The Courtney Series in Order: How to read Wilbur Smith’s books?

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Published since 1964 by Zambian-born author Wilbur Smith, The Courtney Series chronicles the lives of the Courtney family, from the 1860s through until 1987.

The Courtney Series was not written chronologically. The first books follow the twins Sean and Garrick Courtney from the 1860s until 1925. Then, the next ones were about Centaine de Thiry Courtney, her sons, and grandchildren between 1917 and 1987. The last ones are also about successive generations of the Courtney family, from the 1660s through until the Second World War.

How to Read The Courtney Series in Chronological Order?

  1. Birds of Prey – It is 1667 and the Dutch and the English are at war. Sir Francis Courtney and his son Henry ‘Hal’ Courtney, in their fighting caravel Lady Edwina, are on patrol off the Agulhas Cape of Southern Africa: lying in wait for one of the galleons of the Dutch East India Company returning from the Orient laden with treasure to fall into their net. It is the beginning of the quest that will sweep them from the new settlement of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa to the Great Horn of Ethiopia far to the north.
  2. The Golden Lion – Henry ‘Hal’ Courtney is a man with a ship – and a family – of his own. But fate has not finished with Hal. On a voyage along the eastern shore of Africa, a powerful enemy abducts his wife, the fearless warrior Judith… and with her, Hal’s unborn child. For Hal, a man all too familiar with loss, there is only one way forward: He must track his nemesis across desert and ocean, through the slave markets of Zanzibar and the dangerous waters of the coast, in pursuit of the woman he loves, the child he sired, and the glorious destiny that awaits him.
  3. Monsoon – Once a voracious adventurer, it has been many years since Hal Courtney has dared the high seas. Now he must return with three of his sons – Tom, Dorian, and Guy – to protect the East India Trading Company from looting pirates, in exchange for half of the fortune he recovers. It will be a death or glory mission in the name of the crown. But Hal must also think about the fates of his sons.
  1. The Tiger’s Prey – Tom Courtney, one of four sons of Sir Hal Courtney, once again sets sail on a treacherous journey that will take him across the vast reaches of the ocean and pit him against dangerous enemies in exotic destinations. But just as the winds propel his sails, passion drives his heart. Turning his ship towards the unknown, Tom Courtney will ultimately find his destiny-and lay the future for the Courtney family.
  2. Blue Horizon – Tom Courtney and his brother Dorian battled both vicious enemies and nature itself on the high seas, finally reaching the Cape of Good Hope to start life afresh. Now, half a generation later, they are successful and contented: merchants and family men, prospering on the very edge of an immense and beautiful continent, Africa. The next generation of Courtneys is out to stake its claim in Southern Africa, traveling along the infamous “Robbers’ Road.”
  3. Ghost Fire – Inseparable since birth and growing up in India, Theo and Connie Courtney are torn apart by the tragic death of their parents. Theo, wracked with guilt, strikes a solitary path through life. Haunted by the spirits of lovers and family members, he is determined to atone for his mistakes. He seeks salvation in combat and conflict, joining the British in the war against the French and Indian army.
  1. Storm Tide – 1774. Rob Courtney has spent his whole life in a quiet trading outpost on the east coast of Africa, dreaming of a life of adventure at sea. When his grandfather Jim dies, Rob takes his chance and stows away on a ship as it sails to England, with only the family heirloom, the Neptune Sword, to his name. Arriving in London, Rob is seduced by the charms of the big city and soon finds himself desperate and penniless. That is until the navy comes calling. Rob is sent across the Atlantic on a ship to join the war against the rebellious American colonists.
  2. Nemesis (co-written with Tom Harper) – Paris, 1794. Revolutionary fervor has erupted into the Reign of Terror. Paul Courtney hides in a crowd watching as the condemned are brought to the guillotine. Among them is Constance Courtney, Paul’s mother. As he watches her brutal execution, he knows he must avoid the same fate and fulfill his promise to her – to survive, no matter what. Cape Town, 1806. Adam Courtney has spent his life in service to the navy and in the shadow of his father, the illustrious Admiral Robert Courtney. But when he returns home to Nativity Bay to find the homestead destroyed and the Courtney family murdered, Adam must accept his destiny and seek vengeance.
  3. When the Lion Feeds – He began life at his twin brother’s side, soon running wild on his father’s ranch on the edge of Africa. But violence, desire, and fate sent Sean Courtney into exile…In a place called The Ridge of White Waters, Sean made a life-long friendship, mined a fortune of gold, and met his own demons. Then an act of cunning betrayal struck–and ignited a new adventure to a new frontier.
