Reading GNB reminded me of the famous Muhammad Ali quote “The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights”. One of my favourite parts of GNB was how it explores the decisions made by political and military leaders before the battles themselves. It is often here that the outcome of campaigns is decided.
The writing in GNB is slick and unhurried. There are often shifts of perspective. We see how everyone from sailors to spies to heads of state all react to the world around them. We witness the devastating consequences of their actions on each other. We are given time to care about the characters in each story, which means that the tension builds as you turn the page. Another joy of the book for me was reading about battles that I had not heard of before. I knew nothing about Tsushima and Jutland.
The art in GNB is an exercise in consummate refinement. The battles themselves are the obvious high point. The action is thrilling and easy to follow. The attention to detail meant many of the pages were utterly engrossing. The colouring was a bit too glossy for my tastes, and I felt a grimier look would have benefitted some of the pages. There are some truly gruesome scenes of violence which I felt were undermined slightly because of this. Overall though that is a minor quibble. The quieter slower character moments both before and after the battles were also handled skillfully. One of my favourite moments was the bickering sailors complaining about their superiors in Tsushima. It contrasted nicely with the political intrigue of the conversations between Commander Brunnel and Charles Emile in Japan where neither man wants to give too much away.
The battles depicted in GNB are gripping and action-packed. The sections exploring the tactics used at sea and strategic decision of those that sent ships off to war are riveting. Highly recommended for both history buffs and those like myself who had little knowledge going in.
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