Book Reviews

Blaise Maximillian: Bitter Defeat Book Review.

Blaise Maximillian: Bitter Defeat.

Matthew Sylvester.

3.5 stars out of 5.


Book Blurb:

For 8 long years the Great War has raged. Blaise Maximillian has been there from the start. A bright-eyed and fearful young Ensign, the realities of war change him into a hard-bitten soldier and an even harder policeman.

Detective Inspector Blaise Maximillian of the Combined Imperial Special Intelligence Bureau, now works to protect the British Empire any way he can. Nothing will stop him from carrying out his duty. Not the law, not morals, not even ethics. A flawed man, he will do anything it takes.

Book Review:

Bitter defeat tells the story of Maximillian Blaise through a series of intertwining yet separate short stories. The book contains a total of twenty chapters/stories with eighteen focusing on tales about Maximillian and the final two focusing on two separate female characters.

I’ll just quickly mention the final two stories, writing that both introduce a couple of interesting new characters and are fun little snippets into those characters lives.

The book itself has its base in reality and history with WW1 but it’s an alternate version of our history and the war itself lasts far longer, finally ending on St George’s Day in 1923, a humiliating way for the war to end for Britain. Incorporated into this alternate version are elements of ‘dieselpunk’ where the Germans won because of the armour and weapons that they invented. The German technology is all very plausible and the author does a great job of showing the feeling of dread that comes from not knowing what they will create next and what is likely to come over no mans land and attack the trenches, be it a new weapon, armour or an even more deadly and lethal gas. Making this an alternate history that feels very accurate due to the details and depiction of The Great War.

Now, back to Maximillian, the eighteen stories take place during the years of WW1 (The Great War) starting from the begin of Maximillian’s journey as a patriotic and fresh-faced ensign, who dislikes killing as taking a life is wrong “though shalt not murder” from the seven commandments through to the war’s end years later with the bitter defeat. Then moving onwards into Maximillian’s post war career in the Police force.

Incorporated throughout the selection of stories is Maximillian’s transformation from that young unblooded officer into a grizzled and battle-hardened veteran who does what’s needed to survive and who will take the life of an enemy without thinking twice about it. The actual characterisation of Maximillian is really good throughout the collection as we see him change from the character we first encounter and with each short we see that change happening just a little bit more. In the end he is a dark and does what needs to be done without a second thought – it’s a completely different genre but by the end I was really feeling a Grimdark like anti-hero character vibe coming from Maximillian.

Each of the shorts during the time frame of WW1  give a small snapshot into the life in the trenches of The Great War, and are as such dark and grittily depicted with the horrors of trench warfare showing you the appalling nature in vivid and graphic detail.

The shorts that take place after the Bitter Defeat of the title are also dark in nature showing you an oppressed Britain under a dystopian German rule. And the setting, will feel recognisable to anyone that has played the most recent Wolfenstein: The New Order video game, likewise the German technology during the war whilst not as advanced as in the video game is definitely reminiscent of it. Yes, for any of you reading this who are gamers, I’m one myself to and I know that Wolfenstein: The New Order takes place after WW2 and not WW1 like this book, I’m merely making the comparison.

The writing of the book is vivid and brutal and is perhaps not for those who don’t like violence and gore in their books. Likewise there is also quite a lot of swearing. Swearing doesn’t bother me but I’m not sure if it is authentic to the era or not.

The pacing of the book is also generally good, none of the shorts overstay their welcome but some could do with being longer and you find that they have finished before they have even began.

Also, on occasion the author has a slight tendency to repeat himself, the main culprit being when Maximillian and his soldiers are in the trenches, wet, sodden and caked in mud and then a grenade goes off or something explodes and the author states that the heat is drying them. It’s only a slight point that’s not really worth mentioning if  the book were an actual book but being a collection of shorts, those few repeated words could have been used to better effect in the short.

