Conn Iggulden: Dunstan (Review)

Conn Iggulden 
UK flag (1971 – )

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Conn Iggulden taught English for seven years before becoming a full-time writer. He is married with four children and lives in Hertfordshire, England.

Dunstan  (2017)
A novel by Conn Iggulden

From acclaimed historical writer Conn Iggulden comes a novel set in the red-blooded days of Anglo-Saxon England. Welcome to the original game for the English throne. The year is 937. England is a nation divided, ruled by minor kings and Viking lords. Each vies for land and power. The Wessex king AEthelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, readies himself to throw a spear into the north. As would-be kings line up to claim the throne, one man stands in their way. Dunstan, a fatherless child raised by monks on the moors of Glastonbury Tor, has learned that real power comes not from God, but from discovering one’s true place on Earth. Fearless in pursuit of his own interests, his ambition will take him from the courts of princes to the fields of battle, from exile to exaltation. For if you cannot be born a king, or made a king, you can still anoint a king. Under Dunstan’s hand, England may come together as one country – or fall apart in anarchy . . . From Conn Iggulden, one of our finest historical writers, Dunstan is an intimate portrait of a priest and murderer, liar and visionary, traitor and kingmaker – the man who changed the fate of England.

Review

So far from Conn Iggulden we have had Caesar, Genghis, Margaret of Anjou and the other major players in the War of the Roses…. So whom would he pick next, which shining light of history would he dazzle us with?

Dunstan? who the heck is Dunstan?

That is often the beauty of Conn Igguldens writing, the bringing to life of periods of history we know little or nothing about, or thought we knew something about and then Conn expands it into a colourful 3D world full of sights sounds and smells.

One of the earliest things i learned about Conn is that he was a teacher, oh how i wish for a teacher who could bring history to life so well. In the case of this book he takes the life of a Monk and he educates…. yes thrilling sounding isnt it! But Dunstan is no ordinary monk. In the same vein as Igguldens other highly successful series he starts with a Young Dunstan and takes us though those formative years showing how the personality and metal of the man is formed.

I really don’t want to give away much of the actual plot, but we follow the rise and fall and rise again of Dunstan’s star, a man who in Mr Iggulden’s own words was a Da’Vinci of his own time and place. The book is written in the first person and for me i think its the only way it could really be great, and it is, its wonderful. The book for me could have been set anywhere any when because its success is its characters, Conn writes them so beautifully, so filled with life and emotion that you cannot help but be swept along with them.  But fortunately for me and you reader its set in a world of flux, Vikings still stalk the coast, England as we know it is still being pulled together, the client kingdoms are straining at the leash and it will take a strong king, or kings, to keep it all together, and those kings need an adviser…. even one who isn’t always thinking of others.

This is a huge contender for Historical Fiction book of the year…. its going to take something stunning to knock it off the top. I’ve read two stand out books this year, one about a Nun, one about Monk. and they both head up Best Fantasy and Best Hist Fiction so far this year. Pre-Order what will be one of the outstanding reads of 2017.

(Parm)

Series

Emperor
1. The Gates of Rome (2002)
2. The Death of Kings (2004)
3. The Field of Swords (2004)
4. The Gods of War (2006)
5. The Blood of Gods (2013)
Gates of Rome / Death of Kings (omnibus) (2009)
Emperor (omnibus) (2011)
The Emperor Series Books 1-5 (omnibus) (2013)
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Conqueror
1. Wolf of the Plains (2007)
aka Genghis: Birth of an Empire
2. Lords of the Bow (2008)
aka Genghis: Lords of the Bow
3. Bones of the Hills (2008)
4. Empire of Silver (2010)
aka Khan: Empire of Silver
5. Conqueror (2011)
Conqueror and Lords of the Bow (omnibus) (2009)
The Khan Series (omnibus) (2012)
Conqueror Series 5-Book Bundle (omnibus) (2013)
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Tollins
1. Tollins (2009)
2. Dynamite Tales (2011) (with Lizzy Duncan)
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Wars of the Roses
1. Stormbird (2013)
2. Trinity (2014)
aka Margaret of Anjou
3. Bloodline (2015)
4. Ravenspur (2016)
Wars of the Roses (omnibus) (2017)
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Novels
Dunstan (2017)
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Novellas
Blackwater (2006)
Fig Tree (2014)
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Series contributed to
Quick Reads 2012
Quantum of Tweed (2012)
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Non fiction
The Dangerous Book for Boys (2006) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Yearbook (2007) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to Do (2007)(with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: How to Get There(2008)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: Nature Fun (2008)
The Dangerous Book for Boys: 2009 Day-to-Day Calendar (2008)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Facts, Figures and Fun (2008)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to Know(2008) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Wonders of the World (2008) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys 2010 Day-to-Day Calendar (2009) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book of Heroes (2009) (with David Iggulden)
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John Owen Theobald: What the Raven Brings (Blog Tour and Review)

