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As a long time devotee of Wilbur Smith novels I was a little wary when he switched periods from the 19th - 20th century to the 17th century. However I need not have worried as he has obviously developed a marvellous feel for the upheaval of those times. Anyway on to the book….. Monsoon continues on from its predecessor (Birds of Prey) and yet again the Courtney family make up the main cast of central characters. They are presented as one of the great seafaring families of English society making their fortune by raiding the shipping routes of their country’s enemies under letters of marque (basically a licence for piracy) and by trade. The book concentrates on the adventures of two of the four sons, Tom and Dorian. The other sons William and Guy play supporting roles in the weaving of a story that races along at a blistering pace. The relations between William and the other three brothers are stressed at the best of times and a further split in the family occurs when Tom and Guy argue about a female passenger and to whom her affectations should go to. During a battle with Al-Auf (translates as the Bad One) an Arabic pirate who had been raiding the commerce routes between India and Europe Dorian is lost to the Arabs and sold to an Arabic lord. Tom however had already sworn an oath that should they be seperated he would always search for him. The second half of the book revolves around this promise and as always Smith delivers the story with real punch and attention to detail. Wilbur Smith’s love for his native continent shines through in every one of his stories and yet again Monsoon is no exception. As a result I would highly recommend this book to anybody likes a good adventure story. Read it - you will not be disappointed.
~ ~ As a teenager I remember devouring the novels of author Wilbur Smith and his chronicles of the adventuresome and ambitious Courtney family throughout the different generations as they battled and schemed to establish their commercial empire in Africa. Books such as “When the Lion Feeds” and “The Sound Of Thunder” were true epics set in the Dark Continent, and enthralled and captivated my young imagination. ~ ~ But I sort of “outgrew” Smith as I got older, and he wasn’t an author I would rush to when perusing the shelves of a bookshop. But while in holiday in Tuscany last summer, I ran out of reading material, and one afternoon by the pool a fellow guest offered me a book by Smith called “Birds of Prey”. Needs must, and I started to read, although without too much enthusiasm. ~ ~ What a revelation. Not only did I devour the nearly 600 page novel in about two days, I then started to scour the Italian bookshops for the sequel, a novel called “Monsoon”, that I eventually managed to secure after much diligent searching. (driving my wife half potty in the process!) ~ ~ The two books are set in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and concern the ongoing adventures of an English seafaring family called the Courtneys, as they attempt to secure their fame and fortune through piracy and multifarious other ventures. The various generations of the Courtney’s feature in many of Smith’s novels, and in this regard he could be likened to that other great spinner of adventure yarns, James Clavell, who also used this family “theme” to great effect. ~ ~ The earlier of the two books, “Birds of Prey”, is about the father, Sir Hal Courtney, and the later novel “Monsoon” takes up where this left off, detailing the ongoing adventures of his three sons. Sir Hal’s sons are based in East Africa and Arabia, and
the focus moves onto their various escapades, with particular emphasis on the eldest son, Tom. Tom has a nasty half brother called William, who is based at home in England minding the family estates, and is due to inherit on the death of Sir Hal. There are also two other brothers, Guy, who is Tom’s twin, and the baby of the family, Dorry, a golden haired angel of a child. ~ ~ Half the novel is based at sea, aboard a corvette raiding the mighty trading ships of the Dutch East India Company, and half on land, both in Arabia and in Africa. The youngest brother Dorry is supposed lost at sea during a sea battle with Arab traders, but is in fact captured and raised as a Crown Prince in Arabia. Tom only discovers this fact after Dorry has grown into adulthood, but none the less sets out on a mission to find his long lost brother. In the meantime Smith weaves various other plots and subplots that have the reader literally racing to turn the page in their desire to find out what happens next. There is a falling out between Tom and his brother Guy over the affections of a lady, and also a viscous brute of a Dutch officer who makes it his sole mission in life to see Tom hung, drawn and quartered. The sea yarns are so good that you can virtually smell the tar and rum, and the fight and battle scenes leave little to the imagination, with wholesale mayhem and slaughter, and people being dismembered and decapitated. Once you move onto dry land, Smith has you nearly smelling the air of Africa and Arabia, so graphic is his descriptive prose, and the action never lets up for a second. ~ ~ The mark of a good novel for me is that you don’t want to put it down, and this is certainly true of both “Birds of Prey” and “Monsoon”. They are both cracking reads, and instead of now bypassing Wilbur Smith on the bookshelves, I find myself waiting with eager anticipation for his next blockbuster. I̵
7;m even starting to revisit some of his older novels that I read as a youth! If you like historical adventure stories, then Smith is your main man.
