Ian Ross: The Mask of Command (2016) Review

Ian Ross

Ian Ross lives in England, and has been researching and writing about the later Roman empire and its army for over a decade.
The ‘Twilight of Empire’ series is a sequence of novels set in the early 4th century, a dramatic and violent era which saw the rise of the Emperor Constantine and the transformation of the Roman world.

Publisher website

Author Web site

The Mask of Command (2016)
(The fourth book in the Twilight of Empire series)

book cover of The Mask of Command

 

When a treacherous act of murder throws the western provinces into turmoil, Aurelius Castus is ordered to take command of the military forces on the Rhine. But he soon discovers that the frontier is a place where the boundaries between civilisation and barbarism, freedom and slavery, honour and treason have little meaning.

At the very heart of the conflict are two vulnerable boys. One is Emperor Constantine’s young heir, Crispus. The other is Castus’s own beloved son, Sabinus. Only Castus stands between them and men who would kill them.

With all that he loves in danger, Castus and a handful of loyal men must fight to defend the Roman Empire. But in the heat of battle, can he distinguish friend from enemy?

Review

This is book four in the excellent Twilight of Rome series a series that focuses on a very much ignored part of the rich and varied Roman history (4th Century), I’ve always been surprised that there are not more books based around this transitional period. Constantine and his tenure is such a rich tapestry of events, a new religion, vast changes in the empire and the armies that control those huge tracts of land, This is a time when the Auxiliaries are the army, the empire is the sum of its parts rather than the sum of its core.

Our Core character Castus has come a long way from the bruiser on the frontline. Over the course of this series his bravery and his dependable honest character has won him Imperial Patronage. This while a personality that has won him renown with the Emperor doesn’t win him many friends at court, the roman court is after all filled with greed, envy and treachery, none of this is set to make Castus’s task of of intermediary to the Germanic people an easy role.

As with all of this series i find the books initially a slow burn, even knowing the characters well as i now do, Ian takes his time to build you back into the Roman world, to acclimate you to the time period and the situation, and then he starts to turn the screw and ratchet up the pace. By the time he hits the last quarter of the book it is at a pace that makes the book very hard to put down, as Castus world turns to crap very quickly, his life seems to be a parallel for the story of the empire at the time.

As with this whole series the research is exemplary (well to my untrained eye), the attention to detail is first class, and yet not thrust down the readers neck, its subtle and yet intricate, and the battles are a joy to read.

Another absolute winner…

(Parm)

Series
Twilight of Empire
1. War At the Edge of the World (2015)
2. Swords Around the Throne (2015)
3. The Battle for Rome (2015)
4. The Mask of Command (2016)
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Adrian Magson: The Bid (Review)

Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson's picture
Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers. His series protagonists include Gavin & Palmer, Harry Tate, Marc Portman, Insp Lucas Rocco and Gonzales & Vaslik. He is also the author of Write On!, a writers help book.

Author website

The prisoner who wakes up in a box miles from anywhere.

The jailer who doesn’t question his job.

The shipment of drones stolen in transit from a cargo hub.

The kidnappers planning a devastating attack on US soil.

When James Chadwick, a drone expert, disappears suddenly, Cruxys Solutions investigators Ruth Gonzales and Andy Vaslik are assigned to track his last movements. With few clues to go on, the hunt moves from London to New York, gathering speed as they close in on a horrifying plan to kill the US President and inflict total damage on a US Air Force base.

And time is running out.

Review

This is the first of my “read a different author books” for this year… and its always great to strike gold on the first attempt. I have to be honest, i own the first three Harry Tate books and for some reason they are sat on my shelf unread, they sound great and yet my reading pile never seemed to allow for me to read them (i seem to always be trying to keep up with the review pile rather than the read for myself pile, its great when the two coincide).

The Bid follows Ruth Gonzales and Andy Vaslik as they search for their client who is missing, his Insurance contract comes into effect as soon as he fails to check in. This extra insurance security must be for a reason and as they dig into his past they discover this consultant is more than he appears on the surface, and his skills are in demand by people who will do anything to make him work for them. His life and his family under threat.

The book follows both from the perspective of the trackers and also the man who holds him captive, all is not  what it seems with the captors, this is not your average terrorist cell. The author give the plot plenty of pace and action, without ever once drifting into improbability, the scariest part of this book is that everything is utterly probable, and scarily real.