 

raven-tour

John Owen Theobald
John Owen Theobald's picture

Born and raised in Eastern Canada, John moved to the UK to study the poetry of Keats, and in 2009 received a PhD from the University of St. Andrews. He lives in London, England.

John is the author of the Ravenmaster trilogy. At the height of the Blitz, 12-year-old Anna Cooper is sent to live with her uncle, the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London, and discovers that the fate of the kingdom is in her hands. Book 1, These Dark Wings, was released on 11 February 2016, and What the Raven Brings was released 1st Dec 2016 from Head of Zeus, UK.

book cover of What The Raven Brings

London, 1942: the Blitz is over but the war rages on. With the country still fighting for its existence, a young girl takes to the skies…

After her mother was killed in an air raid, Anna Cooper was sent to live with her uncle, the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. Now, he too is dead. His dying wish was for Anna to be the next Ravenmaster, keeper of the birds who, according to legend, guard the fate of the kingdom. But the Tower authorities won’t stand for a female Ravenmaster, let alone one who is not yet sixteen years old.

Denied her destiny, Anna is desperate to escape the Tower and join the war effort. She bluffs her way into the glamorous – and dangerous – world of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

But no matter how high she flies, Anna can’t escape her past… nor the secret that it conceals. A secret that could change the course of the war.

Guest Post

I set out to write the origin story of a supernatural legend, and went on to write about something very real but no less amazing: the courage and strength of women in wartime.

When I first heard the legend, ‘if the ravens leave the Tower of London, Britain will fall,’ I wanted to know where it came from. It turns out no one knows. Although the legend has been credited to everyone from Charles II to the Victorians, the first record of it isn’t until the 1950s.

So I wanted to write the origin story of this unexplained legend.

The Tower is a place of many superstitions, but this one – ‘Britain will fall’ – seemed to have its roots in war. The Blitz was Britain’s darkest hour, so I imagined this was the best time for a legend like this to take hold. It is easy to envision the people living in the Tower clinging to this belief, especially as the Blitz intensified and the ravens died, one by one, from starvation or bombing.

In These Dark Wings, the legend originates as a protective charm, as a sick old man, the first Ravenmaster, tells his terrified niece not to fear the Blitz: all she has to do is look after the ravens. They will keep Britain safe. So my character, Anna Cooper, a 12 year-old orphaned by the Blitz and sent to live at the Tower, ensures the survival of the legend.

In Book 2, What the Raven Brings, the war rages on and Anna (now 15) yearns to escape the Tower and join the war effort. She bluffs her way into the glamorous – and hazardous – world of the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce.

The ‘Attagirls,’ as they were called, piloted all kinds of aircraft, collecting Lancaster bombers from factories and delivering them to aerodromes, bringing Spitfires to airfields to be tested and armed, and taxiing pilots to Fighter Command in transport planes.

On top of the rigorous training involved, Anna has an additional problem. Fighting to earn her wings and prove herself, obstacles emerge from an unexpected source: men of the RAF who believe women have no place in the skies.

Because women were deemed unsuitable to be trained on the instrument panel (life-saving in bad weather), or the radio transmitter (life-saving when needing to check in with an RAF station), and since they were banned from flying planes fitted with weapons (life-saving during a run-in with a Luftwaffe raid), female pilots had the dangerously absurd job of flying the aircraft blind, deaf, and without weapons. And in Anna’s case, direct sabotage seems a chilling possibility.

The legend of the Tower ravens protects Anna in These Dark Wings, but in What the Raven Brings she has to learn to protect herself and those around her.

Anna was originally inspired by my grandmother, who lived in London throughout the war. I grew up listening to her stories about it all – the fear and sadness, but also the excitement and the mischief. For Book 2, I took inspiration from my other grandmother, who was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and one of the toughest people I ever knew. The stories of my grandmothers convinced me to try and pass on their fighting spirits with these novels, which have become a celebration of all kinds of strong women in wartime.

