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Zulu Hart [Paperback]

Saul David
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 5 2009
Bullied at school for his suspiciously dark skin and lack of a father, Hart soon learns to fight -- and win. At eighteen, his world is shaken by his mother's revelation that his anonymous father is willing to give him a vast inheritance -- provided he can prove himself worthy of the prize as an officer in the King's Dragoon Guards. At a time when racism and prejudice are rife in Victorian society, Hart struggles to come to terms with his identity. Forced to leave the army, he decides to head to South Africa, and a fresh start. But George Hart has soldiering in his blood, and once in Africa the urge to serve again is strong. Yet now he is caught between two fierce and unyielding forces as Britain drives towards war with the Zulus. Hart must make a choice -- and fight for his life.

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Review

'Gems like this are too rare. I was hooked in ten pages.' -- Conn Iggulden on ZULU HART 20081110 'Saul David has already shown himself to be a first-rate historian, now he proves to be a masterly story-teller. ZULU HART left me wanting more...much more' -- Bernard Cornwell 20081125 'David is brilliant at showing both sides of the combat and the book includes magnificent accounts of the shambles that was Isandlwana and the feat at arms that followed it at Rorke's Drift.' -- Shaun Hutson, Independent on Sunday Books of the Year, on ZULU 20081125 'Must supersede Donald Morris's bestseller The Washing of the Spears' -- Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph on ZULU 20081125 'A great narrative, a powerful story told at an exciting pace that never neglects the colourful details' -- Princess Michael of Kent, Mail on Sunday on VICTORIA'S WARS 20081125 'Saul David, a splendid narrator, interweaves histories of each of the early wars of Victoria's reign with the Queen's own experiences' -- Sunday Telegraph on VICTORIA'S WARS 20081125

About the Author

Saul David is the author of several critically-acclaimed history books, including The Indian Mutiny: 1857 'shortlisted for the Westminster Medal for Military Literature', Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879 'a Waterstone's Military History Book of the Year' and, most recently, Victoria's Wars: The Rise of Empire. A Professor of Military History at the University of Buckingham, he is currently working on a history of the British Army. An experienced broadcaster, Saul David has presented and appeared in history programmes for all the major TV channels and is a regular contributor to Radio 4. In 2009 he presents 'Secrets of Elizabeth's Armada' for BBC2's flagship history series, Timewatch.

Customer Reviews

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2.0 out of 5 stars Clumsy writing hurts Oct. 30 2010
By Prairie Pal TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This historical adventure was so well-recommended that I had to give it a try. Bernard Cornwell, author of the Sharpe series and Conn Iggulden, writer of so many gripping yarns, had both rated it highly; it was the subject of admiring reviews in 'The Times' and the 'Sunday Telegraph'. How could so many be so wrong?

Saul David, a trained historian and writer of respected texts on Victorian foreign policy, has created an interesting character -- a quarter-Zulu British cavalry officer driven to seek his fortune in Africa and destined to witness the epic 1879 battles at both Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. With such a promising premise David manages only to throw it all away with juvenile-level writing and an inability to make his characters behave in a 19th-century manner. His hero George Hart resembles a whiny left-wing social worker of 2010 more than he does a soldier of Victoria's imperial army. Moreover for someone of low rank and teenage years he talks back to superior officers and politicians in a way that would never have been tolerated.

Though capable of adding interesting period detail such as the intricacies of the Martini-Henry rife David commits annoying little blunders such as assuming there was ship-to-ship radio in 1879 or that provincial towns in England operated their own C.I.D.s. To make matters worse, miraculous coincidences are the order of the day in every chapter and Hart is shown to be the military genius of the Zulu campaign that could have spared Britain its every set-back if only they had listened to him.

