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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the fourth novel by Shaara that I've reviewed, one for a journal and three on Amazon. I've read his father's The Killer Angels and all but one of Jeff Shaara's war novels, and generally have enjoyed them. Some are better than others (especially Gone for Soldiers, 2000, which is about the Mexican War), but all are good reads. That's what this book is -a good read, which will appeal to the legion of devotees of Civil War battles. It's the first in a projected trilogy of novels about the neglected Civil War campaigns in the West.

The battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) was the first major battle in the West. As horrific as the Battle of Bull Run (July 1861) was in the East, with sixty thousand combatants and five thousand casualties, it pales in scale beside Shiloh -100,000 soldiers faced off against each other there and 24,000 of them paid the price in death or injury. But the politicians and reporters were in the East, not the West, and no Matthew Brady or Alexander Gardner to record the devastation left by battle on film. In short, it's good to have this novelization of the campaign by Shaara, who has proven his competency in recording such battles. It reminds us both how important the campaign was and how fragile a triumph over defeat can be.

The campaign produced its heroes. When the rebel commander, Albert Sidney Johnson, was wounded, he didn't realize how serious his injury was and bled to death on the battlefield. His subordinate, the arrogant, self-centered Pierre Beauregard, replaced him and made absolutely the wrong decision, throwing away the victory that Johnson was on the verge of winning by ordering the rebel troops to stand down for the night and rest. What could have been a rout of the Federal Army was reversed. Fresh troops arrived to reinforce the battered Yankees and the Confederates were forced back, beginning a long, slow, painful retreat to more southerly lands. Federal generals Grant and Sherman come off well in this novel, as do many of the lesser known players in the conflict.

The novel's weaknesses are two: the two lesser characters -a Yankee foot soldier and a Confederate cavalry sergeant--come across as stock types more than flesh and blood and Shaara shifts narrative focus among too many characters: it's difficult to become invested in them. These are minor criticisms, though, in a generally successful novel that captures both the grand strategy of the battle, the confusions that derailed or transformed it, and the reality of on-the-ground combat with its many false starts and moments of terror.
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on May 31, 2012
It's easier to criticize than to create. As a fellow writer, I cannot help but admire Jeff Shaara's body of work--and this vivid new novel--but I'm also grateful for the "secret service" that he (like his father before him) has performed in humanizing the stick figures and marble heroes lying dead on the pages of "serious" history texts. Interpretations as to character or confused events (it's bewildering how widely eyewitness accounts of the same historic incidents can vary) are a matter of filtering the known facts through personal experience, and in this book and so many others, Shaara has done a powerful, conscientious job of bringing the past to sweating, suffering, troubling, valiant, inspiring life. This is vitally important today, when history is poorly taught in our schools (when it is taught at all) and the citizenry suffers from historical amnesia--leaving the voter prey to demagogues who make up their own convenient "facts." The Shaara dynasty has made history accessible and exciting: Many a reader who would not have picked up a straightforward history book has been seduced into a lifelong romance with the past by first encountering it in the Shaara novels. This book, too, is a powerful "stealth" educational tool (as well as a fine read), and many new-to-the-Civil-War readers will go on to read straight-no-chaser histories of the Shiloh campaign and the personalities dramatized in these pages. Of course, any historical novelist must strive for maximum accuracy--the known facts must be respected (as Shaara does). It's unfair, however, to ride a personal hobbyhorse and criticize the novelist because his insight into the human gaps between the ranks of data disagrees with yours. The historical novelist's job is to go where straight-laced history cannot--into the minds and souls, the emotions, dreads and desires, behind the names on the musty pages and monument pedestals. Faced with unknowns, he must be bold. In this respect, too, Shaara has done a first-rate job. As a fellow writer, I envy Shaara's success; as a reader, I am grateful for his gifts; and as a citizen, I am delighted that he has introduced so many of my fellow Americans to a flesh-and-blood past and an awakened sense of history. Ignore the unfair quibbles in other reviews and enjoy this well-imagined, heartfelt book.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A Blaze Of Glory is Shaara's first book in a planned Civil War trilogy and focuses on the Battle Of Shiloh; considered to be one of the bloodiest and most iconic battles on American soil. Without going into a lot of detail, the book takes place in April 1862, when Major General U.S. Grant led his troops deep into Tennessee, setting up camp around a small log church called Shiloh. On the morning of April 6th, Confederate forces launched a surprise attack on the Union Army encampment to prevent the Union advance into Northern Mississippi. Though the Confederates held the advantage for most of the first day, Union reinforcements arrived later in the day and launched a counterattack on April 7th successfully forcing the Confederates to retreat, which subsequently led to ending the battle.