Review

A wonderfully written series, capturing the times with the feelings and mind of a child. The author has a fantastic ability to take you what ever your age and put you in place of Anna Cooper. When HOZ first passed on to me a copy of These Dark Wings i was skeptical, YA can be a hard genre to get right, to talk to that age group where they are starting to feel and be a bit more grown up, but also to appeal to the adults who dip so often into this genre. This author pulls it off with the trick of communicating to all at the same level, my father in Law does it with children, no matter the age he talks to them like they are grown ups, it works.

The writing has that wonderful sparse quality that still conveys so much meaning and sentiment, its exciting and consumes the reader, making them part of the story not just a voyeur. Its a series i highly recommend and one i look forward to reading more of

(Parm)

Series
Ravenmaster Trilogy
1. These Dark Wings (2016)
2. What The Raven Brings (2016)
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E. S. Thomson: Dark Asylum (Blog Tour Guest Post)

E S Thomson

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E. S. Thomson was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire. She has a PhD in the history of medicine and works as a university lecturer in Edinburgh. She was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Award and the Scottish Arts Council First Book Award. Elaine lives in Edinburgh with her two sons.

 

The lips had been darned closed with six long, black, stitches. Clumsily executed, they gave the face a crude deaths-head appearance, like a child’s drawing scrawled upon a wall . . .

1851, Angel Meadow Asylum. Dr Rutherford, principal physician to the insane, is found dead, his head bashed in, his ears cut off, his lips and eyes stitched closed. The police direct their attention towards Angel Meadow’s inmates, but to Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain the crime is an act of calculated retribution, rather than of madness.

To discover the truth Jem and Will must pursue the story through the darkest corners of the city – from the depths of a notorious rookery, to the sordid rooms of London’s brothels, the gallows, the graveyard, the convict fleet and then back to the asylum. In a world where guilt and innocence, crime and atonement, madness and reason, are bounded by hypocrisy, ambition and betrayal, Jem and Will soon find themselves caught up in a web of dark secrets and hidden identities.

Guest Post

Writing Dark Asylum, E.S. Thomson

Although I set my books in London of the 1840s and 1850s, it is this history of medicine in Edinburgh that forms the background to much of what I write.   I can’t leave my house without being reminded of it.  Down the road from where I live, for instance, Scottish surgeon James Syme used to own a villa.  I pass his house every day.  James Syme lectured at Edinburgh University medical school throughout the mid 1800s.  He could excise a hip joint faster than anyone – without anaesthetic, of course.  Meanwhile, across town, James Young Simpson was experimenting on himself, trying out a new drug, chloroform, which was to revolutionise surgical procedures and make all areas of the body – including the brain – accessible to the surgeon’s knife. Not far from Syme, on the other side of Morningside Road, Thomas Clouston was building the Royal Edinburgh Asylum.  Ways of treating the mad varied greatly in the mid Victorian period, from incarceration and neglect, to more unusual but humane ‘hygienic’ practices.  Pioneered by Clouston, these included lengthy walks – or runs – around the asylum grounds, dancing, gardening, and the consumption of rich and sedating foods, such as custard.  

Thomas Clouston became one of the key supporters of the first generation of women doctors in the city.  Some years earlier, a young man named James Miranda Barry had graduated from Edinburgh University Medical School.  Barry worked as a surgeon in the British Army all his life. On his death he was found to be a woman, who had lived her entire life disguised as a man, entering the medical profession some sixty yearsbefore women were formerly permitted to receive a medical education.

Around the same time that Barry was at the University, and Syme was amputating legs before crowds of cheering students, a less orthodox medical man was lecturing on the new ‘science’ of phrenology.  Phrenologists believed that a person’s head might be measured and calibrated with a view to explaining their character traits and disposition.  Andrew Combe, and his brother George, both Edinburgh man, started a craze for head measuring that was to remain influential in some quarters of the medical profession for over forty years.

Over the road from the university medical school, a druggist named Flockhart plied his trade, providing James Young Simpson with chloroform, while across town, more medical men were establishing a physic garden that grew to be second only to Kew in terms of the size and magnificence of its collections.  Syme, Clouson, Simpson, Barry, all had their likenesses taken using the new and developing technology of photography.  In 1840s Edinburgh, two pioneers, Hill and Adamson, captured numerous images of the city and its inhabitants, demonstrating to the world the potential of the new medium.

