In the days just before England’s Monmouth Rebellion, Anthony Wilding takes advantage of an insult to force a marriage with the woman he loves. Wildin...moreIn the days just before England’s Monmouth Rebellion, Anthony Wilding takes advantage of an insult to force a marriage with the woman he loves. Wilding regrets his rash action after his commitment to the Duke of Monmouth separates him from his new bride, but the botched military campaign threatens to make the new Mistress Wilding a widow — unless a rival suitor manages it first.
There was a good amount of action and humor, along with a running theme of schemes that backfire against their plotters. The Monmouth Rebellion setting gave things a great sense of tension, and it seemed well-researched. The historical details were occasionally a bit of a drag on the pace during the middle third of the story. Still, it was great to watch the main characters progress from personal intrigues to small acts of defiance to full-on rebellion.
Sabatini stories aren’t subtle. His leading men are bold and roguish, but they’re magnetic despite their mistakes. It’s true that his women are thinly written. It’s hard for any of the side characters to match the larger than life protagonists, though. And at least the heroine acted with far more spirit (and far more understandable reasons) than that annoying brat that I kept hoping The Sea-Hawk would maroon somewhere.
The ending, (view spoiler)[with Wilding finally able to turn his attention to personal matters while his best friend dealt with Wilding’s one final obstacle (hide spoiler)], was perfect.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a historical romance about Meg, a British girl who was raised in the outback by the tribe of Australian Aborigines. After a chance meeting, a...moreThis is a historical romance about Meg, a British girl who was raised in the outback by the tribe of Australian Aborigines. After a chance meeting, a rancher and his wife take her in and educate her. An attempt on her life leads to questions about her past, and Meg learns that her outback instincts can be just as valuable in civilization as they were in the desert where she grew up.
It's a predictable but entertaining story with a lot of adventure and travel. There were some aspects of the romance plot that I didn't care for, but I liked the writing style and period descriptions. It's great for a quick, escapist read, and I plan to try more from this author.(less)
John Carter, a soldier from Virginia, is transported to Mars, where he has swashbuckling adventures that involve rayguns, airships, many-limbed aliens...moreJohn Carter, a soldier from Virginia, is transported to Mars, where he has swashbuckling adventures that involve rayguns, airships, many-limbed aliens, and a charismatic princess. All you really need to know about this book is that it and it's first two sequels (at minimum) are required reading for any genre fan with the slightest level of tolerance for pulp adventure. A big screen version will be out in 2012, and we all know that you read the book before you see the movie.
It's pretty impossible for me to write an objective review, because in this case my nostalgia overwhelms my critical impulses. I decided a few days ago that I wanted this to be my first read of 2010, and once I had time to sit down with it I flew through the thing in a couple of sittings. I have multiple copies of the books in this series, so I picked the one with the most unfortunate cover art. It feels like that kind of a year.
Seriously though, the cover of this edition is really, really bad. Take a closer look:
This is a nice reference to the characters, places, and things from Edgar Rice Burroughs books. It has a lot of detail, including book and chapter ref...moreThis is a nice reference to the characters, places, and things from Edgar Rice Burroughs books. It has a lot of detail, including book and chapter references for much of the information. In addition to the encyclopedia-style entries, there's a well-organized list of included books and a chronology of the events that take place in them.
The encyclopedia format makes this a fun book to browse through, but it can be difficult to use if you've forgotten the name or first few letters of what you're looking for. This could have been helped by a few memory-jogging lists of character and place names broken down into the settings where they appeared.
Thankfully it only includes things that were mentioned in books by Burroughs. You won't find entries based on movies or on "Tarzan" books written by other authors.
After being unfairly sold into slavery, Peter Blood takes a desperate chance to save himself and some of his fellow countrymen. With few other options...moreAfter being unfairly sold into slavery, Peter Blood takes a desperate chance to save himself and some of his fellow countrymen. With few other options available, he turns to piracy, even though Blood knows that his choice will separate him forever from the woman he loves. Action, adventure, and occasional moments of wry humor make this a fun read.
The main downside to this story is that Blood's enemies are wildly outclassed and not much of a challenge. His most serious problems are all caused by his own manly attributes, such as not taking crap from anyone, being too gentlemanly, and not understanding the ladies.