After the slight disappointment of "Birds of Prey", I couldn't wait to get my little paws on "Monsoon". I'm a confirmed Wilbur Smith fanatic (see my op on "The Sunbird", one of my favourite books of all time) and read and reread his offerings. I think very few novellists can spin a gripping tale like this man. But I found Monsoon to be flabby, predictable and poorly written. The characters were cardboard - and many were pale reflections of characters from other Smith novels. He is an author that likes to reinvent sections of his earlier work, but it's usually to improve on it. Here, I think he failed. "Monsoon" kicks off where Birds of Prey left off, with Hal Courtney's sons taking off to combat pirates. The boys are separated early on and experience different fates. The scope of the book is huge (as is its size) which is fine, but not when the plot is stretched out thin to accomodate this. This is a highly critical review of a book which is actually a terrific read - but only because of the high standards the author usually meets. If this is your first encounter of Wilbur Smith, you'll probably love it (you don't need to read the prequel first - all Wilbur Smith's novels can be read as entities on their own). As a 'fan', I was tremendously disappointed. Sorry Wilbur.
I started reading Monsoon in the thrid week of August and the near 1000 pages kept me busy for two weeks solid. The storylines are so gripping that you can hardly put it down - in my case only to go to school, to sleep and eat. Wilbur Smith uses words to keep you entertained for hours. The book centers around a family of a father and three boys who go on a journey round the southern africa coast and encounter all sorts of troubles. At the end the father is dead and all the boys have been separated but the three separate storylines concerning them join together. I have read many other Smith books such as Seventh Scroll, River God and when the Lion Feeds and if you love a great read you should definately pick up on eof his books.
A gripping follow up to Birds of Prey, which will live up to the expectations of Wilbur Smith fans. Pirates are attacking the East India Company ships and only one person can be relied upon to sort it out – Sir Hal Courtney. Lured by a share of the profits and a title he leaves England with two of his three sons aboard and the adventure begins. The story spans several years and centres on Sir Hal and two of his sons, Tom and Dorian. There is the usual quota of bloodshed and romance, and of course Smith’s legendary attention to detail. The action and excitement goes on right to the last page and leaves you gasping for a follow up, which there surely must be.
In this sequel to Birds of Prey, the Courtneys return to pre-colonial Africa and Arabia where the strongest branches of the family will take root and prosper.This is really two stories, the first being about Hal Courtney and his four sons, and the second about further adventures of Tom and Dorian Courtney. They are interesting stories with many details about the East India Company, the East African slave trade, trade with the Arab world, and the fratricide within Arab families as various individuals vied for power. Part of the plot is based on the assumption that inheritance in 17th century England automatically left the entire estate to the oldest son - which is incorrect as individuals of that time period commonly prepared wills making provisions for all childrenMonsoon is breathtaking. And the best part... the end leaves so much promise for the sequel! A must read.
The story of Monsoon goes like this: Near the end of the seventeenth century, any Englishman who makes part or all of his fortune in Africa or Arabia, knows not to trust anyone but family to protect the holdings. Sir Hal Courtney realizes that so he sets a plan in motion to protect what he and his family already own and to make an even greater fortune. His oldest son stays behind in England to manage the vast landholdings. His other three boys accompany him on his seemingly hopeless quest for an inordinate size treasure. However, more likely, Hal and his four children will face death, betrayal, and dishonor as the sibling rivalry is so fierce that nothing, including the Courtneys, seem capable of surviving its devastation. Monsoon, the sequel to Birds of Prey, is a typical swashbuckling, non-stop thriller that takes readers on a magical tour of plus or minus a few years circa 1800 East Africa and Arabia. The story line never eases up as the audience sees a dysfunctional family struggling to unite in support of a common goal. Wilbur Smith leaves fans feeling that they sailed alongside Sir Hal because the geography and the era appear so genuine. This is what makes a Smith book worth reading.
Monsoon, set in the dawn of the 18th century in England, East Africa and Arabia, takes over where Birds of Prey left off and follows the lives of the three sons of Hal Courteney.