All these ideas have found their way into my work.   I set my books in London, as I wanted a dark anonymous place which the intimate setting of my home city could not provide.  In terms of the medical profession that dominates my novels, however, Dark Asylum and Beloved Poison are pure Edinburgh.

Series
Jem Flockhart
The Blood (2017)
1. Beloved Poison (2016)
2. Dark Asylum (2017)
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Matthew Harffy: Kin of Cain (Guest Blog & review)

Matthew Harffy

Matthew Harffy's picture

Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels. The first of them is the action-packed tale of vengeance and coming of age, THE SERPENT SWORD. The sequel is THE CROSS AND THE CURSE.

Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. He has co-authored seven published academic articles, ranging in topic from the ecological impact of mining to the construction of a marble pipe organ.

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book cover of Kin of Cain

Parmenion Books

Guest blog post

The inspiration behind the Bernicia Chronicles

 

Writers and other creative types are often asked what inspired them to create their work. In the case of my Bernicia Chronicles series of books, it’s a very difficult question to answer succinctly. I suppose sometimes a single moment in an artist’s life inspires them to paint a specific picture, or to put pen to paper, but more often than not, I would imagine that it is an accumulation of many influences that leads to somebody creating something new.

This is particularly true of the first of my novels, The Serpent Sword. I had never written anything longer than a short story or an essay at school before, so I had no real idea of how to go about writing a full-length novel. I didn’t even know how long a novel was supposed to be! When I came to the writing, I pulled on everything I had ever experienced, every movie I’d enjoyed, every book that had enthralled me, even all the great music I had listened to. I am sure that even things like video games and artwork have influenced me and provided inspiration for certain scenes or characters.

I am a firm believer that the best way to approach any new endeavour is to emulate those who have gone before and have been successful. I have heard the great author, Bernard Cornwell, tell the story of how he took his favourite Hornblower novel and then analysed its structure to create the plot for his first novel, Sharpe’s Eagle. For The Serpent Sword, I didn’t dissect any books I had liked in order to come up with the structure, but there are definitely well-loved characters and scenes that I recognise from other sources. Much of this was done subconsciously, and I didn’t even realise it at the time of writing. Some of the inspiration and influences for parts of the novel have only become clear to me years after completing the writing. There are even clearly autobiographical sections that I didn’t spot until quite recently.

A few weeks ago, I listened to the audio book of David Gemmell’s great debut novel, Legend. I first read Legend when it was published in the 80s. I was a fantasy-loving teenager and I just lapped it up. I enjoyed it just as much on this recent listen, but what surprised me were the number of sections where I thought to myself, “Wow! That’s just like a scene from The Serpent Sword!” Clearly Gemmell’s novel had soaked so deeply into my psyche that I was not even aware of how it had inspired parts of my writing.

There are some parts of my writing where I have knowingly used something I have read, seen or heard as inspiration. I love westerns and the whole section in The Serpent Sword where Beobrand and some other warriors chase miscreants across the wilderness of Northumbria is an homage of sorts to the western genre, in particular to a section of one of my all-time favourite novels, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

I’m not going to give away all of the nods and mentions of other books and popular culture in the series, but if you look carefully you might well find quotes or references to science fiction movies and rock songs, along with more homages to famous westerns.

Of course, another massive inspiration for the books is the land of Northumbria itself. As a child I lived in a small village call Norham on the banks of the Tweed, which you may well recognise if you’ve read the series. I love the north-east coast of England. The cliffs, castles and islands dotting the slate-grey North Sea, all serve to make the past spring to life. It is easy to imagine the men and women of 1,400 years ago on those same windswept bluffs with the guillemots and gannets wheeling and diving into the sea. They too would have seen the heads of seals bobbing in the waves in the mouth of the river Tweed. The chill spray from the breaking waves would have felt the same to our forebears as to us. I find nature a great inspiration and a wonderful way to get close to the characters from my books. In fact, I think the weather and nature almost become another character in my writing.

Finally, another strong inspiration for me came from all those hours playing good old fashioned role playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons. You know, the ones with all the weird shaped dice? I loved creating epic stories with friends. Tales of heroes facing unimaginable odds against terrible foes. Unlike in my books, which are firmly grounded in historical fact, in the games I played there were monsters and magic. But even as a teenager I knew it was very important to maintain a consistent and believable reality within the story. And real jeopardy. Many kids at school would never allow beloved characters to get killed. In my games, if the dice didn’t go your way, or you made a rash decision, you were dead.

