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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 11 January 2002
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. The author has no difficulty in catching--and holding--the reader's undivided attention. His dramatic pacing, his power of description and episode--all blend into an excellent read, one that, due to its historical implications, certainly cannot contain a "and they lived happily ever after" ending. We know what Hitler did in l939 and that he continued for a few more years. Furst doesn't take us past 1939.
This is an excellent read--not just for studetns of history, but for anyone who delights in being caught up in a plausible--yet exciting--storyline. (
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on 9 June 2012
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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on 7 December 2014
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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on 1 March 2001
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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on 2 September 2015
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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on 4 June 2014
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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on 6 November 2013
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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on 13 January 2001
Kingdom of Shadows is a puzzling book for admirers of Alan Furst, almost a B-movie in comparison to the dazzling Dark Star and the Jean Casson series (The World at Night, Red Gold).
Why return yet again to emigre communities in Paris, except to reprise a lot of the beautifully crafted atmospherics of the Jean Casson novels?
And why waste the hugely sinister potential of pre-war Hungary by concentrating the novel almost entirely on Paris - yet again?
Kingdom of Shadows left me unsatisified in comparison with Furst's other novels. Despite being a pleasurable read, this novel did not suprise me or enlighten me in the manner of his other novels. I look forward to the return of Jean Casson in a sequel to Red Gold.
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VINE VOICEon 30 November 2010
The enigmatic world of espionage sixty and seventy years ago has attracted a number of novelists: Eric Ambler set standards that have been aspired to, but not often matched, by such as Philip Kerr and David Downing more recently. The problem is, research can only go so far. By contrast, Alan Furst seems to have thought himself into the feel, the sounds and the smells of the era.

Kingdom of Shadows has Furst's favourite city, Paris, as its focal point, but it ranges across Europe in a series of tense episodes as the continent progresses unstoppably towards World War Two. Credibility of place extends to credibility of character. Nicholas Morath, the central figure, is a Hungarian emigré torn between duty to his country and the women he loves: the Argentine hedonist Cara, and the vulnerable Mary Day - also easily believable portraits. Morath's ambiguous uncle, Count Janos von Polanyi de Nemeszvar, is a memorable string-puller from the wings.

This may not be Aan Furst at his supreme best - the tale's episodic nature and the only half-fulfilled ending militate against a fifth star - but it still overshadows most of its rivals.
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on 6 October 2013
I felt this book lacked a cohesiveness. The story line seemed be just a series of unrelated events set around a rather 'flat' character. It was set in a period (rise of the Reich) where a compelling story could have been told but the book didn't really do that. Furst has written better books.
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