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on 7 November 2013
The test of a good book is the question "Did I enjoy it?" and, in this case the answer is a definite "Yes". Hence four stars. The rest is just observation from one reader's perspective (mine).

I found this book to be engaging and engrossing; I really wanted to read on to see what happens next. The pace is just right and the battle scenes are among the best I've ever read. The main character is well founded and his growth from callow boy to seasoned warrior progresses beautifully. Although other reviewers have criticised the accuracy of some of the detail (there's no such thing as a 'short bastard sword' or 'chain mail') I found almost all of the minute detail of life in this period spot on and fascinating. This period in history is a particular hobby of mine and I was delighted to see so many of the historical facts not only very accurately relayed here, but also in a manner that draws out the political complexity of the era (the Channel didn't stop anyone from claiming sovereignty in either England or France).

The book may suffer from an unfair comparison. Bernard Cornwell's 'Grail Quest' series, with Thomas Hookton as the main character, tells a very similar story (in fact, VERY similar!) and, of course, that is Bernard Cornwell and so is utterly masterful The similarities are very striking (Thomas Hookton / Thomas Blackstone !!!) and David Gilman, unsurprisingly, doesn't fare well in such comparison. Bernard Cornwell's hero suffers a debilitating injury to his fingers that looks as though he will never again draw a bow, but he recovers almost to his original standard though sheer grit. At the end of Mr Gilman's book, Thomas has suffered a similar injury which, we are told, means that he will 'never draw a war bow again'. Hmm, let's see but, a warning to Mr Gilman, if, in the next book, Thomas recovers through sheer grit to be almost as good as he previously was, I can see a claim of plagiarism heading your way. But if you compare every book that you read to the absolute best in the genre, then just about everything you read will disappoint. In this case, I'm very happy to set any comparison aside and to simply consider Master of War in its own right; it's very good indeed.

OK, there a few, pretty minor, gripes. Thomas Hookton is just that bit too good to be true. I might be able to accept his shining honour and his incomparable skills as an archer, but we see every single arrow shot hit its mark, even in the turmoil of battle; reality was never like that. Thomas's involvement close to the heart of power is a bit contrived, as is the love interest that seems to have been shoehorned in ("Oh yeah, we'd better have a damsel in distress"). And , for me, there was one glaring error that cropped up over and over again that really irritated me, mainly because I am certain that Mr Gilman knows the facts but just didn't want that inconvenience spoiling getting in the way of rhetoric. That is the absolutely known and proven fact that arrows, even when bodkin tipped, almost never pierced plate armour. At the very best, when shot from less than 20m and at poor quality armour, an arrow might, just, pierce the plate armour but it wouldn't carry on through the padding below (the gambeson). It might bruise, but it couldn't kill. In this book, French knights are killed in their droves by arrows passing right through their armoured bodies. At both the battles of Crecy and Azincourt (which Mr Gilman incorrectly expresses as Agincourt, again, I imagine, to salve popularism), it is known that the French died as a result of the ground on which the battle was fought and the English practice of killing the horses. Men were, actually, killed once on the ground by knife or war hammer, not by arrows. That the sheer weight and volume of arrows in the air was a factor is undeniable (like standing, naked, 10m away from 20 people all firing paint balls at you) but it didn't kill many of those in armour.

One other, very minor, irritation lay in the names. Throughout, there are two Blackstone brothers and our main hero is Thomas. Instead of referring to the hero as 'Thomas', the author refers to him as 'Blackstone'. This probably wouldn't have been noticeable but for the frequent references to 'Blackstone's brother' but, of course, they are both 'Blackstones' so such reference could also refer to Thomas himself. We, the reader, have an emotional connection to Thomas Blackstone who is, after all, a sympathetic character, so referring to him as 'Thomas' would have been appropriate and less jarring.

But those things only annoy me because I'm a geek and, overall, this is still a really good novel. I will, certainly, buy the next in this series and you should too.
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on 4 March 2017
Don't make the same mistake that I did. These really are, for me, a great series of books, great yarns and well worth reading. I have them all. This particular issue however is only part 1 of book one. The other "book one" of the series is the one to get. I originally bought this (192 pages) and then had to buy the other one (509 pages) to get the full story, including Wolf Sword and Sworn Lord. Only a Pound I know but still I think a bit of a con. Wonder how many other readers have done this. If you want to, better to get a Kindle sample, I think they're free. Hence the award of only 2 stars for this particular book.
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on 16 February 2016
It's the hundred years war and we are coming up to the battle of Crécy, which forms the climax of the book. The hero and his brother join the English army which sets off to give the king of France a good hiding. It isn't a happy tale of friends strolling through the sun-dappled Normandy countryside though. Oh dear me, no.