In my writing, I like to think I bring that same element of epic adventure and heroism that can be found in role playing games, but also the true sense of danger I found so appealing. Just because a character is well-loved, does not mean he or she will live forever. Sometimes their very death can be a tale of greatness.

Everything and anything acts as inspiration for my writing. Some of it knowingly, much of it unwitting. I plan my novels around a loose structure and synopsis, but the details of each scene and chapter are always undecided until I sit down to write. Then I just try to picture the scene in my mind and write as fast as I can. Where the ideas come from, well, we can call that an accumulation of life experience coupled with a vivid imagination.

But surely it is more poetic to call it that most elusive of things at a writer’s disposal — the muse.

 

Author info:

Matthew Harffy is the author of the Bernicia Chronicles, a series of novels set in seventh century Britain. The first three books in the series, The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse and Blood and Blade are available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and all good online bookstores.

Kin of Cain, a standalone prequel novella set in the same world as the Bernicia Chronicles was published on Amazon and all good online bookstores on March 1st 2017.

Killer of Kings , the fourth of the Bernicia Chronicles, is available for pre-order now on Amazon and all good online bookstores.

Website: www.matthewharffy.com

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: MatthewHarffyAuthor

Review

Kin of Cain, is a brilliant look at the world of Bernicia Chronicles, where we can meet the younger and deceased members of the authors series, the building blocks for his world. More importantly the way he achieves this weaving in a saga that is known to so  many. As always Matthew does all of this with such subtle skill and passion for the era, immersing himself and then you the reader in his world. The more i read of Matthews work the more i find i can see influences of writers like Bernard Cornwell, the pace and characterization that has matured with each and every book the tighter sparse prose not wasting the readers time with flowery over descriptive, yet conveying all about the characters, making him one of the emerging quality names on the genre.

If you have not read Matthews work then this is a fantastic way to have a peek before committing to one of the full novels… and im positive you will love the clever way he has woven this around an old tale.

(Parm)

Series
Bernicia Chronicles
1. The Serpent Sword (2015)
2. The Cross and the Curse (2016)
3. Blood and Blade (2016)
4. Killer of Kings (2017)
Kin of Cain (2017)
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David Gilman : Vipers Blood (Blog Tour Guest Post) + Competition

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Viper’s Blood
David Gilman

With the English army at the gates of Paris, Blackstone faces his deadliest mission yet. The fourth in the grittiest historical fiction series.

Published: 9th February 2017 | Price: £18.99

Buy a Signed Limited Edition

Read Review

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 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…

 

Competition

 Question: In what Year is did Edward Invade France??

Please Follow the blog and email me @ parmenionbooks@yahoo.co.uk with the answer.

Winner gets a Signed Limited edition HB of Defiant Unto Death

(UK Only i’m afraid)

Guest Post by David Gilman

DAVID GILMAN BLOG POST

 

February 2017

I had spent several years writing the television series, A Touch of Frost and was working on the penultimate episode prior to Sir David Jason retiring from the series. I had a few of my own television projects ideas in mind but for some time had been tempted to write, and tackle, novels. Once I had delivered the script and gone through rehearsals and rewrites my contract came to an end. I had lived in Africa and was keen to explore that fascinating country further with a Young Adult thriller that had a strong emotional basis for a teenage hero, but was also a novel that encapsulated elements like the threats to the environment and tribal people. The result was a full-length novel, the first in the Danger Zone series, called The Devil’s Breath.

An assassination attempt on my teenage hero, Max Gordon, whose scientist father had gone missing in Africa, was the starting point that took him from his school on Dartmoor to the vast expanse of African veld. The book also allowed me to explore the culture of the San Bushman in the Kalahari Desert. So I had a really good mix within the story. (Following publication I was invited by Survival International to the ‘Parliamentary All Party Committee on Tribal Peoples’ where I met two tribal representatives, Roy Sesana and Kgosimontle Kebuelemang.) This first novel also became a recommended book for the government reading scheme for boys even before the manuscript was published. It became the first in a three-book series starring Max Gordon and was followed by Ice Claw and Blood Sun, all of which were published in a dozen languages.

