9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Great Start, Disappointing Finish!,
This review is from: Birds of Prey (Courtney Family Adventures) (Mass Market Paperback)
Birds of Prey was my first Wilbur Smith Novel. Being a person that makes a living on the ocean I am attracted to novels about the great sailing ships of the past. Everything I had read about Wilbur Smith led me to believe that this would be a novel that I couldn't put down. In the beginning that was true. The main characters were interesting. I didn't expect the explicit sex scenes that are scattered throughout the novel. Mr. Smith's main hero throughout the book is young Hal Courteney. His sexual exploits are described in vivid detail in the first half of the book, but then as the book progresses become more like what I would expect from an adventure novel. I am not sure that the earlier sex scenes really added to the book. The St. Martin's Paperback version that I have is over 660 pages. It was a long read and you could actually divide the book into two halves. The first is while Sir Frances Courteney (Hal's Father) is driving the action in the story. The second is when Hal is the lead. The first half of the book is filled with intrigue and vivid battles scenes (and sex scenes). The second half of the book seems to have been an after thought. All the vivid drawn out scenes from the first half become a few paragraphs of quick victories for young Hal. You wait and entire 600 pages for Hal to face his Dutch antagonist. When it finally happens I can call it at best anti-climactic. He defeat's another ship easily and his other foil dies pretty unceremoniously. Forgive me, but when I put 600 + pages of time into a novel waiting for these two show downs (which you know at page 300 are coming) I expected more! Much more. Cut out the pages of Hal's sexual exploits and make the final scenes of the book worth the time I invested in this novel.
Having said all this the book was okay. The book's strength was the early vivid descriptions of Europeans seeing Africa for the first time. You could imagine what they must have been seeing. What a crocodile must be like for someone who has never seen nor heard of one. The fear they felt when the crocodile's got a hold of someone in the water. The book's weakness was the quick tidy ending. I am not upset that the good guys win; I expect that in an adventure novel. I was just disappointed that this was an after thought and wrapped up cleanly with a lot of luck.
I am not sure that I for one will invest another 600+ pages in a Wilbur Smith Novel in the future.