What readers think of The Iron Masters.
Here are just a few of the reviews posted on Amazon and elsewhere by people who have read The Iron Masters.
An adventure book with some history.
The Iron Masters begins with a funeral, signalling the end of a life and a new beginning for Nye Vaughn, a farm boy setting out on an adventure to discover himself and make his way in the world. The human scale of
the story starts small but develops at a relentless pace and grows as he is drawn into a world of intrigue, opportunity and danger.
Graham Watkins avoids flowery descriptions but the word pictures he paints form graphic images, bringing the reality of 18th Century Merthyr to life. I found the first part of the book an easy read but as the complexity of the story grew I had to concentrate. The author has clearly done his homework and brings historical events into play to explain Vaughn's motives amid the politics and corruption of the armaments industry during the Napoleonic Wars.
Real life characters like Richard Trevithick, Admiral Nelson and General Picton strut confidently across the pages reinforcing the story. It's a book of many parts, taking the reader from South Wales to the battlefield of Waterloo and the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
The Iron Masters is a good read on two levels. It deals in considerable depth with a fascinating period in history and is an adventure story with heroes and villains that are honestly drawn. If you enjoy the work of
other writers covering the Napoleonic Wars such as C.S. Forester and David Howarth you will like this book.
If I have a criticism it's the ending; it left me wanting more. When there is a sequel, I look forward to reading it. Overall, I give this book five stars. - Roy Boyington, Immingham, Lincolnshire
A man's book but I still enjoyed it.
The best thing about this book is the way it captures the spirit of a place and an age. It is a story as much about the history of people of south Wales as it is about the characters, and the writing made me feel as though I was experiencing it for myself.
Graham Watkins does not avoid showing the nasty side of life and people. His characters are far from perfect, which makes them believable.
My one gripe with this book is that the lead female character was a little weak. Her nemesis, Delyth who was a monster, was by comparison great fun, showing all the spirit and complexity of her male counterparts. This is, however, very much a man's book, dealing as it does with the effects of 18th Century war, greed and politics and it is best to read it with that in mind.
A surprisingly good read, and well worth a look. - Jaqueline Jones, Fuchinobe, Japan.
A historically sound novel.
This is a first class effort in an easily readable style. Although it's fiction, based on factual events the historical detail behind the story is delivered with a fluidity that makes the story real and draws the reader into the world of Merthyr Tydfil in the 18th Century. From there it expands into a worldwide epic of politics, war and intrigue. Much of the history of the Iron Masters is well documented but Watkins brings new dimensions to the story in a comprehensible and pleasing fashion. His treatment of the Merthyr riots and the execution of Dic Penderyn, by a vengeful, government sticks in my mind dealing, as it does, with human weakness and the corruption of power. If you're interested in an adventure story, woven into a period of Welsh history that changed the world, this book is a worthwhile read. - David Riches, Suffolk
Truth or Fiction?
The author has taken a slice of Welsh history and used it to construct an entertaining story. The Merthyr Riots and hanging of Penderyn, for a crime he didn't commit, are seared into Welsh folklore marking, as they do, the awakening of socialism in Wales. It's a dangerous game to toy with emotional subjects, such as these, to entertain but the resulting book works well. The conflict between masters and men comes across as does the rivalry and corruption of the iron masters, determined to win regardless of the cost to their men. I enjoyed the book and learned more than I expected. Watkins has stayed close to the facts for his novel and the story of the real iron masters is not far from the surface - and what a story it is! - Bill Watson, Selby, North Yorkshire.
A swashbuckling adventure with a difference!
This is an unusual historical novel set in a world few people know about; the cannon foundries of South Wales. In France, the king is beheaded and a new Emperor seizes power. Bonaparte sets Europe aflame and war engulfs the known world. Britain rearms and fortunes are made. Nye Vaughn, a poor farm boy and the hero of the story, becomes and Iron Master and establishes a dynasty. His son fights alongside Nelson at Trafalgar and bombards Baltimore when America declares war. Everything changes when the wars end and the iron foundries face ruin. How does Vaughn react to the new threat; with his usual determination. A swashbuckling adventure from the 18th Century with a difference. - Nick Brown, Carmarthenshire, South Wales.
