Battle of the Books: Rorke’s Drift by Neil Thornton vs. Like Wolves on the Fold by Mike Snook

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Welcome to a badass last stand.

Quick synopsis: The story of the battle of Rorke’s Drift during the Anglo-Zulu War. 150 British soldiers made a last stand against 4,000 Zulu warriors in defense of the field hospital located in Rorke’s Drift.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: When the thousands of Zulu approached Rorke’s Drift to attack, they did so silently while the ran in formation. That sounds like the scariest damn thing I have ever heard.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Serious scholars who don’t like fun point to Rorke’s Drift and decry the significance it has taken on. Strategically it was not a major battle. In terms of pure badassness, there are few stories where both sides were so evenly matched. Those serious scholars just don’t get it.

Book vs. Book: Admittedly, these two books are not necessarily a perfect comparison. Snook intends that someone pairs his book with his other book on the Battle of Isandlwana. (Note: Snook swears it’s not a money grab and I believe him!) However, each book gives just a little bit extra in certain areas to really round out the entire story. Also, the pacing is drastically different.

Thornton’s book is laser focused on the Battle of Rorke’s Drift and his pace is very quick and to the point. Thornton gives a quick primer on Isandlwana to set the stage but moves quickly to the main battle. He really keeps everything moving without skimming many of the details. The book will really get your heart going as almost all of Thornton’s narrative is jumping from one area to another and making you feel the desperation of the British soldiers.

Snook takes a more academic approach. He assumes (due to his other book) that you have a certain understanding of the circumstances that led to Rorke’s Drift. His pacing is much slower, but since it is, it allows the reader a better understanding of who, what, when, and where as the battle rages. His maps make it much clearer what is happening and when. It’s a question of Thorton’s rush of adrenaline vs. Snook’s thoroughness.

Verdict: Rorke’s Drift is the winner in this comparison. Snook’s book is not at all deficient, but I prefer to feel the stress and emotions in extreme circumstances like this. Thornton just tells a better paced story, but you can’t go wrong with either book, ultimately.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Candice Millard, Hero of the Empire
  • Nathaniel Philbrick, The Last Stand
  • Tony Horwitz, Midnight Rising
  • Martin Meredith, Diamonds, Gold, and War
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Battle of the Books: Rorke’s Drift by Neil Thornton vs. Like Wolves on the Fold by Mike Snook
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