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The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour: A Novel of Waterloo

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On the bloody fields of Waterloo, a battle-weary canteen mistress of Bonaparte’s Imperial
Guard battalions must fight to free her daughter from all the perils that war will hurl against them – before this last campaign can kill them both.
“Superb! David Ebsworth has really brought these dramatic events to life. His description of the fighting is particularly vivid and compelling.” – Andrew W. Field, author of Waterloo: The French Perspective and its companion volume, Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras
Praise for David Ebsworth’s novel, The Jacobites’ Apprentice, critically reviewed by the Historical Novel Society, who deemed it “worthy of a place on every historical fiction bookshelf” and named it as a Finalist in the Society’s 2014 Indie Award.
Each of David Ebsworth’s novels has been awarded the coveted B.R.A.G. Medallion by the worldwide Book Readers Appreciation Group.

348 pages, Paperback

First published December 1, 2014

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About the author

David Ebsworth

16 books99 followers
David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for Britain's Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool (UK) but has lived since 1980 in Wrexham, North Wales, with his wife, Ann. Following their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009.

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5 stars
34 (65%)
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12 (23%)
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3 (5%)
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2 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 24 of 24 reviews
Profile Image for Melinda.
1,020 reviews
August 5, 2016
Ebsworth dispatches the reader to the bowels of The Battle of Waterloo complete with bloodshed, carnage and harsh conditions. His accomplished and vivid writing depicts battle scenes with such a powerful force you’ll visualize the mayhem and madness ensuing before your very eyes as well as the remnants left behind – squinting your eyes closed as blood spills from the pages. The drama takes on a life of its own, far from theatrical, you’re as near to combat a civilian can be from the safety of their armchair. Affecting, especially given he explores this historical battle from the ‘rears’ focusing on two incredible female protagonists. The brutality of war is graphic adding to the narrative, the trenches are unkind as we experience in his interpretation addressing mental, emotional along with physical demands battle claims.

Selecting two amazing female characters create an unforgettable force. Learning of their experiences, their reasons for joining the campaign, their thoughts and feelings exposed and explored as they are amidst and bear witness to the cruelty and butchery. Ebsworth is detailed covering all angles, an intimate account of females embroiled in battle yet showing their strength and vulnerability as women.

“She had simply been Marie, or maybe Anne, back at the beginning. But by the time both she and the Revolution were three years old, the name Marianne had come to symbolise the entire Republic. The folk of Provence sang of “Marianne’s Cure”, a hymn to Liberty and Reason. And there were legends. About the woman of the barricades, wearing red cap and clogs, pike and musket in hand, leading the common people to their destiny.”

Masterfully crafted, balanced perfectly between the ravages of battle and the emotional investment the reader with honor the two formidable female protagonists plucking at your heartstrings. Excellent delving into a historical event portrayed from the ‘rears’ through their eyes, actions, sacrifices and suffering, the toughness of women examined and presented in an indelible manner. A grandiose historical event delivered in animated form by a skilled author. Looking forward to more of David Ebsworth’s stellar genius.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,938 reviews788 followers
December 5, 2015
I have had for years a soft spot for Napoleon Bonaparte. Also, I find the French revolution is a very interesting subject. But I’m not that interested in war or any kind of field battle. So reading this book for me was sometimes a bit hard since the story takes place during the last days of the Napoleonic Wars. Thankfully, the story in itself, that we are following two women during the war is something that makes reading about battle much easier.

Marianne Tambour is a canteen mistress for a battalion of the Imperial Guard’s Foot Grenadiers and she is determined to give herself and her daughter a better life after this campaign. A life without war something they have never experienced. Then she meets Liberté Dumont, Dragoon Trooper and sometimes spy for the French Minister of Police Fouché.

