Douglas Jackson: Scourge of Rome (Review)

Douglas Jackson

Douglas Jackson's picture
Scotland (1956 – )

aka James Douglas

Douglas Jackson is the author of the successful historical novels Caligula and Claudius and my next book Hero of Rome, the first of a new trilogy, will be published in July 2010. I was born in Jedburgh on the border between England and Scotland in the summer of 1956. It’s a place full of history and haunted by the ghosts of Border reivers and the victims of centuries of bloody border warfare. I left school three weeks before my 16th birthday with six O levels and no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Luckily, a friend worked in the local employment office and got me a place on a youth work scheme. It turned out to be restoring a Roman marching camp in the Cheviot Hills and I had a wonderful summer turning turf and dreaming of Romans. Later I joined my local paper and for the next 36 years worked in local and national newspapers in Scotland, including the Daily Record and the Scotsman. I left the Scotsman after nine years as assistant editor in the summer of 2009 to become a full-time writer.

Scourge of Rome  (2015)
(The sixth book in the Gaius Valerius Verrens series)

70AD: disgraced, dishonored, and banished into exile on pain of execution if he ever returns to Rome, the former military tribune Gaius Valerius Verrens makes his way East through the death and destruction of the savage Judaean rebellion. Valerius knows his only hope of long term survival and a restoration of his family’s fortunes lie with his friend Titus, commander of the Army of Judaea and son of the newly crowned Emperor Vespasian. But when he reaches the ring of legionary camps around the seemingly impregnable city of Jerusalem, he finds Titus a changed man. Gone is the cheerful young officer he knew, replaced by a tough, ruthless soldier under pressure from his father to end the insurrection at any cost. Soon, Valerius finds himself at the center of a web of intrigue spun by Titus’s lover, Queen Berenice of Cilicia, and her sometime ally, the general’s turncoat adviser, Flavius Josephus, who have an ulterior motive for ending the siege quickly. Yet the laurels that will regain his honor cannot be won in the negotiations in the murky tunnels beneath Jerusalem. Only amid the fire and blood of battle will he equal the glory that brought him the title Hero of Rome.

scourge

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Review

Douglas Jackson is quite simply a writer at the top of his game, his books are the complete package, filled with intrigue, action and adventure.But more than that they are filled with history, with heart and emotion and characters that will make you bleed and cry and love, characters that will involve you deeply in every aspect of their lives and drag you ever deeper into the bloody Roman world.

This series that started so triumphantly, and still holds one of the (IMHO) greatest scenes in historical fiction (the last stand at the temple) has become so much more than just an adventure following the seemingly indestructible Verrens. Integral to the story now is Serpentius, a man who is still as deadly as he ever was, but now more real, flawed, destructible. Both of them now are older, they are scarred beyond measure and yet they survive in a world where so many of their friends and comrades have gone to an early death, they survive as much by luck and brains as they do by brawn and skill.

Douglas Jackson challenges our hero’s to bring all of their luck and skill to the fore in surviving the wrath of Domitian who has grown in power since the taking of Rome, he may not have executed Verren’s but he is not beyond sending men after him, despite his agreement. Freedom, for the hand of Domitia Longina Corbulo, one forced upon him , read enemy of Rome. Its this uncertainty and intrigue that drives much of the early part of the book. Who is after them? some one must be and there are many potential names in the frame, staying alive is a war on its own, surviving to reach his friend Titus, paranoid that death awaits around any corner, hidden under any robe.

Along the way he (Verren’s) will find love, step into greater and greater danger and become embroiled in one of the bloodiest fights in Roman history, (with claims by Josephus that around 1.1 million people died), until ultimatly the great city of Jerusalem is ground to dust.

This has such a huge potential to be a dark dark story, but Douglas Jackson tells it with such passion and skill that while you feel the horror, the terror and the heat of battle, you also feel the passion of new love, and the enduring love of two friends who cling to each other come what may, tossed around like flotsam to the whims of the great and powerful and and the tide of history yet always striving for each other and honour first.