Another problem that I had, was with the editing, there’s nothing wrong with the formatting – I read the book on the Kindle, the grammar or even the spelling. But, on quite a few occasions the wrong word is used, taking you out of the story as you have to stop and think for a second before realising it’s an error and having that ‘ah, he means that’ moment. Now, I myself did that on a blog post the other week even after spell checking as the word wasn’t actually spelt incorrectly only the wrong word. It was Brian and Brain and while typing the author’s name I had inadvertently typed Brain instead of Brian, so it’s easily done and I had to have it pointed out to me. But in an actual book, you would think that not necessarily the author, but the copy and proof editors should have picked up on the fault as it happens quite a few times throughout the book. 

I’m not the biggest fan of short story collections but overall I thoroughly enjoyed my foray into this selection and don’t regret my time spent reading Maximillian Blaise: The Bitter Defeat. Even with its flaws this is a decent book and the author is talented with a good concept and idea that is open to future possibilities. And, I would like to see both the concept explored further in either another collection of shorts or a proper full length book and for Blaise to return.

There’s a lot to like in the book and I would recommend it for fans of WW1, alternate history and those who enjoy a decent quick read with an engaging hero as the main character.

Purchase the book:

Amazon UK  /  Amazon US

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Twitter and Goodreads.


23 thoughts on “Blaise Maximillian: Bitter Defeat Book Review.

  1. Another good review, Drew! I can’t say that I’m not fan of war stories because of how much I love The Iliad, but I’ve actually never read a book like this, even though I typically like those kind of stories. Too bad with the editing. That’s so annoying when you find things like that. The constant stopping to see what you’re missing is really annoying when that happens.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I had that happened with a book a few months ago that I had pre-ordered, only to find out the author made it available for free under Kindle Unlimited, and since I have the subscription, I was so bummed that I paid for a book with loads of editing mistakes when I could’ve read it for free. This does sound like your kind of book with the character going dark later on. I actually like that, too, when it’s done well. Like Michael Corleone or Walter White kind of good to bad. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. fantastic review , makes me want to go to a bookstore and buy it ASAP but then again Like you I’m not a big fan of short stories either ,and my TBR pile is already way too full to go for a new read while the old ones i have bought glare and demand attention

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review! This is quite an interesting premise. I love the idea of short stories in this vein– it sounds a bit like Sherlock Holmes, honestly. My frequent struggle with short stories are collections where the stories have little that lend themselves to each other. I enjoy seeing the connections.
    However, the editing issues might distract me into a DNF… we’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. 😀 Yeah, I’m not the biggest fan of short stories, I do like Sherlock Holmes though but I generally like books where I can really get into the story and characters and you can’t do that with short stories as sometimes there over before they’ve even started.

      The editing issues were annoying, I was lucky enough to get the book while it was free but if I’d paid for it I wouldn’t have been happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great review Drewie boy! 🙂 I love short stories (hardly ever read them though) and this intertwining yet separate story concept sounds très cool! Lol @ the term ‘Dieselpunk’, never heard that one before. As a person who dislikes anything with tanks in it, is this something to skip or try? I mean, there’s a lot of swearing and the concept sounds so good…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s not many tanks, it’s more trench warfare and artillery alongside the German dieselpunk inventions. If you can get it free then yes, it’s a good read, the concept is good and swearing and violence are always welcome in books. A couple of the short stories do end before they’ve even began but the only real bad point is the editing, unfortunately it happens quite a lot in the book where the wrong words are used.

      Drewie Boy?!?! 😠

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mkay, mkay. Yeah, I don’t know if I could overlook the editing part. Reading the wrong words always makes me doubt myself! *nods* Yes, you were so much younger than me weren’t you?! 😉 Here’s some butterscotch ^^

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Little errors like that irk me because they make me do a double take and pull me out of the story. It’s frustrating.
    However, the source content sounds interesting. I’m in a class this semester, Literature of War, and the material can get intense.
    Nice review! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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