This is the first book from Rebecca Dean and it's not at all bad, there's a few niggles which I'll come onto, but I really found it interesting and informative. I especially like the fact that the weapons were trialled to see the effects on flesh and bone. Something I would like to see a lot more work done on.
- Rebecca Angharad Dean
The book is an overview of weapons, armour and tactics over approx 1500 years as such it is necessarily brief, but serves as an excellent introduction to the period. It is easy to read without over simplifying the subject and avoids over using technical terminology. It is well illustrated with both photos and drawings, which brings me to my first criticism, while the plates are well laid out, the illustrations not so much, indeed one actually contradicts the text. The text states a soldier carrying a man sized shield cannot carry a weapon. The illustration clearly shows he has an axe in his hand!
Another niggle is while the author is no doubt an authority in her field, like many academics she hasn't looked at other periods and makes some errors regarding what is practical and what may be ceremonial. For instance she refers to a mace head being 25cm and clearly too large to be anything other than ceremonial, whereas many medieval mace heads are larger than this. The other and to me this is the major irritant is that she seems determined to shoehorn a “girl power” agenda in, devoting an entire chapter to women and warfare, which consists mainly of whataboutery and generalisation which rather spoils the air of authority and expertise the rest of the book clearly shows.
Where the book really does shine though is the practical experiments referred to earlier. These are really well done and very comprehensive, with the plates really helping illustrate the well written textual information. The other refreshing thing is the little flashes of humour to be found, something some of the more pompous writers should take note of.
In summation, this is a very useful book for anybody with an interest in ancient warfare and Egypt in particular. While it is a little niche I would recommend it to anybody with even a vague interest in the period and I don't think a general reader would be overly disappointed which is why I've rated it separately.
Ratings 3 for the general reader 3.5 for the more interested reader.