Category Archives: Wilbur Smith

Wilbur Smith with Giles Kristian : Golden Lion (Review)

Wilbur Smith  – Zambia (1933 – )

Wilbur Smith was born in Central Africa in 1933. He was educated at Michaelhouse and Rhodes University. He became a full-time writer in 1964 after the successful publication of WHEN THE LION FEEDS, and has since written nearly thirty novels, all meticulously researched on his numerous expeditions worldwide. His books are now translated into twenty-six languages.

Wilbur Smith lives in London and continues to have an abiding concern for the peoples and wildlife of his native continent, an interest strongly reflected in his novels.

Giles Kristian

He is half Norwegian and his storytelling hero, Bernard Cornwell, inspired Giles Kristian to write his first historical novels, the acclaimed and bestselling Raven Viking trilogy Blood Eye, Sons of Thunder and Odins Wolves. For his next series, he drew on a long-held fascination with the English Civil War. The Bleeding Land and Brothers Fury follow the fortunes of a divided family against the complex and brutal backcloth of a conflict that tore this country apart and ended with the killing of a king. In his most recent novel God of Vengeance Giles returns to the world of the Vikings to tell of the beginnings of Sigurd and his celebrated fictional fellowship.

Golden Lion

Buy the HB

The Courtney series. East African Coast, 1670. In a time of brave and brutal adventure, one man will journey across land and sea to pursue his greatest enemy …The Golden Bough, captained by Henry ‘Hal’ Courtney, is running south from Ethiopia to Zanzibar. Below deck, both his crew and his lover, the fearless warrior Judith Nazet, sleep. As the moon glints through clouds, Hal sights a ship passing close by. Although there is an uneasy truce between the warring English and Dutch, Hal scents danger. When the Bough is boarded, the crew must go hand to hand to defend their ship and their lives. But soon Hal will face even graver danger, as he discovers his mortal enemy still lives and is hell-bent on revenge. he must pursue his nemesis across desert savannah, through the seedy underbelly of Zanzibar’s slave markets and shark-infested waters, imperilling his own life at every turn. But it will take more than a slave’s shackles to hold Hal Courtney…A thrilling blend of extraordinary drama and epic storytelling, Golden Lion sees Wilbur Smith return in triumphant form to the adventures of his beloved and bestselling Courtney family.


I have thought long and hard about the best way to approach reviewing this book and as usual i have decided to fall back on my usual frank open honest feelings and hope nothing offends.

I’m not a reader of Wilbur Smiths books and im a huge fan of Giles Kristian’s, i have read both authors multiple times so feel i can comment on either style.

The book opens in dramatic style and and roared into action but very soon (for me) i felt that  the book became something very much led and styled by elder statesman of thrillers, Mr Smith  rather than a true collaboration and that was always my concern as i’m not his biggest fan, mainly because i feel a series should not go on  for that many books (14 Courtney books now) and each book should improve on the last, and i think his stopped doing that some time ago.

The difference in writers for me is when Giles Kristian writes a book you can feel and taste the salt spray of the waves, you can smell the brine and the sweat of the sailors, in battle the coppery tang of blood is tangible in the air and it  just wasn’t there, or at least it was there is flashes, but didn’t fill the book in the way i have come to expect and love when reading his work.

Please don’t think its doom and gloom though, there are many of these flashes of Giles Kristian his descriptive slipping into the book, and among some of the more stylized Smith characters there are some real gems for example Aboli and the Amadoda sailors, the young slave saved from the block by General Judith. The Buzzard himself as a broken figure of devilry is a much greater protagonist for not being a master villain, because he is a man driven by hate and pain it makes his desire to gain revenge feel more realistic all of these make the book more than Courtney does. Is this the work of Giles or Wilbur i don’t know  but a writer of Wilbur Smiths Stature and sales doesn’t release and sell this many books by being average so i have to credit the enjoyment i had with the book equally, yet I hope fans of Wilbur Smith also take the time to read Giles Kristian’s own work to see what i mean about his powerful  and emotive writing.

For this book however I wish more time could have been spent on rounding out more of the characters, the main crew of Courtney’s ship for example, too many of the side characters in the book were just cardboard cutouts or as i call them Red Shirts (ala Star Trek) because they have no back story they hold no emotional reaction and thus a death means nothing. Writers who excel at rounding all the characters in a book and creating that true “bloody hell” moment are the like of Giles Kristian, Anthony Riches, Christian Cameron and a few others, but its the extra lines and care they put into cannon fodder that take a book from average to great.

Most of all i felt that this book had more to offer as a duology, there were so many plot lines that if played out to the full would have made for an exceptional tale (i resist naming them for fear of spoilers), and unfortunately fell slightly lacking being crammed into one book. There could have been so much more played out with William Pett also with Mr Tromp IMHO a wasted character, there was so much that could have been done with him.

So the ultimate question… do i recommend it? Yes, because i think every reader should make up his or her own mind, that and the book contains many truly entertaining scenes and some wonderful characters, eg The Buzzard, not a nice character, but one that was so real you could despise him, the twisted nature of Mr Pett and the devious charm of Mr Tromp.  So please read this, make your mind up and come back and voice an opinion on the book i’d love to hear it, i find these collaborations very intriguing and how they land with readers.


Giles Kristian
1. Blood Eye (2009)
2. Sons of Thunder (2010)
3. Odin’s Wolves (2011)
Bleeding Land
1. The Bleeding Land (2012)
2. Brothers Fury (2013)
God of Vengeance
1. God of Vengeance (2014)
2. Wings of the Storm (2016)
Wilbur Smith
1. When the Lion Feeds (1964)
2. The Sound of Thunder (1966)
aka The Roar of Thunder
3. A Sparrow Falls (1977)
The Courtneys: When the Lion Feeds / The Sound of Thunder / A Sparrow Falls (omnibus) (1987)
1. A Falcon Flies (1980)
aka Flight of the Falcon
2. Men of Men (1981)
3. The Angels Weep (1982)
4. The Leopard Hunts in Darkness (1984)
Courtney 2
1. The Burning Shore (1985)
2. Power of the Sword (1986)
3. Rage (1987)
4. Golden Fox (1990)
5. A Time to Die (1989)
Ancient Egyptian
1. River God (1993)
2. The Seventh Scroll (1995)
3. Warlock (2001)
4. The Quest (2007)
5. Desert God (2014)

Courtney 3
1. Birds of Prey (1997)
2. Monsoon (1999)
3. The Blue Horizon (2003)
4. The Triumph of the Sun (2005)
5. Assegai (2009)
6. Golden Lion (2015) (with Giles Kristian)

Hector Cross
1. Those in Peril (2011)
2. Vicious Circle (2013)
The Dark of the Sun (1965)
Shout At the Devil (1968)
Gold Mine (1970)
aka Gold
The Diamond Hunters (1971)
The Sunbird (1972)
Eagle in the Sky (1974)
The Eye of the Tiger (1975)
Cry Wolf (1976)
Hungry As the Sea (1978)
Wild Justice (1979)
aka The Delta Decision
Elephant Song (1991)Full Fathom Five (2016)
Predator (2016)

The Eye of the Tiger / Hungry as the Sea (2005)
River God / Warlock (2006)
Sunbird / Wild Justice (2006)
Wilbur’s Smashing Thrillers (2013)
Selected Works (1983)
Non fiction
Wilbur Smith: The Early Years Collection (2013)


Filed under Giles Kristian, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized, Wilbur Smith