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R.F. Tapsell
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The Year of the Horsetails

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  103 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Eastern Europe: early Middle Ages.
Bardiya is a soldier in the armies of the Kagan (warleader)of the brutal Mongol-like Central Asian nomad people of the Tugars- but he is from a minority people, the Saka. He is forced to flee from the land of Tugars. When a village is threatened with destruction his loyalties change and helps teach his new people how to defend themselves
254 pages
Published 1968 by Berkley Medallion Book (first published 1967)
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John Caviglia
As a recent fan of literature of the steppes, I acquired this book when it was offered free on BookBub, having checked out the reviews on Goodreads … and (despite what some reviewers say), The Year of the Horsetails is definitely not a historical novel. Rather, it is fantasy loosely based on history. Neither of the two major cultures depicted in it—the Tugar, the Drevich—ever existed, as such. The Tugar are people of the steppes, their culture clearly based on historical research. The Drevich ar ...more
Gregory House
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Brilliant piece of Historical Fiction

I remember reading my first stunning piece of Steppe nomad based historical fiction as if it were yesterday; RF Tapsell’s The Year of the Horsetails , I must have borrowed it from the library and read it a dozen times when in my early teens. Eventually in the 1980’s I found a much battered copy in a second hand book shop in Adelaide, though broken dog eared and missing a few pages it still sits in in library amongst my treasures of historical fiction. Thoug
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the title you might be expecting a western, but this is a tale of a vicious nomadic tribe from the Eurasian plains that meets its match when trying to defeat an agrarian “nation”. If you like military stories from the era of Ghengis Khan and plotting strategy with catapults, then this one is for you.
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
An undiscovered novel that deserves to be back on bookshelves, as a masterful classic of outstanding magnitude!

“The year of the Horsetails” was first published in 1967 by Hutchinson Co. and has sadly been out of print until now, with this recently re-published edition (by CNPosner books). As an avid reader of historical fiction and someone who enjoys work by Michael Jecks, Elizabeth Chadwick (r.e. Middle Ages), Robin Young (r.e. Templars) and Conn Iggulden, I was delighted upon discovering that
AIA  Reviewers
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Year of the Horsetails is a traditional adventure story in the old-school style. It follows the flight of a fugitive across the Steppes of what much later became a part of Russia. Set in the Carpathian region, sometime during the Middle ages, its hero, Bardiya, escapes the barbaric but militarily superior nomadic, Mongol-like Tugars into a region as yet unconquered by them. Beyond formidable mountains in the west, the agrarian Slavic Drevich people are largely unaware of the ruthless and ove ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an old friend, which I borrow from the library every few years and re-read. No matter how many times I read it, it still keeps me enthralled from start to finish. And I've long realized why the Rohirrim are my favourite Tolkien warriors: I've always been able to envision them sweeping down into battle thanks to the wonderful description of horse nomad warfare Tapsell so ably provides here. ...more
Awesome Indies Book Awards
Awesome Indies Book Awards is pleased to include THE YEAR OF THE HORSETAILS by R.F. TAPSELL in the library of Awesome Indies' Badge of Approval recipients at
Billy Buttons
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recently entered and was awarded a RED RIBBON in The Wishing Shelf Book awards. This is what our readers thought:


Author: R F Tapsell
Title: The Year of the Horsetails

COVER: 8/10
Generally, the readers liked the cover. They liked the strong, central image of the two men fighting and they thought the lettering was very clear and genre-appropriate.

The readers thought this was a very interesting and well-written historical novel. They enjoyed the swashbuckling edge to
Nov 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The war between the nomads and the settled peoples began before Sumer (see Sam Barone's novel, "Rise of an Empire") and continued through the arrival of the Mongol Horde (See Cecelia Holland's novel, "Until the Sun Falls"). This historical novel takes place on the edge of the steppes at some indeterminate time between the fifth and thirteenth centuries. The riders from the steppes (the Tugars, a Mongol-like people) arrive in force (40,000-strong) after having chased one of their subordinate cava ...more
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, what a thoroughly great book; I am so thankful for this re-printing. Think Seven Samurai or Magnificent Seven with all seven rolled into one really angry, determined, and very capable military hero. Throughout the book I kept thinking that the evil arrogant Kagan is starting to get an inkling that just maybe allowing one of his Tarkhans to get away with raping the wife of an underling without punishment wasn't such a great idea--as the simple story built into an increasingly complex and dea ...more
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I read the Kindle edition, I suspect the paperback is quite similar if not identical. I found the book fast-paced with plenty of action scenes and a story line of movement. The cultures described (pre-Mongol plains nomads and rolling hill country clans were very interesting -- the author apparently did a lot of research. His voice in describing them was authentic as far as I could discern. For me, the downsides were only two: first, that the hero was a bit larger than life. He was highl ...more
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short, and not badly written, but definitely mislabeled as historical fiction. It really is just a non-stop battle between stereotypical good guys and bad guys set in medieval times. Almost no character depth, and very little description of the life and times of the period and area save for battle related topics. The love interest was superfluous. The battle scenes, however, were quite well done, which was a good thing since that encompasses 90% of this short novel. Other than that, one other mi ...more
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agree with all the reviewers (Amazon) who gave this book four and five stars. The book was published in the 1960's which were very good years for readers. Reading this book was like deja vu in reverse due to the number of books written about this subject in the last two decades. The warring steppe nomads crossed the Carpathian Mountains to plunder and kill but were, instead, defeated by the agrarian natives. The author used imaginary names, but the reader knows of whom Mr. Tapsell wrote. His m ...more
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book twice, once as a teenager through the influence of my father who was a librarian in later life, and again in 2006. I loved this book and its story. It is superbly researched and very well written in terse prose. It is fast paced with wonderfully vivid characters and a great description of what it must have been like to serve in the Mongol or Turkic armies and having to face them in battle. I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves history and I think it is one of the ...more
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this short historical fiction novel in high school in the midst of a binge of Conan the Barbarian and such sword & sorcery tales and it fit right in and is still with me decades later. Historical, yes, but set in the obscure Steps of south central Asia and it read just like a swashbuckling fantasy adventure. I've owned three paperback copies of this and managed to track down a used hardcover via ABE. ...more
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid. Believable. Satisfying.

Good military historical fiction set in a time and place that has received little attention here in the States. The churn of the Central Asian steppes has sent dozens of waves of horse archers both east and west. This book deals with one of the lesser waves in between the more well known incursions of the Huns and the Mongols.
Jul 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A ripping story with great pace and imagination. Made me want to go back to the steppe to have another look. The author's descriptions of the landscape and battles are indeed excellent, as is the historical accuracy. ...more
Liz Wood

The Saka seems almost indestructable...but any superhero needs the ability to survive against tremendous odds. I would have liked more images and scenes about the relationship between Marissa and our hero. Now, however, where does he go from here.
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review could never top the other five-star reviews that I read! I especially love what GREGORY and Lola4 said. This added fuel for a few more of my connections as to how we've evolved into modern day human beings. It took a lot of guts and wise thinking. ...more
Ashton Christie
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good story kept me intersted until the very end! Not too predictable. Well written with good characters.
The Jokester
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly a really good read
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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R.F. Tapsell (Robert Frederick Tapsell) was an English author born in 1936, in Croydon, Surrey (now South London). Tapsell wrote three historical novels and was the editor (compiler) of a single non-fiction book on royal dynasties.

During his National Service in the Royal Air Force (RAF) he was trained as a Russian Language interpreter.Later, Tapsell worked in military intelligence, specializing i

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