I truly love this series, its one of my all time favourite. Nothing to do with the period, all to do with the skill of the writing and the great characters.

I cannot recommend this highly enough

(Parm)

Series

 

Rufus
1. Caligula: The Tyranny of Rome (2008)
2. Claudius (2009)

 

Gaius Valerius Verrens
1. Hero of Rome (2010)
2. Defender of Rome (2011)
3. Avenger of Rome (2012)
4. Sword of Rome (2013)
5. Enemy of rome (2014)
6. Scourge of Rome (2015)

Glen Savage mystery
War Games (2014)

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Jasper Kent: The last Rite (review)

Jasper Kent

Jasper Kent's picture
UK (1968 – )

Jasper Kent was born in Worcestershire, England in 1968. He attended King Edward’s School, Birmingham and went on to study Natural Sciences at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, specialising in physics.

Jasper has spent almost twenty years working as a software engineer in the UK and in Europe, whilst also working on writing both fiction and music. In that time, he has produced the novels Twelve, Thirteen Years Later, Yours Etc., Mr Sunday and Sifr, as well as co-writing several musicals, including The Promised Land and Remember! Remember!

He currently lives in Brighton, with eight rats called Manjula, Lurleen, Alecto, Nyssa, Isolde, Polly, Messalina and Maude, and a person called Helen.

The Last Rite  (2014) 
(The fifth book in the Danilov Quintet series)

Book Description:

Buy the paperback

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Russia – 1917. Zmyeevich, king of all vampires, is dead.

History records that the great voordalak – known across Europe as Dracula – perished in 1893 beneath the ramparts of his own castle, deep in the mountains of Wallachia. In Russia, the Romanov tsars are free of the curse that has plagued their blood for two centuries.

But two decades later and Tsar Nicholas II faces a new threat – a threat from his own people. War has brought Russia to her knees and the people are hungry for change. Revolution is in the air.

Mihail Konstantinovich Danilov – who himself carries Romanov blood – welcomes the prospect of a new regime. Like his ancestors he once fought to save the Romanovs from the threat that Zmyeevich brought them. Fought and won. But now he sees no future for a Russia ruled by a tyrant. He is joined in the struggle by his uncle, Dmitry Alekseevich – a creature born in a different era, over a century before. For more than half his existence he has been a vampire, and yet he still harbours one very human desire; that his country should be free.

But the curse that infects the blood of the Romanovs cannot be so easily forgotten and Mihail soon discovers that it – that he – may become the means by which a terror once thought eradicated might be resurrected . . .

Review

The series so far has been thoroughly dark and entertaining, I had high hopes for the grand finale and what ever Jasper Kent had in store for us, as with the other four books in the series he did not disappoint.

Set during the Russian Revolution a period of dark change, intrigue, betrayal and want in a nation thoroughly torn by the rise of the Bolsheviks and the decline of the Tsarist empire. Jasper Kent continues in the same vein as the rest of the series and concentrates his story and his view on the immediate, those things that impact the everyday man rather than the momentous events of history, this I know has been a point of concern with some readers, but it works for me, the immediacy it creates is worth the loss of the wider history.

The central character of  Mihal Danilov, a man who has lived a life dedicated to the eradication of all vampire kind gives a fatalistic, very Russian outlook on his country  and his role in life. Sometimes that fatalistic view drags on the pace of the plot but the counter POV (which you will have to read the book to find out whom…or i fear i will give spoilers) provides the perfect foil and opposing view to drive the reader forward to an unexpected and thrilling conclusion.

By creating a mix of well researched Russian historical fiction with the authors own take on the  Vampire culture Jasper Kent has created something unique, and thoroughly enjoyable!