Overall, if you're a Civil War history buff and a lover of in-depth historical fiction, I think you will enjoy A Blaze Of Glory a great deal. The book demonstrates the extensive research Shaara did, much of which is presented in considerable detail, as well as his ability to blend a "you're there" immediacy into the story. That said, however, while I found the facts described to be interesting and the story to be well told, I occasionally found the facts to get in the way of the plot itself; thus slowing down the book's pace and making it somewhat plodding to read during these occasions. This is why I've given the book a 4-star, rather than a 5-star, rating.

I hope this review is helpful to you in deciding if A Blaze Of Glory is a book you'll want to read.
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on July 29, 2012
As a retired history teacher, I read everything that Shaara writes. I began with his father's Pulitzer-winning Killer Angels, and have since followed the writings of Jeff Shaara. His research is meticulous, but at the same time, he does point out that he is writing fiction. I find fictional narrative is a strong way to replay history in a way that is engaging and can hold most readers' attention better than non-fiction (though I also recommend those who are serious about this subject to read McPherson and Foote, and maybe Sears if you want every known detail).

What fascinated me here was the point of view. I have read other accounts in which Beauregard was a true southern hero, and he is held up as an outstanding role model. To see Shaara defrock him was very interesting. I also learned some things I did not know before (for example, that the state of Kentucky was so bitterly divided on the question of secession that there were dual state governments for a time, each claiming legitimacy).

I have to take exception to the reader who felt that Bauer, the rank-and-file soldier, was some sort of cardboard cutout. One thing I always admire about Shaara's work is that he does not write only about the big names where documentation is easily found, but remembers that ultimately, it was the common foot soldiers who had it hardest and often paid most dearly. So many homesick young men had never been anywhere at all prior to enlisting, and had no idea what they were getting into. Shaara's use of Bauer, combined with his conversations and interactions with other rank and file members, provided a more human element. This is a strength, not a weakness.

This novel is just the start of a three book trilogy, and I am waiting to see how the other battles will be dealt with, most especially Sherman's campaign in Georgia. The man is a genius with words, and he kept me up late some nights when I couldn't put the book down. Thank you, Mr. Shaara.
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on January 9, 2013
Previous books by Shaara were great -- Gods and Generals, Gone for Soldiers.... etc. They were pure historical fiction written in the same style as his father Michael Shaara. However, Jeff Shaara's latest few books have been off track -- he has lost the formula for good historical fiction. This wasn't historical fiction -- who are "Dutchie Bauer" and "Sammie Willis"? Shaara is devoting too much of the story to pure fictional characters. No one wants to read historical fiction for that! If I wanted to read pure fiction I wouldn't be reading Shaara. Overall, Im glad he finally wrote a story about the Western Theater. I will still continue to read Shaara and hope he will revert to his previous style and stop devoting most of the dialogue to fictional characters. I look forward to the next book coming out on Vicksburg.
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on May 13, 2013
Technically well executed with plenty of meticulous detail, but . . . if you want more, then you will be as disappointed as I was. The characters, whether real or imagined, are flat, predictable and totally lacking the emotional depth to make the reader truly care about any of them (and there are a lot) They move through the narrative like carefully managed chess pieces. This novel seemed formulaic from the first chapter and I struggled to finish it. While I learned a lot about the battle, troop movements, Shermann's seegars, and the geography, I put the book down feeling like the "heart" of the story was missing. No killer angels - or angels of any kind - in this book.
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on June 21, 2013
Shiloh is the Hebrew word for "Place of Peace" but in the blood soaked conflict of North and South that was our Civil War, Shiloh was one of the bloodiest battles of the conflict. A meeting of two armed mobs more than a classic battle, Shiloh was one of the hidden battles of the War because it took place in the Western Theater of the war. For too long accounts of the battles in Virginia and the eastern theater have dominated our understanding of that tragic conflict. Yet, Shiloh, like the battles that followed it is crucial if we are to understand the character and outcome of the war. Several key players in the history of the War are important to Shiloh: Grant, Sherman, Beauregard and Forrest are all key figures in the battle of Shiloh. Albert Sidney Johnston, the highest ranking officer on either side to die in the war was in overall command of the Confederate side and upon his death after an ill-considered charge in the Peach Orchard things took a turn for the worse for the south. Grant was able to stabilize his faltering army and the tide turned the second day leading to narrow Union victory.
Shaara's book, written from the perspective of the men, some great and some obscure, who fought the battle is powerful, fast-paced, well researched and even handed. His analysis of the battle is clear but not pedantic. He keeps his narrative flowing and as much as possible authentic to the record we have from those who fought here. Though not as beautiful as the account of novelist turned historian Shelby Foote, its is very readable and enjoyable. This should be in your library if you wish to understand and appreciate that great battle in the most ironic of places.
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on September 21, 2012
I am reading books about the Civil War, and this one is the best read so far. I have been to the Shiloh battlefield and this book best describes what happened on those bloody days. Took me only 3 days to read the book, and is hard to put down. The narrative is very impressive.I urge all Civil War enthusiasts to read this impressive account!!!
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on May 29, 2012
A visit to Shiloh to gain an appreciation and the lay of the battlefield is a valuable prerequisite. Shiloh is remote and its remoteness probably killed more men than the battle. Narratives can only approximate the place. No other battlefield demands the modern visit like Shiloh to comprehend the chaos and environs off a tiny river landing and the climb of tens of thousands up to the killing grounds.