Given that the book i had finished prior to this and was so so good, i needed something to really grab me, i had actually ditched 4 books in between that book and The Bid because they just didn’t cut the mustard i could not get into them, i had the worst post book hangover. But The Bid, grabs you from the first page, its a very hard to put down book, pulling you across the Atlantic and then across the USA in search of James Chadwick , following the thinnest of threads and battling the reddest of government tape. Because of the utterly realistic nature of the plot, the people really come alive on the page, the exhaustion and frustration, the captivity and desperation of the hunt and the pace and power of the plot, it all culminates in a very tidy Action Thriller and i will most certainly be reading more from this author,

Recommended

(Parm)

Series
Riley Gavin and Frank Palmer
1. No Peace for the Wicked (2004)
2. No Help for the Dying (2005)
3. No Sleep for the Dead (2006)
4. No Tears for the Lost (2007)
5. No Kiss for the Devil (2008)
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Harry Tate
1. Red Station (2010)
2. Tracers (2011)
3. Deception (2011)
4. Retribution (2013)
5. Execution (2013)
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Lucas Rocco
1. Death on the Marais (2010)
2. Death on the Rive Nord (2011)
3. Death on the Pont Noir (2012)
4. Death at the Clos du Lac (2013)
Rocco and the Snow Angel (2015)
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Marc Portman
1. The Watchman (2014)
2. Close Quarters (2015)
3. Hard Cover (2016)
4. Dark Asset (2017)
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Cruxys Solutions Investigation
1. The Locker (2016)
2. The Bid (2017)
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Novels
The Lost Patrol (2010)
Smart Moves (2013)
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Collections
Killer Fiction (2010) (with Miles Archer, Mort Castle, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Thomas Millstead and Simon Wood)
Shades of Mayhem Vol 1 (2012)
Shades of Mayhem Vol 2 (2012)
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Non fiction
Write On – The Writer’s Help Book (2011)
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The David Gilman: Master of War (Series Review + Competition)

David Gilman

David Gilman's picture

David Gilman has had an enormously impressive variety of jobs – from firefighter to professional photographer, from soldier in the Parachute Regiment’s Reconnaissance Platoon to a Marketing Manager for Penguin South Africa.

He is also a hugely successful television screenwriter. For the last six years he has been principal writer on A Touch Of Frost. He has lived and travelled the world gathering inspiration for his exotic children’s adventure series along the way.

Now, David is based in Devon, where he lives with his wife.

book cover of Master of War

Buy From Waterstones

MASTER OF WAR

England, 1346: For Thomas Blackstone the choice is easy – dance on the end of a rope for a murder he did not commit, or take up his war bow and join the king’s invasion. As he fights his way across northern France, Blackstone learns the brutal lessons of war – from the terror and confusion of his first taste of combat, to the savage realities of siege warfare.

Vastly outnumbered, Edward III’s army will finally confront the armoured might of the French nobility on the field of Crecy. It is a battle that will change the history of warfare, a battle that will change the course of Blackstone’s life, a battle that will forge a legend.

book cover of Defiant Unto Death

Buy Signed Limited edition

FRANCE: 1356. Ten years ago, the greatest army in Christendom was slaughtered at Crecy. Archer Thomas Blackstone stood his ground and left that squalid field a knight. He has since carved out a small fiefdom in northern France, but the woulds of war still bleed and a traitor has given the King of France the means to destroy the English knight and his family. As the traitor’s net tightens, so the French King’s army draws in. Blackstone will stand and fight. He will defy his friends, his family and his king. He may yet defy death, but he can’t defy his destiny: MASTER OF WAR.

book cover of Gate of the Dead

Buy Signed Ltd edition

Hundred Years War. It is a gripping chronicle of pitched battle, treachery and cruelty. The stench and harshness of medieval life is ever present’ ROBERT FABBRI, bestselling author of the Vespasian series. Tuscany, 1358: Thomas Blackstone has built a formidable reputation in exile, fighting as a mercenary amid the ceaseless internecine warring of Italy’s City States. But success has bred many enemies, and when a dying man delivers a message recalling him to England, it seems almost certain to be a trap. Yet Blackstone cannot disobey – the summons is at the Queen’s demand. On his journey, Blackstone will brave the terrors of the High Alps in winter, face the Black Prince in tournament, confront the bloody anarchy of a popular revolt and submit to trial by combat. And every step of the way, he will be shadowed by a notorious assassin with orders to despatch him to Hell.

