Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fields of Death - Book Review

Fields of Death by Simon Scarrow

From the bestselling author of THE GLADIATOR and FIRE AND SWORD comes the final volume in his epic quartet of novels about Wellington and Napoleon It's 1810, and both Viscount Wellington and Emperor Napoleon have made great names for themselves as outstanding military commanders. Wellington expands his achievements in Spain but knows his most challenging test will be to face Napoleon's mighty army. But when Wellington invades France in 1814 he gains a swift victory. He indulges in a spell of self-congratulation at Vienna -- until news comes of Napoleon's triumphant return. Napoleon, ambitious as ever, embarks on a Russian campaign which ends in disaster and is then defeated at Leipzig in the biggest battle ever fought in Europe. With Napoleon's power waning at long last, Wellington must seize the opportunity to crush the tyrant once and for all -- and so the two giants face each other for the final time, at Waterloo...

The book follows Arthur as he continues his campaign across the Peninsula, over the Pyrenees and eventually into France. Napoleon's adventures begin with battles against the Austrians, continue as he makes the ill-fated decision to invade Russia and come to an end as he is forced to abdicate at which point he is exiled to Elba. As is to be expected the book and the series reach a climax at the infamous Battle of Waterloo when Napoleon and Wellington finally have the opportunity to cross swords. The final few pages give us a glimpse of the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, with the re-exile of Napoleon and a brief history of the last years of the two leading lights of their age. Unfortunately though the book really comes to a swift end at Waterloo.

I have read all of Scarrow's previous books in the series, but I have to congratulate him on the way he made me feel sorry for Napoleon during his inglorious retreat from the depths of Russia when everything was going wrong and turning to ashes. I think this is the sign of a truly gifted writer, when the reader can sympathise with the chief villain. I also really like the little touches and nods to other writers that deal with this period in history, most notably the cheeky reference to Richard Sharpe when Wellington meets the unusual Major of the 95th who carried a Rifle and spoke with what appeared to be a slightly Northern accent.

This series has given me many hours of pleasurable reading. After finishing the book I was left pondering whether or not more books could have been written to expand the series further. I think the answer to that question is yes, without a doubt; the author could have completely changed the appearance of this series by writing a detailed account of the Napoleonic Wars. On the other hand, would a lengthy series have made for truly engrossing, page turning, historical fiction? Probably not! I think the author has managed to get the balance just right with this series. At the end I was left thinking `I wish there was more'. As a result I will be guaranteed to buy Scarrow's next book in an attempt to fill the gap.

My only complaint about the whole book was that it could have been two! Yes it may have made the series too unwieldy and yes it may have killed it but I think after the retreat from Russia the book almost seemed to speed to a close, and most certainly the battle of Waterloo could have been expanded further. Still without a doubt the best fictional nonfiction historical book I have read in a very long time, a full five stars from me!

Available from: or
Fields of Death by Simon Scarrow
Paperback • ISBN 9780755324408

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