The English are outnumbered by the French, playing at home. They are low on food, and the French adopt a scorched earth policy to keep them that way, throwing down the bridges over the Seine and the Somme, nearly trapping the smaller army twice, until finally they corner them on a hillside outside Crécy.

The history is fine. The personal stories less so. Bernard Cornwell, probably my favourite author of historical fiction, tells the same story and does it better.
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on 7 December 2015
I read this story in one session. I had been lying awake and decided to try something on my Kindle (on smartphone). Kept me going for four hours straight without dropping asleep. Definitely at the ripping yarn end of the scale. Plenty of mayhem and violence but a sound historical basis. I am sure I noticed a couple of minor bloopers but if I did I cannot remember them now.

I thought that the battle scenes were well written, especially the siege and fall of Caen. The finale at Crecy inevitably enjoys some artistic license but it conveyed the brutality of the battle and the sheer exhaustion of the armies after the battle. Well done. I shall try the next part soon.
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on 16 September 2015
Having read all three books in the series (I wait in awe for the fourth one to be published) I find these books to be the equal of any that I have read. I am a great fan of Bernard Cornwell but David Gilman is certainly on a par with him.
I was however annoyed to find that "The Blooding" is also incorporated into the second book, "Master of War".and so I would recommend that the reader start with."Master of War" and then continue with "Defiant Unto Death"
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on 15 July 2013
This is the first part of the Master of War by David Gilman. It is an extremely promising start. I read it, having been impressed by a similar book by Bernard Cornwell, which was a high bar to go up against. This did not disappoint, and was, dare I say it, better than the Harlequin by Cornwell. The novel covers the Crecy campagin, culminating in the Battle of Crecy. The main character is Richard Blackstone. He starts out almost annoyingly innocent, but by the end is nearly dead, has lost his only brother and surviving family member, and is made a knight. If it was not for the fact that this apparently did happen, I would have treated this with a high degree of caution and some incredulity, but this was the case according to Gilman in his afterword. The ending leaves room for more 100 Years War action, and I for one can't wait to see what happens.
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on 30 January 2015
Ive always been fascinated by the concept of ordinary men from the villages of England and Wales in the middle ages where men are going to war after miles of travelling on a poor diet and lack of comfort and sleep to end up on a battle field, scared and knowing they will certainly die, yet loyalty to their King and Country takes over. When the battles begins something super human takes over, their own lives become unimportant as battle fever rages, fear becomes courage, injuries ignored, hatred spurs their adrenalin, dead men horses and blood litter the battlefield. Death is the days reward. If ever you want to get your head around medieval war read this book
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on 17 July 2013
Can't add much to the description contained in other positive reviews. At the price charged -less than a packet of potato crisps!!- this is incredibly good value and whilst just one part of a larger story it is as self contained as many other books selling as part of a series. I make my 'star ratings' based on awarding one star for a 'yes' to each of the following questions: 1. Did I enjoy the story? 2. Did it hold my attention throughout? 3. Did I get to know the characters and care what happened to them? 4. Was I sorry that the story finished - did I want to read more? and 5. Would I buy another book from this author? The answer to each of those is 'yes' and consequently this book deserves my 5 stars.
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on 2 December 2013
Never heard of David Gilman before, but I'm currently going through a bit of a history obsession, and I particularly like reading Bernard Cornwell and Stuart Binns accounts of events around this period.
This is certainly on a par with these authors, if not better!
The descriptions of the people of the time, the laws governing English life and events leading up to the battle of Crecy are superbly detailed, another nice touch is that the main characters live and die like everyone else!
I'm really looking forward to the next installment.
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on 27 January 2014
A brilliant first in a series. This book is a novel with slot of factual content thrown in. I struggled to put the book down at times. The books shows how decent people can change when thrown into battle and survival overrules common decency. The tales is about a youth who works as a mason, but has an aptitude for archery. To save his brother and himself from the hangman' s noose ends up as an archer fighting for the king at Crecy. His adventures are told in the book. Well done to the author.
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