**spoiler alert** A great read, but with two significant plot holes and one complete contrivance.
Hole 1: Stephen Maturin is challenged by Jack Aubrey...more**spoiler alert** A great read, but with two significant plot holes and one complete contrivance.
Hole 1: Stephen Maturin is challenged by Jack Aubrey, which must by definition end in a duel or an apology; neither takes place.
Hole 2: Maturin inherits, from Aubrey, a manservant in the form or a thief that attempted to rob Aubrey. That man simply disappears after debt-collector thugs are thwarted at Pullings' promotion party.
The contrivance: Maturin sneaks Aubrey out of France & Spain by dressing him in a bear costume / hide. This "disguise" includes moments of Aubrey dancing and otherwise being inspected close; it's fair to say, no man in a bear hide is going to move or act as a bear would.
Other than those glaring issues, it's a great read.(less)
Another great episode in the Aubrey / Maturin series; again, rated 4 stars due to the large number of typos in the Norton hardcover edition I am readi...moreAnother great episode in the Aubrey / Maturin series; again, rated 4 stars due to the large number of typos in the Norton hardcover edition I am reading.(less)
The Napoleonic Wars is lavishly illustrated, meticulously edited and generally well-written. But unless you are already well-versed in the personaliti...moreThe Napoleonic Wars is lavishly illustrated, meticulously edited and generally well-written. But unless you are already well-versed in the personalities, geography, politics and military of the period, you're going to be disappointed.
The book essentially takes thee parts: Opening chapters covering Napoleon's career as a general, the formation of his basic fighting principles, and a quick account of his ascent to the throne; several chapter-based reviews of his campaigns prior to the fall of Paris and exile; and a final chapter on Waterloo.
In that the book is so well-written, it's not a total loss for the neophyte; you will leave knowing more than when you started. But total beginners, like me, are going to forget 90 percent of what's here, thanks to it having little to no context. Unless you want to know about a particular battle or campaign, there's no point behind reading this book; it's all trees, no forest.
For example, like most pre-World War I histories, this volume doesn't provide a period political map that can be easily referenced when long-since-departed regions and towns are named in the narrative.
There is a glossary of notable characters at the rear of the book, but it's worthless because there's no attention paid to anyone except as proverbial chess pieces. Characters are examined only within their value to a given battle's outcome; their names might as well be "rook" or "bishop."
Another nice addition would have been tables of organization and equipment for typical army and corps units of the nations in question. This book focuses extensively on Napoleon's improvements to force size, organization and equipment. A few TO&E charts would have helped clarify the differences.
That said, the maps and battle diagrams in this volume are outstanding, but lose value due to the trade-paperback size and binding; they're just too small to fit on a single page, and the binding too deep and fragile to stretch effectively over two pages.
Had the Smithsonian History of Warfare trimmed the narrative by half, doubled the number of illustrations and maps and increased the page size fourfold, they would have produced a beautiful coffee table book that I would have looked at, admired, then passed over in my efforts to learn about Europe's Napoleonic era.(less)
Doesn't contain enough references to colloquialisms and terms contained in the novels. Too small to be comprehensive. A great premise that would have...moreDoesn't contain enough references to colloquialisms and terms contained in the novels. Too small to be comprehensive. A great premise that would have been better executed as an online wiki.(less)
Written in the form of a high school-level history text, Charles Bruenig's concise history of early 19th century Europe has a great deal going for it...moreWritten in the form of a high school-level history text, Charles Bruenig's concise history of early 19th century Europe has a great deal going for it that other histories don't have:
-- It pays little to no attention to battlefields, except to the extent that a battle forced a political outcome. For example, Austerlitz is mentioned only within the context of forcing Austria's effective betrayal of Russia; Waterloo is mentioned only within the context of its ability to clear the way for implentation of the Congress of Vienna.
-- Breunig's basic statement, never fully articulated, is that the creation and expanded power of the bourgeois was fundamentally behind the revolutions of the era. He also likes to say that industrialization and improved agricultural methods, and their effect on dislodging workers, were contributing factors.
-- There are a number of inline plates and maps. Footnotes are mercifully few, and there's nary an aside or other distraction from the point.
-- The book is well-organized in timeline-based chapters and region-centered subchapters, making the overall narrative easy to follow.
That said, there are problems here, especially in terms of style.
For example, there's the insistence on using a possessive apostrophe for plural dates (e.g., 1840's instead of 1840s) and for a second edition, there seems an excess of typos and grammatical errors. Also, whomever edited this edition could use a refresher course in comma use. As in, he only needed half as many as were employed.
Considering I paid $1 for a used copy, I believe I got my money's worth from it. I would recommend this book, but be prepared to encounter some distracting style conventions and outright errors.(less)