In a boring, badly written book I might find that seriously annoying, but here it's kind of entertaining.(less)
Most are probably familiar with this story about a group of people in an upside-down cruise ship thanks to the classic adventure movie that's based on...moreMost are probably familiar with this story about a group of people in an upside-down cruise ship thanks to the classic adventure movie that's based on it. The book is more salacious and brutal than its famous film adaptation.
There's a heavy focus on the thoughts and discussions of the characters, sometimes at the expense of what's actually happening on the ship - I had to re-read more than one action scene to understand what was going on. This would have been more acceptable to me if the themes that the story raised had been dealt with more effectively, but instead, the author brings up societal and relationship issues only to leave them floating awkwardly around.
It's usually easier for me to make allowances for older novels when it comes to sexism, racism, and other forms of prejudice (and they're pretty much all on display here). The women of this book still frustrate the hell out of me.
To be fair, all of the characters are complex, flawed, and not entirely admirable. But the abusive husband, for example, is nearly portrayed as justified thanks to his obnoxious wife. The philanderer partially redeems himself by assuming a leadership role. Even when the women are brave and strong, it's undercut by the constant observation that they're holding up better than anyone's low expectations for them. A lot of attention is given to their looks, even in the case of the grandmother whose extraordinary talent saves everyone. The one woman who seems like a bright spot among this stereotypical group is dragged down into drama and only recovers her standing by denying her own individuality for the sake of her husband.
The struggle for survival and group interactions were still really compelling at times. But my thoughts about the book were easily sealed by the last few lines, in which (view spoiler)[a teenager characterized only by being a victim prays that she'll have become pregnant by her poor, drowned class-conscious rapist (hide spoiler)]. Seriously, Poseidon Adventure? What the hell?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
In the years just before the French Revolution, Andre-Louis Moreau is openly critical of his idealistic peers who seek to change the country. Andre-Lo...moreIn the years just before the French Revolution, Andre-Louis Moreau is openly critical of his idealistic peers who seek to change the country. Andre-Louis isn't a gentleman, but he was starting a career as a lawyer thanks to help from his aristocratic godfather. A harsh experience makes him realize that the law is of little use against the powerful, so Andre-Louis takes matters into his own hands. His quest for revenge leads him through adventure, drama, political intrigue, and personal revelations.
Over the years of the story, Andre-Louis goes through many changes of situation, profession, opinion, and even name. In that way, his life mirrors the upheaval of the book's setting. We see little snippets of the Revolution as Andre-Louis encounters them. There are times that he's disconnected from his surroundings, but something always happens to bring him back to the current events in his country.
I really enjoyed reading this one. The bare facts of the story might have made it easy for Andre-Louis to come across as unsympathetic, but Sabatini brings him to life in a way that helped me understand where he was coming from. There were some nice structural touches where the author was supposedly sourcing the story from letters or written accounts from Andre-Louis, but these weren't overdone.
If for no other reason, I liked this book for having the best "yo mama" burn I've ever read.
Much like Captain Blood, Andre-Louis is a little too good at everything he sets his hand to. He's still fun to read about, but we have very little reason to ever fear for him. One part of the ending also undermines the theme of the hero as a self-made man, but it's so fitting in other ways that it was hard for me to mind that too much.(less)
Sir Oliver Tressilian is a wealthy landowner who plans to marry his beautiful neighbor, Rosamund. But after Rosamund's brother is murdered, not even s...moreSir Oliver Tressilian is a wealthy landowner who plans to marry his beautiful neighbor, Rosamund. But after Rosamund's brother is murdered, not even she believes he's innocent of the crime. Before he can clear his name, his brother betrays him into slavery, where a chance encounter propels him into the ranks of the Barbary pirates. Five years later, he's Sakr-El-Bahr, the Sea Hawk, and he decides that it's time to use his new position to settle old scores.
Sir Oliver is more difficult to like than the heroes of the other Sabatini books I've read. He's harsher, and he's thrived in a nearly merciless environment. He would never have ended up a pirate and a slaver of his own volition, but once he seized on that path as a means of survival, then he was going to be good at it.
