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am 28. Juni 2000
In BIRDS OF PREY, it is the year 1667, and we are introduced to the 17-year old Englishman, Hal Courteney. Hal is a crewmember on his father's ship, the "Lady Edwina", as it sails the high seas off the southern tip of Africa. England is at war with the Dutch Republic, and the ship's captain, Sir Francis Courteney, has been given license by the British Admiralty to prey on Dutch trading ships of the United East India Company as they return to Amsterdam from the East Indies via the Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. Sir Francis captures a Dutch ship carrying the newly appointed Governor of Good Hope and his wife, Katinka. During the period when the Governor and his wife are held for ransom, Hal loses his virginity to Katinka, a sadistic, treacherous, highborn slut. (Well, good breeding isn't everything.) Subsequently, Sir Francis, Hal and the rest of the Lady Edwina's company are betrayed by a former ally, the Scottish Earl of Cumbrae, with the help of a former crewmember, Sam Bowles, and imprisoned at Good Hope. Sir Francis is brutally tortured and executed. Hal and a handful of survivors later escape, acquire another ship, and go on to defeat their primary tormentors, Cumbrae and a Dutch army colonel named Schreuder, against the backdrop of a war between the Christian Emperor of Ethiopia and the Moslem Sultan of Oman. Along the way, Hal inherits his father's captaincy and finds true love (as opposed to hormonal-driven sex with Katinka) - twice.
As painted by the author, Wilbur Smith, the chief characters of this swashbuckling adventure are almost caricatures. The "good guys" - principally Hal and his loyal buddies, Aboli, Ned, and Daniel - are brave, noble and heroic. The "bad guys" - Katinka, Governor van de Velde, Bowles, Cumbrae, and Schreuder - are cruel, dishonorable and totally vile. The action, much as in Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones film trilogy, is wildly improbable, especially over the book's latter half. Similarly, however, that same action is scripted with such exuberance and energy that it's totally engaging. Finally, I read to be transported to places that, in most cases, I will never visit. I doubt that I shall ever ply the Indian Ocean or South Atlantic aboard a frigate under sail. This book took me there in grand style.
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am 9. Juni 2000
BIRDS OF PREY is no doubt the very best novel Wilbur Smith has ever written. Although it is a bit too long, you must read it; it has all of the right ingredience a novel needs - it sure is a flawless masterpiece. I have read ALL of Wilbur Smith's books, and this one is his greatest. Want more? Read the sequel: MONSOON. Read BIRDS OF PREY & MONSOON now and see for yourself what I mean. I hope BIRDS OF PREY eventually gets made into a major movie. It's good and powerful, believe me. I can't wait for Smith's next book! Other books by Wilbur Smith I highly recommend are EAGLE IN THE SKY, ELEPHANT SONG, RIVER GOD, and THE SEVENTH SCROLL. Smith is the most talented author in the world - he meticulously researches many things and never rushes his job. His books are therefor almost perfect. Buy BIRDS OF PREY, be patient with it, and you'll see what I mean.
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am 28. April 2000
There's not another activity quite like reading a story created by a skilled author that allows you to travel to another time and witness events of high drama and intrigue while in the safety and comfort of your own home.Wilbur Smith has created such a story. This is a fantastic historical novel set in the 1670's depicting the English pirate raids on the Dutch East Indies Company. Treachery on the high seas, slavery, brutal conditions and extraordinary characters make this a story not easily forgotten. It seems its main characters, namely Francis and Hal Courtney may be the ancestors of the later Courtneys found in Smith's earlier novels. It will be a pleasure to find out.
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am 9. Juni 2014
Eingebettet in die Courtney-Saga erlebt der Leser eine schillernde Story im Stil alter Piratenfilme mit allem, was dazu gehört: Tragik, Liebesgeschichten (gleich derer drei !), Mord und Totschlag, Schurken und Helden und ein Happy-End. Dass das Ganze ziemlich realitätsfern und voll mit logischen Brüchen ist, stört das Lesevergnügen keineswegs. Die Story hat viele Wendungen und Entwicklungen, die den Helden und Protagonisten Hal Courtney trotz aller Widrigkeiten zum Glück und die Bösewichter ihrem gerechten Schicksal zuführen.

Wer spannende und unterhaltsame Lektüre sucht, ist hier richtig. Unbedingte Leseempfehlung !
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am 23. Mai 1999
This is the fourth time I've attempted to place a review of this book on-line. Well maybe the fourth is the charm.
