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|Birds of Prey|
by Wilbur Smith - 10 Sep 2007
| Review by Forsyth (Seattle) © Amazon.com
A top notch adventure from a top notch author, Birds of Prey is undoubtably a superb epic. Sure the sex scenes can seem overdone, but who cares? The entire story cackles with energy and escapism with grand action sequences that have rarely been as vivid. It is cliche-clogged and sometimes predictable, but to tell you the truth, if I wanted to read a literary suspense novel I would have picked Frederick Forsyth or Nelson Demille. What I expected from Birds of Prey was mind blowing action and a fast paced book, both of which exceeded expectaions.
Chronologically the first in Smith's prolific Courtney series (for now atleast), the book opens by introducing us to Hal and Francis Courtney, son and father, one a growing man and the other an accomplished privateer. After that, the duo and their crew spot a dutch ship carrying potentially tremendous cargo, and the reader is then treated to an epic action-fest journey like never seen before. Duels to the death, explosive jail breaks, wild animal hunting, battles with pirates, religious warfare, non-religious warfare, ancient relics, astrological prophecies, torture chambers, lakes filled with writhing crocodiles, fights with lion herds, explorations into the unknown african wilderness, confrontations with ancient tribes, christian empires, muslim armies and MUCH more shape this epic, filled with almost ridiculous acts of courage and skill by the protoganists, though tremendously enjoyable too. Much to the reader's pleasure, the good guys laugh at impossible odds and dispatch them with almost as much ease and for those looking for some action, this story is a definite must.
The tale is primarily about Hal's journey from teenage to manhood and about how he becomes a great warrior. He's charismatic, the best fighter alive, a natutral leader, he never turns away from his duty, no obstacle can hold him back and the rest of his characteristics are just about anything you can attribute to the classic good guy. The tale is of course also choke-full of utterly hateable villains. Colonel Schreuder the master swordsman who has never lost a fight, The Buzzard the cunning and greedy pirate, Slow John the almost inhuman yellow eyed executioner, Sam Bowles the cowardly traitor, Van De Velde the obese governor of Good Hope, Katinka the sexy and sadistic wife of the governor and lots more constantly face the protoganists for some reason or the other.
One thing that I should emphazize is that this is not a tale about just sailors and pirates. Though a huge part is full of sea battles, a chunky portion of the action also takes place on land too and to classify this as sea adventure would be a gross inaccuracy.
And talking of accuracy, whether some people are obliged to admit it or not, Smith has undertaken some heavy research on this book. It is totally unfair to say that this book is not well researched just because he got a technical term wrong about a 17th century ship according to a reviewer. From geographical locations like Trincomalee and Elephant Lagoon to the information about African wildlife, Smith has done his homework before penning this tale, and despite some faults, has managed to do a commendable job.
Overall, if you want great literature with three dimensional characters who teach you something about the morals of life, you would be better of with something else. If you just want to sit back, relax and read an action-packed adventure epic like a mega-budget summer blockbuster, Birds of Prey will definitely rank among your favourites.
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