I found the book both interesting to read and a bit hard to read, as I wrote above, I just have a problem with war, but I liked knowing more about the Napoleonic Wars and about women’s part of the war. I never really thought that women were soldiers in the war and it was interesting to know more about the lives of canteen mistress´s something I never know anything about. It was a great moment in the book when some characters from Les Miserable’s showed up, I knew about it since it I read it in the preface, but then I forgot about it until they showed up in the story. I liked the portraying of Napoleon Bonaparte in the book that he is part of the story not just mentioned. I loved reading about how the French people just loved him, the soldiers that adored him and died for him.

David Ebsworth has done a tremendous work both with the research and writing this book. It's very well written. But, I admit that it felt a bit heavy to read sometimes, but still the core story, about Marianne and Liberté kept me going since I wanted to see how it would end for them.

I enjoyed gaining new knowledge about the Napoleonic Wars and this is a perfect book for anyone interested in Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Revolution or/and the Napoleonic Wars. Or anyone just interested in history.

Thank you Le French Book and David Ebsworth for providing me with a free copy for an honest review!
Profile Image for Sarah.
449 reviews23 followers
January 9, 2015
This book was a very pleasant surprise. I was not expecting all the treats that I got so enjoyed the book all the more for them.

For one thing, this author succeeds where others have faltered or failed completely: the perfect balance between epic battle atmosphere and superb, intimate characterization. As the story barrels down towards the epic Battle of Waterloo (as it’s known to the British), the reader is caught up in this epic squaring of forces, occasional skirmishes, and drumming to war. Yet, all the while, the reader is introduced to two fantastic female characters and their compatriots. The author did a wonderful job in getting into these women’s heads and developing vibrant personalities to carry the story along on. I felt like I got to know Marianne, Liberte, and their families and friends just as well as if I was reading a straight forward character study rather than an epic war story.

Now let’s chat about that epic… The sheer amount of research that has evidently gone into this novel is amazing, hands down. The author gave us such a detailed account of this important battle, the developments leading up to it, and some of the fall out as well that I found myself learning bucket loads right along with enjoying the journey. It’s also not just the battle details that the author explored. He also delved into the gritty details of the regular Joe soldier in the French ranks, how they lived on the march, and how their families survived right along with them on the road. It almost read like the ultimate camping trip but with death, possible starvation, and blood along for the ride.

This novel is a fantastic historical fiction read. It gave me the ultimate of what a book in that genre should be: an exploration of an intriguing historical event, setting the scene for that event with fantastic period details, and creating a cast of characters the reader comes to care for and cry over. David Ebsworth has succeeded where others have failed, creating a unique and incredible balance of the epic and intimate, to bring forth into this world a true 5 star historical fiction read. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys this genre.

Note: Book received for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.
12 reviews
December 14, 2014
I'm a big fan of Bernard Cornwell and the Sharpe series. But I recently read Sharpe's Waterloo and was a bit disappointed. Then I came across this new take on the story and fell in love with it! Apart from anything else, it was really refreshing to get a picture of the battle from a French viewpoint. More important, this one tells the battle's tale from the angle of some fabulous characters, including two very feisty women. If you don't read anything else in 2015 - the bicentenary of Waterloo, after all - make sure you read this one.
Profile Image for Andrea Stoeckel.
2,613 reviews105 followers
December 6, 2014
ebook, ARC, historical fiction 5 stars

[ I received this book free from the author, whom I have read for before . I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the US Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising]

"En avant" Here we go (325) "It's all those you can't save that shape you"(326)

Two small lines that sum up the whole, which is definately more than I expected of this book which attempts to share the story of the Battle of Waterloo through the eyes of theose most effected by it: the citizens of France and the surrounding countries.

Marianne Tambour, an orphan born on Bastille Day, raised by another as her mother died in childbirth, married young to a soldier, birthed three children and buried two of them, was a woman who ran a small portable canteen for a regiment of French soldiers beseiging the countryside during the Campaign of 1815 between Napoleon and Wellington. She and her husband scratch out a life with and for their daughter Poppy.

Liberte Dumont is a "gentleman trooper" one of a handful of somen comissioned by Napoleon to serve in the army, which she has done most of her adult life, and she has that battle scars- and a legion of honor medal to prove it. Alone with only her horse fr companionship, she has served the Emperor Napoleon well throughout his campaigns to unite France under liberte, egalitie, fraternite, the code of free french citizens working to have some say in their lives.

