Power of the Sword (Courtney #5), by Wilbur Smith

Eight stars

Building off the drama of the previous novel, Smith paves the way for another explosive tale in Power of the Sword. As readers will remember, Centaine de Thiry Courtney has two sons; Shasa, from her relationship with Michael Courtney, and Manfred De La Rey, from a tryst with Lothar while she remained lost in the African backcountry. When Lothar committed a dastardly act, Centaine disowned him and refused to acknowledge Manfred whatsoever. As the novel opens, both boys are teens, though neither knows of the other’s existence as a blood relation. Shasa is living with his mother and enjoying the spoils of her diamond mine while Lothar has Manfred under his wing, working as a fisherman and running a canning company. This contrast in lifestyles is further reflected in the boys’ upbringing, where Shasa rubs elbows with the British South African elite and attends top-notch schools while honing his polo skills. Manfred must fight to survive and becomes indoctrinated with the more deeply-rooted Boer sentiment of white South Africans. When Lothar plots to bring down Centaine’s diamond mines with a significant heist, things go horribly wrong and he is sentenced to hard labour, leaving Manfred to live with his uncle, Tromp Bierman, a well known and much respected Minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. Bierman not only exacerbates the anti-British sentiment about South African rule, but also fosters a new passion for the sport of boxing. As time progresses, both Shasa and Manfred qualify to represent South Africa at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Manfred is pulled into a political scheme, orchestrated by the Nazis, and he is sent back as a covert operative to bring down the South African government. Smith also sees fit to place Centaine in a love triangle of her own, which sees her trying to forge a place for herself while still dealing with her past indiscretions regarding Lothar and Manfred. Additionally, as Smith as made it a theme in all his books, the rise of discontent among the black South Africans emerges again with the creation of the African National Congress (ANC). A wonderful addition to the Courtney series, Smith treats readers to a stellar piece of work.

The continuation of the second Courtney series is full of juicy storylines and character development that makes this series well worth its invested time. Pulling on ideas and plots from not only the previous novel, but first series as well, the story is weighty as well as being complex. With a continued focus on the next generation of the Courtney clan, Smith pulls on historical events to pave the way towards much drama and character development. Keeping the story rich with plots, the reader has much on which to grasp as things develop slowly, but continually. Political change is on the horizon in South Africa and Smith paints a powerful picture of racism and segregation, which will soon stun the world with its cruel application. Perhaps one of the better novels in the larger collection to date, Smith builds towards an exciting next novel, without rushing anything and leaving the reader feeling cheated. The African subcontinent comes alive as Smith delves in so many directions, making his novels must-reads for the curious and history buff.

Kudos, Mr. Smith for a series that keeps getting better. I am blessed to have stumbled upon this collection and am learning so much in your narratives.