10 Best Wilbur Smith Books – Epic Historical Novels

If you’re looking to dive into the world of epic historical adventure novels, then look no further than Wilbur Smith. Over the course of his long and illustrious career, Smith has penned dozens of gripping novels that are sure to captivate readers. From tales of ancient Egypt to epic family sagas and everything in between, there’s something for everyone in Smith’s extensive catalog. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best Wilbur Smith books to read now, so buckle up and get ready for an exciting ride!

10 Best Wilbur Smith Books - Epic Historical Novels

A Brief Introduction to Wilbur Smith

Wilbur Smith is a renowned author who has made a significant contribution to the world of literature. He was born in Zambia in 1933 and spent his formative years in South Africa. His upbringing in Africa played a crucial role in shaping his writing style, which is characterized by vivid descriptions of the continent’s landscapes, cultures, and people.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Smith worked as an accountant and later as a film producer. However, his passion for storytelling eventually led him to pursue a career in writing. In 1964, he published his first novel, When the Lion Feeds, which was an instant success. The novel was set in South Africa and explored themes of family, loyalty, and survival in the face of adversity.

Since then, Smith has written over 40 novels, spanning multiple genres, including historical fiction, adventure, and thriller. His novels are known for their gripping plots, complex characters, and vivid descriptions of exotic locations. Smith’s works have been translated into more than 25 languages and have sold over 130 million copies worldwide, making him one of the most successful authors of all time.

Smith’s writing has earned him numerous accolades over the years, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the South African Literary Awards and the Order of the British Empire for his services to literature. He continues to write and inspire readers around the world with his captivating stories.

The Courtney Series

The Courtney family saga is perhaps Smith’s most popular and enduring body of work. The series chronicles the adventures of the Courtney family over several generations, beginning in the late 17th century and continuing into the 20th century.

The Courtney family is a wealthy and influential family in South Africa. They are known for their bravery, intelligence, and cunning. The family patriarch, Hal Courtney, is a legendary figure who is feared and respected by all who know him. He is a skilled sailor and warrior who has fought pirates and explored uncharted territories. His legacy will be felt for generations to come.

The Courtney family is not without its share of drama and conflict. Over the years, the family has been torn apart by jealousy, greed, and betrayal. Despite these challenges, the Courtney family has always managed to persevere and come out stronger on the other side.

The Early Courtney Novels

When the Lion Feeds (The Courtney Series: The When The Lion Feeds Trilogy Book 1)

The early Courtney novels follow the adventures of the original Courtney family patriarch, Hal Courtney. When the Lion Feeds is the first book in the series and sets the stage for the epic family saga that follows. In this book, Hal and his brother, Mungo, are forced to defend their family farm against a group of ruthless invaders. The Sound of Thunder picks up where the first book left off and follows Hal as he embarks on a dangerous mission to find his missing daughter. A Sparrow Falls sees the Courtney family facing off against a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy them. The Burning Shore is the fourth book in the series and follows Hal’s son, Jim, as he sets out on his own adventure to discover the truth about his father’s death.

These early novels are full of action, adventure, and drama. They are a must-read for fans of historical fiction and epic family sagas.

The Later Courtney Novels

Blue Horizon (The Courtney Series: The Birds of Prey Trilogy Book 3)

The later Courtney novels pick up where the early novels left off, following the descendants of the original Courtney family as they navigate the turbulent political and social landscape of 20th century Africa. Blue Horizon is the first book in the later series and follows the story of Jim’s son, Tom, as he sets out to make his fortune in the diamond mines of South Africa. Monsoon sees Tom facing off against a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy him and his family. Burning Bright is the most recent book in the series and follows the story of Saffron Courtney, a young woman who is determined to make her mark in the world.

The later novels are just as action-packed and thrilling as the early novels. They are a testament to the enduring legacy of the Courtney family and their ability to overcome any obstacle that comes their way.

The Ballantyne Series

The Ballantyne series is another popular body of work that focuses on a multi-generational family saga. The series follows the lives and adventures of the Ballantyne family, beginning in the late 19th century and continuing well into the 20th century. Like the Courtney series, the Ballantyne series is divided into two sub-series: the Ballantyne family saga and standalone Ballantyne novels.

The Ballantyne Family Saga

Falcon Flies (The Ballantyne Series Book 1)

The Ballantyne family saga comprises two novels – A Falcon Flies and Men of Men – and tells the story of Zouga Ballantyne and his family’s struggle to survive and thrive in colonial-era Africa. A Falcon Flies is set in the 1860s and follows the adventures of Zouga and his twin sons, Sean and Garrick, as they travel to Africa to make their fortune in the diamond and gold mines. The novel is full of action, adventure, and romance, and takes readers on a thrilling journey through the African wilderness.

