The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

October 2, 2017

Title: The Killer Angels
Author: Michael Shaara
Publisher: Polygon
Genre: Historical Fiction
Print Length: 402 pages


Synopsis: It is June 1863, the third summer of the American Civil War, and General Robert Lee's Confederate Army slips across the Potomac to draw out the Union Army. Lee's army is 70,000 strong and has won nearly every battle it has fought. The Union Army is 80,000 strong and accustomed to defeat and retreat. Thus, begins the Battle of Gettysburg, the four most bloody and courageous days of America's history. 


This is the second time I have read this novel and I found it as much a page-turner this time as I did the first time. Indeed, it was the book that inspired me, after many years of procrastination, to write my first novel, The Battle of Paardeberg: Lord Roberts’ Gambit. The Killer Angels is the dramatic story of the American Civil War battle at Gettysburg and is told from the points of view of several of the senior officers, on both sides, that took part in the battle. Their thoughts, concerns and decisions are interspersed with a dramatic narrative of the action itself. The storyline, for all it horror, is beguiling. Even if you know the history of the battle you will be carried along by the enticing narrative style, the intrigue and unspoken disagreements between the officers. The dialogue is wonderfully expressive and the internal dialogue of the officer’s thoughts really develops the story line very well. The occasional interjects of the minor players, especially the ordinary soldiers, give a wonderful context of the human side and cost of the battle. The setting is causally integrated within the overall narrative, in such a way that the landscape, vegetation and weather become characters in their own right. This is a fascinating and brilliantly told story, that rightly justified its winning the Pulitzer Prize. I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of whether you are interested in military history – this is a story of the men that were involved in the battle rather than about the battle itself.


What others thought.

At the time of writing there were 101 reviews on, of which 98 were 3* or above, giving a well earned average rating of 4.7*. There were 1,773 reviews on, of which 96% were 3* or above, giving an average rating of 4.7*. And there were 63,350 ratings (including 4,078 reviews) on, of which 97% were 3* or above, giving an average rating of 4.3*. 


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