Ben Kane: Crusader

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1189. Richard the Lionheart’s long-awaited goal comes true as he is crowned King of England. Setting his own kingdom in order, he prepares to embark on a gruelling crusade to reclaim Jerusalem.

With him on every step of the journey is Ferdia, his loyal Irish follower. Together they travel from southern France to Italy, to the kingdom of Sicily and beyond.

Finally poised to sail to the Holy Land, Richard finds a bitter two-year-long siege awaiting him. And with it, the iconic Saracen leader responsible for the loss of Jerusalem, Saladin.

No one can agree who should fill the empty throne of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Saladin’s huge army shadows Richard’s every move. Conditions are brutal, the temperatures boiling, and on the dusty field of Arsuf, the Lionheart and his soldiers face their ultimate test…

Review

Book one of this series was one of my favorite books last year, so it was a given that Crusader would be high up on my TBR list, one i would start the min it landed. As always with me i have the feeling before it arrives that the second book in a series that has started with such a bang may disappoint, but i think i’m starting to lose that old concern, because Ben like lots of the other regular authors i read are now smashing it out of the park with every book, never resting on the praise already received they strive for bigger and better things.  Crusader is another absolute triumph, in many ways better than Lionheart, where Lionheart was introducing us to characters , those characters in Crusader are now much loved and well known, every action and danger is keenly felt with the authors brilliant writing style.

Crusader now takes our main character (Rufus) and the royal court on crusade, but mixed in before they leave is the politics and back stabbing of nobility, Richard must leave things well cared for and he must block as many potential moves by his devious brother and the French King. The Journey to Acre is also fraught with danger, battles and love as the royal court makes it way to the holy Land… that Journey and the eventual battles against Saladin may have the reader shaking their head and saying…. No Way…. that’s too far fetched…. Its not !! Ben Kane is meticulous in his research and the more far fetched sounding the battle or the outcome, the more real it actually is…. Wait until the battle outside Joppa… its just astounding, and no wonder he was called Richard the Lionheart, the man was an amazing leader… and often bonkers in his bravery!

All of this is written in a brilliant character driven style that anyone who has read Ben Kane will know well… and if you are new to his work… you will love.

Ben has taken the crown of Best book in 2021 (so far)…. and it will take something amazing to knock him off that top spot…. especially as Rufus is now one of my all time fav Historical Fiction Characters.

Very Very highly recommended

(Parm)

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Mike Brooks: Black Coast

Mike Brooks's picture

Mike Brooks was born in Ipswich, England, and moved to Nottingham, England to study at Nottingham Trent University and never left. He started to write stories and novels in childhood, has worked for a homelessness charity since 2004 and when not working or writing he goes walking in the Peak District, sings and plays guitar in a punk band, and DJs wherever anyone will tolerate him. He is married, and has two cats and a snake.

The Black Coast

 (2021)
(The first book in the God-King Chronicles series)

book cover of The Black Coast

 

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WAR DRAGONS.
FEARSOME RAIDERS.
A DAEMONIC WARLORD ON THE RISE.

When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .

Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the crossfire – if only its new mismatched society can survive.

(Review)

Dragons , Raiders, Warlords… reading this book was always a given. He’s also a new author for me and so an unknown, but Petrik Leo has a bad habit of shoving new books under my nose and adding to my already massive TBR. (cheers Leo).

As a read i started with that new author trepidation and also some reticence about the very original approach to non gender specific pronouns and their use depending on culture, it took a little getting used to. That  approach mixed with a raider culture that was very Norse and a mainland culture that’s very Japanese, with the Sars taking the role of Samurai, it was a veritable hodgepodge of a cast and culture.

But it was a cast and culture set that became more and more interesting, with lots of other questions raised, raised well and covered brilliantly esp sexuality. I’ve found in fantasy there are quick reads, the action adventure fun with a fairly prescriptive cast just set in a different landscape, and there are books that while they entertain they make you think, and i’m a fan of both in their right time (thats my reading mood). This book is certainly in the latter, make you think category, one that immerses you in a new brilliantly imagined culture and land, where the throwing away of societal norms is easier, allowing an author to shine a light on prejudices without offending people who might normally instantly put up walls about a subject, and through that process the author educates the reader as well as entertains.   I may be wrong, but that’s my view of the book and the coming series, and its all wrapped up in an amazing story, one i hugely enjoyed and really want to dive into again.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

 

 