  1. The Triumph of the Sun – They’ve come from out of the shifting sands and down from ancient mountains. Mounted on horse and camel, carrying gleaming swords and plundered rifles, the sons of Allah are led by a holy warrior imbued with jihad, driving his army of thousands to wipe out the last Englishmen from the isolated Nile city… Along with hundreds of others, British trader and businessman Ryder Courtney is trapped in the capital city of Khartoum.
  2. King of Kings – Cairo, 1887. Penrod Ballantyne and his fiancée, Amber Benbrook, stroll hand in hand. The future is theirs for the taking. But when Penrod’s jealous former lover, Lady Agatha, plants doubt about his character, Amber leaves him and travels to the wilds of Abyssinia with her twin sister, Saffron, and her adventurer husband, Ryder Courtney. On a mission to establish a silver mine, they make the dangerous journey to the new capital of Addis Ababa, where they are welcomed by Menelik, the King of Kings.
  3. Sound of Thunder – The year is 1899. The British Empire is at the height of its power. But in South Africa, proud Dutch colonists defy the Queen and her army–and a lush, wild world is torn apart by guns, spears, and swords. Sean Courtney had been tragically separated from his family, but the Boer War has brought him back to his homeland–and into the sights of his enemy’s guns.
  1. Assegai – It is 1913 and Leon Courtney, an ex-soldier turned professional hunter in British East Africa, guides the rich and powerful from America and Europe on big-game safaris. Leon had never sought fame, but an expedition alongside U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt has made him one of the most sought-after hunters on the continent. Soon, he finds that with celebrity comes not just wealth―but also danger. [The story continues in War Cry]
  2. The Burning Shore – [follows a character from The Sound of Thunder] Centaine de Thiry grew up with privilege, wealth, and freedom on a sprawling French estate. Then war came crashing down around her, and a daring young South African aviator named Michael Courtney stole her heart amidst the destruction. But the tides of fate and battle sent the young woman on a journey across a dangerous sea to the coast of Africa.
  3. War Cry – [This is the sequel to Assegai] In the wake of his beloved wife’s death, the renowned big-game hunter Leon Courtney is raising his young daughter, Saffron, alone in colonial Kenya. In the 1920s, the continent of Africa is a dangerous place. As Leon attempts to navigate the murky political waters of this most exquisitely beautiful and wildest of lands, his daughter grows into an independent and headstrong young woman bound for a far different life in Britain, as a student at Oxford. But over the course of more than two decades, spies, traitors, and adventurers will dog their every step. [The story continues in Courtney’s War]
  1. A Sparrow Falls – General Sean Courtney returns from the horrors of the Great War in France, his mind on his heirs and his legacy. He is watching three potential successors: his beautiful but spoiled daughter, Storm. His corrupt, disgraced son Dirk. And his new young assistant, Mark Anders, a fellow survivor of the trenches. Mark finds himself trapped between Sean’s two children, shaped by an impossible love for Storm, and a victim of Dirk’s ongoing hatred, greed and jealousy.
  2. Power of the Sword – Shasa Courtney was groomed by his French-born mother to take control of the Courtney Mining and Finance Company, whose font of wealth was sown deep beneath African soil. But Shasa’s brother, Manfred, had been trained by his renegade father to be a hunter–of lions, and of men. As the two boys became men, they took on the extraordinary powers of each parent. So when the winds of World War II reached Africa, each brother chose a side.
  3. Courtney’s War – [This is the sequel to War Cry] Paris, 1939 – Torn apart by war, Saffron Courtney and Gerhard von Meerbach are thousands of miles apart, both struggling for their lives. Gerhard is fighting for the Fatherland, hoping to one day have the opportunity to rid Germany of Hitler and his cronies. Meanwhile Saffron – recruited by the Special Operations Executive and sent to occupied Belgium to discover how the Nazis have infiltrated SOE’s network.
  1. Legacy of War – The war is over, Hitler is dead – and yet his evil legacy lives on. Saffron Courtney and her beloved husband Gerhard only just survived the brutal conflict, but Gerhard’s Nazi-supporting brother, Konrad, is still free and determined to regain power. As a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse develops, a plot against the couple begins to stir. One that will have ramifications throughout Europe. . .
  2. Rage – For the Courtney family, who have known this continent from the depths of its gold mines to the pinnacle of political power, a time of reckoning is at hand. Shasa Courtney has lived, fought and loved amongst Afrikaners, Englishmen, and natives. His mother is by his side but the rest of the world around him is exploding. Even his family harbors secrets more dangerous than his own worst enemies.
  3. Golden Fox – Isabella Courtney, dazzling daughter of South Africa’s ambassador to England, is passionately obsessed with Ramon, the Marques de Santiago y Machado–also known as the Golden Fox, one of the world’s most ruthless terrorists. When she secretly bears his child, Ramon kidnaps the boy and persuades powerful, yet reluctant, Isabella to betray South Africa and her beloved family.