(Parm)

Series
Danilov Quintet
1. Twelve (2009)
2. Thirteen Years Later (2010)
3. The Third Section (2011)
4. The People’s Will (2013)
5. The Last Rite (2014)
aka The Last Oprichnik

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Jasper Kent, Supernatural

Rob Boffard : Tracer (review + Q&A) Blog Tour

 

Rob Boffard's picture

Rob Boffard
Rob. Thirty. Author. Journalist. Sound Engineer. Snowboarder. Hip-hop artist. Tall. Basketball-player-length arms. Lots of tattoos. Glasses. Bad hair. Proud South African. Born in Johannesburg. Splits time between London and Vancouver. Digs New York. Doesnt dig Vegas. Loves New Orleans. Not a helicopter pilot.

Debut novel. Tracer. On Orbit Books. Out July 2015 (UK). Out sometime 2016 (US). Space stations. Parkour. Explosions. Good times. Two sequels. Huzzah!

Buy the e-Book

Book Description

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Imagine The Bourne Identity meets Gravity and you’ll get TRACER, the most exciting action thriller set in space you’ll ever read. Sarah Lotz, author of The Three calls it “fast, exhilarating and unforgettable”. A huge space station orbits the Earth, holding the last of humanity. It’s broken, rusted, falling apart. We’ve wrecked our planet, and now we have to live with the consequences: a new home that’s dirty, overcrowded and inescapable. What’s more, there’s a madman hiding on the station. He’s about to unleash chaos. And when he does, there’ll be nowhere left to run. In space, every second counts. Who said nobody could hear you scream? ‘A stunning debut that never lets up, from the nerve-jangling beginning to the explosive end’ James Douglas, author of The Doomsday Machine ‘TRACER sets a new standard for all-action SF’ Ken MacLeod

Review

Tracer is a debut, and debuts are something i love, a chance to meet a new author, to get to know their imagination and their world, something that has probably been bouncing around as a personal passion for years, to really explore their personality, as i feel they give more away in book one than any other.

On a personal note for this review i struggled with Tracer to begin with, i found many similarities with Hugh Howey’s Wool Trilogy. I found myself about 60% into the book and in a quandary, do i keep going?

But then something happened, and to be honest im not sure what it was, but when i wasn’t reading the book i found myself speculating what might happen next, and wondering how the characters might survive and beat the odds, it was a clear view that the book had grabbed my attention and imagination without me knowing.

I still think that there are comparisons to other dystopian books or recent vintage, but it also carves out its own niche with its use  of Parkour as a means of getting around the space station.the writer doesn’t drown you in his love of the  free running sport, but gives that level of detail and enthusiasm you would expect from someone who has a love of it.

I think there are very clear signs that Zero-G has even more potential, as the author gets a chance to improve on his debut, and my gut tells me he will get better and better.

(Parm)

Parmenion Books QA – Rob Boffard

 

1) Where did you get the inspiration for this story?

 

I wanted to write about a space station – one that was old, broken down, falling apart. I got to thinking about how you’d move packages and messages around, and I decided that I wanted to tell the story of the people who did it. These couriers would be fast, good on their feet, good with their fists…perfect fodder for the action movie in my mind.

 

2) Are your Tracers based on people you know? (inspired by people?)

 

If you look closely, you’ll see that my main character Riley is actually George H.W. Bush in disguise. On the real, I cooked these characters up in my head – they’ve got more me in them than anyone I know.

 

3) The book for me had parallels with with Hugh Howey’s Wool, are there any books / authors that you think inspired you?

 

Howey’s a monster – although I only read his stuff after I wrote the book. Suzanne Collins was what really inspired me to write it. I breezed through The Hunger Games series in a weekend, and thought, I want to write something like that.

 

4) Who are your favourite authors?

 

I love classic mystery authors like Jeffrey Deaver and Ed McBain, plus Stephen King, and some really pulpy scifi writers like Margaret Weiss. And for whatever reason, I’m a big Bill Bryson fan – he’s super smart and super funny.

 

5) Is book 2 Zero-G underway? (how is it progressing?)

