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With Fire and Sword

2 Ratings: 4.5
A book by Henryk Sienkiewicz

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth still controlled eastern Europe in 1647, but during that year everything changed. The first sparks appeared in the Ukraine, where a domestic dispute between Bohdan Hmyelnitzki and his neighbor mushroomed into a full-blown … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Henryk Sienkiewicz
Publisher: Collier Books
1 review about With Fire and Sword

Reassessed, this one's worth five stars!

  • Feb 11, 2000
I'd formerly reviewed this book and assigned it a mere four stars. But, truth be told, it has continued to resonate in my memory and so I think it only fair that I return and offer an upgraded assessment now. This is a marvelous adventure, set in exotic (for us here in America, anyway)locales and times, on the southern plains of what is today the Russian state, a land which was once under the domain of the Polish nobility. Recounting the progress of four warrior-types as they seek to carry a message into the south from their Polish overlords, this novel takes us back to times of strife and empire as the Cossacks awaken and rise up in the face of the Polish nation which then dominated them. The Cossacks are portrayed with much sympathy and understanding but, ultimately, this is a Polish tale and the Polish warrior class (the "pans" or knights) are the heroes of this epic. The message to be carried south by our heroes is finally rendered futile in the face of the stirrings of the Cossacks and the four adventurers must split up to make their separate ways in the face of the great rebellion. The progress each man makes and the battles and subterfuges he must engage in to save himself (and others dependent on him) make up the subject matter of this tale -- along with the ultimately doomed romantic stirrings of the Cossack hero Bohun who cannot have the Polish girl he dreams of, though he is torn between his love for her and loyalty to his own kind. There are chases and great battles here, along with blood-stirring sword duels (the little swordsman, Michael, is a charmer and certainly one of the least likely of heroes). And there is manipulation of men and armies on the great steppes of south Russia. All of this comes, at last, to a thundering end in one vast siege of the Polish forces trapped in the south by the Cossack rising. This is a tale which is second to few and surely one which will stand among the best historical adventures ever written including Yoshikawa's MUSASHI, Clavell's SHOGUN, Scott's IVANHOE and Cooper's THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, among others. If you like good historical tales I'd also recommend THE GOLDEN WARRIOR by Hope Muntz (a little known and now out-of-print rendering of the great struggle between Harold and William for the throne of England in the eleventh century). Finally, and if you're still interested, I've written one of these tales myself and it's also available here on amazon.com. It's called THE KING OF VINLAND'S SAGA and it's about medieval Norse adventurers first setting foot in North America, a land then thought to be a veritable "New World".

Stuart W. Mirsky
author of The King of Vinland's Saga

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