Shaara delivers a tour-de-force historical novel here. Sharra uses character point-of-view to create the story. One major character was a resident of my family tree ... Albert Sidney Johnston. It's entertaining to read the imagined words from a distant ancestor's final days. Sharra paints the canvas well. Whatever ever really happened at Shiloh is surrounded by myth, grim body counts, unknowns and camp fire tall tales. The story can be retold with fiction as accurately as from after-action reporting. Few on either side survived to write reports. Grant wrote after the war, that Shiloh `has been perhaps less understood, or, to state the case more accurately, more persistently misunderstood, than any other engagement...during the entire war'. That the `Sunken Road' was not and the `Bloody Pond' could not have been more than a mud-hole on a rainy day is for the reader's mind's eye to envision.

The Shiloh Battlefield is surely one of the most remote battlefields from the modern interstates ... you have to plan a trip to get there. As to tiny Pittsburg Landing, there was simply no less worse way to approach Corinth in force. The climb up from off the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing (no Pittsburg really, just a landing), up through the steep, tree shrouded wagon paths and the dozens of creek gullies is rugged without carrying anything. It has to be seen to be appreciated. The battle amongst the ancient rectangular Indian mounds must have been surreal. The `Sunken Road' is a mighty overstatement ... wagon ruts ... there was no 'sunken road' here ... bodies piled high must have seemed to `sink' the road in imaginations. The Confederate artillery that raked the `Sunken Road' were arrayed in plain sight from across only 300 yards of open field. It was surely a `Hornet's Nest' coming up off the river. Chaos ruled.

A drive from the Shiloh battlefield to Corinth on the same route as the Confederate retreat (Rt. 22) adds an horrific dimension to the aftermath. One can visualize the quadrant blocked retreating wagon train, death by festering wounds and thirst and the retreat must surely have been its own unending torment.

For historical context, I'd suggest the short story writings of Ambrose Bierce ... an eyewitness at Shiloh and then, on to the sea with Sherman. The magic of Bierce's stories are a compelling duet to Shaara's `Blaze of Glory'. Sample Bierce's public domain `A Son of the Gods'. Here's an excellent compilation of his many writings Ambrose Bierce: The Devil's Dictionary, Tales, and Memoirs (Library of America) on Amazon.
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on August 14, 2012
Shaara again does an outstanding job of explaining the tactics of a complicated battle. He brings to life the motivations and feelings of the individual participants in the battle, from the Generals commanding to the Privates actually doing the fighting. He introduces the human elements to actual historical events.
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