The two women share a bond that neither really wants. Besides working for the Emperor, and supplying the troops with food and information, they keep "running into one another" during their fairly perilous adventures. Marianne calls Liberte "Hawk Face" in part from the battle scars she wears. Liberte calls her "little one" as Tambour is much younger.

As Marianne scrambles to keep her daughter from harms way, and moral up, Liberte grows as weary of war as the soldiers do. They both dream of peace and the future even though they remain present to the war raging around them as the Battle, and the story both come to a shattering conclusion.

Written through the eyes of bothe women, this is Ebsworth's most accessable story yet. Kudos to him for all he has done and in writing a fascinating piece of historical fiction that helps one see the Campaign through the eyes of people who lived it
Profile Image for Gaele.
4,079 reviews80 followers
January 31, 2015
On the 200th anniversary (2015) of the Battle of Waterloo, David Ebsworth brings a compelling look at the war, the time and two women who are embroiled in the events. I was not expecting the depth of character displayed in Marianne and Liberte, nor the compelling perspective that juxtaposes against some of the truly epic battle scenes.

Ebsworth brings a sense of humanity and softness to the very omnipresent threats posed by the ongoing battles, and Marianne, Liberte and their families are neatly woven throughout, moving the sense of time forward between battles and jockeying for position for the next battle.

What I didn’t expect was to find such compelling characters in all aspects of the story: while I’m not in any way a fan of war and battle strategy, there was a beauty in the presentation of the battle bits that gave the struggle its own flavor and presence, almost creating a character from the historic events that are the setting of the story.

What emerges is an intimate look at lives as they struggle to move forward and find a sense of safety amidst ever-present danger, as it lies bare for readers the wishes for life, hopes for future and even how to survive after unthinkable events: how those change both determination and outlook, and whether survival is even possible in the new and changed landscape. Paralleling that struggle for the ages is the clearly researched, graphically presented and strangely compelling story of the battles and struggles on the battlefield – all solidly tied to real events, with clear research informing the author’s retelling.

In what is one of the more unique historic fiction tales I have read, Ebsworth has skillfully manipulated fact and fiction with deft characterization, demanding the reader’s empathy and emotional investment in a story that could have easily been a clinical and dry recount of June 1815.

I received a copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Profile Image for Terry.
433 reviews93 followers
February 13, 2015
I'm doing a second read through on this novel before I leave a more detailed and final review.

I simply am unable to successfully put into words my thoughts yet.

I will tell you this - It made me think, it made me feel, it stunned me...
It accomplishes all of those things that make a great story, contains all of the elements that satisfy readers.

This is a BIG book and I'm not referring to only its size.
I mean BIG. EPIC.
A novel with such a broad scope, it will please fans of any genre.

This is a 5 star book by all means, (a 500 star book if that rating were possible), so my rating will not change.

More to come soon.

Copy was graciously provided by the author for an honest review. Thank you David Ebsworth!
Profile Image for Diana.
731 reviews23 followers
January 28, 2015
I can't express how much I loved this amazing book, told by an equally amazing author about amazing women! Edsworth took stories of real-life women and included them in this amazing book. I personally don't know much about European history but I enjoyed reading about the horrible struggles at Waterloo. Marianne was an amazing heroine she is worthy of admiration. Liberté was a worthy adversary and the story was filled with tension and triumph.

