The Generals (Wellington and Napoleon 2) (The Wellington and Napoleon Quartet) Hardcover – 31 May 2007
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'One of the great duels in history, between two of its most fascinating characters. Simon Scarrow brings Wellington and Napoleon to life with a vengeance.' (Paul Strathern, author of NAPOLEON IN EGYPT)
'Scarrow builds up a fascinating picture of a world at war and sets the stage for the looming confrontation between these two military giants - an enthralling sequel' (Good Reading, Australia)
Napoleon in Egypt. Wellington in India. An epic struggle for supremacy has begun.See all Product description
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Book 2 in the series is ‘The Generals’ and sees both men rise; one to become an Emperor, the other a great General. After the success of the revolution Napoleon sees a chance to build upon his reputation by quashing the various Royalist uprisings, his quick thinking sets him on the road to politics and glory. Meanwhile, Wellington is still a younger son in a dynasty that is moving away from him. He is forced to prove himself is the more backwater countries of the Empire, but his role in India will mark him as a rising star. Two different Generals advancing at different paces, but both on a collision course.
Following two men from adolescent into being experienced Generals is a great idea and Scarrow attacks it with aplomb. I know a little about the Wars between France and Britain, but have to admit to not knowing what happened before. Both Generals had a lot of interesting adventures before Waterloo was even imagined. Most of ‘The Generals’ is set during a period of peace between the two countries and war was fought via proxy. Therefore, there are no direct conflicts between the two, but the battles in Italy, Egypt and India resonate across the continents.
As a piece of history, ‘The Generals’ is very interesting, I learned a lot about of a period of history that was new to me. The issue was that there was too much to learn. Scarrow’s series of books are written over 4 novels of impressive size, but I still felt that this book was rushed. To really appreciate how Napoleon and Wellington learned their trade, a longer series of books was needed. This book is packed with battles, sieges, victories and defeats – too many. Sometimes it feels like a whistle-stop tour of destruction. When the battles do occur they are very well written, it is just that you can never settle into a conflict before you move on again.
It is as if you are being dragged through history by the hand of the Ghost of General’s Past, whisking you overhead. If the speed had been chosen to improve the narrative, it could have been forgiven, but there is little story. Both men are ambitious and the story is mostly about how they inevitably rose to power. I did not get the sense that there was any other story apart from this; a little token fictional elements could have made it a slightly more entertaining read. It also felt that the book was a little White Hat/Black Hat. Napoleon the ambition and cruel leader, whilst Wellington refuses to allow his men to indulge their base interests. This may have been true, but it is painted a little cleanly here.
‘The Generals’ is an odd book as it is a flawed piece of fiction, but still an entertaining read. It is not a story as you would normally see, but more of a narrification of history. Scarrow has taken the real battles that the two men fought in and built a story around them. This story is the weakest element of the book, but the history and battles means that it is still worth reading, especially for those that lean on the side of history over fiction in the historic fiction genre.
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