The Barbed Crown, by William Dietrich, came to me as an ARC from HarperCollins. It is the 6th in Dietrich's Ethan Gage series (17th overall - 12 fiction, 5 non-fiction), which I was totally unfamiliar with before getting this one. It's an interesting premise. Gage is an American who is very much like James West from the old TV show The Wild, Wild West. He gets into and out of a million scrapes. The book's blurb explains it best:
"Swashbuckling hero Ethan Gage returns to Paris to wreak vengeance on his nemesis, the cunning and fearsome Napoleon Bonaparte, and to destroy his plot to conquer England."
Oh, and by the way, Gage actually acted as an advisor to Napoleon when the latter invaded North Africa. How he goes from Napoleon's ally to his enemy you'll have to read to find out. That's shorthand for I'm not really sure how all of this happens since I have not read any of the other 5 Gage books. All I do know is that Gage meddles in European history in every book.
This is a lighthearted adventure romp. The best part about it is that Dietrich does his homework. The descriptions of battles and politics are accurate (so I'm told). In this one, in fact, we see how Napoleon successfully declares himself emperor. And we also get an in depth account of the Battle of Trafalfar, with Admiral Nelson in command of the English navy (when I was in London 8-9 years ago, I saw Nelson's statue in Trafalgar Square - very cool).
The book has humor in it, which always increases my reading enjoyment. There are also some very cool quotes from Benjamin Franklin, who Gage knows personally. Here's one of them: "Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead." I'm never opposed to anything that can make me laugh.
So, did I like it? I did. I give it a 2.5 out of 4. Would I recommend it? I would. If you want some lightweight fun, with humor, historical accuracy, and a hero who is able to extricate himself from every difficult situation he finds himself in, then go for it.