The writing is engaging and I could not put the story down. I was riveted by the authenticity of the story line and also by the bravery of these two fascinating heroines. I found the story and plot rewarding and I highly recommend it to anyone that either likes history or brave heroines.
Profile Image for Kathryn Gauci.
Author 14 books113 followers
May 1, 2015
Review ***** “The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour”
by David Ebsworth

I was drawn to “The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour” for two reasons. The first being that I have long held a fascination for The Battle of Waterloo but could not bring myself to read a book which purely took me through the manoeuvres and formidable statistics of the various regiments- of which there are many – in battle, and the second and perhaps the most important reason being that I am captivated by stories of women in conflict
In this gritty and compelling novel, The Battle of Waterloo is the backdrop and author, David Ebsworth, has chosen to portray the events leading up to the battle through the eyes of two female protagonists, Marianne Tambour – cantinière (canteen-mistress) for a battalion of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard’s Foot Grenadiers, and Liberté Dumont – a ‘Gentleman trooper’ and spy in the service of the French minister, Fouché, a man of Machiavellian character whose instincts for political survival outweigh his allegiance to Bonaparte. Both characters are based on the real-life exploits of women who served in the French revolutionary army.
Ebsworth’s style of writing is well-honed and a fine example of the blend of meticulous research enhanced by the imagination and drama that the historical novelist brings to story-telling. The reader is skilfully immersed into the underbelly of the campaign itself; a life where morale oscillates between hope that the next battle will bring final victory and of survival of everyday life on the road. No-one knows what tomorrow will bring and merely staying alive is uppermost on everyone’s mind. I particularly liked the masterly way the author touched the senses with his visceral and graphic descriptions of the harsh realities of the campaign; the acrid, metallic smell of gunshot and the sickly sweetness of blood swirl together with the warming effects of dog-dog brandy that keep at bay the fear of the unknown.
In the end, the battle is brutal and cruel yet throughout it all, the women’s steely determination cannot be broken. They had lived for Bonaparte and would die for him – the real unsung heroes of the war.
Profile Image for Jaffareadstoo.
2,590 reviews
May 8, 2015
Cleverly combining factual history with fiction, the story of Marianne Tambour brings alive the story of the Battle of Waterloo as seen through the eyes of the book’s two main protagonists. The story is told from the French perspective, and Marianne Tambour, a cantinière is a grenadier in the regiment of the Imperial Guard, and Liberté Dumont, who is a female dragoon and also a paid informer for the police minister Joseph Fouché. Both of the women are feisty protagonists, however, Marianne seemed to be the stronger of the two characters, and as such, her story, for me, is perhaps the more vivid.

The story is intricate and well plotted. The author clearly has researched his subject very well and this is evident in the amount of detail which is explored throughout the novel. There is much to take in, not just from the historical perspective about the complexities of the Napoleonic conflict, but also about the characters of those who command the novel. There is a splendid richness to the narrative which brings the period to life and the atmospheric explanations of the battle scenes are vivid and realistic. The author has cleverly included comprehensive historical references at the end of the novel, and also a glossary, which I found particularly useful.

There is no doubt that in this two hundredth anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo, The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour is a fitting tribute to the bravery, courage and heroism of a group of people who fought and died for a cause they little understood, but who gave everything they had in the search for truth and justice.
Profile Image for J.B (Debbie).
391 reviews8 followers
April 13, 2015
I am not usually a fan of historical fiction but I must say, after reading this book, I have really changed my mind! David Ebsworth has created such brave women, particularly the fiery character in Marianne Tambour that I could not help but feel that I was there, on the battlefield with her. She was definitely as brave and fearsome as any man, fighting for her life and the lives of those dear to her. Indeed, the women in this book are anything but weak. Throughout the telling of this story, the reader is witness to the savagery of war and the costs it brings. Some of the scenes are graphic but then so is war! Marianne has an equally fearsome adversary in Liberte Dumont who I found to be an interesting and equally compelling character.

David Ebsworth's attention to detail in this book is amazing and if I didn't know anything about the Napoleonic wars beforehand, I certainly do now! Written so beautifully, his writing style instantly transports you to this period in time. I can only imagine the amount of research required to write such a book and David Ebsworth's skill at dissecting all the relevant information and turning it into something as terrific as this book is clearly evident. This telling of the story of war through the experiences of two women will pull you in right from the beginning. Before reading this book I had no idea of the part women played in such battles. I shall definitely be looking out for more of David Ebsworth's writing after reading this intelligent, eloquently written and interesting book with an amazingly story.
Profile Image for Margaret.
1,188 reviews49 followers
February 2, 2015
It didn't take me long to realize that the author has a real passion for this period in history. Inspired by real historical figures he has created Marianne Trebour and Liberte Dumont. I won't go into detail about what this book is about, the synopis above does a very good job of that.