  1. A Time to Die – Sean Courtney, ex-guerilla fighter in the Bush War, is now a man of peace, leading hunting safaris in Zimbabwe for wealthy men. His current client is Riccardo Monterro, a strong-headed man whose beautiful, strong-minded daughter Claudia has reluctantly accompanied him on the search for the greatest of all trophies: the old bull elephant Tukutela. But the elephant, and Riccardo’s obsession, will lead them over the border into a Mozambique still devastated by civil war.

The Courtney Series in Publication Order:

  1. When the Lion Feeds
  2. Sound of Thunder
  3. A Sparrow Falls
  4. The Burning Shore
  5. Power of the Sword
  6. Rage
  7. A Time to Die
  8. Golden Fox
  9. Birds of Prey
  10. Monsoon
  11. Blue Horizon
  12. The Triumph of the Sun
  13. Assegai
  14. The Golden Lion
  15. War Cry
  16. The Tiger’s Prey
  17. Courtney’s War
  18. King of Kings
  19. Ghost Fire
  20. Legacy of War
  21. Storm Tide
  22. Nemesis

Reading The Jack Courtney Books in Order

For younger readers aged 10+. Set in the modern-day, The Jack Courtney Adventures follows 14-year-old Jack Courtney and his friends Xander and Amelia on adventures across the world.

  1. Cloudburst – Jack Courtney has lived in the UK his whole life. But this summer his parents are traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a gorilla conference, and they’ve promised to take Jack and his friends with them. When his parents go missing in the rainforest, abducted by mercenaries, nobody seems to have any answers. Jack is pretty sure that it’s got something to do with the nearby tantalum mines, but he needs to prove it. Along with Amelia and Xander, Jack must brave the jungle to save his parents. Standing in his way is a member of his own family – Caleb Courtney.
  2. Thunderbolt – Jack and his friends Amelia and Xander are in Zanzibar diving for lost treasure to support Jack’s mother’s coral protection project. Going further than usual on their last day, their dive boat is lured into a trap and captured by Somali pirates. Determined that his mother shouldn’t pay a ransom for their release, Jack won’t give up his attempts to escape.

If you like the Courtney reading order, you may also want to check out our guide to the Ballantyne Series, or the one for Wilbur Smith’s Ancient Egypt Series. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.