Then it was time to decide whether to continue with Young Adult fiction – a fascinating place to be with many school visits – or to try a different tack. I was about to go back to a life of crime (writing that is) and a novel I had been planning, but then I saw a fresco of a grand looking gent on a war horse in Florence’s Duomo. It was an English mercenary captain who lived and fought in Italy in the 14th century. I was intrigued because I knew nothing about the period. When I pitched the idea to my agent as to whether I should write the crime story or the historical fiction novel she urged me to write the 14th century book. And that was when I created Thomas Blackstone, archer, and later knight and leader of a group of men who fought across France and Italy in one of the most turbulent times of our history. (Although I had no idea where this character was going, development-wise.)

These things tend to take me along as an observer and I simply write down what I see.) I quickly realized that I couldn’t start in Italy and had to double back a bit so that Thomas Blackstone had a backstory.

gilman I was very keen to explore the universal experience of young men going to war for the first time, but who was he before this terrifying experience overtook him?  How did children and young people live in those times? The more I read – and I did a lot of what turned out to be rather daunting research – I began to piece together the story and character of this young man. Blackstone was only sixteen years old when he was called up to fight in 1346. He was a quick-witted young man who cared for his brother, a deaf-mute, and so began his character development and an early emotional complexity in the story. Children were put to work early on in those days and I decided that Blackstone had worked in a quarry since the age of six and then as a stonemason. Now I had a man who had muscle, brains and stamina and like many other village boys he had the strength and ability to draw what became known as the longbow.

And then to war. It was a brutal, unforgiving age with a counterpoint of chivalry. Courtly love, poetry, dance and the ideals of the Arthurian age tempered even the most famous of warrior knights, but if you were a bog-standard soldier you were underfed, underpaid and faced severe punishment for any wrongdoing. Having been a soldier I remembered only too well being cold, wet, exhausted and scared (and I was certainly underpaid) and that, along with the black humour familiar to anyone who works in danger and has experienced violence and death gave my characters a ‘Band of Brothers’ camaraderie.

When time permits I like to broaden my own horizons as a writer and try and squeeze in the occasional standalone novel. It usually takes a fairly long time writing part-time in the hours after the battle of the Master of War series is being waged during the day. My latest standalone is The Last Horseman, a story I had wanted to write for some time. I was fascinated by the multitude of international characters who fought in the South African War, or the (second) Boer War as it became more commonly known. I had visited some of the battle sites and it’s not hard to imagine the hardship undertaken in the conflict.  But I did not wish to have a hero of Thomas Blackstone’s stature who might have come across as a carbon copy. I chose, instead, a man in his late forties, a lawyer in Dublin, an American who represented those who often fought against the Crown. It was these turbulent times that forced him to go to war in South Africa in 1899. Joseph Radcliffe was a man who had experienced war in his youth and had no desire to do so again.  Against his will this anti-war character was obliged to revert to the killing skills he had known years before.

And now it’s time for me to return to Thomas Blackstone. I am about to deliver the manuscript of the fifth book, A Scourge of Wolves.And it’s not all hunky dory for Blackstone or his men. People we grow to love in the series die.

I like to have a strong sense of reality in my books and you can’t have life going on throughout a series without people getting killed. And so far in the Master of War series there have been plenty of shocks along the way.

And, of course, more to come.

END

The latest in David Gilman’s MASTER OF WAR series is VIPER’S BLOOD, the fourth title in the series. See more at www.davidgilman.com

Follow David on Twitter@davidgilmanuk

David Gilman enjoyed many careers, including firefighter, soldier and photographer, before turning to writing full time. He is an award-winning author and screenwriter.

Photograph: Writing Master of War series – Italy.

© Suzy Chiazzari.

 

 

 

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David Gemmell Rhyming Rings (Review)

David Gemmell

David A Gemmell's picture
UK flag (19482006)
aka Ross Harding

David Andrew Gemmell was a bestselling British author of heroic fantasy. A former journalist and newspaper editor, Gemmell had his first work of fiction published in 1984. He went on to write over thirty novels. Best known for his debut, Legend, Gemmell’s works display violence, yet also explores themes in honour, loyalty and redemption. With over one million copies sold, his work continues to sell worldwide.

(Pre order link at the bottoms, 18th May release date)

book cover of Rhyming Rings

Rhyming Rings is a never-before-seen Gemmell novel, discovered in his papers by his widow, Stella Gemmell. Merging autobiographical details of Gemmell’s life as a journalist in South London with a serial killer and a tinge of the supernatural, this is perfect for fans of David’s work, as well as readers of gritty crime novels. Set against the backdrop of a London simmering with poverty, change and racial tension, this taut thriller is a fitting legacy for the great writer.