I'm not going to be bothering with the sequel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Historical fact and fiction combined March 30 2010
Format:Paperback
I've just finished reading Zulu Hart, and can not wait for the next installment. If you enjoy Sharpe, then this is the book for you. A great blend of historical fact, with enough fiction to make it a great read. Sitting here, looking a a painting of the battle of Rorke's Drift, I can visualize Hart there with Lt's Chard and Bromhead. I recomend this novel for it's own VC.
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Clunky Nov. 9 2009
By Nick Brett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The author is an established and talented historian and this is his first venture into fiction. The front cover has a strong endorsement from Bernard Cornwell so I was optimistic that I would enjoy this.

George Hart has some Zulu blood in him and a father who is significant in the British establishment but who remains unknown to George. There is some nonsense about a legacy/bounty if George shows himself to be a proper warrior but this felt very contrived within the confines of this story. Anyway, his dark features attract some prejudice and he is tricked into resigning from the British Army. He eventually finds himself in South Africa just prior to, and leading up to involvement in, the battle against the Zulu at Rorke's Drift. George ends up as a runner for Lord Chelmsford, giving him (and us readers) the opportunity to see him scamper around the events and, finally, to be involved in the battle at Rorke's Drift.

An able historian, Saul David provides a solid (if slightly pedestrian) historical perspective of the events, one that does not show the British Element in the best light. Sadly, as with many historians that turn their hands to fiction, it is the characterisation and the dialogue that lets this down. As a character, George had great potential, but the dialogue and interaction comes over as clunky and inappropriate for the audience and the circumstance. This was a very hierarchal society and yet George has easy access and communicates with everyone the same way. A couple of the themes the author runs with, George's legacy/bounty and his internal battle between Zulu and British heritage also have insufficient depth or interest. Finally the author gives hero George credit for some of the actions for which the real defenders of Rorke's Drift were awarded the Victoria Cross!

These events were better covered in John Wilcox's book "Horns of the Buffalo" - also fiction but far, far better.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dry as a Bone Aug. 15 2009
By Jeannie Mancini - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The cover jacket of this new historical action novel has promotional blurbs touted by two famous authors in this genre, Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden. My feeling is that the publisher must have paid these two exemplary authors to praise this debut novel, because as a reader of many books of this kind by those authors and many other quality historical fiction giants, I can tell you honestly this falls so far below their excellence it is simply inconceivable to put Saul David in their arena. Saul David is a historian and has written non-fiction books. This is exactly how Zulu Hart reads. Factual, dry, flat, and boring like text book history. I wanted so much to enjoy this book, I know nothing about the Zulu tribes, their history or their war with the British in the late 1800s, and although the accurate history is there, there is none of the required fictional elements that make these types of novels exciting to read.

George Hart is a Dublin born, half Irish half Zulu mix breed raised by his actress mother, and reared as a British gentleman. Upon coming of age his mother divulges that he has a father, and this father who abandoned him as a child due to his indiscretions of having an affair with a black woman, was unable to face racial confrontations that society of the times would incur upon his flawless military career and social standing. But this mysterious father, who chooses to remain anonymous to his son, comes forth on Georges 18th birthday and dictates an agreement that George's mother can not refuse. George and his mother stand to inherit a grandiose sum of money that will allow them to continue living in the lap of luxury if George abides by the accomplishments his father wishes him to achieve. He is to enroll in the British regiment of the King's Dragoons and raise himself to highest rank and excellence. He is to win a Victoria Cross award and is to marry within aristocracy all by the time he reaches 28 years of age. Upon George's learning of this ridiculous list of standards to be met, he soon realizes he has no choice as his mother's meager salary will not keep her in the finery she is accustomed to, and that they will be paupers if he does not succeed. At first the character of George Hart seems endearing and you feel for his plight in life, but half way through the book his character gets lost in the factual sections of the battle strategies of the English/Zulu war.

The story thus engages George's military career of many challenges against racial prejudices that lead him to abandon his regiment and seek fortune and fame in South Africa where he plans to attempt his hand at diamond mining. Upon shipping out, his mother once again lands him a blow, informing him that his roots are there in Africa, and that he himself is part Zulu contradicting what he was told as a child, that he was Maltese. Wishing to learn of his heritage and to rid himself of the bloody regime of military discipline, he leaves for Zululand eager to find his way in life. Once his feet land on African shores the reader then suffers through his inability to make a choice as to where his heart lies, and plods along until he finally chooses to once again take up arms with a low ranking military cavalry regiment to assist the British in their battle against the Zulus, his very own people.