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  1. So! How do read by title from the first one( 1600s) to the last by title. Please sort out for me the books belong together by era. Thanks

  2. There are two lists here. The first long list is the list of how to read them, the chronological list of the Courtney universe. The second short list is of the order in which they were published. In my original excitement at finding a list, I made the mistake of thinking the second list was a summary of the first. It is not. Which 2 months later, I have realised after my husband has reread 2 of the books.

  3. I have just finished Courtney’s War and very much enjoyed the action and well described Saffron Courtney but cannot identify any sequel featuring Saffron. Please advise

    1. I believe the “prequel” to Courtney’s War is War Cry. It traces Saffron from childhood. Saffron is a wonderful Courtney adventurer and I imagine, especially appealing to young girls.

    2. You are correct but the way I read War Cry it came across as part 1 of a 2 part story I believe War Cry and Courtney’s War is in reality just the one book and they should not be separated in the read order.

    1. Charity shops good start wish I had see your question as have just took whole series to charity shop .we are moving house and wont have space otherwise I would have kept them totally enthralled by all

  4. Ok. So I read when the lion feeds and then the sound of thunder. After that I read a sparrow falls only to discover that Michael Courtney is now dead. Where do I miss this and what book have I missed out

  5. Chronological Order of Egyptian Books
    River God (1993)
    Desert God (2014)
    Pharaoh (2016)
    Warlock (2001)
    The Quest (2007)
    The Seventh Scroll (1995)

  6. Hi, A website ‘booksinorder’ shows the order after River and Desert as:
    Warlock, then Quest, then 7th Scroll and finally Pharaoh. Just wondering which is correct.

  7. Long ago I relished Wilbur Smith books and read many of them. Now as a 75 year old I discovered the pleasure of audio books. Is it possible you could please send me a List copy of each series.

    Regards. Austin Shaw

  8. I cant seem to get enough of Smith! Im so glad there are many books to read. Thank you for this list.

  9. Also im right now reading Ghostfire.. Another Courtney novel but am not sure where it fitss in on this List.

  10. Can anyone out there help me? In the sound of thunder a town called Ladbyburg pops up. Is it a fictitious town name perhaps based on a known town like Greytown?

  11. Is King of Kings not also part of the Balantyne series? And furthermore I see no mention of Ghost Fire. Where will that fit in please?

  12. Wilbur Smith is at his best when his story is primitive. Sean Courtney
    ( Garyt’s twin brother) hunting ivory and making his fortune in the early days. Sean is the greatest of all the Courtney’s in my humble opinion.

    I’d love to see mr. Smith write another novel with Sean as the protagonist.

    As per the earlier question. Which of Smith’s books stands alone. They all can.

    1. What happened to David Morgan (Eagle in the Sky). Did he eventually get plastic surgery for the burns to his face and head. Is there a follow on of this book.

    2. If not mistaken, Dorian Courtney dies fighting in Arab. It is mentioned in Ghost Fire if not mistaken, the same novel that shows the death of his son Mansur Courtney and wife Verity Courtney

  13. What is the reason the books have a different published order from the chronological order? My husband loved the first six chronologically but is having a hard time getting into When the Lion Feeds which was first one published.

    1. I hope your Husband stick with it, it’s a wonderful trilogy, but I too at times felt when the lion feeds was lacking, but it was his first novel.

    2. When the Lion Feeds is one of the best!!! Honestly… It is the first one that I read and now I am trying to read the prequels in order.. A challenge but worth it.

  14. What to read next of Wilbur Smith? Could somebody help me please.

    This is what I have completed:

    When the lion feeds, the sound of thunder, a sparrow falls

    Rage, Power of the sword, the burning shore, golden fox, a time to die

    Assegai, War Cry, Courtney’s War

    I am loving Wilbur Smith’s books, i’m rediscovering my joy of books through audiobooks. Being dyslexic I really struggled to stick with a book, so audiobooks was the perfect solution for me, listening while traveling to and front work.