This book includes a brand new introduction from massive Gemmell fan Conn Iggulden, and an afterword by Gemmell’s friend Stan Nicholls.

An ambidextrous killer is murdering women, leaving virtually no evidence behind, and struggling journalist Jeremy Miller wishes he was covering the case. Instead, he’s stuck with heart-warming local stories about paraplegic teenagers and elderly psychic ladies.

So when his stories and the murder case start to converge no one is more surprised than Jeremy.

Or, it turns out, more at risk.

Review:

Reading this book has been a journey for me, I knew after so long reading a new David Gemmell would be an emotive experience and i tried to take my time with the book and truly read it and let it take me on its intended journey, right through to the afterword which brought tears to my eyes and I only knew the Big man a little, yet his kindness touched me as much as his words always inspired me, his simple encouragement to a new bookseller and reviewer had a profound impact on me.

I think i needed this book, its very easy to become a little jaded in reviewing, so many books and a to be read pile that grows every year and if you are lucky an audience who expects more and more books to be reviewed, only then it takes away the simplistic joy of reading for yourself. When David Gemmell passed away i never wanted to be in a place where there was no new Gemmell on the horizon, that perfection of writing to come, so the final book of the Troy series always sat there on the shelf unread but after this book I think I can finally finish reading the Troy series … silly as it sounds I never wanted to let go that last book, but the words should be read and lived and loved., and finishing this book has left me refreshed and ready for more worlds and time periods, and most of all its reminded me to take time out and go back and read the books i love.

Rhyming Rings is truly such a simple and powerful book and yet takes me back to why I love reading … and the simple answer is David Gemmell .. that’s where my love of reading , my real passion to constantly seek out the next book came from and how can you ever repay that. Stan Nichols and Conn Igguldens words helped remind me of the person behind the words, in many ways this book reminds me of White knight Black Swan, that simple honest yet impacting story… he still stuns me with his writing now, so honest and real.

I don’t want to delve too much into the plot, the blurb tells you pretty much all you need to know, the book is as much a journey of self awareness as it is a crime drama, but done in that unique subtle Gemmell style, there is I feel a little Jeremy Miller in us all, that wanting to belong yet feeling outside the group, the degrees of self doubt and angst and the inexperience of youth not knowing when to shut up and listen. The use of the polar opposites in Mr Sutcliffe and Ethel offer that counter point of experience and understanding, that stillness and reflection or maturity.  All of this is wrapped around a very cleverly put together crime drama, set in 80’s London, and while the book may be set in the 80’s it does not feel dated, it reminds me a bit of life on Mars in that it feels fresh and right, it feels like the author lived through those times and is just now retelling them, its a story that has not dated at all.

For me i think this is a book to be experienced as much as read, but i acknowledge my fan status and love of the mans work, please do try this, see the style and quality, and if you have never picked up his other work i hope this leads you into the worlds of David Gemmell, because they are a true joy to read.

(Parm)

 

Series
Drenai
1. Legend (1984)
aka Against the Horde
2. The King Beyond the Gate (1985)
3. Waylander (1986)
4. Quest for Lost Heroes (1990)
5. In the Realm of the Wolf (1992)
6. The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend (1993)
7. The Legend of Deathwalker (1996)
8. Winter Warriors (1997)
9. Hero in the Shadows (2000)
Drenai Tales (omnibus) (1991)
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Sipstrassi : Jon Shannow
1. Wolf in Shadow (1987)
aka The Jerusalem Man
2. The Last Guardian (1989)
3. Bloodstone (1994)
The Complete Chronicles of the Jerusalem Man (1995)
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Sipstrassi : Stones of Power
1. Ghost King (1988)
2. Last Sword of Power (1988)
Stones of Power (omnibus) (1992)
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Lion of Macedon
1. Lion of Macedon (1991)
2. Dark Prince (1991)
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Hawk Queen
1. The Ironhand’s Daughter (1995)
2. The Hawk Eternal (1995)
Hawk Queen (omnibus) (2014)
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Rigante
1. Sword in the Storm (1998)
2. Midnight Falcon (1999)
3. Ravenheart (2001)
4. Stormrider (2002)
Tales of the Rigante (omnibus) (2001)
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Skilgannon the Damned
1. White Wolf (2003)
2. The Swords of Night and Day (2004)
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Troy
1. Lord Of The Silver Bow (2005)
2. The Shield of Thunder (2006)
3. Fall Of Kings (2007) (with Stella Gemmell)
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Novels
The Lost Crown (1989)
Knights of Dark Renown (1989)
Morning Star (1992)
White Knight, Black Swan (1993) (as by Ross Harding)
Dark Moon (1996)
Echoes of the Great Song (1997)
Rhyming Rings (2017)
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Filed under David Gemmell, Fantasy