Series Review

A Series that starts with a bang Master of War (click for original review), set  in the Hundred Years War and introduces us to the life of former stonemason and now English longbowman Thomas Blackstone during the Battle of Crécy in 1346. With all the animosity on a battlefield you would expect it to be between the 2 foes, but the nature of alliances mean that the English and Welsh as ever have a fair bit of animosity… very similar to the French and Normans (no one got along then, or now), but it all makes for a great backdrop for war, where the hatred between England and France trumps all (and did it ever really get any better).  The location allows the author to draw on the imagery of the stunning landscape and castles, to provide some truly epic battle scenes and scenery.

Book one is in the main a book about War, and the Growth of Thomas as a warrior.

Defiant Unto Death (click for original review), is set in 1356, ten years have passed and our lead character the Longbowman, Thomas Blackstone was knighted on the field of Crécy by the Black Prince, such is his skill and prowess. In the intervening period (between books) Sir Thomas has become lord of the manor, Husband and father. But being a Knight has its obligations. Thomas’ Prowess and skills soon earn him powerful enemies, this in the form of The Savage Priest, as nasty a character as you will meet in a book and an implacable, nasty enemy. An enemy that pursues our hero through war, we go from battle to battle (notably Poitiers) , again the authors descriptive is something that clearly shows his TV background, the visuals for scenery and most of all grim death and gore on the battlefield are painted with every sentence. As with Most really great Historical Fiction, the hero is some distance short of perfect, his imperfections clear, and yet his striving and humanity making him so much more real.

Gate of the Dead set in 1358, The shine has gone from Sir Thomas Blackstone, now banished from England forced into the roving the continent he finds himself with his men in Tuscany. Out of the Blue he is recalled to England to fight alongside the man who he assumed hates him, The Black prince, not knowing the truth of the matter he must go, no one can refuse the Queen of England he is honour bound to go home (that and its in the plot). His journey home isn’t going to be a quick trip on the eurostar, this is a plague ravaged continent, full of roving bands of men most of them desperate or beholden to brutal lords, in his usual approachable style Thomas is soon cutting a bloody swathe home. David Gilman in his usual graphic and uncompromising style gives us (in my opinion) a very original and real picture of the time, no gloss of modern sensibility is added to this fantastic tale of personal growth in bloody times.

Coming soon: full review of Vipers Blood (see below)

(Parm)

Competition

If you can email me a Pre order confirmation for Vipers Blood (to parmenionbooks@yahoo.co.uk), then i will enter you in the draw for a Signed Limited edition of Defiant unto death.

Draw to be made on 9th Feb

Pre-Order a Signed Limited Edition

 

book cover of Viper's Blood

Winter, 1360: Edward III has invaded France at the head of the greatest English host ever assembled. But his attempt to win the French crown is futile. The Dauphin will no longer meet the English in the field and the great army is mired in costly sieges, scavenging supplies from a land ruined by decades of conflict. Facing a stalemate – or worse – the English are forced to agree to a treaty. But peace comes at a price. The French request that Blackstone escort the Dauphin’s daughter to Italy to see her married to one of the brothers who rule Milan – the same brothers who killed Blackstone’s family. Blackstone, the French are certain, will not leave Milan alive.

Series
Danger Zone
1. The Devil’s Breath (2007)
2. Ice Claw (2008)
3. Blood Sun (2009)
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Master of War
1. Master of War (2013)
2. Defiant Unto Death (2015)
3. Gate of the Dead (2015)
4. Viper’s Blood (2016)
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Novels
Monkey and Me (2014)
The Last Horseman (2016)
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Mark Lawrence: Red Sister (Review)

Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence
Mark Lawrence was born in Champagne-Urbanan, Illinois, to British parents but moved to the UK at the age of one. He went back to the US after taking a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College to work on a variety of research projects including the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence programme. Returning to the UK, he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory. He says he never had any ambition to be a writer so was very surprised when a half-hearted attempt to find an agent turned into a global publishing deal overnight. His first trilogy, THE BROKEN EMPIRE, has been universally acclaimed as a ground-breaking work of fantasy. Following The Broken Empire comes the bestselling RED QUEEN’S WAR trilogy. The BOOK OF THE ANCESTOR trilogy, in an entirely new setting, commences with RED SISTER in 2017. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol.

Author Website

Release date: April 6th 2017

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“I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin”
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.
But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Review:

I’m not sure if i should be immensely grateful to Mark Lawrence or curse him soundly? This has been book 7 for 2017 for me, and i’m not sure i want to be in a position of thinking I’ve just read what is highly likely to be the best book i will read this year. But that’s the case, any other author is going to have to smack the ball way way out of the park to top this read.