 

I’m about a day away from sending what I hope will be the final draft to the publisher! Then it’s all about editing book 3. ZERO-G though…it’s everything TRACER is, turned up crazy loud.

 

6) Tell the reader something about you? – how / why did you become a writer?

 

So this is going to sound so arrogant, but sod it. Writing is the only thing I’ve ever really been good at. When I was about seven, we got a class assignment to write a poem. I wrote this one about an elephant, and the teacher started bugging out over it. She read it out to the class, then to her colleagues in the staffroom. I’m sitting there like, really? I knocked that out in ten minutes. Since then, writing has been my drug. There – arrogant bit over.

 

7) If you could invite any 4 characters to dinner (real or fictional ) who would they be?

 

Long John Silver, Han Solo, Ellen Ripley and Gok Wan. I’d do it just because it’d be funny to see someone like Gok Wan try to hold his own against three of the baddest fictional characters in history. He’d either make a really good go of it, or get slammed.

 

8) Finally…the publisher give you a soap box and a spot outside Kings Cross station, you need to sell your story to passers by…. what’s your pitch… why should we read it?

 

GOOD PEOPLE! JESUS SAVES! HEED THE GOSPEL OR YOU SHALL BURN IN – wait, hang on, sorry, reading from the wrong side of the paper. Here we go. HERE YE HERE YE! GRAND SCIENCE FICTION ADVENTURE! PARKOUR IN SPACE! COME ONE COME ALL! EXPLOSIONS! FIGHT SCENES! INCREDIBLE ONE-LINERS!

 

 

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Bear Grylls: Ghost Flight (review)

Bear Grylls's picture

Bear Grylls

(Edward Michael Bear Grylls)
UK (1974 – )
Bear Grylls, real name Edward Michael Grylls, is a British adventurer, television presenter and writer currently best known for his television series Born Survivor (Man vs. Wild in the U.S.). He has been called the “Most Extreme Human” to have ever lived

book cover of </p>  <p>Ghost Flight </p>  <p>

Haunted by his wife and son’s brutal abduction and murder, ex-soldier Will Jaeger runs to the ends of the Earth to recover and to hide. But even there he is found and compelled to undertake one last mission and to confront a savage past he can barely even remember.

Jaeger agrees to lead an expedition into the Mountains of the Gods in the remote Amazon jungle. At the dark heart of this real-life Lost World lies a mystery WWII warplane, one that harbours a secret so explosive its very discovery may tear the world asunder. Terrifying forces are hell-bent on keeping the warplane forever hidden. Unwittingly, Will Jaeger is going in against them.

But as Jaeger joins a team of former elite warriors – including ice-cool Russian operator Irina Narov – he senses that the air wreck also harbours the answer he so longs to uncover: the identity of his wife and son’s murderers. Hair-raising adventure, extreme survival quest and a shocking mystery reaching back into the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Review

I have to admit to being very intrigued by this book, i have never seen a single TV episode or read any of the non fiction books by this author, but you would have to have been living in a hole for a number of years to not have heard of this crazy man of the wild.

The plot of the book, coupled with the authors real life skills had all the hallmarks of a new Jack Higgins, i’m a sucker for any book with WW2 links, where it attempts to stop the rise of the Reich or the rise of a new one, hidden mysteries and the Night and Fog of war.

Could the writer pull it together into a coherent, action adventure thriller? Yes and no. The book has many great points to it, its really grabs you from the first pages and yanks you into the thick of it. but there are some clunky passages, and there are often times where un-needed references / detail are thrust at the reader rather than bleeding out naturally. It very much reminded me of some of the early Andy McNab fiction books, and look how good his thrillers have become. I have a feeling Bear Grylls could be better, he has more of the Jack Higgins flair. Great characters, gripping exciting plot; incredible what if scenarios, the book has so much to give.

