Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book review - 13 Years Later & Beat the Drums Slowly.

I read fiction over the holidays; a lot easier to dip in and out of while you're traveling or relaxing on the beach.

The first book is the sequel to Twelve by Jasper Kent, while the second is the sequel to True Soldier Gentlemen by Adrian Goldsworthy.

So, to review 13 Years Later first; This story happens in Russia in 1825, appropriately 13 years after the events of the first story. The main character is still Alexei Danilov, who now is employed by the Emperor in keeping a watchful eye on threats to throne. As the story coincides with the Decembrist uprising, Alexei has his hands full infiltrating the group while trying to isolate his now grown son from their influence. Into this political powder keg comes the appearance of a vampire using communication codes that Alexei and his long dead comrades had devised to leave messages for each other. How had this vampire obtained the code and why is trying to contact Alexei? Is he a threat, or is he a warning of someone, or something, far more dangerous? And how is the Romanov dynasty involved? Is the threat facing them even more immediate than the Decembrists?

Old characters and new take part in the story that tells of the last days of the reign of Alexander II. It explains why some people believe the conspiracy theory that Alexander didn't die and instead secretly renounced the throne to spend his last days as a wandering ascetic monk.

A perfect pot-boiler for reading at the beach (I'm now reading the 3rd in the quintet, this one set during the Crimean War).

The second book I read was Beat the Drums Slowly, the sequel to True Soldier Gentlemen. Whereas the first book spent a lot of the narrative establishing characters and setting the scene for the fictional 106th Regiment of Foot to prepare itself to be shipped off to the Iberian Peninsula, this book is strengthened by the fact that all the characters are established and no more development or back-story is required; This is a purely plot-driven story and is much the better for it.

The regiment finds itself in Moore's army on its heartbreaking retreat through the snows of Galicia in 1808. They are part of the Reserve Division that keeps the French at bay while the rest of the army disintegrates on its retreat to the sea. One of the main characters, Hamish Williams, now promoted to Ensign, after a starting his career as a gentleman volunteer in the previous book, is separated from the regiment and his friends in the grenadier company when he goes off in search of the Major's daughter, the love of his life. He eventually finds her and together they try to rejoin the main army, picking up stragglers along the way, including a new-born baby! The ragtag group of stragglers, injured and wounded link up with an artillery detachment and realise that they are all that stands between the main army being outflanked by a detached group of French cavalry and light infantry who have been specially tasked by Boney himself to cut the British off from the sea.

Can this little group of misfits hold off the cream of the French army and save the retreating British? Will Williams' passion be requited? Will the rest of the 106th foot make it back the the ships?

I enjoyed it hugely and am eagerly waiting for the rest of the series.


  1. Hmm? Both books sound very interesting!!! Thanks for the heads up!

  2. I love the sound of 'Beat the Drums Slowly', could be a perfect way to bolster my rudimentary knowledge of the period and I do love a rip roaring adventure.


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