I admit i’m a fan of Mark Lawrence’s writing, and I’ve given him high praise before, but even with my love of the wonderfully sarcastic Jalan and the brutally efficient Snorri, i could very quickly see them eclipsed by the characters of this new series. Who would have imagined that the antics of a bunch of young girls training to be warrior Nuns would be so well imagined? The world building in this book is phenomenal, Marks style as always is so subtle, the world emerges around you as you read, there is no conscious information drop, you see it and it develops through the eyes of the characters, with different view points and perceptions. The magic in the book is subtle and wonderful, a little bit shown then a bit more, each piece branching and dovetailing neatly into the next to weave a complex set of abilities and society of magic amidst a failing world. There are ever progressing tantalizing glimpses of where these people came from, making the book borderline Sci-Fi (careful there mark…. i don’t like Sci-Fi 😉  ) I feel this series has so much more to come, so many layers to the story and the characters that no matter the genre you read it can and will totally capture your attention and take you on an amazing journey.

I find myself wanting the use the phrase character growth, yet it seems redundant, we are following the early years of training and growing up of these girls, so there has to be character growth. yet it is carried out in a very real fashion, all the little interplay’s of friendship, politics, fun and pain are there, all the little interplay’s that children have but in a more brutal word with a harder set of rules and training, an uncompromising life for an uncompromising world.

This book and its lead character Nona will literally explode into your life from the first page, demanding your attention, needing love and protection and your time and devotion, and giving you none of those in return, but instead delighting you with her growth and achievements, her prowess and her misdemeanors. Mark Lawrence seems have managed to make a book that emotionally is the equivalent of raising your own warrior child.

Book 2 cannot come soon enough.

Literally

(Parm)

Series

Broken Empire
1. Prince of Thorns (2011)
2. King of Thorns (2012)
2.5. Sleeping Beauty (2014)
3. Emperor of Thorns (2013)
Mark Lawrence 2-Book Bundle (omnibus) (2013)
The Complete Broken Empire Trilogy (omnibus) (2014)
The Secret (2015)
Road Brothers (2015)
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Red Queen’s War
1. Prince of Fools (2014)
2. The Liar’s Key (2015)
3. The Wheel of Osheim (2016)
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Red Sister
1. Red Sister (2017)
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Collections
Road Brothers Stories (2017)
Novellas
During the Dance (2014)
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Amanda Bouchet : A Promise of Fire (Blog Tour)

Amanda Bouchet

Amanda Bouchet's picture

Amanda Bouchet grew up in New England where she spent much of her time tromping around in the woods and making up grand adventures in her head. It was inevitable that one day she would start writing them down. Drawing on her Greek heritage for the setting and on her love of all things daring and romantic for the rest, her debut trilogy, The Kingmaker Chronicles, took form. She writes what she loves to read: epic exploits, steamy romance, and characters that make you laugh and cry.

A French masters graduate and former English teacher, Amanda lives in Paris, France. She met her husband while studying abroad, and the family now includes two bilingual children who will soon be correcting her French.

 

book cover of A Promise of Fire

 

KINGDOMS WILL RISE AND FALL FOR HER…
BUT NOT IF SHE CAN HELP IT

Catalia “Cat” Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a traveling circus. She is perfectly content avoiding the danger and destiny the Gods-and her homicidal mother-have saddled her with. That is, until Griffin, an ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, fixes her with his steely gaze and upsets her illusion of safety forever.

Griffin knows Cat is the Kingmaker, the woman who divines the truth through lies. He wants her as a powerful weapon for his newly conquered realm-until he realizes he wants her for much more than her magic. Cat fights him at every turn, but Griffin’s fairness, loyalty, and smoldering advances make him increasingly hard to resist and leave her wondering if life really does have to be short, and lived alone.

The Kingmaker Chronicles:
A Promise of Fire (Book 1)
Breath of Fire (coming January 2017)
Heart on Fire (coming Fall 2017)

Review

A clever debut novel, somewhat outside my normal read, with beautiful cover art. The author has clearly put a lot of time and effort into the building of this world, she mixes this with some fast paced and amusing dialog guaranteed to draw in the reader. Her piece de resistance is her characters, a wonderfully real imagining that coupled with the dialogue brings the book to life. There is a great plot here that in many respects is just beginning to unfold, I will be very interested to see where the series goes next…

(Parm)

Series
Kingmaker Trilogy
1. A Promise of Fire (2016)
2. Breath of Fire (2017)
3. Heart On Fire (2017)
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Ezekiel Boone: Skitter (Review)

