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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  594 ratings  ·  138 reviews
"The finest Iraq War novel yet written by an American" - Wall Street Journal, 10 Best Novels of the Year

An "electrifying debut" (The Economist) that maps the blurred lines between good and evil, soldier and civilian, victor and vanquished.

Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence

It is April 2003. American forces have taken Baghdad and are now charged with win
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Lee Boudreaux Books
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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  594 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Pouting Always
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it
In 2003 as American forces have taken over Baghdad a group of American troops is captured and held prisoner by jihadists. The book follows three people's perspectives, Cassandra who is one of the troops that has been captured and is a POW, Sleed who is a crewman and specialist taking advantage of the chaos in the wake of the war, and Abu al-hool one of the mujahideen struggling with the new wave of people joining their cause and his weakening power. The book is well written and it does a good jo ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Spoils is both fast-paced and hard to put down. This story covers eight weeks during the early stages of the war in Iraq in 2003. It is written from three points of view, but I mostly connected with young female American soldier, Specialist Cassandra Wigheard and a Jihadist called Abu al-Hool.

Be warned, this is not a light read. I don’t use the word hate very often, but I hate war and terrorism. I used to love horror novels, but they rarely scare me these days. Terrorism, however, is very much m
Karen ⊰✿
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
It's 2003 and I'm in Iraq watching while a young female American soldier is captured, an only slightly older male American soldier is elsewhere learning the truth of war, and a seasoned mujahedeen finds his brothers becoming much more radicalised.
Oh hang on, no I'm not there. It is a book. It didn't really happen. It is a book. It is a book. It didn't really happen. Did it...?

I'm not a the usual war-story reader and even less so modern day warfare, so it surprised me to no end how much I loved t
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
**4.5** Stars ––– A GoodReads Win – Highly Recommended
I should begin by admitting this. When I was much younger, at the close of every prayer, I asked for the strength to die unafraid. Now, more often, I pray to live righteously. (24)

Brian Van Reet has written an exceptional literary novel about the hardships, the violence and chaos, and the disturbing realities of the Iraq War. SPOILS is a first-rate debut for this author and war veteran from Houston, Texas. Acknowledged to the dead, and to th
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A gripping literary novel about jihadism and US the invasion of Iraq. Don't expect an action-packed war novel, this is not that kind of book. Rather, it tells the tale of a female US gunner who is captured along with two of her colleagues, a male US tank crewman who is part of the effort to find and rescue them; and a veteran mujahid from the Afghan-Soviet war, who is battling personal doubts about the direction and methods of the jihadi movement. Gritty and realistic, the story is told from thr ...more
Roman Clodia
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One thing abundantly clear is that Van Reet knows what he's talking about when he writes war: he conveys the chaos, the confusion and the visceral nature of combat with a raw and clear-eyed intention. We hear the noise, we see the blood, we smell the fear and the fire.

That said, there are signs of less than complete mastery over the craft of novel-writing: for one, there are too many switches in points of view (two 1st person narrators, plus a 3rd person narrative focalised through a female sold
Karen Whittard
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thank you to Netgalley, Random house uk, vintage and Brian Van Reet for the opportunity to read this book for an honest review.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance reader copy of this book.

You can find my review on both Goodreads and Amazon. On Goodreads from today under Karen Whittard and on Amazon under k.e.whittard from publication date.

I usually shy away from reading anything about war. But this books bio really spoke to me and I just couldn't not read it.

The narrator if you like of this st
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Spoils takes readers into the Iraq war, stripping away the facade of accepted views of the enemy and the justification of war to reveal the complicated reality.

Debut author Brian Van Reet knows his subject. He left university to enlist in the U. S. Army after the September 11 attacks, serving as a tank crewman in Iraq and earning a Bronze Star for valor. After his discharge, Van Reet returned to his studies and to writing.

From the viewpoint of the American characters, we learn of the hardships
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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For me, Spoils is a tricky book to write about. There were parts of it I found deeply fascinating and which really hooked me in – mainly the parts where Cassandra is in captivity, which were so disturbing but at the same time incredibly interesting to read about. The general theme of army life and conditions in Afghanistan is also one I found I became absorbed in.