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Alex Rutherford Fortune’s Soldier (Review)

Alex Rutherford is the pen name of Diana Preston and her husband Michael. Both studied at Oxford University reading History and English respectively. They are keen travellers and have now clocked up visits to over 140 of the world’s countries.

book cover of Fortune\'s Soldier

A new type of empire is rising

It is 1744, and Nicholas Ballantyne, a young Scotsman dreaming of a life as laird of his ancestral estate finds himself quite unexpectedly on the Winchester, a ship bound for Hindustan, seeking to begin a new life as a ‘writer’ on the rolls of the British East India Company. On board, he meets the spirited and mercurial Robert Clive, determined – at whatever cost – to make a fortune in a land of opportunity.

Over the years, their friendship sees many twists and turns as Clive’s restless hunger for wealth and power takes him from being a clerk to a commander in the Company forces, masterminding plans to snuff out rival French interests in Hindustan, and eventually leading his men to victory at Plassey – the prelude to nearly two centuries of foreign rule in Hindustan.

Review:

The last 2 months have seen me read 4 books from Canelo Books, and each time they have been some of the best reading of 2020. So when I was sent Fortune’s Soldier it went to the top of the reading pile.

Soldiers Fortune in some respects allows me to correct a failing going back 11 years, if I miss a publication date i tend to not have time to go back and read a book, so it gets consigned to my “One day hopefully, TBR pile”… this was the case with the whole Empire of the Moghul series, so This new book finally allows me to experience a book from Alex Rutherford, and i was not let down.

The book is linked by family to the Empire of the Moghul series, but stands on its own. We start in the now with the discovery of papers showing fragments of the life and history of Nicholas Ballantyne, his adventures in Hindustan with Robert Clive and their rise through the ranks of the East India Company. While Nicholas is fictional and used to show the times and action of the (Infamous??) Robert Clive, he is also used to show what may have been if a less corrupt regime/company had flourished, the culture seen from without, but by a person very much in tune and integrating with it, wanting to embrace it and be part of it, not riven by the greed of the average company man aloof from what they deemed a barbarian culture.

The story takes the reader through many battles, many courts and shows the perilous nature of the land and the time and how easily India could have become part of a French empire, also the fragility of life from disease and political maneuvers . I absolutely loved the book, the main characters are fantastically and sympathetically  portrayed especially my favorite character Tuchin Singh, Nicholas’s guide and friend through his time in Hiundustan. While this pair pull off some heroic feats the writer never strains the bounds of realism, setting the peril and the sounds smell and atmosphere beautifully and providing an action packed beautifully written adventure.

Highly recommended (i’m off to fit the previous series into my reading pile)

(Parm)

Where to Buy

Previous Books

Empire of the Moghul
   1. Raiders from the North (2009)
   2. Brothers at War (2010)
aka A Kingdom Divided
   3. Ruler of the World (2011)
   4. The Tainted Throne (2012)
   5. The Serpent’s Tooth (2013)
   6. Traitors in the Shadows (2015)

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David Gilman : Shadow of the Hawk

book cover of Shadow of the Hawk

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Winter, 1364.

The King is dead.

Defeated on the field of Poitiers, Jean Le Bon, King of France, honoured his treaty with England until his death. His son and heir, Charles V, has no intention of doing the same. War is coming and the predators are circling.

Sir Thomas Blackstone, Edward III’s Master of War, has been tasked with securing Brittany for England. In the throes of battle, he rescues a young boy, sole witness to the final living breaths of the Queen of Castile. The secret the boy carries is a spark deadly enough to ignite conflict on a new front – a front the English cannot afford to fight on.

So Blackstone is ordered south to Castile, across the mountains to shepherd Don Pedro, King of Castile, to safety. Accompanied only by a small detachment of his men and a band of Moorish cavalrymen loyal to the king, every step takes Blackstone further into uncertain territory, deeper into an unyielding snare.

For the Master of War, the shadow of death is always present.

Review:

Reading this series is often a treat I reserve for when i’m struggling to read historical fiction, because the writing of Thomas Blackstone is so immersive, its very easy to get sucked into the life of him and his men, the brutality, the comradeship and the rich tapestry of action that is the war raging across Europe… It would be very easy with the characters and material for the author to get too bloody, and too action adventure, but David Gilman balances this with Machiavellian politics and a world so richly drawn that you can feel the pomp, and the poverty which brings the whole book to life.

