3 out of 4 stars
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Sword of Retribution by John Tuman Jr. is a riveting historical fiction novel that vividly images the lesser-known history of the brutal injustices that spurred the Cossacks Uprising and the indelible impact the wars had on all the key players: The Polish nobles, Jews, serfs, and, of course, Cossacks. Being the first book in the Sword Trilogy, the narrative takes a deep dive into seventeenth-century Ukraine and Poland and the oppressing hand of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
After escaping death by a hair’s breadth, Ivan Dosiak’s childhood is haunted by the memory of his family being brutally torn apart by the same men who grabbed his father’s estate. Determined to exact vengeance upon them, he earns his stripes as a skillful warrior, which gains him the moniker “Red Wolf.” As the years go by, Ivan finds himself at the forefront of many Cossack battles. Even as he leads his fellow warriors in destroying Caffa and freeing tens of thousands of slaves on one of the biggest sea raids against the Tatars, he still yearns for revenge against those who destroyed his family, but will he ever find them and carry out the acts of retribution he has dreamed of for years?
This was not only an excellent and engrossing read but also quite informative. Tuman seamlessly weaved historical figures into the narrative, such as Bohdan Khlemnystky, Wladyslaw IV, Ivan Bohun, Jeremi Wiśniowiecki, and Tugay Bey, all of whom played key roles alongside the main fictional characters. In addition to that, despite this novel being a fictional account, there were a good number of actual significant historical events dating back to the seventeenth century (mainly focusing on the year 1648) expertly incorporated into the narrative.
Written in the third-person, the story moves along at a fast pace while still giving a broad perspective on the main cast’s motivations and reactions to unfolding events. There simply was not a dull moment, from the beginning all the way to the end as the action, adventure, various battles, and hints at the main character’s romances filled its pages. Graphic descriptions of violence, murder, rape, and adult scenes make this book an intense read suitable for a mature audience and certainly not for the fainthearted.
What adds to this great story is the author’s superb descriptions of place, period, and atmosphere. The sword fights, gunshots, and cries of wounded men placed me in the battle scenes. Further, the excellent characterization of the characters made it easy to picture them and gain a clear understanding of their distinct personalities and complexities. Additionally, the interesting plot twists added intrigue to the story and kept my eyes glued on its pages.
All in all, I enjoyed reading Sword of Retribution and the value-added information that came with it. As a result, I look forward to the yet to be published next book in the series. I highly recommend this novel to history buffs and fans of this genre. Although the book is well-written and I would have liked to award it a 4-star rating, the number of errors counted despite the book’s length does not allow me to do so, which is why I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars.
The Sword of Retribution
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