Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Wilbur Smith

Post Reply
User avatar
Ludmilla
Bibliophile
Posts: 1346
Joined: September 2008
Location: Georgia USA

Wilbur Smith

Post by Ludmilla » Thu December 22nd, 2011, 3:39 pm

For anyone who has read his books and would like to comment on them.

Thought I'd start out by posting his bibliography from Wikipedia (not sure how reliable the dates are):

The Courtney Series
Can be split into three parts, each part following a particular era of the Courtney family. In chronological order it goes the Third Sequence, First Sequence, then the Second Sequence. However this is a slight generalization, so in fact the book sequence is:
1. Birds of Prey 1660s
2. Monsoon 1690s
3. Blue Horizon 1730s
4. When the Lion Feeds 1860s-1890s
5. Triumph of the Sun 1880s
6. The Sound of Thunder 1899-1906
7. Assegai 1906-1918
8. A Sparrow Falls 1918-1925
9. The Burning Shore 1917-1920
10. Power of the Sword 1931-1948
11. Rage 1950s and 1960s
12. Golden Fox 1969-1979
13. A Time To Die 1987

The Ballantyne Series
They chronicle the lives of the Ballantyne family, from the 1860s through until 1980s against a background of the history of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). A fifth novel published in 2005 seeks to combine the Ballantyne narrative with that of Smith's other family saga, The Courtney Novels.
1. A Falcon Flies 1860
2. Men of Men 1870s-1890s
3. Triumph of the Sun 1880s (Courtneys meet the Ballantynes)
4. The Angels Weep 1st part 1890s, 2nd part 1977
5. The Leopard Hunts in Darkness 1980s

The Egyptian Series
A historical fiction series based in a large part on Pharaoh Thutmose III's time along with his story and that of his stepmother Hatshepsut through the eyes of his mother's vizier Senemut mixing in elements of the Hyksos' domination and eventual overthrow. The Seventh Scroll is set in modern times, but reflects the other three through archaeological discoveries.
1. River God
2. The Seventh Scroll
3. Warlock
4. The Quest

Others:
(listed on Fantastic Fiction with published dates)

The Dark of the Sun (1965)
Shout At the Devil (1968)
Gold Mine (1970)
aka Gold
The Diamond Hunters (1971)
The Sunbird (1972)
Eagle in the Sky (1974)
The Eye of the Tiger (1975)
Cry Wolf (1976)
Hungry As the Sea (1978)
Wild Justice (1979)
aka The Delta Decision
Elephant Song (1991)
Those in Peril (2011)
Last edited by Ludmilla on Thu December 22nd, 2011, 4:10 pm, edited 5 times in total.

User avatar
Ludmilla
Bibliophile
Posts: 1346
Joined: September 2008
Location: Georgia USA

Post by Ludmilla » Thu December 22nd, 2011, 3:50 pm

From the December Reading Thread:
Annis said: I read a ton of Wilbur Smith novels back in day, but not for a while. I enjoyed Sunbird, which is a one-off time-slip featuring the rediscovery of an ancient Carthiginian city in Africa, and the Courtenay series beginning with Birds of Prey. These are prequels to the original Courteney series which begins with Lion Feeds.

Although WS writes a ripping yarn, after a while I found the sexual violence which often appears was becoming a bit off-putting - there's something a tad nasty about it - reminiscent in some ways of Ken Follett's novels.
I can see that comparison to Ken Follett, which is why I can read novels like this every once in a while but suffer burn out if I try too many in a row.
Brenna said: My mom has a ton of his books which I hope to read throughout the year so I would be interested in a thread. I liked The River God and The Seventh Scroll although my mom mentioned I may not like the other ones in the series.
The River God is the only other book by Smith that I've read. It was deliberately over-the-top in some respects but I enjoyed it, especially the travelogue section (not sure if I'm in the minority with regard to that). Also enjoyed how Taita explains Lostris' pregnancies (made me chuckle, anyway). I don't know why I haven't tried the sequels. I did hear a rumor about one of the later books, though, which made me think they got really cheesy after the first one. Apparently (spoiler ahead):
Hmm... might be worth reading just for the laugh. I dunno.

I'm trying the first book in the first Courtney sequence now, which is When the Lion Feeds. So far, so good. I'm a little tired of Europe-centric historical fiction. Needed a break from it.
Last edited by Ludmilla on Thu December 22nd, 2011, 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

annis
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4585
Joined: August 2008

Post by annis » Mon December 26th, 2011, 11:31 pm

Just for fun, because I'd been reminded of it here and no-one wants heavy reading over Christmas, I re-read Birds of Prey for the first time in many years and I have to say I enjoyed it all over again - Wilbur Smith is a master storyteller. The action is full-on, the settings and the women (always beautiful, naturally,) exotic. His style is cinematic - descriptive passages vivid and battle scenes dramatically detailed. This is boys' own adventure stuff; the blood flows, the sex is explicit and men are real men and either heroes or dastardly villains - but, surprisingly, Smith's reading audience numbers more women than men. If you feel like some pure historical swashbuckling escapism unhindered by too much introspection or moral complexity, Wilbur Smith's your guy.