This series remains one of the really exceptional ongoing Historical fiction character driven stories out there, and is surely set to be a genre classic.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

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Alan White: The Long Days Dying (Review)

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Three commandos. Cut off. Surrounded. Desperate.

Adapted for the screen by Peter Collinson in 1968, winner of the Golden Shell at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.

They were three soldiers, on watch in the French countryside, their base a disused barn. Three ordinary men seconded into the horrors of World War II, each with his own ideals, his own feelings, his own fears.

Their task was a nightmare of waiting. German forces were stationed over the brow of a hill, and every moment of every day passed in nerve-shattering anticipation of their first clash. When the clash finally came, it was not merely a battle of force and brutality but a complex and murderous struggle between the cunning and ruthlessness of both sides…

Review

Originally released in 1962 this is a view of WW2 not usually seen, there are many fictional books out there about fighting and war, there are lots of books now written by ex SAS soldiers giving a realism to their tales. This book from Alan White is what feels a very personal and harrowing account of an ordinary day in the life of a special forces soldier, when special forces like the SAS were still new.

I cant say what i expected from this book, it had been billed as a WW2 tale from the perspective of a man who was there, the reading however provided so much more. This is the tale of 4 men, 3 Allied commandos, and one German special forces soldier. We see this through the perspective of one man, the authors own. The day to day tasks and boredom, the day to day anxieties, the imposter syndrome of being trained but not knowing if your training equates to true skill and the camaraderie created between men thrown into conflict together, how they would risk all even for someone they find annoying, they are a comrade, and they would die for each other without a thought.

I found this book a slow burn, but also deeply personal and thought provoking. When i was working in a bank quite a few years ago i met an elderly gentleman who was quiet, withdrawn and in need of help with his accounts, and very soon after showing him some help and kindness i got to know him and his wife, and as time progressed and i visited to see how they were doing, he told me about his past as one of the early members  of the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group) the forerunner of the SAS in WW2, occasionally we would sit and enjoy a drink and he would tell me small tales about the war, and i could see the loss and pain in his eyes when we talked of those days and the friends he had lost, but also a huge inner strength and resolution that he had done his bit. This book reminded me of those chats, that personal outpouring of what was normality to them and so amazingly heroic and scary for us today.

Its a great book to read and i recommend it, i’m looking forward to reading more of his work

(Parm)

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AJ Mackenzie: A Flight or Arrows

A.J. MacKenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, a collaborative Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife duo. Between them they have written more than twenty non-fiction and academic titles, with specialisms including management, medieval economic history and medieval warfare. THE BODY ON THE DOORSTEP (2016) was their first novel.

book cover of A Flight of Arrows

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Buy the Kindle Version 11th March

1328. After years of civil unrest between England and France, Charles IV dies, leaving no apparent heir. His closest heir to the throne is Edward III of England, but it passes instead to Charles’ cousin, Phillip, spurring both countries on to war.

1346. Landing at Normandy, Edward’s immense army makes inroads into French territory, burning everything in their path. But the mysterious assassination of an English knight reveals a terrible truth: there is a traitor in their midst. The king charges Simon Merrivale, the Prince of Wales’ herald, with solving the case.

As the army marches on towards its destiny, at the awesome scenes of the Battle of Crécy, Simon will uncover a conspiracy that goes to the heart of the warring nations. Among the ashes and the rubble, their fate will be decided: on the battlefield… and in the shadows.

Review

A Flight of Arrows continues the magnificent year of releases from Canelo books who kindly sent me a copy to review. As a fan of both historical fiction and also archery it was a given that i would need to read this book, but also because i’m an archer there was a risk i could pull apart the books inaccuracies, i’m so glad to say i didn’t find any issues, and if there were any i missed it was because i was so utterly absorbed in the book.

At its core this book is a crime thriller, set amongst knights, men at arms, soldiers, archers and battles. Merrivale is the Herald of the prince, essentially an ambassador with the same protections, to attack and or kill him is an affront to Honour and God, which gives him a level of arrogance and assurance that is often amusing,  but its also a shield for his own fears and a front for the fact that he is so much more than he seems. There is so much touched on in the book about his past, and already before this series has hit its stride id love to read a prequel about his life.

In A Flight of Arrows Merrivale takes on the task of finding the murderer of a new Knight, the investigation soon uncovers much more, past crimes, and new treachery, theft, violence and old enmities. All the while following  and involving the reader in the life of the the army and its battles as the king looks to break out of a trap carefully laid for him, betrayal and murder dogs the army’s steps.

