Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Young Bloods by Simon Scarrow

Napoleon Bonaparte and Wellington are arguably two of the most well known figures of the late 18th/early 19th century. In his new series, 'Revolution', Simon Scarrow charts the the lives of these two men side by side from birth to death. Although fictional, the books do draw greatly from what is know about these two figures with a little added artistic licence. In the first book 'Young Bloods' the two men are followed from birth, through their school days and up until the start of their involvement in the European wars of the late 18th century.

Don't let the size of this book put you off. At 512 pages it is not a short book but it is definitely an excellent read. I know little about this period of history and therefore cannot vouch for how accurate Scarrow is, yet I feel that I have learnt a lot by reading this book. It paints Napoleon as a born military figure. He fights hard to overcome the racism against his origins and to prove that he is a talented man. Wellington (or Arthur Wesley as he was orignally known)does not strike you as a born man of the military. In some ways he makes his way into the army in an easier fashion than Bonaparte as he at least comes from a good background. Instead he has to deal with lack of talent (although he is a gifted musician), his mother who does not seem to love him and the eventual ruin his family suffer. Scarrow tries to deal with both characters sensitvely and impartially but it is clear to see how stubborn both men are and how they can at times be obnoxious or loveable.

Both men seem to have a talent for leadership. This is something that becomes apparent towards the end of the book and will no doubt become more important as the series progresses.

I was amazed at how easy the book was to read. I have to admit I read it in a day and read quite a bit before I realised how much I'd read (if you know what I mean!). It was engaging, interesting and I very much felt that most of the characters had depth. Despite having no interest in Napoleon and Wellington prior to reading this book I now find I watch the occasional documentary about this period as I now know something about this.

As this is the first installment of the series there is not a huge deal of fighting and action in that sense in the book. I suspect that the next two books will have far more fighting in them which may render them slightly tedious. However this book has certainly peaked my interest and I look forward to reading 'The Generals' in the near future.

*4 stars*

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