The story lacks human elements of love, friendship, drama, excitement, or something to make the characters or the story come alive. The writing style is very simplistic and not very accomplished leaving me no choice to quit three quarters of the way through, not caring to finish the book. Lover's of high quality historical fiction will find it hard to wade through this, but perhaps true historians or scholars of Zulu history might get something out of it. A few scenes of action and excitement were certainly needed to help me give higher praise to this disappointing debut, but the book just does not deliver.
3.0 out of 5 stars The others are right Aug. 6 2012
By David Wilkin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Saul David has a ways to go to transition from Historian to novelist.

We have a few problems with the book. As he is a lecturer professor in history I will let him have the benefit of the doubt when it comes to interjecting the way we now use Bombshell as if they did it the same in 1878.

But aside from those minor quibbles the major ones are that the hero is unbelievable, and certainly in too many places. As well as the interjection of history is right in our faces. We meet an officer of a regiment and we are given a clinical rundown of his uniform. We are shown a place and it is the elements of the picture in a list separated by commas instead of narrative description that flows. It stops us and makes it hard to think we are in a story and not in a history lesson.

I did say though that our hero, George Hart just was doing too much and not believable because of it. First he is the bastard son of the Duke of Cambridge, so the great grandson of king George III. Despite the author trying to be mysterious it is all too obvious that is what he has done. Then, he is also the grandson of a Zulu chief's daughter. So he is 1/4 black. A secret that one takes to the grave in Victorian England. They do not have our sensibilities that we do. If the hero is going to move up in society, be a part of any white society, he has to be white. Or have done something that will let him be in society and George hasn't done anything when we meet him. So my suspension of disbelief is gone.

And George likes telling everyone his secret. Certainly the officer corp is going to work well with him, not. But then George gets himself on Chelmsford staff, finds a reason to get stuck in at Isandlwana and surviving that, gets himself to Rorke's Drift as well. While we may have needed to see a Historical Novel dealing with these battles, George gets there in a far fetched notion, and then as the book with so much back story, again unbelievable, that it is time to end and we don't see the end of the Battle at the Drift, or the end of the campaign.

When I was a lad, before I became a historian, before I became a writer, ZULU became one of my favorite movies. While Saul David may know a firmer history than that of the movie, he did not go through with it and I sense that he also took some shortcuts to make his hero more heroic, at the cost of those who actually did the heroic actions in reality. You have to be a die hard lover of this period, I think to want to read the Hart Series. Taking some pointers from the Fonthill books of Wilcox which I find work better might have given George Hart a chance. His Zulu blood I think dooms him to ever be an effective part of the society of the times, and his english parent also ruins the credibility of the hero.
3.0 out of 5 stars Far-fetched, but fun July 9 2012
By Simon Bendle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Awash with shameless clichés, corny characters and ludicrous plot twists, this is not a work of literature that will be troubling the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm any time soon. But if historical fiction is your thing, and you fancy a spot of far-fetched fun, give it a go. Saul David, a respected history professor, also knows how to entertain.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Historical Fiction April 14 2009
By rsharpe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am a big fan of fiction that brings history to life and tries to be as accurate as possible. I will always forgive a slight shuffling of dates, events, or the invention of characters to help convey the feel of the times in the limited space of a few hundred pages. Saul David has done a masterful job for his first fiction.
Don't expect this book to be a remake of Hollywood versions - while entertaining, were not nearly as true to historical fact as Dr. Saul David is.
Another key to great historic fiction is the ability to keep you turning the pages, even though you know the outcome. I had trouble putting this one down and look forward to the next in the series. If you enjoy Corwell or Iggulden, then you will certainly enjoy this one.
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