Men of Men picks up where A Falcon Flies left off, and follows the Ballantyne family as they continue to navigate the challenges of life in colonial Africa. The novel is set in the 1890s, and focuses on the conflict between the British South Africa Company and the Ndebele people. As tensions rise and violence erupts, the Ballantyne family finds themselves caught in the middle of a dangerous and deadly struggle for power.

Fans of the Courtney series will want to check out the Ballantyne family saga for its similar themes of survival and adventure in a harsh landscape. Smith’s vivid descriptions of the African wilderness and its inhabitants will transport readers to another time and place, and keep them on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Standalone Ballantyne Novels

Angels Weep (The Ballantyne Series Book 3)

Smith has also written several standalone novels that take place within the Ballantyne universe. These include The Angels Weep, The Leopard Hunts in Darkness, and The Triumph of the Sun. While not part of the main family saga, these novels are still worth checking out for their thrilling adventures and engaging characters.

The Angels Weep is set in the 1920s, and follows the story of Craig Mellow, a former soldier who returns to Africa to make his fortune. Mellow finds himself caught up in a web of intrigue and danger, as he becomes embroiled in a plot to overthrow the government of a small African nation. The novel is full of political intrigue, action, and romance, and is a must-read for fans of Smith’s work.

The Leopard Hunts in Darkness is set in the 1970s, and follows the story of Sean Courtney’s son, Dirk, as he embarks on a mission to find a lost city in the African wilderness. Along the way, Dirk must navigate dangerous terrain, battle fierce predators, and confront his own demons. The novel is a thrilling adventure that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end.

The Triumph of the Sun is set in the late 19th century, and tells the story of a group of British soldiers and civilians who are taken captive by a Sudanese warlord. The novel is full of action, adventure, and romance, and is a gripping tale of survival and heroism in the face of impossible odds.

Overall, the Ballantyne series is a must-read for fans of historical fiction, adventure, and romance. Smith’s vivid descriptions and engaging characters will transport readers to another time and place, and keep them coming back for more.

The Ancient Egyptian Series

The ancient Egyptian series is a departure from the family saga format of Smith’s other work, but no less engaging or exciting. The series includes both trilogies and standalone novels set in ancient Egypt.

The River God Trilogy

River God (The Egyptian Series Book 1)

The River God trilogy – comprised of River God, The Seventh Scroll, and Warlock – follows the adventures of the Egyptian slave Taita as he navigates the treacherous world of ancient Egypt. With its blend of action, romance, and historical detail, the River God trilogy is a must-read for fans of epic adventure novels.

The Later Egyptian Novels

Quest (The Egyptian Series Book 4)

Smith has also written standalone novels set in ancient Egypt, including The Quest and Desert God. While not part of the River God trilogy, these books still offer the same thrilling mix of action, romance, and historical detail that readers have come to expect from Smith.

The Hector Cross Series

The Hector Cross series is another departure from Smith’s family saga format, focusing instead on a single protagonist. Hector Cross is a former soldier turned security expert who finds himself entangled in a series of thrilling adventures across the globe.

Introducing Hector Cross

Those in Peril (Hector Cross Book 1)

The first novel in the series, Those in Peril, introduces readers to Hector Cross and sets the stage for his subsequent adventures. In the novel, Cross must rescue a group of hostages from a group of Somali pirates, setting off a chain of events that will have ripples throughout the series.

The Continuing Adventures of Hector Cross

Vicious Circle (Hector Cross Book 2)

Subsequent novels in the series, including Vicious Circle, Predator, and The Eye of the Tiger, follow Cross as he continues to navigate dangerous situations and outwit his enemies. With their fast-paced action and thrilling plot twists, the Hector Cross novels are some of Smith’s most exciting work.

Standalone Novels by Wilbur Smith

In addition to his many series, Smith has also written several standalone novels throughout his career.

Early Standalone Novels

Dark of the Sun

Smith’s early standalone novels, including The Dark of the Sun and Shout at the Devil, both of which were made into movies, showcase his knack for fast-paced adventure stories and engaging characters.

Recent Standalone Novels

Those in Peril (Hector Cross Book 1)

More recent standalone novels, such as Those in Peril and Golden Lion, continue to delight readers with their gripping plots and larger-than-life characters.


There’s no denying that Wilbur Smith is one of the titans of the adventure genre. With his gripping tales of epic battles, larger-than-life characters, and thrilling plot twists, Smith has earned a legion of fans around the globe. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer to his work, there’s never been a better time to discover the best Wilbur Smith books to read now. So pick up a copy of one of his novels today and get ready for an adventure you won’t soon forget!


Who is Wilbur Smith?

Wilbur Smith was a British-South African author who specialized in political and historical novels written about South Africa. His books touched on the international involvement in South African living and government and demonstrated his passion for the country. 

What is Wilbur Smith best known for?

Wilbur Smith produced many popular novels including River God, Warlock, New Kingdom, Birds of Prey, and The Seventh Scroll.

Where is Wilbur Smith from?

Smith was born in Zambia in 1933 but spent most of his time in South Africa, where he died recently, in 2021.

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