battle lust, are the sort that appeal to the male mind, and thus aren't really flaws at all. Similarly, the baddies are irredeemable monsters. More of a balance might be nicer.
In conclusion, it's a passable first novel. There's loads of potential, especially with the battles. Next time, leave Stryker with the army, where the action is!
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