One thing however that did very much grate with me the reader was the ending, the book didn’t end, or rather the story didn’t, the pages ran out, the plot probably had another 100 pages or more to go. Yet suddenly im faced with…. the book continues etc.. As a prelude to selling me book 2 that may not be out for a year, that’s just not cool. When i buy and read a book i expect the story in front of me to end. The author has several opportunities to end the book at a decent point and still then keep his plot for book two, but he played out some further sequences and as such left the reader hanging.

So for the book style and plot i give this a 3.5/5 but for the ending, 2/5.

I’m really looking forward to the next book, but i don’t know if i can pick it up without checking that it ends, and that could spoil the read.

(Parm)

Series
Mission: Survival
1. Gold of the Gods (2008)
2. Way of the Wolf (2009)
3. Sands of the Scorpion (2009)
4. Tracks of the Tiger (2010)
5. Claws of the Crocodile (2013)
6. Strike of the Shark (2013)
7. Rage of the Rhino (2014)
8. Lair of the Leopard (2015)

Ghost Flight
1. Ghost Flight (2015)
Picture Books
With Love, Papa (2009)
Non fiction
Facing Up (2000)
The Kid Who Climbed Everest (2001)
Facing the Frozen Ocean (2004)
Born Survivor (2007)
Man Vs. Wild (2008)
Bear Grylls’s Great Outdoors Adventures (2008)
Living Wild: The Ultimate Guide to Scouting and Fieldcraft (2009)
Mud, Sweat and Tears (2011)
To My Sons: Lessons for the Wild Adventure Called Life(2012)
Two All-action Adventures: Facing Up / Facing the Frozen Ocean (2012)
Extreme Survivors: 60 of the Worlds Most Extreme Survival Stories (2012)
A Survival Guide for Life (2012)
Climbing Everest: An extract from the bestselling Mud, Sweat and Tears (2013)
True Grit (2013)
Your Life – Train For It (2014)
Bear Grylls: Two All-Action Adventures (2014)
Extreme Food (2014)
Your Life – Fuel for It (2015)



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Guy Saville: Madagaskar Plan (Review)

Guy Saville

(1973 – )

Guy Saville was born in 1973. He has lived in South America and North Africa. The Afrika Reich, published by Hodder & Stoughton on 17th February 2011, was his first novel.

The Madagaskar Plan

(2015)
A novel by Guy Saville

book cover of </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />  <p>The Madagaskar Plan </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />  <p>

1953. Britain and her Empire are diminished. Nazi Germany controls Europe and a vast African territory. There has been no Holocaust. Instead, the Jews have been exiled to Madagaskar, a tropical ghetto ruled by the SS.

Returning home after a disastrous mission to Africa, ex-mercenary Burton Cole finds his lover has disappeared. Desperate to discover her, he is drawn into a conspiracy that will lead him back to the Dark Continent.

Meanwhile Walter Hochburg, Nazi Governor of Kongo, has turned his attention to Madagaskar. Among the prisoners are scientists who could develop him a weapon of unimaginable power.

But Hochburg is not the only one interested in Madagaskar. The British plan to destroy its naval base to bring America into a war against the Reich. They have found the ideal man for the task: Reuben Salois, the only Jew to have escaped the ghetto. The only one brave, or foolhardy, enough to return.

These three men will converge on Madagaskar. The fate of the world is in their hands…

Drawing on the Nazis’ original plans for the Jews, Guy Saville has meticulously imagined a world-that-nearly-was to tell an epic tale of love, revenge and survival.

Review

This book is set immediately following the events  of Afrika Reich, Burton Cole has finally made his way back home after the events in Africa. His revenge against Hochburg unfulfilled, but his goal clear, to find Madeleine and his child, to put Africa and the losses behind him. But life isn’t that fair and isn’t that kind to Burton. Madeleine’s husband isn’t who she thinks he is, and he isn’t as blind to their relationship as either Burton or Madeleine had hoped.

Burton is drawn by life and fate back to Africa, worse than the Kongo ever was he must go to its darkest part, Madagascar, an island converted to a concentration camp to hold the Jews of the world, and to slowly dispose of them away from the eyes or the world. It’s a race for survival and revenge, set against a backdrop of horror and personal darkness.

