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Tom Swan and the Head of St George Part One: Castillon Kindle Edition
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- ASIN : B00GU3AV96
- Publisher : Orion (August 23, 2012)
- Publication date : August 23, 2012
- Language : English
- File size : 1448 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 64 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #697,793 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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-from the "back cover".
Characters: As with all of Cameron's novels, we get characters out of history, not modern people in costume thrust into a different age. The characters' behaviors and actions are true to the time period and this has the effect of making the book seem more real. The book opens with Tom Swan as a helpless captive, and given his desperate situation, he immediately gains the reader's sympathy. He is a likeable, resourceful protagonist surrounded by an interesting cast of supporting characters.
World building: Cameron is unmatched when it comes to world building. He is both a historian and a reenactor and it comes out beautifully in his novels. Cameron has a wonderful way of adding rich details to his historical fiction, without sounding like a professor giving a college lecture. Tom Swan immerses the character in the world of late medieval France.
Engagement/Willing suspension of disbelief: This is not a fantasy novel, it is historical fiction. Given this, I expect realistic depictions of events while at the same time a story filled with enough action to keep me engaged. Again, Cameron does not fail. The fights are brutal and realistic, with genuine danger for our protagonist. Tom Swan is no Conan, able to charge into a horde of enemies. In fact, he reacts to surviving combat in a very human, realistic manner. At no point did I want to pull back in disbelief. Cameron kept me fully engaged in the story.
Writing/Mechanics: Tom Swan is a professionally written novel. Cameron writes excellent prose, but I'll warn you that he doesn't shy from historic terms for clothing and equipment, and you'll occasionally run into non-English words or phrases. But for me, this just adds to the richness of the experience. The context of the story tells us what the items are and what the words mean.
Impact: I read the novella in one sitting and loved it. Actually, it is not a novella, but one part of a serialized novel. And this is my one disappointment. Now I have to wait a month to be a part of Tom Swan's next adventure.
The era and locations in this book are not where I generally find my interest in historical fiction, so I can't, and won't, presume upon the authenticity of the depictions, and I've never read this author before. But so far, things are sitting quite well. There hasn't been any glaring anachronisms that make me frown (no Vikings wearing horned helms, and even tho this is ~500 years after the Viking era, the contrast is still valid).
Anyways, the book opens with a very confused battle scene, but don't take that comment negatively. I couldn't say for sure, but I figure the author is projecting the chaos of battle, and has done so quite well. Tom Swan is an opportunistic adventurer, who goes from being moments away from death to escorting a Cardinal, and meets an amusing cast of characters.
Editing was very sharp, always worth a mention. The writing style was engaging, and even tho the book is fairly short, it kept my interest without a struggle. I read this one in an evening, and had no problems deciding to order the second volume/chapter in the series.
Swan has education and wit, and a timely prayer wailed loudly in Greek catches the ear of a watching cardinal who thinks 'ransom.' It's moments like this that Cameron is at his best. He clearly appreciates the power of language and situation in this period.
'Tom Swan: Castillion' is the first installment of an e-book series and this showcases to Cameron's strengths as a writer and a historian, but also reveals a slight flaw. More on that later.
I have never read a book, e or otherwise, by someone so clearly knowledgeable in the period in which he was writing. Cameron is widely known outside the US as an author of historical fiction focused on adventures in the times of ancient Greece and Alexander the Great. His books are only now being made available in the US.
Cameron is a former US naval aviator and intelligence officer and yet he maintains a light touch on the military aspects of his novel. We don't even see the eponymous battle, only its aftermath as it relates to the main character. We experience instead the sights and smells and sounds of the late medieval world (or early renaissance, take your pick) through the senses of a prisoner and would-be scholar, rising to the occasion and taking advantage of his opportunities. Fights are small, personal, bloody, and rendered by an expert.
And indeed, Swan is the only point-of-view character, and we tour the roads, inns, and abbeys of rural France, meeting a wide assortment of characters along the way. The eye catches the articles of clothing, the tools, the weapons, and the implements of daily life. Cameron has a great ear for dialogue, and people's voices ring true to their station, with deftness and humor and just enough profanity for seasoning. He tells a great lawyer joke.
Which leads me to my main criticism. The novel reads a bit like a play (or screenplay, perhaps?), with brisk, engaging conversations and just enough setting to give the reader a sense of place and time. However, I could have used fuller descriptions in places. Sometimes I like to linger. There is a lot going on and Cameron seems in a bit of a hurry.
This could just be because, as the author admits in this introduction, 'Tom Swan' is his first foray into the serialized novel. Fortunately, there is another e-book in the series just released and another on the way for October 2012. Swan has places to go and people to meet, and I look forward to going along with him.
Top reviews from other countries
At the head of this was of course the central protagonist, Tom Swan. Beginning at twenty years old, he is set to experience his first military conflict at Castillon. It resulted in John Talbot (The English Achilles, who is incidentally a distant relative) being killed in battle, and the effective conclusion of The Hundred Year War with English defeat. Thrown into this disastrous sequence, Tom Swan must somehow interweave his way through mortal danger, with the aim merely to stay alive.
Going into this, I felt like I knew Tom Swan. My brother loves these tales, and as such he has talked about Tom Swan for the past year pretty consistently. So, I already felt an attatchment to our protagonist and sole perspective, and that only grew during this first novella.
I’m really looking forward to carrying on reading more of Swan’s escapades. When I have finished The Head of Saint George, I will supply a more in-depth review about the six novellas combined.
For now though, Castillon was of course full of fruitful historical details, from famous events, to small nuggets of information that display Christian Cameron’s expertise regarding the subject. This combination of intricate details provided an additional flavour and flare to the story that brought the pages to life and assigned this tale with practically an unmatchable authenticity. Tom Swan is already a fantastic, compelling character, which is an achievement given this is contained within merely 100 pages.
The style of Tom Swan is very different from Cameron's other work, I would say, though that is no bad thing and it suits the serialized adventure fiction type of book that this is perfectly.
The thing that struck me most about this work was the simplicity of the story and the plot and the humour and real humanity injected throughout. Too often historical fiction takes itself far too seriously it can be a real tonic to punctuate the deeply heart-rending or tense pile of books in my reading list with something light, enjoyable and exciting like this.
I have to say that I had no idea what the story was about, and still I have not read the description of the book or the sequels. The title intrigued me and, while I hate giving spoilers in my reviews, I have to say that I've reached the end of part one and still have no idea of the relevance of the title! I am therefore dying to read part two and dig deeper.
The characters in this story are realistic and among the most engaging in anything I've read - especially Alessandro, who has leapt into my top ten supporting characters of all time. The plot rattles away at an excellent pace that never leaves the reader wanting.
Quite simply, this book is a stunning piece of writing and I think it would be a complete waste if the potential reader passed it up at the wonderfully low price it sells at. I for one will continue to read the rest of the books and hope Cameron's planning on taking the series past three books.
Well done Mr Cameron for taking a chance on a new era and a whole new style of book and nailing it perfectly.
Tom Swan is a young man in 15th century Europe. Rescued from certain death at the hands of the French by a Greek cardinal, he sets out on a course of adventures that lead to Constantinople, recently conquered by the Turks.
Christian Cameron brings to life the world of late medieval Europe. If you like your historical fiction with a lot of action, then you will enjoy this series (and most likely his other books.)