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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 9 March 2003
If you’ve not read Wilbur Smith before, let me explain. If you’ve ever longed to read an adventure story, yet you’ve never found any that live up to your high expectations – of a single novel containing love, betrayal, war, fighting, sea battles, camraderie and so forth, and the whole thing *not* reading like horribly contrived of drivel … Wilbur Smith writes those books. And he writes them with aplomb: Smith has the gift of a true storyteller, and no matter what you do there is no escape when he starts to tell you a tale. He writes with confidence and eloquence; criticisms of him tend to be that his characters are all stereotyped heroes and villains, maidens in distress or conniving evil harlots… but when you’re reading one of his stories whether or not that is true is highly irrelevant. Sometimes you *want* to read about heroes and villains, and when the story on offer is so rich and well-told this amounts to a constantly exhilerating experience.
“Blue Horizon”, then, sees Smith returning to the early Courtney family books, following on from “Birds of Prey” and “Monsoon”. This one begins with Jim Courney, son of Tom from “Monsoon”, having to leave his family and travel into the African wilderness to be with the woman he loves (we expect nothing less from Wilbur Smith!). That’s about as far as the jacket blurb goes, and completely fails to inform you that once again Smith makes the scope of his story truly epic. Earlier in the book you may feel you don’t know all the characters at all because the focus is placed on Tom and his love, Louisa – but soon enough the focus changes, as Smith strikes the balance between adventures on the African mainland and returns to the thrilling sequences on the open sea experienced in “Blue Horizon”’s prequels, and takes the reader into the lives of each of his characters individually.
Without giving away the plot, some old villains return from the past, and new ones appear on the scene, too. The Courtneys have to fight for their very existence, from Table Bay to the Caliph’s Muscat of Dorian’s childhood.
I will admit that ealier in this book I was in danger of becoming a little bored with it – it seemed that the basis of the story was Jim running away across the desert, and then finding out what his pursuers were doing. From the length of the book it’s easily apparent to even the new reader that Wilbur Smith writes long books, but unusually for him the opening of this one seemed to drag a little. However, read just a little further and the book will have you (probably literally) gasping for breath. An incredible sea battle, lasting about 30 pages, and one character trying to save another from falling over a precipice for almost 10 are just two highlights in this excellent story. Rest assured, those sequences do not drag – if anything you’ll wish they went on longer. Similarly, if you feel put off a little by the opening sections of “Blue Horizon”, stick with it, because it quickly opens out into true epic-Smith, and once again the actions of his heroes truly seem to mean something, as they begin to affect the fate of entire nations.
With incredibly historical accuracy, Smith weaves you into his world, and soon enough you won’t want to leave (except perhaps to find a book on nautical to terms to work out what the hell his thoroughly accurate sailing terminology actually means – though it doesn’t interrupt enjoyment of the book). This is certainly not an intellectual fix, but with prose of such quality you’d be forgiven for making that mistake; this is, put simply, a brilliant adventure story. If that’s what you’re after, then buy it from the benchmark of the genre.
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on 4 June 2003
From the moment I purchased this signed copy of Blue Horizon, I couldn't wait to get into this book.
Wilbur Smith delivers again with this brilliant tale of adventure in Southern Africa. Once more, the Courtneys are the central characters - I found the family tree available at Smith's web site a valuable reminder of who everybody was before starting to read this book.
I have read all Smith's books and for me he can do no wrong. His descriptions of all the actions are gripping and he always takes pleasure in describing the death throes of some characters. Some descriptions of bodily functions are not as gripping!!!!
I always find that Smith's books seem to finish up too quickly and also leave the reader wanting more. There's another Courtney book here for sure.
Smith's love of Africa shines through as always, yet he manages to find new strong characters for each story. This is a must for all Wilbur Smith fans. For those new to Smith, I would recommend reading other Courtney books to get maximum enjoyment out of this one.
