This is the first book in a series of 6+ about a multi-generational family of adventurers which takes place in the 1800's on land and on sea. Smith is an excellent storyteller.
This was the first of Wilbur Smith's books I ever picked up, somewhere late in my college career when it was either read something fictional or burn out trying to write my thesis. Thick though it is, it's a fast read, quick paced and engaging from almost the first sentence (which is generally thought to be the goal). Set during the European colonization of Africa, this first book in the Courteney brothers series introduces us to Henry, called Hal, as he quite literally runs himself to exhaustion working and learning on his father's ship. Sailing under letters of marque from England, Sir Francis, a knight of the order of St. George and the Holy grail (the successors of the Knights Templar), searches Africa's coast for Dutch trading ships to commandeer and rob. On one such ship, he finds the new governor of the Cape of Good Hope and his wife Mevrouw. The couple are held for ransom, but it is not long until Mevrouw, called Katinka, finds young Hal an interesting diversion in her captivity. Sword fights, a Dutch colonial prison, a first-hand look at the European slave trade, and brushes with native wildlife, native peoples and warring western nations take readers by the throat through a ten year quest for wealth, justice, revenge and hope on the part of Sir Francis' crew, eventually led by Hal himself.
It's rare to find a story this fast-paced and detailed that also includes eroticism and passionate love, and yet since life gives us those opportunities as well, Smith includes them in masterful detail. It's just a fun read, and interesting to those who are fond of history but not necessarily familiar with that of Africa. This first book leads us to several more as the generations of the Courteney family live on and make parts of Africa their own. I loved it and continue to do so. This book is one I'm *not* trading!
I loved this book. Pirates, 17th century, exotic locales, boarding enemy ships, hidden gold bullion, revenge, a little sex for spice(a little too spicy for younger readers) and a great story with an author who really knows how to write. What more can you ask for? This is a terrific novel for adventure fans.
Typically I read books about history, biographies, or memoirs. It is not to often I pick up a fiction book. Prior to finding an audio version of Birds of Prey, I had no idea what a Swashbuckler story was (I had to look the term up). So basically, right off the bat, this was not the type of book I read and I really had no idea what to expect.
While I expected this to be the literary version of a pirate movie, I have to say I found the book surprisingly complex. On one hand, Birds of Prey is a highly entertaining book, telling a story about the days of old. Set in 1667, the book tells the story of a father and son team. The father and his crew are not pirates in the traditional sense, but rather they are mercenaries, fighting for whomever offered them the greatest opportunity to plunder enemy ships to obtain the spoils of war. As the story takes place during a couple of wars, as one would expect, the tale is filled with exciting fight scenes, thrilling chase scenes, suspenseful turns of events, surprisingly steamy adult scenes, and a stereotypical ending where the man gets the woman.
However, on the other hand, the story is really about Hal, the son in the father and son team. Much of the tale is centered around him. As much as this is a story about action, blood, and guts, this is also a story about Hals passage from a meek man who really does not matter to a true leader, leading his man from the clutches of death and to a promise land of riches.
I found the narrator, Christopher Cazenove, to be pleasant to listen to. He also made the story really believable, making the listener really feel like they were there.
I was surprised to find this story worked on several levels. I found the beginning of the story to be a but confusing and I had a difficult time trying to keep the characters straight. However, once I learned who was who, I found this to be a rather enjoyable story to listen to.
If you are looking for a great, classic, action packed, bloody story, than this will fit the bill. It is also a great coming of age story if you look past the violence. Overall, I recommend reading this book.
Another one I couldn't put down, one of the best I have read for a while. It has everything I look for in a book.
This is the second book by Wilbur Smith I've read. I wish I had started with the first in the "Courtney family" series, but I've been late to work on at least one occassion because I couldn't put the book down.
Obviously, this is my kind of read. It has it all; history, action, adventure, sex.
Typical Wilbur Smith--historical fiction/action-adventure
In typical Wilbur Smith fashion, he has you not wanting to put the book down.
Excellent adventure from Smith, a master of adventure. Tales of pirates and raiders and some remarkable people set in a dangerous Africa that existed years ago. Well worth reading.
This is not really a review, it is a warning. This particular book (and I love ALL Wilbur Smith's books)can very easily become hazardous to a person's health. I just could not put it down, and read through the night for many nights, cutting back on my sleep. And I am 70 years old and really, really need my sleep!
Just kidding about the health, but this is one very engrossing story. Don't miss it, especially if you like Wilbur Smith's books.
17 year old boy on a ship with three women, is transformed from a boy to a man, Gee, doesn't leave much to the imagination, does it?
as the choppy sea lanes of the african coast are rife with bloody battles over trade booty, sir francis courteney and his 17 year old son hal embark on a seafaring quest for the treasure laden galleons of the ductch east india company. but soon the horrific torture and execution of the elder courteney cataputs hal into the role of captain.
"Deemed one of the world's most popular and prolific adventure writers" by the Washington Post, bestseeling author Wilbur Smith presents "Birds of Prey", a swashbuckling epic of adventure, intrigue, and passion on the dangerous high seas.
this was a lot of fun. Smith is new to my list.
Start of the Courtney sagas, with Sir Francis Courtney and son Hal the stars.
I think this is probably the 2nd best of the Courtney Series. My favorite by far was Blue Horizon. If you want to read them in order (they are really all written in such a way that you can read them any way you like) this would be the first ending with Blue Horizon.
A wonderful & exciting adventure! This story will keep you coming back for more, and rooting wildly for the heros of the story!
There is a lot here for everyone: wars, romance, cheating, revenge...you name it! Highly recommended!
I really enjoyed this mammoth historical swashbuckler! The novel takes place during the year 1667 and is the first novel chronologically in the Courtney's of Africa series by Smith. I have read a few other Smith novels and have enjoyed all of them, but this is the first Courtney for me. It was full of exotic adventure, romance, and filled with historic details of the time. These included the war between England and Holland as well as the attacks on Christian Ethiopia by the Muslims. It was filled with despicable villains, brave heroes (especially Hal Courtney), tantalizing women, and swashbuckling action. I would give this one a high recommendation if you enjoy action and historical fiction.
Another great adventure from Wilbur. Each time i pick up another of his books I am thinking ...This must be the one that lets me down. Not So! can't wait to start the next one.
As the choppy sea lanes of the African coast are rife with bloody battles over trade booty, Sir Francis Courteney and his 17-year-old son Hal embark on a seafaring quest for the treasure-laden galleons of the Dutch East India Company. But soon the horrific torture and execution of the elder Courteney catapults Hal into the role of captain. And the heavy burden of avenging his father's death-- along with the lusty pleasures he shares with three beautiful women-- will swiftly, irrevocably transform Hal from boy to man...