Friday, 29 July 2016

Review: The Laughing Cavalier by Emmuska Orczy

Emmuska Orczy is best known for the The Scarlet Pimpernel novels (and plays and films) that are set in the 18th century Britain and France. However, she wrote two novels depicting an ancestor of her famous hero set in the 1624 Netherlands, the first of which is called The Laughing Cavalier - named after the famous painting by Frans Hals (see the title image) that Orczy claims depicts the hero himself. The hero goes around under the pseudonym of Diogones and is part of a group of three mercenaries who call themselves the Philosophers.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Review: The Escape of the Man in the Iron Mask (D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled, #2) by Paul Féval, fils

Paul Féval, fils' wrote a trilogy known as D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled. The story is set after Alexandre Dumas' Twenty Years After and spans the years between 1649 and 1655. I've previously reviewed the first part of the trilogy and was somewhat annoyed by the uneven plotting. The second part works much better, but takes a serious deviation of the Dumas' original story, introducing a plot with the Man in the Iron Mask much earlier than Dumas did and leading to a vastly different plot, cunningly mixed with actual historical details.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Review: The King's Passport by H. Bedford-Jones

I've previously reviewed H. Bedford-Jones' pastiche of Alexandre Dumas' classic work. Interestingly enough, his other story featuring the classic hero, d'Artagnan, The King's Passport, is not in any way connected with the longer work and is not really a pastiche at all: rather than being set in 1630 and featuring the Dumas version of d'Artagnan (who was born at least a decade before his historical counterpart), the story is set ten years later, in 1640, when d'Artagnan has only recently arrived to Paris and is serving in the Guard.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Review: Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche: A Romance of the French Revolution from 1921 is perhaps the most acclaimed of Sabatini's works. However, before I finally read it, my only knowledge of it came from the 1952 film, which I liked but never enough to actually go and try the novel before now. It turns out that I had been missing one of the best historical fiction novels ever written.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: The Brethren Prince by Ira Smith

The Brethren Prince by Ira David Smith might well be one of the definitive novels of piracy and privateering in the Caribbean. Following the life of James Ketcham, it shows us historically accurate life among the buccaneers of Hispaniola, in the famous pirate haven of Tortuga and in several other historical locations on the islands and on the mainland. The novel certainly has some drawbacks, but they are outweighed by the good parts.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Review: Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand and Charles Renauld

Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac from 1897 is one of the definitive plays set in the 17th century. Inspired by the life of the actual historical poet and duellist, the play introduces us to the tragic figure of Cyrano who is in love with a woman but never dares to tell her about it. The play has been adapted to film, radio, TV etc. so many times that it is doubtful that anyone might have missed it, but this was the first time that I went to the play itself to enjoy the original text (or as original as I can without learning French).

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Review: The Blast that Tears the Skies by J.D. Davies

The Blast that Tears the Skies is the third novel in J.D. Davies' The Journals of Matthew Quinton series. It is a historical naval fiction series set in the 17th century that has, until now, spent most of its time on land, dealing with the protagonist's family mysteries. The third part finally brings the family mystery to its conclusion and also describes one of the major naval battles of the era, the Battle of Lowestoft, where the Royal Navy have to forget their differences in order to beat the Dutch Navy.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Review: The Duel - A Military Tale by Joseph Conrad

The Duel - A Military Tale is the novella behind the esteemed film adaptation, The Duellists by Ridley Scott, which starred Keith Carradine as Armand d'Hubert and Harvey Keitel as Gabriel Féraud. The tale explores the concepts of honour and pride through the acts and lives of two men, d'Hubert and Féraud, who have very different ideas of what they mean. I reviewed the film in the previous post and now it is time to take a look at the novella.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Review: The Duellists (1977)

It often seems to me that The Duellists (or The Duelists for our friends across the pond) is one of the forgotten classics in historical fiction films. Quite surprisingly, it is directed by Ridley Scott, who is not known for any strive for historical accuracy and who has even stated that he willingly ignores historical details in order to tell a good story. Perhaps we should count ourselves lucky that he did not see history and the story conflicting in this particular case.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Review: Long John Silver by Xavier Dorison and Mathieu Laufray

I must admit to not being a big fan of the Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The plot was perhaps a bit too simplistic - I found coming-of-age stories dull even as a child - and the characters uninteresting. The only potential character in the bunch was always the pirate Long John Silver and that potential has been over-used ever since then by many other authors and script-writers, either adapting the original story or revisiting the characters in some other way. Xavier Dorison and Mathieu Laufray's take in the four part graphic novel, Long John Silver, is unique enough, however, to make their story stand out from the rest.