This tale's a sweeping adventure about English (and other) pirates in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic along the southern African coastline during the days of English-Dutch colonial conflict in the 17th century. The first quarter of the book, unfortunately, is tiresome as it's rife w/cliches: the noble Sir Francis Courtney ("pirate" captain and knight of the order of something or other), his eager and bright-eyed young son Hal, the Afican sidekick and all around noble savage, Aboli, and, of course, all the de rigour bad guys (the lovely and sexually sadistic Katrina, her fat malevolent husband, the Dutch governor, the treacherous first mate, the evil pirate captain and comrade, etc.). But, oddly enough, the tale does catch fire once the characters get mixed up with one another and end up in Cape Town. Although the plot is mechanical and the characters little more than cardboard cut-outs, the writing (including sharp descriptions of the African flora and fauna, life aboard ship and lots of taut action) does have a certain zing to it. I did find the evil and thick headed Dutch colonel (in the service of the fat governor) somewhat annoying (though he was the "perfect" villain w/his shaved pate and waxed moustachios -- shades of Simon LeGree!) and I thought the torturer, Slow John, another bit of overkill, if you'll pardon the "sort-of-pun." But Smith can write action scenes -- when he's not larding the plot with villains and nefarious encounters, along with one cliche after another (lots of duels to the death, ambushes, daring escapes, fierce sea battles, etc.). His female love interests are also so perfect and so wooden you'll think them puppets. (I can't remember the names or very much else about the two lovely gals who give up everything for the dashing young Hal except that each is lovelier than all other fair maids in the world and, of course, loyal and self-sacrificing to the core.) In fact there's too much here generally. One action scene after another drives this plot. Reminded me of the worst of television. But, oddly, and I have to admit this here, it kept me reading. Aside from the nicely turned phrases and descriptions of the terrain and the action, or perhaps because of this, the book does hold the reader to it. So what if the characters are barely real? The prose is peppy (after the early parts, I must hasten to add) so, in sum, I think I can see why Smith manages to make a living at this stuff. But it doesn't hold a candle to the great pirate literature of the past (am thinking of Sabatini's Captain Blood here, or Stevenson's Treasure Island). On the other hand, the gratuitous sex and mayhem perhaps speaks more to our modern sensibilities. I was a little troubled by the double climax which seemed to throw away a wonderful confrontation between hero and villain at the end . . . after the book had, to all intents and purposes, already come to a crashing and fiery halt. But I guess Smith just figured he had to get that one last duel into the mix. And couldn't forego the earlier climax for it. So what the hey, give 'em two! The reader probably won't know the difference anyway! Three stars for this one, on the basis of a strong and dynamic narrative engine. Nothing more. -- S. W. Mirsky
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am 16. April 2000
I have been a respectful admiring reader of Wilbur Smith for many years. I was enthralled by his intricate plot, spellbounding capacity, and deep knowledge of the history and politics of his (and my own) native Africa. But more than that, his psychological analysis of characters, ability to convey relations between different races, tolerance and contrivance to impartiality in portraying the motivation and actions of different ethnic/political groups has raised him above the exotic thriller/adventure writer he is classified as. However, beneath the surface, you could see sometimes his identification with the "Anglo" white man (that is African white people of English descent). This is apparent in his clashes with other Whites (Boers), Black (Bantu) people, and in this novel with Arabs / Muslims. Though the book technically and plot-wise is very good, the author has not escaped the temptation to generalize when speaking about Arabs or Muslims (i.e. There are many types of Christians, good ones, bad ones, but Muslims are a stereotype). It is bit surprising that Hal fought such a fervent war against Muslims, with such conviction, just after his Muslim wife was murdered. If you add that Muslims had nothing to do with the death of his wife or father, you'll be more surprised. Having his brother-in-law abstain from fighting his people was the gesture that saved the book from being unrealistic and superficial. Smith's portrayal of Muslim characters (even Anglos) is uncomplimentary, if not downright derogatory. Hal is a typical Courtney hero again, brave, clever, handsome, charismatic, irresistible, and unconquerable. But I got used to Smith's Courtney prototype that I am starting to enjoy it, if not believe it.
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am 26. November 1999
I really enjoyed this book. It's not the type of book I usually read, but it was recommended to me by my brother. I found it to be very fast paced and exciting. You follow the hero (Hal) on his seafaring adventures set in the mid 1600s. It gives great insight as to what life in this period was like and so makes for a fascinating read. It has great battle scenes, heartbreaking torture, and a good amount of lust! The only thing I found slightly tedious were the constant references to the ship's construction and operation. It would have been really interesting, if you knew what they were talking about. They should definitely have included a little diagram of a ship with all of the parts labeled. I bought this book for my ocean loving brother-in-law and am sure he'll love it. I thought it was very well written and would recommend it, especially for the guys out there who like history and stories of the pirate days.
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am 22. Dezember 1999
I believe Wilbur Smith has written in the vicinity of 30 novels. I should go home and count them tonight as I have every one of them, and I am starting his most recent, Monsoon, this evening. My dear wife gave me his novel, Rage, about 11 years ago and I have been hooked ever since. He simply has never written a book that was not a delight to read and an educational experience as well. The history of South Africa is woven through many of his books and you will not find an easier way to learn it. This book is a rolliking story of the sea which contains all of the elements he weaves so effortlessly into his books. Adventure, romance, sex (there is a difference), mystery and suspence come in many measures, all palatable and more than enjoyable. The outline of the story has been told by other reviews. Suffice it to say, you always get more than your money's worth from Mr. Smith...even at today's prices!
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am 25. Januar 2000
I am an avid reader of adventure and historical novels and have recently found Wilbur Smith through a recommendation of a friend. I recently read Birds of Prey and Monsoon back to back. I couldn't wait to read on and was saddened when I completed the two books. I anxiously hope and wait for a sequel to Monsoon. Now I have ordered the entire Courtneys of Africa series. I just completed The Sound of Thunder and while good (3 star)was not up to the excitement and adventure of Birds of Prey and Monsoon (both 5 stars). Perhaps it was the adventure on the high seas as opposed to the Boer War that I enjoyed but I think it was more the writing style and great decriptive and story telling skill that made the difference. I can't imagine a more exciting or better written novel than Smith's latest two books. Tomorrow I will begin A Time to Die.
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am 12. März 2000
I bought my first Wilbur Smith book Nov'86. It was translated to Swedish. At that time (being 22 years old) I hadn't yet started to read in english on a regular basis. Out of curiosity I counted the books from this author that I had bought over the years, and I found to my surprise that I had 19 different novels. I like all of them. If you purchase 'Birds of Prey' it is a good introduction to also buy other novels from the same author. Just a warning; dont pick it up and start to read unless you know that you have some time to spare. This book will not let you do other things for a while. All of his books are entertaining, highly interesting and yet educational at the same time. The perfect companion to bring when you want to have a quiet moment on your own and relax with a good book.
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