Ben Kane: Eagles in the Storm (Review)

Ben Kane Image result for irish flag (1970 – )

Ben Kane's picture

Ben Kane is a bestselling Roman author and former veterinarian. He was born in Kenya and grew up in Ireland (where his parents are from). He has traveled widely and is a lifelong student of military history in general, and Roman history in particular. He lives in North Somerset, England, with his family.
 Eagles in the Storm  (2017)
(The third book in the Eagles of Rome series)

book cover of Eagles in the Storm

AD 15. The German chieftain Arminius has been defeated, one of the lost Roman eagles recovered, and thousands of German tribesmen slain.

Yet these successes aren’t nearly enough for senior centurion Lucius Tullus. Not until Arminius is dead, his old legion’s eagle found and the enemy tribes completely vanquished will he rest.

But Arminius – devious, fearless – is burning for revenge of his own.

Charismatic as ever, he raises another large tribal army, which will harry the Romans the length and breadth of the land.

Soon Tullus finds himself in a cauldron of bloodshed, treachery and danger.

His mission to retrieve his legion’s eagle will be his most perilous yet…

Buy Signed copy

Review

Ben Kane is one of a select few authors, who writes books that sit in the category of “Must” read. The problem this creates for him and similar authors is that they have to compete with themselves and my ever increasing expectations. Now i’m utterly unqualified to know if Bens research is 100% accurate, i wish i could retain all the detail, but i do know the work he puts into ensuring it is, i do know when a book feels authentic and impassioned, and this like all his other work sits firmly in that category, this is a writer who has put himself in the kit and walked the miles to understand the pain of the legionary.

Once for our roman and Germanic friends time moves on, Arminius still hungers for Roman blood, but it will not be so forthcoming, not under a real General such as “Germanicus”, the legions are taking the fight well and truly to the Germanic tribes, the sneaky tricks of his traitorous actions are well known and less and less likely to defeat any further legions. Those few few men to survive the bloodbath that Varus led them into are eager for revenge, none more so than Centurion Lucius Tullus, Vengeance burns through him, drives him to greater and greater acts of martial heroics, desire for perfection from his troops and defeat for any and all barbarians. He wants Arminius’ head on a spike and he wants his legions eagle back. Opposite him is arminius, with an equal burning passion to tear down anything Roman that treads in his world, but also to make himself King or even Emperor of the Germanic Tribes, he is a man of both and neither world, more Romanised that he cares to admit.

This book takes you on many journeys from so many perspectives: You have both the opposing perspectives of Arminius and Tullus, riven by rage and a desire to destroy their opposing enemy. The difference being Arminius will do at any cost, no matter who he destroys in the process, Tullus only seems to be hell bent on destroying himself as he tries to come to grips with his foe, its his love for his men that pulls him back from the abyss. Tullus men bring the humour and the boots on the ground squaddie view, the everyday, among the destruction, the distance of orders and yet the close proximity of the action to give a uniquely close perspective of the fighting. There are some real laugh out loud moments in this book from characters like Piso, likewise there are some truly shocking irrevocable moments startling in their waste and pointlessness. I  loved this book, there are some startling shocks in there that make it very real. At times its light, at times its dark, its melancholy, its brilliantly funny and poignantly thought provoking… its got so much packed into it and is a real winner, this years bar met and exceeded Ben, bravo!

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Series
Forgotten Legion Chronicles
1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
3. The Road to Rome (2010)
Forgotten Legion Chronicles Collection (omnibus) (2012)
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Hannibal
1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
2. Fields of Blood (2013)
3. Clouds of War (2014)
The Patrol (2013)
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Spartacus
1. The Gladiator (2012)
2. Rebellion (2012)
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Pompeii (with Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter)
A Day of Fire (2014)
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Eagles of Rome
The Shrine (2015)
1. Eagles at War (2015)
2. Hunting the Eagles (2016)
3. Eagles in the Storm (2017)
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Novellas
The Arena (2016)
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Filed under Ben Kane, Historical Fiction