I had hoped for a good book, what i got was a great book, at just under 400 pages this is no light bed time read, but it is fast paced action packed and full of adventure, the characters are brilliantly drawn for the reader and so easy to become invested in. I went through the book at a frenetic pace and polished it off in a day, I just couldn’t put it down. Fantastic Historical Accuracy which it wears lightly to keep the pace fast and action packed.

Very highly recommend this book, one of the best reads this year so far, and a new author for my personal must read list (when a book is released).

(Parm)

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D Eric Maikranz : The Reincarnationist Papers

The Reincarnationist Papers: (now the major motion picture INFINITE) (The Cognomina Chronicles Book 1) by [D. Eric Maikranz]

“Haunted by memories of two past lives, a troubled young man stumbles upon a centuries-old secret society of similar individuals and dares to join their ranks.”

Discovered in an antique store in Rome at the turn of the millennium, The Reincarnationist Papers offers a tantalizing glimpse into the Cognomina, a secret society of people who possess total recall of their past lives.
Evan Michaels struggles with being different, with having the complete memories of two other people who lived sequentially before him. He fights loneliness and believes his ‘condition’ is unique until he meets Poppy. She recognizes his struggle because she has the same ‘condition’, except that she is much older, remembering back seven consecutive lives. But there is something else she must share with Evan – she is a member of a secret society of others like them. They are, in effect, near immortals – compiling experiences and skills over lifetimes into near superhuman abilities that they have used to drive history toward their own agenda on a longer timeline.
Through Poppy, Evan is invited into the Cognomina but he must decide if he can face their tests before entering this new mysterious society as their equal.

(Review)

I love a good thriller especially mixed with a hefty dose of the fantastical, which in this case is reincarnation. Our main character Evan Michaels is a man that life has not treated well and he has responded in kind, living day to day he is haunted by memories that are not his own, a man alone, lost and wondering if he is insane, but also confused by the fact that his memories appear to be real. Until one day he blunders into Poppy, another person like himself, but more than him she knows who and what he is and belongs to a small ancient group of people, a secret order of reincarnated people…

The book is engaging, with a steady pace and a wonderful “what if” premise, at times it does have a tendency to wander off on a philosophical ramble, but this book at times needs that reflection, and its always carried through with a characters differing perspective of why they are there, why they are immortal and what it means, interestingly after hundreds of years many of them still have such divergent perspectives on the world and their place in it. A great concept… that will i think transfer to film well.

This is due to be released as a major Motion Picture in 2021, starring Mark Wahlberg under the title “Infinite”.

I enjoyed the book, i’m very intrigued to see the film.

(Parm)

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Simon Turney & Gordon Doherty : Masters of Rome

book cover of Masters of Rome

Masters of Rome (2021)
(The second book in the Rise of Emperors series)

Buy the Hard Back May 2021

Buy the Kindle edition 4th March 2021

As competition for the imperial throne intensifies, Constantine and Maxentius realise their childhood friendship cannot last. Each man struggles to control their respective quadrant of empire, battered by currents of politics, religion and personal tragedy, threatened by barbarian forces and enemies within.

With their positions becoming at once stronger and more troubled, the strained threads of their friendship begin to unravel. Unfortunate words and misunderstandings finally sever their ties, leaving them as bitter opponents in the greatest game of all, with the throne of Rome the prize.

It is a matter that can only be settled by outright war…

Review

Book 2 in a series that sees two excellent authors combine their talents and tell the spellbinding story or warring emperors, the back and forth style where each takes one emperor and writes from that perspective was breathtaking in book one, and the pace continues in book 2 with every chapter crafted with immersive skill.

In book 2 we see the continuation of the enmity of Maxentius and Constantine, both still hoping for lost friendship but seeing it swept away by politics and circumstance. Both men hemmed in on all sides by enemies, they must attempt to consolidate their positions and build their armies, they must resolve the internal strife’s of their regions political, religious and personal, to give themselves scope to then try to conquer all and be Emperor of an whole Empire.

This book is the middle book in a trilogy and it does feel like that, all trilogies are a journey and the middle book is the journeyman, the one that takes you from the shocking start to the dramatic conclusion…. that said, both Doherty and Turney manage to add action, thrills, emotion, political and personal turmoil and so much more into this journey, meaning that you the reader are left both satisfied and wanting more by the end.

