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The Starbuck Chronicles – Book review

31 July 2016

I first read these books when I was in my teens, having become a fan of Bernard Cornwell through his Warlord Chronicles (I enjoyed Sharpe but mainly on tv, but didn’t read many of the books).

The Starbuck Chronicles of four books are set in the American Civil war, following the travails of Nathaniel Starbuck, a Northerner, Yale educated theologian who finds himself on wrong side of the divide at the outbreak of the civil war. Initially taken under the wing by a rich Southerner, father of his best friend Adam Faulconer, Washington Faulconer who is determined to raise his own Legion to fight for the honour of the South. Nate defies his heritage and finds he has a skill in warfareenjoying the thrill and the womanising enough to defy the familial pull of a return to the North.

The series, Rebel, Copperhead, Battle Flag and the Bloody Ground follows a similar pattern to Sharpe, although Starbuck has the benefit of starting from a privileged position initially bestowed by Faulconer, but then developing despite the loss of Faulconer’s patronage.

Each book centres closely on one of the campaigns in the civil war and feels well researched and detailed, with cameos from real life figures of the time of all ranks. Having not studied the American civil war at school, the series was a fascinating insight into the rationale of ordinary men to fight, not just about slavery or even ingrained racism (many of the rank and file soldiers would never have owned a slave, and I was engrossed by the personal struggles. Re-reading the books more recently, and perhaps with a more delicate understanding of political correctness than my young teenage self (the Black Country in the UK was not the most diverse upbringing) I did view some of the morale certitude with a bit more scepticism, but the characters’ personal battles were still enthralling, with fascinating and detailed descriptions of the battles of the times.

Although regular readers of Cornwell will recognised some of the character formulae that he uses throughout his books, the characters are gritty and the books still enjoyable, with a feeling that you are learning something of the era while you read – travelling through the US, I have latent knowledge of US development that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Assessment (as a series):

Characters : 8 / 10

Plot: 7 / 10

Action: 9 / 10

Gripping: 7 / 10

General: 8 / 10

Total: 78%

From → Books

One Comment
  1. Grandtrines permalink

    Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.

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