The Battle of Waterloo is a part of history I know very little about and this book brought it to life peaking my interest to learn more. Women on the battlefield is something that is new to me and it worked here, especially when given details in advance on who these characters are based on. Watching history unfold through a woman's eye gave it a more intimate feeling. With rich details and vivid descriptions about the battlefields and camp life, as the troops moved about, I had no problem visualizing the scenes, the emotions, drama and struggles that went on.

The author notes are always a favorite part of the book, it completes the story for me. It provides details about liberties taken, how the book was put together and reasoning behind what was included. The maps at the end of this book was a nice addition along with the details of the journey the author took, following the path these ladies took was interesting and a welcomed addition.

I really enjoyed reading this book and know that it will appeal to those interested in major events in history especially those taking place in France.
Profile Image for Joanna Lambert.
Author 6 books31 followers
April 25, 2015
This is a complete departure from my normal reads and proved an interesting journey. We are drawn into the world of a fictional French battalion with canteen mistress Marianne, her partner Fronsac and daughter Florisette (Poppy). Marianne’s main need is to protect Poppy, the only surviving child of three, and somehow accumulate enough money to provide her with a new life away from the war. Then she meets Liberte or Hawk Face as she is known and saves her life whilst at the same time getting rid of a rival for her job who has been trying to kill her! The two women are in the war on the French side – Liberte is a Gentleman Trooper who has been decorated by Napoleon. Both have in their own ways experienced hardship in the army. This story is exceptionally well told with great care and description – a departure from other fictional novels about Waterloo as it is told from both a French and a female viewpoint. There is a depth that draws you in and makes you feel you are actually there, living alongside both women, in the midst of a brutal war. I think David Ebsworth has done a fantastic job; his meticulous research has produced a story that is both deep and detailed.

I would like to thank the author for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.
Profile Image for Julie.
95 reviews
May 20, 2017
I read this book having recently read another fictional book about the The Battle of Waterloo. This book follows the exploits of a fictional French battalion with canteen mistress Marianne, her man Fronsac and surviving daughter Florisette (Poppy). All Marianne wants is to protect Poppy and somehow get enough money to provide her with a new life away from the war. She meets Hawk Face (Liberte) and saves her life whilst disposing of a personal adversary who had been trying to kill her! The two women share the experience of being in the war on the French side although doing extremely different jobs as Liberte is a Gentleman Trooper and has been decorated by Napoleon himself. Both have a very hard life in the army and this tale is really well told and gets into the nitty gritty of war and life in the midst of a war. They both have personal baggage that they carry with them and David Ebsworth relates their lives in great detail.

This is an excellent piece of writing and I found myself really wanting Marianne and Liberte to survive and succeed in their dreams.

If you only read one book about the Napoleonic War this should be the one.
Profile Image for Kate Riley.
80 reviews10 followers
February 28, 2015
A vivid, rich, gripping, well written novel. Author David Ebsworth has provided a great story with ordinary yet heroic women as main characters as well as giving an authentic and informative account of the harsh life of the French military in 1815.
The detail and historical accuracy of the campaign and life in Napoleon’s army makes the story come to life, I could almost smell the horse sweat, feel the mud and hear the drums! I learned a lot about the Napoleonic wars and this campaign as Ebsworth has done intensive research on this subject, but most of all I loved the characters of Marianne, Liberte and their relationships. The richness and depth of the characters, the insight into the moment in time, the involvement of what was happening to others, such as local villagers, without allowing the story to become over complicated, all contribute to making this a superb read.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review. I have no hesitation in giving this book 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read. Thank you David Ebsworth for also including notes of your research and inspirations. A brilliant book.
Profile Image for Emma.
1,186 reviews40 followers
February 6, 2015
VERDICT: Choosing the unique and often forgotten perspective of women who fought alongside Napoleon, David Ebsworth offers a brilliant fresco of the emperor’s last battle in 1815. Remarkably researched, The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour makes you experience Waterloo on the front-line. A must for all interested in Napoleonic wars and French history in general.