I wasn’t overly keen on the way the novel was structured; I found the switches in narrator a
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A powerful, searing novel which takes place in the Iraq war zone in 2003. Baghdad has been taken and the American's goal aims at winning the hearts and minds in Iraq. We know this doesn't go as planned and the good intentions fall by the wayside. The story involves 3 main characters, and we see everything spin out of control.
Cassandra is a 19 year old soldier who is shown to be brave and competent among her male colleagues. She is captured by jihadists, and her time in solitary prison is upset
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Spoils” is the Iraq conflict distilled down to its essence. It is an unflinching look at who fights our wars, how they are fought and who the enemy is. There is no glory, no jingoism, or happy ending here.

Three voices describe the events; Specialist Cassandra Wigheard, a U.S. Army Military Policewoman; Abu Al-Hool (Father of Dread), a war-weary mujahideen veteran; Private Sleed, a tank gunner, new to the Army and war.

The story begins with Wigheard and a group of Military Police guarding a rou
Dan Radovich
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This one can be placed right beside ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, THE NAKED AND THE DEAD, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY... it is that powerful and important a novel of war and the effects. Van Reet gives you stories from both sides of Baghdad in 2003, the three main characters are all wonderfully crafted as is the entire novel. SPOILS hits hard and is sure to be high on BEST OF 2017 lists.
Sid Nuncius
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Spoils is a good, well-written book, but it has its flaws.

The well-publicised nub of the story is that in the 2003 Iraq war, a female US soldier, Cassandra Wigheard, is captured by a group of jihadi fighters. We get a first-person account by Abu al-Hool an experienced, slightly world-weary jihadi and a third-person narrative from Wigheard's point of view. Both of these are very well done; van Reet clearly knows about his subject matter and I found the setting and action completely convincing. T
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have been thinking about this book since I finished it. Actually a 4.5 rating. Given many givens, I am somewhat behind on literature, non-fiction and movies about the two wars that the American armed forces have been fighting forever, especially as compared to my in-depth self-study course on Vietnam.

One description of this novel said "The Kite Runner meets The Things They Carried," and I don't think that's an apt or fair 'log line' for this novel. I suppose I'm glad it wasn't reduced to "the
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-fiction
Brian Van Reet has written some of my favorite fiction to emerge from the War on Terror, so I was very much looking forward to Spoils. It didn't take me long to read it—two days, punctuated by work—and I'm still thinking about it now.

To begin with, Spoils is driven as much by its powerful characters as its plot. One can tell a lot about a story or an event by the type of choices an author makes privileging one over the other, and ultimately the plot overshadows the individual choices of each cha
James Brundage
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, war-lit
Brief note: I was grateful enough to receive an advanced copy of this book, and I thought it worthwhile to provide my review of the book. I have tried not to include any spoilers.

I have been looking forward to this novel for some time, and it did not disappoint. The book's opening scene takes place early in the Iraq invasion of 2003, and is presented in a chaotic, heart-pounding firefight, where we are introduced to our protagonist Cassandra Wigheard. Manning a 50 caliber machine gun Cassandra a
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I used to shy away from fiction about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I loved Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, with its satire and black comedy, but thought that more straightforward or realistic narratives would just be too depressing, and perhaps one-sided in perspective. Phil Klay's Redeployment made me realize that these conflicts could produce many amazing stories told from many different viewpoints.

I know I've missed a few good ones, but I'm so glad (and grateful to Hach
Iain Clements
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Spoils is the debut novel from author Brian Van Reet.

The story is set in the early stages of the Gulf War in 2003. The plot centres around US Specialist Soldier Cassandra Wigheard and her deployment in Iraq. During her deployment, Cassandra is captured by mujahideen fighters and held hostage.

The plot of Spoils explores Cassandra's capture from multiple viewpoints including Cassandra's, her captors including long-term jihadist Abu al-Hool, and the colleagues she left behind who are searching for
Katie Ryan
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was transporting, awe inspiring, and very hard to put down. I actually considered taking a day off work to finish reading it. Though the narrative was horrifying at times, and the details vivid and disturbing, its violence was not sensationalized. The story evokes sympathy for those on both sides of the conflict and educates on the experiences and beliefs that catalyzed the war, as well as its psychological "spoils" and human cost. I appreciated that enough military jargon was employed ...more
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this for anyone who has yet to venture into any literature on the Iraq war.

