Storm Tide (Courtney #20), by Wilbur Smith with Tom Harper

Eight stars

It is always a pleasure to return to the world of the Courtney family, especially when Wilbur Smith is the literary tour guide. In this twentieth novel in the Courtney series, Smith tosses things back to the late 18th century once more, as the American War of Independence looms, as well as some other topical adventures for the current Courtney to face. Full of history, drama, and just a little humour, Wilbur Smith proves that he is one of the greatest historical storytellers I have read. A return to greatness after some lacklustre collaborative work.

It’s 1774 and Rob Courtney is still coming into his own. Having spent much of his life along the east coast of Africa, Rob knows little of the exciting life that awaits him on the open seas. He decides to put his dreams into reality after a death in the family and sets off aboard a ship for England, with only a family heirloom to accompany him.

Rob discovers that life in Africa is but a speck of what is going on in the world. He finds himself. lapping up a life of adventure, though soon comes to understand that dreams cost money and he is soon to run out. With an offer to join the British Navy, Rob finds himself back on the open waters and sailing towards the American colonies, where an uprising is beginning to make things quite tense. It is then that Rob Courtney finds true adventure, following in the steps of his ancestors, who never turned away from danger and risk.

Arriving on colonial shores, Rob begins fighting to keep Britain in change, while being seduced by the beauty of a woman who wants to show him how gracious she can be. As Rob gets more ensconced with the battle, two distant relatives emerge on the other side of the fight; young men who will stop at nothing to toss off the yoke of British rule. Rob’s eyes are soon opened up to many new perspectives when he sets sail for other parts of the Americas, including the importance of freedom and that love cannot always follow societal rules. A stunning addition to the Courtney series, Wilbur Smith does well with a little help from a secondary author.

I remember discovering the wonders of the Courtney family years ago, as Wilbur Smith was setting the groundwork for some of these other novels. The stories were always rich with history, social revelations, and stunning narrative development. Smith has not lost his gusto, adding depth to the pieces all these years later. I can only hope there are a few more to come, as they surely capture the reader’s attention and force them to think a little harder.

Wilbur Smith has tackled some of the thorny issues related to African colonisation and how the white minority wrestled with their role generations ago. In this piece, the story looks not to colonisation, but rather the slave trade and uses some strong narrative pathway to express how things were back in the latter part of the 18th century. Smith keeps things on edge with some wonderful characters, each of whom play an important role in telling how things progressed, while using historical events to keep the reader connected with fact. Plot twists throughout with some detailed discussions of societal norms force the reader to remain attune with what is going on, as they piece together much of what Smith has expressed in past books over a handle of generations. Long live the Courtneys, which Wilbur Smith seems keen to do!

Kudos, Mr. Smith, for another great piece. Keep them coming as best you can!

Ghost Fire (Courtney #17), by Wilbur Smith and Tom Harper

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Wilbur Smith, Tom Harper, and Bonnier Zaffre USA for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having long been a fan of the Courtney series, I was pleased to see Wilbur Smith back with the seventeenth instalment. Working alongside Tom Harper, they trim back the family tree—or at least seek different branches—with another of the flashback novels that explores an earlier group of the popular family. Set in mid-18th century India, Theo and Connie Courtney have grown up as British subjects in the East India Company. When fighting breaks out, a proxy theatre of the Thirty Years War, Theo and Connie are left to fend for themselves after their parents perish. After Theo and Connie have a falling out, the former joins the fight to quell the local uprising, while Connie finds herself captured and detained. Theo’s friendships on the battlefield to keep Calcutta from falling lead him to make a promise to one of his comrades. When the dust settles and presuming that Connie is among the dead, Theo sails for the Thirteen Colonies, where he delivers news of a man’s death. With nowhere else to go, Theo connects with the locals and begins a new round of trials and tribulations. Meanwhile, Connie is well and saved from her Indian prison by a soldier who wishes to take her to France. However, her keen eye and attention to detail works well for Connie, who sets foot on French soil with a story of being a widow. She injects herself into French society as best she can, while Theo is across the world, also brushing shoulders with the French, though for completely different reasons. As Courtneys, they have gumption and while they may not admit it, there is a fire within them to survive, no matter what is put before them. In a tale of blood, fighting, and perseverance, Smith and Harper use this interesting flashback novel to bring their point home In this series that has seen much ebb and flow throughout its development, this one remains relatively strong. Fans of the series may enjoy this one, though it is sometimes hard to become enthralled with an era that differs greatly from the original series.

I have long enjoyed the work of Wilbur Smith, though this is the only series of his I have read (save, the intertwined Ballantynes). His attention to detail and wonderful characters are second to none and they fly off the page, enticing the reader to learn more about them, no matter the time period covered. In this piece, Smith and Harper develop both separate and intertwined narratives for the two protagonists. Theo Courtney is full of the energy of his ancestors and descendants, wanting to fight for what he feels is right. His split from his sister is partially pig-headedness and partially passion clouded in anger. As the narrative progresses, the reader can see how Theo uses all that is before him to make the most of the experience, though he is prone to finding trouble. By contrast, Connie seems happy to let life lead the way, though she is by no means a helpless damsel. Her independence is muted by the time, though she remains cunning and finds ways to get what she wants, through both her mind and with her own looks. Many of the other characters offer interesting perspectives throughout the novel, complementing the protagonists throughout. While this era is not one that I enjoy in this series, I must applaud Smith and Harper for keeping things interesting and on point. I struggled at times with the narrative, though was able to pick-up on the poignant parts that kept the narrative moving forward. Rich with history and told in numerous locales, the story rises above some of the other books in the series to keep the reader curious until the final pages.

Kudos, Messrs. Smith and Harper, for a decent addition to the series. It may be that the era is not of interest to me, but I can surely see a great deal of potential within the pages of this novel.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: