Monday, August 13, 2012

Book review - When the Lion feeds

When the lions feeds – Wilbur Smith
The previous two books I have read by Wilbur Smith have been part of the Ancient Eqyptian series. I have loved both of them and so I was really looking forward to the first book he ever wrote.
The Blurb:
WHEN THE LIONS FEEDS is the story of South Africa at the burgeoning time of the gold rush in the 1890s. Sean Courtney was raised in cattle country, accidently maimed his twin brother Garry as a boy. In inflicting weakness, Sean came to despise weakness in all. This, plus his own strength, was to dictate Sean's iron resolve to win, no matter how much the gamble cost.

After a stint fighting the Zulu tribes, Sean trys his luck in the gold fields. Venturing an impossible claim which miraculously proves out, Sean gains wealth beyond counting and power. Power that was unmanageable without cunning. But cunning was an art he was to learn the hard way.
“When the lion feeds” is split into three parts and follows the life of Sean Courtney. Unlike many books I have read of this ilk, the excellent thing about the book is that each part is as strong as the last. Just when you think you know where the story is going, it moves off in a new direction.
Sean himself is a great character. Strong, moralistic, stoic, he is everything a leading man should be, but what makes him so great is that he is flawed to boot. Each decision he makes is not always the right decision and how he treats people is not always how they should be treated, but at his heart, his intentions are mostly for the good.
It is the secondary characters where this book excels however. Each time we are introduced to a new character Wilbur Smith immediately ingratiates them to the reader. They may be abhorrent but they are dam readable. When Sean leaves them behind, I genuinely lamented that I was no longer reading about them.
Special mention goes to Duff. Whose friendship with Sean is a good a pairing as I have read. Duff is a brilliant character and their partnership provides a level of trust and respect born out of mutual interest in life. This relationship is nearly equalled by that of Sean and Mbejane – his zulu friend and loyal follower. Their devotion to each other provides some of the most touching scenes in the book.
Wilbur Smith writes with such ease, his prose draws you in and it was incredibly hard to put the book down at some points. He brings Africa to life in a way that is both interesting and exciting. To be honest, I was searching for a decent western novel to read, but this adventure hit all the buttons I needed. In many ways it felt like a western.
 I mentioned that each part was as strong as the last. However, it is the ending of the third part that really is touching. The ending is foreshadowed a mile off and normally when it is so obviously hinted at I despise it. However in this case, despite knowing what was going to happen, I felt an increasing sense of unease. I have my theories around certain plot elements but one thing for sure is that this is a tremendous book.
Overall, I loved the two other Wilbur Smith books I have read so far, but his first ever surpasses them. Easily one of my top five reads so far this year, if not my favourite.
My rating: 9.4