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The Pagan Lord (The Last Kingdom Series, Book 7) (The Warrior Chronicles)
The Pagan Lord (The Last Kingdom Series, Book 7) (The Warrior Chronicles)
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith restored, 28 Sept. 2013
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After the previous Uhtred novel, the Death of Kings, I feared that what began as another rip-roaring Cornwell series was in danger of descending into flaccid predictability, but the Pagan Lord marks a true return to the form of the first 5 books.

I ordered this with some trepidation - could the Uhtred saga have run out of steam? I should not have worried. Believability had returned, and Uhtred, after a tepid previous outing, was back on top of his game.

With all that said, there are drawbacks to it. If you had read no Cornwell previously, this would not be a good place to start: the plot relied heavily on the back story, and I can imagine newcomers finding themselves slightly lost. I suppose that is true of most series, but perhaps more so with this, not least because we are now 7 books in. It is a cracking story well told, but there is some clunkiness lurking, and several set pieces seem to be no more than padding, albeit well-written padding, which add little to the overall story, but that is just me being picky. After the death of King Alfred, Uhtred now seems firmly established in the new order of things, and I look forward to discovering whether that leads him closer to regaining Bebbanburg!

If you felt rather let down by the Death of Kings, rest assured that this is a return to form. If you have never read a book in this series before, this is not the place to start. If you are a Cornwell fan, why do you not already have it?

A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther)
A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther)
by Philip Kerr
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read for Gunther fans, but on the edge of becoming formulaic, 16 Mar. 2013
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I have all the Gunther novels, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I have been waiting for this one to come out for some time to catch up with the latest instalment.

It's a good tale, for sure. That said, I found this one seemed to take much longer to warm up, and sometimes seemed a little disjointed, before spluttering to a rather unsatisfactory end. I don't know, perhaps it was me, but I found myself wondering whether the author had somewhat lost his way somewhere around the middle of the book. Make no mistake, it is a good story well told, but it was missing the edge of the previous books: looking back, I suppose the signs of this were there in the previous novel, 'Prague Fatale', but the story held together well enough to get us to the end. Its difficult to put my finger on what was wrong: perhaps I've read all the one-liners once too often, or Kerr is just trying too hard to capture that Chandleresque turn of phrase. While reading previous books, I felt that Kerr captured the spirit of his locations: when reading about Gunther in Argentina, you could almost feel the heat, while his capturing of 1930's Berlin transported you across space and time so that when you put down the book, you were almost surprised to find yourself in a living room in Dartford over 70 years ahead of where you felt you were. Whilst there are flashes of that in A Man Without Breath, it is just not the same - I can't help but feel he fails to completely capture the bleak desperation of the Russian Front in 1943 in the same way.

It's still a good book, and I'd recommend it either as a stand alone read, or, for fans of Bernie Gunther, as the continuation of a journey. I am somewhat saddened that I can't give it 5 stars because I greatly appreciate Kerr's efforts, but the object of reviewing a book is to review what is at hand rather than what went before, and to do so honestly. I read Kerr's book 'Esau' long before I read any of the Gunther novels, and in a way was reminded of that - a good story which became bogged down in minor details and pointless verbosity. I wonder whether 100 fewer pages would have helped avoid the sense that the book continued beyond the point at which the story should have finished?

For all that, I shall still await the next installment of Bernhard Gunther's life, assuming there will be another. It is not a bad book, and I trust that the crisp, sharp edge of earlier books in the series will once again return. I sincerely hope so, for Kerr deserves much praise for the series as a whole. I am interested to discover whether other fans of Gunther feel the same way as I?
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 4, 2013 10:42 AM BST

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relatively old, but absolutely outstanding at any price!, 10 Mar. 2012
I bought this many years ago, and I can only say it is one of the most continuously interesting sets of books I have ever possessed. Tracing the history of maritime events over some 7000 years with occasional forays into the non-maritime world to describe surrounding events, its breadth and scope is outstanding. I was lucky to find mine in a sale for less than £20 for the two volumes, but it must represent one of the best investments in books I have ever made: even now, over 20 years later, I still dip into it regularly.

As another reviewer has said, make sure you get both volumes, or your world maritime history will either start late, or be sadly truncated. Be assured, however, that you will not be disappointed by these two volumes at pretty much any price. Beautifully written, accurate, chronologically ordered and with a wealth of illustrations, pictures and drawings I can only commend these to you in the highest terms: you will not be disappointed.

Conquest (The Making of England Quartet)
Conquest (The Making of England Quartet)
by Stewart Binns
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

39 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pitiful, just pitiful, 18 April 2011
A book whose recommendations are by such literary giants as Daley Thompson and Celia Sandys (who she? - Ed) should have rung warning bells before I lifted it off the shelf, but hey, it was cheap, and the subject matter appealed to me.

To the best of my recollection, there have in my 45 years only been two books I have been unable to finish, and this is one of them. I have valiantly struggled through to page 216, but there, my friends, I have thrown in the towel. Unlikely, unbelievable, predictable, peopled with two dimensional, simplistic characters: the whole thing is just woeful. Just as Ford bought Jaguar, and turned a luxury car brand into a rebadged Mondeo, so Binns has taken a glorious period of British history, replete with heroes, villains, battles, political intrigue and strategy, and made it unreadable. I wanted to like this book, I really did. I have tried reading it on the train, on a plane, on a beach, in the bath, on the toilet and I even sampled a few pages while drunk, but it is completely irredeemable.

One scarcely knows where to begin. The plot, insofar as one exists, is essentially a travelogue of places our hero and his wife visit on their travels, just happening in the process to run into assorted Kings, Dukes and Popes along the way, with the heroine, Torfida, correcting them all on their misapplication of 20th century political correctness and morality even though it's the 11th century. Like other reviewers, I had wondered if this was satire, but apparently it isn't. The bastard daughter of an exiled, defrocked priest correcting the Pope on matters of theology? Please.

I could go on, but there would be little point. I can only imagine that the reviewers here on Amazon who have raved about the books 'historical accuracy', 'gripping plot' etc are related to the author. Save yourself a couple of quid, and buy some Bernard Cornwell instead. Those who compare this to Cornwell's 'Arthur' trilogy must have had a frontal lobotomy. Poorly written, poorly researched, poorly characterised and poorly executed, this must surely be the worst novel I have ever attempted to read. Words fail me, and the only reason I can see to buy this book would be if you have a need for a two inch tome to put under a wobbly table leg. For a fiver, you can buy ten fags and a half of lager. Do it, and be content that you've invested far more wisely, unless you are short of toilet paper.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 28, 2012 11:55 PM GMT

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