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VINE VOICEon 13 March 2003
Wilbur Smith has to be the greatest living writing of adventure fiction. He has written some of the best work in the modern canon of adventure fiction.
He has brought Africa to life for millions. His novels have stretched from the Egyptian Empire through the first European incursions to modern day South Africa and Zimbabwe.
These are old fashioned adventure stories full of "boys own" heroes and heroines. His characterisation is strong and his plot construction almost flawless.
Blue Horizon carries on the story of the Courtney family and follows on from Birds of Prey and Monsoon. If you haven't read these then I suggest that you do so before reading this book.
This story tells of Tom, Dorian, Jim and Mansur Courtney and deals with the English settlers during the time of Dutch rule in South Africa and Arab rule along the Eastern seaboard.
We follow the different individual stories of the 4 main characters and Smith effortlessly brings their stories together and apart as the need arises.
He brings to life the sights and sounds of an alien world. You can see the herds of game and elephant. The various tribes of bushmen and Nguni. His action scenes are absorbing and you feel close to the heroes and their opponents.
His love of Africa is evident in every book and this is no exception. He portrays the Europeans, Arabs and Africans as they really were. There is little in the way of European favouritism as he draws the best and worse of every nationality involved.
As you read you mourn for the days when the world was this fresh and noble. You yearn to see the almost numerous quantities of game and elephant, the likes of which we'll never see. He shows the joy of the kill and the guilt felt afterwards by the true hunter for a quarry taken and never to be replaced.
We changed Africa and Smith shows us what we lost.
I look forward to a new Wilbur Smith and rush to the stores/Amazon to get the first copy available. I have read everything, eagerly await the next and re-read the earlier works.
If you're new to Smith then I hope that you'll come to love his writing too.
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on 10 December 2003
Very disappointed with Blue Horizon and I've really enjoyed other Wilbur Smith books and particularly the Courtney adventures. Alas nothing new with this one - brotherly love, one estranged and has to seek his own fortune, fall instantly and faithfully in love, skirmishes with nasty people and then all reunited happily ever after. The country descriptions and battle sequences have already been faithfully used in previous Courtney adventures. There were no new plot ideas or character developments - I had to remind myself that this was supposedly a new novel.
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on 9 June 2004
After reading some of the more negative reviews of this latest from Smith I was unsure of what to expect from my favourite author. I'm still working my way through all his books but loving every word he produces so far.
Blue Horizon did have a few de ja vu moments from his other books but this didn't stop it from being impossible to put down for a second! Just when you think his adventures couldn't have any new twists to them, he comes up with a corker.
It would be the wee hours of the morning and I'd be thinking, I really should get some sleep. I'll put it down after this chapter (you know how it is!) and some new twist in the story would keep my eyes glued to the pages.
Enough of my ramblings, Blue Horizon follows the offspring of Tom and Dorian Courtney through their African adventures. Always compelling, always inspiring.
I hope this review has encouraged more to become Smith fans.
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on 19 March 2003
Wilbur Smith is a great favourite of mine and I was delighted to see that this new book is written to his usual high standard. With all of the twists and turns of the story and the introduction of several new members of the Courtney Clan it was a book that was very dificult to put down. I highly recommend it to all Wilbur Smith fans and all other persons who enjoy a good read - this will not dissapoint.
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on 14 March 2003
The sequel to the fantastic monsoon is finaly here!
The story begins at Good Hope, where the Courtney Family has started a new life. We immediatley meet the new heroes, Jim and Mansur (Tom and Dorian's sons). The peaceful life doesn't last long, and immediatley the family are split up and forced out. One side takes the legendary robbers road through deep Africa, and the other to the boats.
As with Monsoon, Smith entwines many points of view as the story unfolds, following the 2 Courtney families, the Dutch and Arab enemies and the bushmen. This by no means slows the story down, but is extremely effective in building tension, and other sub plots.
