2 out of 4 stars
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The Silk Road Wars, by Frank Spencer, is a historical novel that covers the ancient battles that China fought to defend its most significant trade route, the Silk Road. Being the wealthiest empire during the Ming Dynasty, China attracted numerous attacks from different powers around the world, including King Porus of India, the Roman Legions, the German Cossacks, and Britain’s vigorous Royal Navy. The Great Wall strategically improves their military defense, but will an elite regiment of the Chinese army be what ultimately allows them to withstand the constant assaults?
The author has used a number of characters to bring history back to life, but he particularly focuses on the life of Chi. Depicted as a master in the art of war, Chi is considered the greatest warrior in China. His reputation on the battlefield enables him to lead one of the deadliest assault teams, the Raiders. Trained in the way of the Samurai and possessing the skills of ninjas, this new elite unit is what any country would need for a stealth attack. Peng, Chi’s father, is an ingenious craftsman in forging war weapons. His work is to ensure that the soldiers are armed with the best weapons, hoping to guarantee triumphant victories over their enemies. The roaring of cannons and the hoofbeats of the cavalry prevail throughout the book as the empire continuously struggles to defend itself from invaders. New war strategies are devised to counter the range of military tactics associated with the battles.
One of the things I like about historical fiction books is that I gain knowledge from a variety of areas, including historical, geographical, cultural, social, and economic. Frank Spencer has managed to cover most of these aspects in just 160 pages. In the course of this book, I learned about Hoplite shields, Macedonian pikes, battle tactics, and Sun Tzu — the Chinese military strategist and author of The Art of War.
As for dislikes, there were some hiccups that made me feel like the author was in a hurry to finish the book. I noticed several gaps throughout the storyline; the book seems more like a summary of a collection of battles. One discrepancy in the story revealed a setting error in chapter 3. Chi was supposed to sail to Taiwan then to Japan. It was a bit confusing understanding if they ever reached this destination. The chapter describes a battle at sea with pirates, and by the end of the chapter, they were back in Beijing. It wasn’t clear if they ever reached Japan. In another chapter, Chi fights Pedro Homen, a Portuguese nobleman. In the middle of the battle, they stop while Pedro asks one of the soldiers to bring them two cloths. They wipe their faces and continue to fight for another two hours. The battle ends as a draw, and the two embrace. This kind of procedure in war is new to me, and it seemed a bit hilarious and unrealistic. Other scenes like the opponents sharing their war tactics and teaching each other skills were surprising as well. I wish the author would have spent more time creating a more reasonable depiction of the characters. The story is excessively fast-paced, and I felt the subjects in question deserved a bit more attention. I would recommend this read to lovers of history and those who have an interest in ancient military war battles.
In my opinion, this piece would earn a 2.5 star rating. Since this is not an option, it was hard to decide. Despite the educative information and all the new knowledge that I acquired, I think the book might need some improvements regarding the plot details. Another professional edit may also be required given I found abundant grammatical errors. There was no use of expletives. This book is the second novel by the author, and it has a promising premise. My rating for The Silk Road Wars is 2 out of 4 stars, but this middle score wouldn’t keep me from checking out his previous work, A Secret Life.
The Silk Road Wars
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