“Champagne! In victory one deserves it, in defeat one needs it” - Napoleon
Steve the Wargamer
Being an account of my wargaming activities, a few sailing
stories, some beer related anecdotes, what music I'm listening to....
oh, and anything else that knows me!
Based heavily on the events described by Xenophon in his history of the 10,000 (the Anabasis), the book describes the failed attempt by Cyrus the Younger, son of Darius II to oust his brother, Artaxerxes II following the death of Darius
Cyrus raised an army of pro-Persian and Greek mercenary hoplites, which included a large Spartan contingent. It described the events leading up to the march, and then the retreat itself.
Cyrus met the forces of Artaxerxes at Cunaxa, but was defeated* and killed - Artaxerxes offered the Greek contingent terms (enslavement mostly) which they refused and their then ensued a retreat over almost 500 miles for both army and their family/followers - continuously attacked by the forces of Artaxerxes, and the peoples of the lands they had to traverse, while also suffering from lack of food and water.
Simply superb.. wow... just wow... this book single-handed'ly wanted me to start painting Achmaenid Persians, Spartans, and other Greek Allied troops - another 10+ !
*some would say that Cunaxa was a tactical victory for Cyrus - but I would suggest this was probably not much of a bonus for getting yourself killed..
Stay tuned for an honest to goodness review of a 'wargaming show'!
Six months after the previous events in Belgium, this book is set in 1831 at the time of the riots and rebellions over parliamentary reform..
Hervey is summoned to Bristol where widespread fire setting, looting and rioting, has almost taken over the city.. setting to with his usual calm efficiency and zeal, Hervey musters his available forces, assumes command, and puts down the riot forcibly ("flat of the steel, only use the edge if threatened")
Despite it needing to be done, the radicals and liberals, take him to task in the press, and with remembrances of Peterloo still fresh, and Wellington no longer prime minister and able to provide support, an inquiry is held in to the events, and in which Hervey although never charged is brought to the public's attention. The descriptions of what it must have been like for an army officer of the time, treading the fine line always between what is, and is not, seen as 'sufficient force' in civil disturbance is very well put.. either way Hervey is under a dark cloud indeed.
With time on his hands attending the enquiry, Hervey has time to attend a charitable concert at which his estranged wife is playing, and is present when she collapses on stage . . I always thought of her as a cold fish, but it turns out the doctor suggests post natal depression may have been behind her reserve, and her endless piano practice..
A very long overdue recovery and rapprochement follows, but is followed by the further good news that his friend Eyre Somerville has persuaded the Court of Directors of the East India Company to approve an increase in the Madras military establishment and that Hervey and the 6th Light Dragoons are to be sent to the princely state of Coorg where the Rajah is in revolt against the East India Company's terms.
Hervey is given command of the expedition and substantive rank of Major General, and successfully completes the annexation, returning with the Rajah as prisoner.. no spoilers here, as the campaign is arduous, and fascinating... more here if interested [clicky]
Returning to garrison Hervey is met with further good news, but you won't hear it from me - buy the book you will not be disappointed..
It's been a good year for 10's on the book reviews, so in the words of the immortal 'Spinal Tap', Steve the Wargamer rates this one as an 11.. or at least 10+
Funny old premise (?? background?) to this one.. cast your mind back some and you'll remember the Bernard Cornwell series on Arthur ("The Winter King" / "Enemy of God" / "Excalibur: A Novel of Arthur") - I seem to remember it was pivotal at the time and triggered a whole load of wargaming type activity, either way it was far morw pivotsal for the author who having decided to becoman an author, and having dropped out of univerisity at the time the books came out was very much insopired buy them to start writing his own historical fiction...
From my perspective I know him best for the two English Civil War novels he wrote concerning a family divided on itself by the war, with one son for the King and one for Parliament, but he is perhaps better known for his Viking books... this one however is his salute to Cornwell, and boy, is it a salute..
So it's a return to the post-Roman Britain world, where Lancelot, a young teenager living in France, and a prince, is soon ejected from his comfortable life by his fathers traitorous brother who conspires to have his brother killed so as to take the kingdom. Lancelot then flees with the rest of his family and the remains of their retainers, only to be massacred when they think they are safe, by forces allied to his uncle..
Lancelot manages to escape again, though to be honest or is almost kidnapped, by the mysterious lady (Nimue) who governs her own kingdom on an island off the south coast of Britain (Ictis - a real island mentioned in the chronicles, but which no one is still certain as to where it is/was - but probably St Michael's Mount in Cornwall) and there he grows to manhood, trained by the Ladies soldiers, and where they discover his god-given skills in war and sword/spear fighting..
The Lady acts as an intermediary between the many kings of England, who also send her their daughters to be trained, so it is that Guinevere arrives on the island, but not before her ship is sunk in a storm and Lancelot rescues her.. cue the age old story.
Lancelot bears Guinevere away.
Illustration from "The Book of Romance",
which can be found at Project Gutenberg.
(www.gutenberg.org)Merlin then arrives (he is portrayed as one of the last of the Druids who were largely destroyed by the Roman's) and requests that Lancelot is sent as part of the party representing the Lady at the death bed of Uther Pendragon - it is here that Lancelot is inveigled into swearing an other to support Arthur, Uther's son, and so the friendship that most of us have read about is formed, and only (almost) broken when it transpires Arthur is to marry Guinevere..
I'm not going to spoil the rest of the story, but Giles Kristian has done an excellent job of translating the Arthurian legends to a historical context - it's a real page turner - the battle descriptions, and how he describes Excalibur being found are very realistic - you can see how the legends grow from what are almost every day events (and by the way the lady of the lake sounds like a hotty.. )
No downsides per se, though as a salute to the Cornwell series his writing sometimes sounds more like Cornwell than Cornwell does at times - imitation being the sincerest form of flattery perhaps?
Recommended - 9 out of 10 from Steve the Wargamer (and if you are lucky Tesco in the UK were doing the book for a fiver in hardback!)