Traitor's Blood, by Michael Arnold

First in a series of books about Captain Stryker, a soldier in the King's army during the civil war.

I bought this (and the second and third in the series) because the author was in Waterstone's and they looked interesting - they're billed as "the civil war version of Sharpe" so I thought they'd be worth a go.

I was a bit worried that this would be a bit poor - you can imagine that someone might think it would be a neat idea to piggy-back on Sharpe's success by ripping off the idea and setting it in a slightly different period. But although it is very similar to Sharpe (and I think the author himself acknowledges that he is inspired by Bernard Cornwell), it didn't feel like a cheap knock-off at all.

In fact, I really enjoyed this: I'm not sure if he's quite as good as Cornwell, but it was a pretty gripping read. The fact that it did feel that he had "borrowed" some of the themes that appear in Sharpe (indestructible soldier with reliable sidekick, engaging in large battles and small skirmishes; being betrayed/pursued by his and bĂȘte noire; a hint of a romantic entanglement) didn't actually matter because it stood on its own.

I like the idea that Stryker is fighting on the side of the royalists, which means he's on the side that's bound to lose: it will be interesting to see how this pans out in future books. I'd also be interested to see whether subsequent books review previous events: there is obviously some history to be told about how Stryker got to where he is at the start of this book, so perhaps - as per Sharpe - future novels can explain that.

Basically it was a pretty rollicking read: pacey, exciting and fun. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more.

Completed : 28-Jul-2013

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