 Ezekiel Boone
Ezekiel Boone's picture
lives in the United States with his family and has an entirely healthy respect for spiders everywhere.
book cover of 

Skitter
BUY THE BOOK  27th April 2017
Tens of millions of people around the world are dead. Half of China is a nuclear wasteland. Mysterious flesh-eating spiders are marching through Los Angeles, Oslo, Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, and countless other cities. According to scientist Melanie Gruyer, however, the spider situation seems to be looking up. Yet in Japan, a giant, truck-sized, glowing egg sack gives a shocking preview of what is to come, even as survivors in Los Angeles panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are trying to invent a spider super weapon, but it’s not clear if it’s too late, because President Stephanie Pilgrim has been forced to enact the plan of last resort: The Spanish Protocol. America, you are on your own.
Review
How do you follow an action packed blockbuster like The Hatching? Where billions of man eating spiders explode into major cities around the world chewing through the population like a wave of death?
It seems to take it back a step, you focus a bit more on the people trying to save the world, you leave the vicious wee beasties slumbering in their cocoons, with the ever present threat of a 2nd hatching. Around the world mankind falls to its usual politics and self aggrandizement with a select few aware that this hasn’t ended, that this is a lull in the cull of mankind.
Once again Ezekiel Boone writes with the power and pace of a Hollywood blockbuster, this isn’t a book that will sit for long on the bed side table, i’m sure like me you will devour it in very few sittings. Its gripping, its horrific, its clever and it has HBO series written all over it. This book two does have a touch of the middle child about it, but that’s par for the course in a series, the author does his best though to create a unique story rather than just a transition to the finale, and achieves this very well. We are however left with that cliff…. what will come next, how will we stop these spiders, how will the mutations manifest? what are the giant sacks? Just what horror has the authors mind conjured next?
I for one cannot wait for the next installment
(Parm)
Series
Hatching
1. The Hatching (2016)
2. Skitter (2017)
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Steven A McKay: The Prisoner: A Forest Lord Novelette

Robin Hood author

About (in his own words)

My name is Steven A. McKay and I’m a writer from Old Kilpatrick, near Glasgow in Scotland, heavily influenced by the likes of Bernard Cornwell, Douglas Jackson, Ben Kane et al.

My first book in the Forest Lord series, Wolf’s Head, was set in medieval England and it’s a fast-paced, violent retelling of the Robin Hood legends. It hit the number 1 spot in the UK “War” chart, reached the overall Kindle top 20 bestsellers list and is available on Kindle, audiobook and paperback from Amazon here:  http://smarturl.it/2636

As I write, in October 2016, I’m just about to publish the fourth and final book in the series, Blood of the Wolf. I think my take on the Robin Hood legend is quite different to anything that’s been done before – check out the reviews to see for yourself.

In total, including my two novellas, Knight of the Cross and Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil, I’ve sold over 75,000 books in the past three years with hundreds of five star reviews for them.  As a working class man from a little village in Scotland, I’m honestly amazed at how many people enjoy my books.

Thank you all so much for reading!

Website

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Buy The Book

When two lawmen – fabled former outlaws themselves – are sent to a snowy English village to arrest a rapist it seems a straightforward task, but is all as it first appears?

ENGLAND, 1325 AD

As Robin Hood and Little John take the criminal into custody they find the people of Stapleford accommodating enough, and the terrified victim’s bruises are plainly, painfully, visible. Inevitably, as they set off on the journey back to Nottingham the lawmen’s disgust at the captive’s crime colours their opinion of him and Little John has to be restrained from brutally assaulting the man.
The harsh conditions slow their progress though, and eventually the prisoner’s words and desperate, violent actions have the lawmen questioning what’s really been happening in Stapleford…

Can Robin and John complete the mission they’ve been given, or will their own innate sense of justice lead them down an unexpected path?

Fans of the bestselling Forest Lord series will love this exciting new stand-alone tale, set just before Blood of the Wolf, that explores the themes of morality and injustice in medieval England.

Author bio
Steven A. McKay was born in Scotland in 1977. His first book, “Wolf’s Head”, came out in 2013 and was an Amazon UK top 20 bestseller.
“Blood of the Wolf” is the fourth and final book in the Forest Lord series which has over 70,000 sales so far.
Steven is currently researching a brand new tale set in post-Roman Britain.

Review

This is a lovely little tale from Steven A McKay, set in the heart of the Robin Hood series, and while only 27 pages it still packs a well rounded punch. A tale of justice and truth, set against the backdrop of Robin and Little Johns own rough brand of honest justice.

well worth the 99p cover price

(Parm)

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