Ludmilla's question about the Courtenay/Courtney thing is an interesting one. All my WS books use the name Courtenay, yet they are described as the Courtney series, even on Wilbur Smith's website! I haven't read the latest ones, so maybe the name change happened fairly recently.

For those trying to untangle the complexities of the Courtenay/Ballantyne families, Wilbur Smith has useful family trees on his website below. (Courtenays are connected with what will be South Africa, Ballantynes with Rhodesia/Zimbabwe).
http://www.wilbursmithbooks.com/books/courtney

(Birds of Prey is chronologically the first book in the Courtenay series, though written retrospectively.)
Last edited by annis on Tue December 27th, 2011, 6:25 pm, edited 24 times in total.

User avatar
Ludmilla
Bibliophile
Posts: 1346
Joined: September 2008
Location: Georgia USA

Post by Ludmilla » Tue December 27th, 2011, 1:56 pm

I finished When the Lion Feeds over the holiday and am almost done with The Sound of Thunder. I don't mind good, old-fashioned swashbuckling style fiction, so these have been fun. What they lack in depth, I think they more than make up for in action-adventure and setting. I haven't read too many books set in South Africa, so the history is interesting. TSoT takes place during the Second Boer War, which I think is one of those under-utilized settings in historical fiction. I do think it would be interesting to find more historical fiction about the Voortrekkers and from the Dutch PoV. What little I've read has mostly been from the English PoV.

I'm not sure what is driving the different spellings of the Courtney name. The series name seems to be consistently spelled as Courtney. I spell-checked my Kindles and the name is also spelled consistently as Courtney, but I've noticed in many reviews and some print editions the alternate spellings of Courteney/Courtenay. I don't know if this is driven by market audience or if this is how the family originally spelled their name in the prequels that start in the 1600s. Not really important, but one of those things I just happen to notice.

User avatar
sweetpotatoboy
Bibliophile
Posts: 1641
Joined: August 2008
Location: London, UK

Post by sweetpotatoboy » Tue December 27th, 2011, 2:51 pm

I started the Courtney series a year or two back and recently finished Rage, which is the seventh or eighth in the order they were written,which is generally how I like to do things. The main characters are always too good or too bad to be quite true but it's fantastic story telling and a fascnating insight into a setting we don't read much of.

I look forward to eventually reading the earlier-set Courtney books and other series.

annis
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4585
Joined: August 2008

Post by annis » Wed December 28th, 2011, 6:53 am

Posted by Ludmilla
I do think it would be interesting to find more historical fiction about the Voortrekkers and from the Dutch PoV. What little I've read has mostly been from the English PoV.
I don't know if you've come across Stuart Cloete's work? Cloete was a South African author with Dutch SA ancestry going back to the days of the Dutch East India Company, though his mother was Scottish. He wrote several historical adventures (actually a bit in the Wilbur Smith vein) based around the Great Trek, like The Fiercest Heart (1955) and possibly his best known novel, Turning Wheels (1937).
Last edited by annis on Wed December 28th, 2011, 7:00 am, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
Brenna
Bibliophile
Posts: 1358
Joined: June 2010
Location: Delaware

Post by Brenna » Wed December 28th, 2011, 2:21 pm

[quote=""Ludmilla""]For anyone who has read his books and would like to comment on them.

The Egyptian Series
A historical fiction series based in a large part on Pharaoh Thutmose III's time along with his story and that of his stepmother Hatshepsut through the eyes of his mother's vizier Senemut mixing in elements of the Hyksos' domination and eventual overthrow. The Seventh Scroll is set in modern times, but reflects the other three through archaeological discoveries.
1. River God
2. The Seventh Scroll
3. Warlock
4. The Quest

[/quote]

Really? I haven't read the last two but I don't think they were about Hatshepsut at all. I really enjoyed The Seventh Scroll, more so than River God.

[quote=""Ludmilla""]From the December Reading Thread:


The River God is the only other book by Smith that I've read. It was deliberately over-the-top in some respects but I enjoyed it, especially the travelogue section (not sure if I'm in the minority with regard to that). Also enjoyed how Taita explains Lostris' pregnancies (made me chuckle, anyway). I don't know why I haven't tried the sequels. I did hear a rumor about one of the later books, though, which made me think they got really cheesy after the first one. Apparently (spoiler ahead):
[/quote]

That is what my mom said, so I don't know if I will read the final two. I miss the characters though so I kind of want to..
Brenna

User avatar
Ludmilla
Bibliophile
Posts: 1346
Joined: September 2008
Location: Georgia USA

Post by Ludmilla » Wed December 28th, 2011, 3:02 pm

[quote=""annis""]Posted by Ludmilla


I don't know if you've come across Stuart Cloete's work? [/quote]

Thanks, Annis. I haven't but I'll definitely keep him in mind.

Brenna said: Really? I haven't read the last two but I don't think they were about Hatshepsut at all. I really enjoyed The Seventh Scroll, more so than River God.
I've only read the first. I don't know how accurate Wikipedia's description of the series is (which is where that description came from). If it's based on any specific rulers during that period, I think it's more very loosely inspired than based on, but my memory of the various rulers and their reigns is rather fuzzy. In this regard, it's really more historical fantasy than historical, I think.

Post Reply

Return to “By Author”