Can’t I give it more than 5 (stars)?
I read a LOT, probably about one novel per week on average. “By The Hands of Men” is without question the best historical fiction series I have ever read. In these meticulously researched books, the characters quickly come alive to the reader, and soon feel like personal friends. As you read you will share their successes, disappointments, near-death experiences, horror, and satisfactions. They speak in period language, and their values and sense of honor are recognizable in any circumstance. You will truly CARE about them.
Not all of the characters are good people. As the series title hints, all manner of horror and atrocity can come from the hands of men. Mr. Griffis doesn’t pull any punches in showing the reader the depths of depravity that men are capable of. But the reason for my gushing praise is the author’s talent in drawing the reader into the lives of the characters to such an extent that he experiences their emotions, their yearnings, and their despair.
If you think the category “historical fiction” sounds dull or slow-paced, you are in for a surprise. You will NOT put down any of these books readily!
So why is this, the last book in the series, so darned good that I want to give it an extra few stars? Because through his characters’ eyes and thoughts Mr. Griffis presents some truths that are profound, and illustrates them so gently and yet so clearly that more than once I looked away from the page in awe at what I had just read. Then he brings the entire epic saga to a satisfying close, but not an end to the characters’ journey through life. You will close the book after reading the last words, satisfied, yet wishing the story could go on.
Do yourself a favor: read the whole series, and then send copies as gifts to you closest friends. They’ll thank you for it. (Mine have!)