The main storyline in 'Blue horizon' is Dorian and Mansur's quest for revenge and the throne of Oman, owned by his nemesis Zayn al Din.
As a whole, the book was thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing. The violence is strong (not as frequent as in Monsoon), and is vividly realist and brutal. There is also included dark sexual scenes, which some may find unsetteling. There is only 2 swearwords in he book.
On a final note regarding the prequels to the book, it is not essential to read Bird of Prey or Monsoon to enjoy this book, however i would thoroughly recommend reading Monsoon. In my opinion Birds of Prey is not of the same standard and can be avoided.
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on 31 March 2003
Blue Horizon is everything the new Wilbur Smith book should be. Blue Horizon is everything the sequel to the absolutely fantatstic Monsoon should be. Blue Horizon is epic, exciting and in some places heart breaking. Why no five stars you may well ask? I'll tell you..
Call me a griping git if you like, but when Wilbur Smith writes something these days, one expects not only quality but excessive originallity. 'When the Lion Feeds' is exceptional, 'Birds of Prey' mould breaking, 'A Sparrow Falls' is an emotional roller coaster, and 'Monsoon' is all of those and more. And that's only a small selection of the Courtney series, which is only part of Wilbur Smith's extraordainary range of titles. However, the books I list above, also all have a similarity that is really starting to upset me (this applies to other of Smith's books as well, but I'll reference to only the ones that I've re-read recently), and that is the included clumsy description of the phenomena know as 'The Sadness of the Hunt'.
I'll explain it here, whilst trying not to ruin the story line. The situation is thus: Lead character (at the time) loads trusty rifle/bow and shoots large animal - usually an elaphent or buffalo - possibly many times. Lead character is then struck by a bout of melancholy as (s)he whatches said animal in death throes.
If that fails to ring any bells, then go and buy the book. You'll be glad of it, and it's most likely that my own miserable ramblings won't affect you're reading pleasure. For you the rating above is five stars and more. I really hope you enjoy reading it.
If you have read some of Smith's other books, you'll most likely have understood what I'm aiming at (although still go and buy the book - it really is very good). My only question is - why? Why does he persist in stumbling the story on something like that? It just breaks up the entire African image that the author sets out for us which is one of hardship and brutality. So there you are. That's my only problem with the book. That's the only reason that it doesn't get five stars.
Back to the good points. And there's lots of them - fortunately far too many to go into much detail about. They include; very good continuation of characters from the forementioned and much acclaimed 'Monsoon', exceptional development of a multi layered plot, sudden blinding moments of inspired writing that bring the compelling storyline to apparent climaxes at seperate stages during the book. However, Wilbur Smith works his indefinable magic and drives the theme on, to an ending that whilst does not completely tie all the lose strands together into a seaman's knot(hopefully in anticipation of another sequel; at least gives enough encouragement to the reader that life is what one makes of it.
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Topnotch voice performer Tim Pigott-Smith gives an exhilarating reading to the latest adventure yarn by one of our most popular authors. By turns suspenseful or serene, but always spellbinding Pigot-Smith's reading adds even greater depth to a thoroughly entertaining tale.
In this eleventh installment of the lives of the Courtney clan we are reminded that brothers Tom and Dorian Courtney proved their mettle while conquering enemies and forces of nature on a treacherous sea as they made their way to the Cap of Good Hope.
The story takes up some 25 years later to find the brothers successful and content as fathers and merchants, settled near undeveloped Africa. True to form Smith now introduces the next generation of Courtneys - Jim and Mansur who, very much like their fathers before them seek to make their individual marks on their part of a beautiful yet dangerous continent by traveling the "Robbers' Road."
This route holds much in store for both: romance, mortal risk, and reunion. Each of these elements meld into an exciting saga as only Wilbur Smith can imagine it.
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on 2 December 2013
Fantastic story again- where will it all end ! A thoroughly enjoyable tale well written as ever- The family saga continues to thrill
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