read my full review:
Profile Image for Anne Martin.
707 reviews14 followers
April 23, 2015
I enjoyed the story of Marianne and Liberte. I know the description of the battle of Waterloo is founded by extensive research, and am sure it is technically perfect, but I could have done with less. Still, the two women were interesting, with different expectations and different lives. To be picky, I don't think the name Liberte could have existed, except just in the aftermath of the French revolution. And I don't think Poppy could be a name nor a nickname then. Just sounds too British, at a time when French and English people were not the best of friends.
Profile Image for Cheryl Dietr.
283 reviews4 followers
March 24, 2015

If you love strong and daring female characters in an authentic historical setting you could not have come to a better place.It took me several chapters to get into the book but once I did I was hooked. Ebsworth knows how to create a great battle scene with all the glory and gore that Marianne witnesses and participates in. War isn't for sissies and Marianne is anything but.If you want to read a good book about Waterloo and the women who fought alongside the men; this is a good one!

* I received this through the Goodreads Giveaways program. Thanks!*
848 reviews
November 4, 2015
Almost overpowering detail of the Waterloo campaign of Napoleon with a little storyline thrown in---tons of researched material.
Profile Image for Jonathan Fryer.
Author 40 books28 followers
August 6, 2017
I am not usually a fan of historical fiction and in truth had several false starts in reading David Ebsworth's Waterloo novel before surrendering to its powerful narrative and boisterous language. It brilliantly captures the spirit of events and people as the decisive battle looms that will bring about Napoleon Bonaparte's eventual downfall. Though Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington and other senior historical figures do appear in the book, the main focus is on two remarkable women: the canteen mistress, Marianne Tambour, and the Amazon fighter, Liberté Dumont, whom fate has thrown together in ways that only become fully evident as the story progresses. The novel certainly transports one back two centuries to both the courage and the carnage of the Napoleonic Wars -- a period I am happy not to have experienced at first hand!
463 reviews4 followers
August 3, 2020
David Ebsworth's novel of the Battle of Waterloo tells the story of a canteen-mistress, Marianne Tambour, assigned to one of Napoleon's battalions in the four to five days leading up to this great battle. The author's vivid descriptions of the events sound as though he lived through them himself - the muddy fields, the fatigue of the soldiers, the hopes of the Frenchmen supporting Napoleon, the crushing reality of his defeat. Marianne herself is trying to make a better life for herself and her daughter than just following around an army when she meets one of Napoleon's female soldiers, Liberte Dumont. Surprisingly, the two women bear a strong resemblance with each other.

By the end, your sympathies for the French soldiers loyal to the Emperor become so great that you almost hope that Napoleon wins. Alas, he is defeated, but you have still read a great novel.
Author 19 books5 followers
November 13, 2017
I love historical fiction and this was a fascinating look at the Battle of Waterloo from A - the point of view of the French and B the point of view of the women who were also on the battlefields. Really well researched and totally gripping. This is a great book.
Profile Image for Cathy French.
14 reviews33 followers
May 11, 2015
Any moans, groans, beefs or bones? Just one really...I would've liked for the story about the apparent sisterhood of Marianne and Liberte' and their "visions" to have been explored more and begin even sooner in the story. I do realize, however, the necessity to not stray too far from the dedicated and well described research and known history the author used to spin this story. I was unaware of this inside look at the women so close to the front lines and how they endured so diligently.
Profile Image for Diana Ridout.
79 reviews
August 2, 2016
A truly remarkable feat of skilled story telling merging with accurate historical detail. A panorama of a book, broad in scope and filled with unforgettable scenes and characters. The people were realistically portrayed with all their faults in the manner of Emile Zola making them totally come alive. The battle scenes were convincingly and wonderfully portrayed. I recommend every aspect of this book.
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