The book is exposition-heavy at times, though it has some really great moments. Things pick up a lot once a connection with his past starts to thaw Oliver up a little, and then he becomes a more traditional dreamy adventure hero whose main flaw is that he's just too damned honorable for words.
After that point, my biggest problem with the book was that the heroine didn't deserve him. It could partly be because she was more of a generic thing to protect than a character in her own right, but nearly every conversation she had with Oliver left me wanting to smack her one.
The Tavern Knight is Crispin Galliard, a soldier with a rough reputation who finally gets a long-awaited shot at vengeance after helping Charles II es...moreThe Tavern Knight is Crispin Galliard, a soldier with a rough reputation who finally gets a long-awaited shot at vengeance after helping Charles II escape the forces of Oliver Cromwell.
People new to Sabatini should start with Captain Blood or maybe Mistress Wilding. This is one of his earliest books, and while I enjoyed it, it's not up to the other things I've read by him so far.
The start is jumpy, the characters aren't very likable, and you can see the plot twists coming. The ending is mean and convenient, and I can't understand why anyone would fall in love with the female lead. The book gives one character an easy way out rather than the confrontation that the reader expects.
But I still love Sabatini's style, and the book was fun for me on that level. It's well-paced historical adventure with a few nice introspective moments and plenty of action. And there's something to be said for a book that, even when you know what's about to happen, can still make you gasp out loud when your suspicions are confirmed.(less)
In 15th century Italy, Francesco del Falco agrees to help Valentina, a young woman who decides she'd rather face a literal siege from an unwanted suit...moreIn 15th century Italy, Francesco del Falco agrees to help Valentina, a young woman who decides she'd rather face a literal siege from an unwanted suitor than accept his offer of marriage. Unfortunately, Valentina's castle is not exactly prepared for action. Francesco makes the best of their limited ammunition and undependable mercenaries, but treachery inside the castle's walls may prove more of a threat than the soldiers that surround them.
This early book from Sabatini was a little rough, though still enjoyable. It had some very funny moments, and the whole idea of a runaway bride under siege was great. My main issues were Francesco's inconsistent sense of character judgement and an abrupt ending that let one character off more lightly than he deserved. The pace of the story also dragged a bit between Francesco's early flight and Valentina's escape.
I'd recommend this to fans of the author, but it's not the best introduction to his work.(less)
When Priscilla Harradine meets buccaneer Charles de Bernis on the ship that's carrying her back to England, the appearance of a notorious pirate puts...moreWhen Priscilla Harradine meets buccaneer Charles de Bernis on the ship that's carrying her back to England, the appearance of a notorious pirate puts her safety entirely in the hands of her new acquaintance.
There are some well-described fights, but the tension in this one comes as much from the suspense and uncertainty of the situation as from typical pirate story action. Sabatini achieves this by giving us more pages from the heroine's point of view than many of his other books include, and even when we're in Charles's head, we're not fully in his confidence. His goal became apparent early on, but the steps in his plan were a slower reveal and that kept things interesting.
As usual, all the main characters here over the top. Charles is rougish and bold and great at everything, and Priscilla is open-minded and loyal and brave. It was nice to see one of Sabatini's female leads fleshed out more than usual, even if she winds up as unrealistic as most of Sabatini's men. The point of these books, after all, is larger than life characters being awesome in cool historical settings, and on those terms, The Black Swan delivers.(less)
Master-At-Arms takes place mostly in France during a royalist uprising against the French Revolution. There are the usual battles and duels here, but...moreMaster-At-Arms takes place mostly in France during a royalist uprising against the French Revolution. There are the usual battles and duels here, but it's a denser read than some of Sabatini's other books because this one's more historical than adventure.
The history aspects seem very detailed, but I don't know enough about the period to have an opinion on their accuracy. The book is at its best when it focuses in on the personal story of Quentin de Morlaix, a fencing master who tries to claim his newly-discovered inheritance despite the political turmoil in the country of his birth. He's got potential to be an interesting character, but he falls a bit flat because his location and activities seem arranged so that Sabatini can show us the larger dramas of the war.
I enjoyed this as a view into an unfamiliar time, but I prefer Sabatini books with a little more personal involvement and a little less troop movements.(less)