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Kingdom Of Shadows by [Furst, Alan]
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Kingdom Of Shadows Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Length: 288 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Amazon.co.uk Review

It must be daunting for an author to be compared to Graham Greene, John Le Carré and Robert Harris, but Alan Furst's much acclaimed sequence of novels set during the 1930s and World War Two unquestionably demonstrate the virtues of his predecessors: brilliantly detailed backgrounds in which the periods involved are faultlessly conjured up; highly impressive plotting and (his ace in the hole) characterisation that has all the richness and complexity of the very best writers. With Kingdom of Shadows, Furst moves his writing on to yet another level: the sense of danger and foreboding that informs this tale of intrigue and betrayal brings the reader the all-too-rare rush of excitement that only the finest novels in this field can convey.

It's 1938, and a sinister tide of Fascism is growing in strength throughout Europe. Ex-cavalry officer Nicholas Morath (originally from Hungary) returns to his young mistress in Paris's Seventh Arrondissement. He has been helping his uncle Count Janos Polanyi, a diplomat, in his attempt to stop Hungary drifting into an allegiance with Nazi Germany. But this is a very dangerous game for Morath and his uncle, involving double dealing between defectors, SS renegades and British politicians. And as Hitler marches into Prague, Morath's foolhardy country-hopping endeavours grow ever more dangerous.

On the level of a highly intelligent espionage tale, Furst demonstrates a masterly command of the idiom, with Polanyi's dangerous odysseys between the Czech fortresses of the Sudeten mountains and the villas of Budapest handled in an utterly authoritative fashion. The driving force behind his narrative is always the struggles within the souls of his characters, and the way the human spirit can survive under the most appalling conditions. Morath, in particular, is drawn with all the complexity and insight that has become Furst's trademark, and we follow his journeys with ever-mounting concern. Furst's way with a passage of tension remains nonpareil, as with this dangerous traversing of a ruined bridge:
Flat on his belly, Morath worked his way across the bridge. He could hear the water as it rushed passed, ten feet below, could feel it--the damp chill air that rose from heavy current. He did not look back, Pavlo would either find the nerve to do this or he wouldn't. Crawling over the weathered planks, he realised that a lot more of it had burned than was evident from the shoreline. Long before he reached the end, he stopped. The bridge trembled and swayed each time he moved.
--Barry Forshaw

Amazon Review

It must be daunting for an author to be compared to Graham Greene, John Le Carré and Robert Harris, but Alan Furst's much acclaimed sequence of novels set during the 1930s and World War Two unquestionably demonstrate the virtues of his predecessors: brilliantly detailed backgrounds in which the periods involved are faultlessly conjured up; highly impressive plotting and (his ace in the hole) characterisation that has all the richness and complexity of the very best writers. With Kingdom of Shadows, Furst moves his writing on to yet another level: the sense of danger and foreboding that informs this tale of intrigue and betrayal brings the reader the all-too-rare rush of excitement that only the finest novels in this field can convey.

It's 1938, and a sinister tide of Fascism is growing in strength throughout Europe. Ex-cavalry officer Nicholas Morath (originally from Hungary) returns to his young mistress in Paris's Seventh Arrondissement. He has been helping his uncle Count Janos Polanyi, a diplomat, in his attempt to stop Hungary drifting into an allegiance with Nazi Germany. But this is a very dangerous game for Morath and his uncle, involving double dealing between defectors, SS renegades and British politicians. And as Hitler marches into Prague, Morath's foolhardy country-hopping endeavours grow ever more dangerous.

On the level of a highly intelligent espionage tale, Furst demonstrates a masterly command of the idiom, with Polanyi's dangerous odysseys between the Czech fortresses of the Sudeten mountains and the villas of Budapest handled in an utterly authoritative fashion. The driving force behind his narrative is always the struggles within the souls of his characters, and the way the human spirit can survive under the most appalling conditions. Morath, in particular, is drawn with all the complexity and insight that has become Furst's trademark, and we follow his journeys with ever-mounting concern. Furst's way with a passage of tension remains nonpareil, as with this dangerous traversing of a ruined bridge:
Flat on his belly, Morath worked his way across the bridge. He could hear the water as it rushed passed, ten feet below, could feel it--the damp chill air that rose from heavy current. He did not look back, Pavlo would either find the nerve to do this or he wouldn't. Crawling over the weathered planks, he realised that a lot more of it had burned than was evident from the shoreline. Long before he reached the end, he stopped. The bridge trembled and swayed each time he moved.
--Barry Forshaw

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1258 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (13 Oct. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005SZ1OTI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #62,168 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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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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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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No one can beat Furst in bringing to life both people and places as they existed in the years before and during WW2 in mainland Europe. He captures detail like a painter. Reading his books is unalloyed joy.
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I republished this book. The detail of the people, places - even the food, kept me wanting more. The only reason I have given four stars rather than five it I would love to have read more. Now on to the Polish officer.
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A good combination of events that keeps one interested in what is going to happen next.
Well researched and surely must have happened to somebody during this period of turmoil
Was it really fiction? Or perhaps just the names changed to hide the brave.
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