I read it twice.
I was given a paperback copy as a present and have just finished reading it for the second time. I missed lots during the first reading. There is so much going on, it was worth a second look and I enjoyed it even more this time around.
I've read other books by Graham Watkins but The Iron Masters with its twists and turns is arguably his best.
Put simply, it's just a great, great story. It has it all; ambition, war, violence, love and tragedy. It paints an indelible and realistic picture of the late 1800's in South Wales.
That's all that needs to be said really, just read it for yourself, you won't be disappointed. - Robert Wyatt, Cardiff, Wales.
I read this excellent book on my Kindle and what a good story with a lot of historical facts included. Highly recommended. -Jean Morris, Penarth, Wales.
C.S. Forester and Margaret Mitchell rolled into one!
Having looked at the cover, I started this book expecting a Napoleonic War adventure complete with ripped bodices and was not disappointed. The Iron Masters is an epic tale covering half a century as Nye Vaughn fights his way from humble beginnings to create one of the most powerful families in Wales. Vaughn isn't Rhett Butler, he's a more complex character, but his story is equally compelling.
It's a super read, crammed with historical gems of information and a riveting plot. Heroes, scheming women (I particularly liked Delyth), villains and victims all demand attention in this world of industry, war, extreme poverty and great wealth, where anything is possible. What more is there to say. You should read it. - Alexander Dunbar, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Business as Usual.
This is one of the best books about entrepreneurial activity I have read. It charts the rise of a businessman, Vaughn, in 18th century Britain, using guile and commercial skills that are still valid today. A potent reminder of how great fortunes can still be made by anyone with the right determination. OK, today's captains of industry don't kill each other as far as I know, they don't blackmail, commit arson, bribe politicians, brutalise their employees and operate cartels; or do they?
Despite Vaughn's vices, he's a winner and I liked him. A good read. - Lynne Dexter, Mexico.
Chick lit or boys own it isn't.
It's refreshing to read a book where the action hero doesn't kill someone every other page and there is little gratuitous sex. There are killings and there is sex in this book but it is done subtly and with enough realism to mean something. The plot has plenty of inertia without such fripperies. If you want chick lit or boys own, with one bound he was free action, this book probably isn't for you. If, however you want to be immersed in an interesting and thought provoking story , that's another matter. - Parksy, Llandeusant, Wales.
A good yarn.
This is a novel written in a clear and concise manner, about the adventures of the Vaughns, a Welsh family in the 18th and early 19th century. Beginning with teenager Nye Vaughn walking to Merthyr and being chased by drovers, who suspect him of rustling cattle, it chronicles his rise, against all odds, to become an Iron Master and one of the richest men in Britain. Containing a lot of historical background, the plot is believable and a good read. - Paula, Mansfied, Nottinghamshire.
A book worth flagging up.
Being an American resident in North Carolina, I had no interest in a book about Wales until someone pointed out the connection with Fort McHenry where the American Flag was raised, to defy the British in 1812, causing Francis Scott Key to write a song that is now the American National Anthem. The cannons, used by the British fleet to bombard Fort McHenry, were made in Merthyr Tydfil, a small town in South Wales that became the biggest armaments producer in the world.
Curiosity engaged, I dived in and was not disappointed. True, the British can't spell their own language but the story of 'The Iron Masters' more than makes up for that. It's an epic tale of rags to riches during wars that engulfed the known world. Starting with nothing the hero, a farm boy with a brain, fights his way through life to build a business empire. He exposes corrupt politicians, befriends Admiral Nelson, the British hero of Trafalgar, and ruthlessly feuds with his enemies until they are destroyed.
The writing style is fast and light handed, revealing a world of great privilege and extreme poverty living side by side. Eventually, the world explodes with surprising consequences and twists in the plot which show Graham Watkins is an accomplished storyteller who knows his history and understands human nature. The British failed to take Fort McHenry and Baltimore was saved, despite the cannons made in Wales.- Emma, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.