The story revolves around 3 main characters, Cassandra a gunner on a humvee, Abu al-Hool a lifelong mujahdeen, and Specialist Sleed a tank crewman. The narrative is masterfully woven together as all the characters have some cause and effect on each other.

The war is made all too real when a road block is attacked and American soldiers are taken hostage. Every action has a consequence, would they have w
Set during the Iraq occupation in 2003, this book tells its story through mostly 2 points of view: a female American soldier and a Muslim freedom fighter. There's also a 3rd perspective, a male American soldier. Although he doesn't feature very often and, quite honestly, I'm not sure how necessary he was to the narrative.
I liked the setting, it was very atmospheric and it seemed like loads of research has gone into this novel. The detail of every situation, behaviour of all involved, the ins and
Colette Lamberth
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't usually read war stories but there was something in the blurb for this book that made me want to read it and I'm glad I followed that up. The story switches between three points of view but there was never any danger of confusing them. The character of Cassandra the young American soldier was particularly well drawn and the stand out character for me. I note that the author is an Iraq war veteran and I wonder just how close to real life this book is. In any case, this is a powerful story ...more
Mary Urban
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A stunning and heart-wrenching portrait of the boots on the ground - on both sides - in the war in Iraq. I read this during a dark and emotional time, which amplified the reading experience and opened new resonances. This novel will stay with me for a long time.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Death by micromanagement."

How hard it must be to write a book that offers a new perspective on war. Brian Van Reet succeeds - quite brilliantly, in my view - because he provides the reader with fresh insights. He is himself a veteran of the conflict in Iraq; this is no guarantee of producing a fine novel of course, but Mr Van Reet is a gifted writer. The opening lines immediately convey the quality of the prose and an example of his insight:

“She is the most dangerous thing around. The best sold
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this for a book club discussion. War novels are not my chosen genre. That aside, this is a very powerful piece of work . . . in fact, nearly too raw and powerful in its intensity. Van Reet writes with a realism that comes from experience (as a medaled Iraqi War tank crewman.) I found a degree of actual physical discomfort in his vivid, gritty narrative. I could only read the book in short bursts, and as a result it took longer than its 290 pages would indicate. The story is told from thre ...more
Wendy Cosin
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Iraq war, 2003, told from three perspectives - Cassandra, a young American gunner; Abu Al-Hool, a Pakistani mujahideen; and Sleed, an American tank crewman. In the first chapter, Cassandra's Humvee is attacked. Each subsequent chapter is told from one of the three points of view, all leading to and after the attack.

Cassandra's story, told in the third person, propels the story and is interesting from the beginning. It takes several chapters for things to click with the other characters, bot
Ericka Clouther
Good writing, very well-constructed characters, interesting story... so painful to read. For me, the characters were the most impressive part. It was as if the different characters were writing their own stories instead of there being one single author.
Robert Foreman
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I went outside this morning to read some of this book, which so far is really good, and my two-year-old demanded to come outside with me. But her sister had taken her chair from her, and wasn't letting her have it back. I had to stop reading, go inside, and pry the chair out of the hands of my older daughter, so that her sister could sit in it. The two-year-old then she said she didn't want to have the chair outside, with me. She wanted it inside. Then she changed her mind. She wanted to sit out ...more
John Machata
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Could not put it down! While I cannot imagine how Mr. Van Reet was able to find the voice of jihadists, to hear their voices captured in a way that felt real was the most powerful fictional vehicle in this book. War's horror, boredom and sadness scream out of of the pages of this volume.
Donna Wetzel
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Thanks Goodreads for my copy of Spoils by Brian Van Reet. I read this book in one day. Definitely could not put it down. It isn't a particularly short story but I just kept reading to see what would happen next and then another scene would suck me in. The shocking part of the book is that it is fiction. It reads like a true story related by soldiers in Iraq. Great book actually 4 and a half stars.
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Brian Van Reet is the author of Spoils, a multiple award-winning novel that was named one of the best books of 2017 by the Guardian, Military Times, the Wall Street Journal, and others.
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“There comes a time for each of us when we realize the truth about the enemy. Which is that he is not an idea, or some faceless demon. He is a man. And every man is much like ourselves.” 4 likes
“There comes a time for each of us when we realize the truth about the enemy. Which is that he is not an idea, or some faceless demon. He is a man. And every man is much like ourselves.” There” 2 likes
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