This like book one is a total triumph of collaboration with both writers bringing their A game to every page.

Highly recommend this book and series (and for book 3 we only have to wait until September)

pre-order Book 3 Gods of Rome in Hardback

 Pre-order the Kindle version (Sept)

(Parm)

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Gavin G Smith: Spec Ops Z (Review)

book cover of Spec Ops Z

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When Vadim Scorlenski and his elite Spetznaz squad are sent to New York at the height of the Cold War, they’re told it’s a ‘training exercise.’ They discover, too late, that the ‘practice’ chemical weapon they’re carrying is all too real. They go to their deaths…

…and awaken to a city overwhelmed by the walking dead, even now spreading across the globe. Somehow holding onto their identities amid the mindless monsters, Scorlenski and his squad of zombie commandos set out to return to Russia.

Someone’s going to pay.

A handsome new re-issue of a high-octane military-SF, as Russian Spetsnaz commandos are turned into zombies in ’80s New York.

(Review)

Continuing my run of reading books i wouldn’t normally pick up….

I have to admit i love a good Zombie TV show, its post apocalyptic escapism at its best. So i thought i’d give a book a go. I have to admit i was really surprised at how much fun i had reading this book, and ripped through it in 2 days.

While the book contains the requisite amount of blood and violence that you must expect and need with a decent Zombie tale, this one also has more.

Its main characters, members of a Spetznaz Squad who are as tight knit as can be, having fought in some of the worst places on earth at the time… The author lays all the ground work for investing you in the characters who should be the bad guys in this tale, but who are really as used and betrayed as anyone in the book. Then not only do we have a squad of heavily armed soldiers surviving the Zombie apocalypse we have most of them trying to hold on to themselves after they have become Zombies, with no idea how or why they retain their minds, the team want revenge against their former masters, but along the way their retained humanity forces them to help the people they were sent to destroy.

Fast Paced, high octane, full of flat out action and surprising emotion.

I really enjoyed the book and really am looking forward to another book following Scorlenski and his squad.

(Parm)

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D L Marshall: Anthrax Island (Review)

A portrait of D. L. Marshall

D. L. Marshall was born and raised in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Influenced by the dark industrial architecture, steep wooded valleys, and bleak Pennine moors, he writes thrillers tinged with horror, exploring the impact of geography and isolation. In 2016 he pitched at Bloody Scotland. In 2018 he won a Northern Writers’ Award for his thriller novel Anthrax Island.

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FACT: In 1942, in growing desperation at the progress of the war and fearing invasion by the Nazis, the UK government approved biological weapons tests on British soil. Their aim: to perfect an anthrax weapon destined for Germany. They succeeded.

FACT: Though the attack was never launched, the testing ground, Gruinard Island, was left lethally contaminated. It became known as Anthrax Island.

Now government scientists have returned to the island. They become stranded by an equipment failure and so John Tyler is flown in to fix the problem. He quickly discovers there’s more than research going on. When one of the scientists is found impossibly murdered inside a sealed room, Tyler realises he’s trapped with a killer…

Review:

Anthrax Island is my first book of 2021 that departs from my normal reading pattern of Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction and a trashy action thriller to cleanse the reading palette. Chosen because i liked the cover… nothing more complicated than that.

The book follows John Tyler to a remote island riddled with deadly Anthrax, the reason on the surface is to fix some broken equipment, but this is a cover for his real role which is to find out who murdered the previous tech, and why?

I fully expected to struggle and slog my way through this book, remote crime with minimal action (or so i thought) add to that a dark wet days atmosphere and it can be a little too real and depressing for me, but Anthrax Island grabbed me right from the start, the opening of the book has you survive a Helicopter ride and stormy sea just to arrive, and once you arrive the characters immediately explode at you with their various idiosyncrasies and behavior.

As soon as you are introduced to them you start playing cluedo, it was X with the Y in the Z location, this keeps you guessing and flicking back and forth to check clues and detail. The author has a fantastic style of feeding you details and laying out all the facts for you, dragging you deeper and deeper into the plot, teasing more and more detail as its discovered and analyzed, if you can manage to put the clues and potential motives and opportunity together then you can discern who did it….. only you don’t, I was 30% right, the rest he kept me going right up to the action soaked reveal.

The writing is dark, engaging, utterly atmospheric and totally consuming. i cant wait to read the next book, John Tyler is a great character with so much back story and more to give.

(Parm)

 

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