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Young Bloods - Simon Scarrow

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Author: Simon Scarrow / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 11 January 2007 / Genre: Historical Adventure / Publisher: Headline Publishing Group / Title: Young Bloods / ISBN 13: 9780755324347 / ISBN 10: 0755324347

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      13.08.2010 18:16
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      An OK read but not as great as its two protagonists should make it

      Young bloods is a historical novel chronicling the early lives of Napoleon Bonaparte and Wellington, or Arthur Wesley as he was then. I'm generally fond historical action novels and very much enjoyed Conn Igulden's Emperor series, so I was hoping that author Simon Scarrow might achieve the same thing here.

      The tale flicks back and forth between the two protagonists, starting with their births, and then illustrating the details of their family, upbringing, schooling and adolescence. Whilst it is generally interesting looking at the similarities and the contrasts between the two, there are two main stumbling blocks here. One is that Napoleon's life is far more interesting than Arthur's and the other is that the two never met (though the author does manage to shoehorn in a "possible" meeting they may have had at a military academy in which, wait for it, nothing really happens).

      As I read the book I found myself sympathising far more with Napoleon than Wellington. Wellingtons early life seemed dull and he was remarkably unambitious. Napoleon, by contrast, lived in far more exciting times, and with the French Revolution as a back drop managed to provide far more entertainment. Obviously this is problematic when writing historical works, after all you can't just make up exciting things for your characters to do, so I sympathise somewhat with the authors predicament, but it simply doesn't make for a very interesting read. Things may liven up when the two finally come into conflict on the battlefield, but that's a story for another book.

      In summary then, bit of a disappointment. Might have worked better if Scarrow had simply written a book on Napoleon alone. He comments at the end on the surprising lack of books about Wellington. This may well be why. It's not that Simon Scarrow is a bad author or lacks imagination, I just think he's chosen a difficult character to follow from the point of view of good storytelling. You might enjoy this if you're a fan of the author or of the time period, but otherwise there are probably better books to read.

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