    I look forward to your suggestions. Many Thanks in advance for your suggestions.



  15. I’m reading Wilbur smith in chronological order. Last book I read was ghost fire, next is triumph of the sun.
    The cover indicates VOL II, so where did I miss VOL 1?

    Thanks John

  16. Is there a family tree of the Courtney family made from all the various titles?
    The title page of ‘Ghost Fire’ says there is and how to find it but all I have found is a list of books in chronological order but reading them still leaves gaps or does not make clear the family genealogy. Every one an enjoyable read.

    1. nobody mentions the Hestor Cross series is there a list for that am reading now i missed one ty

  17. I am returning back to my Courtney series to read again. I see he published many more with other authors. I am confused if I should read the published order or chronological order which seems to have new ones merged in between. I love following the correct order to keep up with the wonderful characters.
    So, which is the BEST way to read the series, Publish date or Chronological???

    1. I wanna follow the chronological order – from the founder or the 1st Courtney to the last. The same with the Ballantyne serries

    2. The chronological order makes more sense in my opinion. I just finished Ghost Fire after reading all six books from Birds of prey.

    3. I have read almost every Wilbur Smith book twice now but none of his new ones yet. Maybe about 10 not read in the last two years…so I have now found the correct way to read these books…in chronological order…rather than in print order and that is the way I am going to read them all again…So instead of starting with his first printed novel (When The Lion Feeds), I will read them in this order (chronologically): Blue Horizon first then Ghost Fire then When The Lion Feeds then Triumph In The Sun. This will make ‘getting into’ a newly written book like Ghost Fire make sense a lot quicker on the ‘follow on’ story rather than jumping in trying to ‘gather’ the story so far.
      I’m really looking forward to this. But it is essential I start with the very first story Wilbur Smith had published. I am sure it was ‘When the lion Feeds’ followed by the ‘Sound Of Thunder’. AND I now get to read them in a different order, therefore something ‘new and different to look forward to.

    4. Hello Mike, a lover of Wilbur Smith’s book here also … I must admit I have read a few out of order but have tried to get things back in order, …. this link we are on right now seems to clarify the order of books 🙂 so far I see a total of 20 books in the Courtney Series …. 11 still to read 🙂 😉
      enjoy my friend , enjoy

  18. Is a closure for the dowager of the Courtney clan Centaine expected soon or have I misses it. She is now 1020 years old so I assume she is deceased but I cant find a book about this. I would be interested to find how the courtney family has coped with the changes in South Africa.

  19. I started reading wilbur in the ballantine series so i read all of them, now 12 courtney books down like some you guys Im trying to follow series which is a pain because I have skipped one here and there but Im not giving up I just love em. Good reading too all. BRIAN BANNON.april 2021

    1. Why have you skipped one here and there, Brian. You have to read them all as they were printed (as I did) but I now find with the ‘new releases’ that the chronological order seems to be the best way because different parts of lives (families) are portrayed in a mixture of the printing order. I’m going for my 3rd read of most of Wilbur Smith’s books but only chronologically and that way I can follow a family adventure faster and understand that family better.

  20. What is the reading order for Ballantines plus new book, stand alone and Egyptian books please? Plus any new books for each series, just to make sure we have all books as we do not want to miss any.
    I am pretty sure we have all accept for the new books
    Thank you

  21. Golden Lion; Great story but at the end the heroin killed all the badies in one page. All things seemed to happen quickly and nothing tied up. But keep writting, also I get the feeling W/Smith is not writing the book.
    What a family the Courtneys
    Wilbur you need to tye it all together with a geneogogy chart
    Marke Wilson Ballina NSW Australia

    1. Agree on this point. This ending always got me wonderimg as though it wasn’t super believable. Quite odd this ending. As though Smith was called for dinner perhaps. lol? Great story but ending was rushed.

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