Won By the Sword by G. A. Henty


Won by the Sword

Plot: Won by the Sword is set in the 17th century. The French at that time were in the midst of what would turn out to be a thirty years war.
We meet our hero, Hector Campbell, in 1639, the war has already been raging for twenty-some-odd years by that time. Found by General Turrene practicing play-war against a city, Hector talks some time with him before finding that the gentlemen he is speaking with is General Turrene himself. Turrene takes a liking to Hector and soon has him on as his personal messenger.

The thirty years war began mostly due to the different nobles of France warring for more power, and a stronger hold on the French throne. At that time the Italian bishop, Richelieu, held great power over the throne, mostly due to his friendship with the king. A man of intelligence and power, Richelieu did his best to unite France during his life time with the king.

Not far into our story Richelieu, and the king, die of illness. The king’s young son is then crowned king, but the throne is in control of his mother until he comes of age. Succeeding Richelieu is Mazerin, another Italian bishop who is also in great power, though he was not greatly admired by the king, he learned well from Richelieu and is held in favor by the queen.

General Enghien is also under Frances’s service at this time, and is equal in brilliance in strategy to Turrene, though Turrene is more cautious while Enghien is less concerned with how many men are lost. Both are equally brave, and both take a liking to Hector, who serves under the two.
Battles are won on either side, the French and Austrian, (both countries have other countries aiding them) but nothing happens that truly sways the victory rod in either direction.

This Henty book contains much of the history of France, yet is combined with Hector’s own adventures, which are many. We see the war through Hector’s eyes, and are very happy for it, as it’s a fun nose-in-the-pages book.

Negative: The war chapters do not go into great detail of how men die and are very mild. Other than a duel, an alley fight and a brush with robbers in an inn, there is little negative content.

Overall: This was a very good Henty book, not his most exciting, but it was not dry and dull. I do recommend this book, as it is chock full of good history, and is rather a fun read. (And, as usual, our hero is ever brave and honorable.)

With Buller in Natal, or A Born Leader by G.A. Henty


With Buller in Natal

Plot: With Buller in Natal, is set in the 2nd Boer War of 1899-1902. The Boers were Dutch immigrants who had settled in South Africa before the 18th Century. It was dominated by the English from 1806 onward. The 1st Boer war, 1880-81, was a Boer struggle for political freedom. They won this war mostly because of the timidness of English officials.

The 2nd Boer war came about because of the mass immigration of foreigners, Uitlanders to the Boers, who came because of the discovery of gold. This alarmed the Boers, who wanted a Dutch only state. The Dutch arrogance resulting from their victory in the first war caused them to declare war on the English government. This conflict was almost entirely new to me, so it was very interesting reading about it. According to Henty, the Boers were extremely rough, uncivilized folk, who denied every kindness to the English people. The main character and a number of people from Johannesburg, their place of abode and livelihood, made their way down to Maritzburg, held by the English, at the beginning of the story. On the way down, men, women and children were described as roughly insulted and very brutally treated by the Boers. The main character, Chris King, and a score of his friends from Johannesburg form their own corps, and are attached to the volunteer Maritzburg Scouts as an independent contingent. They armed themselves with rifles they had confiscated from a Boer farmer, and mounted themselves with money their fathers had given them to cover expenses for the trip down, as they were all from wealthy families. They often posed as Boers while scouting and engaged in a number of expeditions, repeatedly times defeating bands several times their size. Chris and three other young men from his band attempt to blow up a bridge connecting Portuguese East Africa and Boer territory, by which the Boers were importing arms. They were unsuccessful, but they instead blow up a large train carrying cannon, rifles, and a great deal of ammunition. This action brought Chris and his comrades to the attention of General Buller. They were mostly inactive during the big fights, since they were mounted, and the heavy fighting was carried on by infantry. Much of the book was centered on the relief of the town of Ladysmith, which was besieged by the Boers. The English relief force was commanded by General Buller, from whom the title of the book is derived. When the war is over, Chris joins his parents in England, who decided not to go back to Johannesburg. Other than that, there wasn’t much of a plot. It was mostly a historical account of the British campaign to thrash the Boers, with a few personal experiences of the main character thrown in. This type is not usually the rule with Henty’s books, but rather the exception, at least as far as I’ve read. He wrote about 120, and I’ve read about 40+. This definitely was not one of his better books.

Positive: He gives you a great historical account of the South African War, if you can manage to follow along and catch all the minute details.

Negative: The Boers are brutal. A Boer farmer who refuses to sell them bread and milk for the ladies, and then threatens them with a rifle, is severely thrashed by the main character.

It was fairly dry, and it wasn’t Henty at his best.

On the side, I have read elsewhere that the British first introduced the concept of concentration camps in this war, occupying them with women and children whom they forced to leave their homes so they could not aid Boer guerrillas. Though treated humanely, crowded conditions caused rampant disease. I don’t know how true that is, but it gives pause for thought. The part of the War dealt with in the book was on the campaigning of 1899-1900. Guerilla warfare continued until 1902, the year Henty died. This book is about 370 pages.

You can get a hardback version here.

You can get it from Gutenburg here.

Grainne: Sailor Princess of Ireland by Louise Gherasim


Grainne

Plot: The basic “plot” of this book is to learn about Grainne, sailor princess of Ireland, as she grows into womanhood and marries a warrior.

Her entire world practically revolves around her father, wanting to be a boy, learning to be a chieftain and sailing the sea.

As a little girl she watches all she can of her father’s business, doing her best to learn all and be better than any boy. She does well in school, most of the time, and manages to win the trust of all the boys in her class.

While she grows in womanhood, Grainne still wishes to be a boy, but slowly figures out that she should be a bit more content with who she is.

Negative: Grainne is constantly disobeying her mother, defying her father, and over all being rather annoying. At one point she cuts off all her hair, and I mean ALL, to make herself look like a boy so that her father would take her on a voyage, one that her mother doesn’t want her to go on and has told her that she couldn’t go on. Had her father rebuked her and left her behind this might have been fine, but no, he admires her spirit and takes her with him! A man is stabbed by a little girl, and a little girl strips naked in front of boys. (she is swimming)

Overall: To be perfectly honest, I did not care for this book at all, Grainne is a brat from page one. A few paragraphs of the scenery is all I really liked. So I would not recommend this book, unless you are looking for a quick read and don’t care what its about. However, if you read it and end up enjoying it, more power to you.