Its been 4 years since the last book from Guy Saville, yet the wait has been well worth it. given the richness of the narrative and descriptive, clearly a lot of time and passion has gone into the crafting of each and every line in the book. It’s a tired description but still very apt, to say that the characters in this book come alive on each and every page, but more than that. As the reader you go through the emotional turmoil at every stage, you can at times sympathise with the morally bankrupt Hochburg and other Nazis, who are products of their system and environment, their norm and normality is brutality.

The view of what could have happened to the jewish nation is devastating, and more so when it’s coupled with the global indifference, and political manoeuvre’s they are subjects too. This ease and simplicity of a simple change, like the defeat of Dunkirk, changing the leadership and the direction of the whole war. The scrabbling for existence and the scraps of the British empire, the isolationist Americans never coming into the war. It’s all too plausible, and shows just how much we owe that wartime generation.

All of this is in the book, but it’s there in the emotion and the description and the vastness of the German empire, never shoved in the readers face, never glorifying, always daunting and at times horrifying for its plain reality of this alternate world.

Sometimes it takes a stark and stunning reminder of what could have been to remind us how lucky we are.

Truly the best book i have read this year so far.

huge congratulations to Guy Saville.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Q&A

Guy, fantastic to interview you again, it’s been a little gap between Book 1 and 2, but as per my review, it’s a gap that’s been well worth it. The book is a stunning achievement.

Great to be back here at Parmenion, and thanks for your kind words about my new book. It makes all the effort worthwhile.

This series, and this book especially, is a really emotive subject, what led you to it?

The initial inspiration came from arguably the most famous Nazis-win-the-war novel of them all: The Man in The High Castle by Philip K Dick (recently adapted for Amazon TV by Ridley Scott). In the book there is a throwaway line about ‘the terrible Nazi experiment in Africa’. Things grew from that single line and eventually conflated with a long-held desire to write an epic adventure story.

You have some amazingly powerful characters in the book, in Burton, Hochburg, Madeleine and many others. Do these people all come from your imagination, or do you base them on real personalities (eg: is Hochburg’s name taken from the corporal at Sobibor)?

Obviously some of the characters – such as Globocnik and Admiral Dommes – are based on real figures from history. The rest of the cast are entirely figments of my imagination, though in the case of Hochburg I was partly inspired by Kurtz from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (one of my favourite novels). Hochburg’s name – which translates roughly as ‘high castle’ – is a nod to Philip K Dick. See above!

Is the series still planned as a trilogy? If so, how goes the planning for the final book?

I planned a trilogy from the start with each book as a standalone story looking at a different aspect of the Nazis’ racial prejudices in Africa. The first part was about the white-on-white colonial clash between the Germans and British; Madagaskar is about the Jews; and the final book will look at Nazi policy towards the native black people of the continent. I had all three books roughly mapped out from the start and certainly know all the key dramatic moments in Book 3 and its ending. However, my publisher only committed to a two book deal. Afrika Reich sold well but I need Madagaskar to repeat that success. So if readers want to see how the trilogy ends, please buy the new book.

In Afrika Reich and also Madagaskar Plan there is a huge depth and richness to the descriptive of the African German Empire, how much of this is built on plans from the Nazi era, and how much is your imagination?

I did a huge amount of research for both books, especially the new one, so I’m pleased to hear you think I’ve succeeded in bringing it to life. Occasionally I’ll make something up for dramatic purposes or have to take an imaginative leap because the historical record is lacking. But I’d say 90% is based on fact, not just in the broad sweep but also the details. To use a couple of obscure examples from the book, all the stuff about the meat-canning industry is in the original ‘Madagascar Projekt’ document. The floor tiles in the Nazis’ huge hotel were indeed intended to be yellow.

So who are you reading now for fun?

I tend to avoid contemporary fiction while I write, for fear of other writers’ styles bleeding into mine. So it’s always a treat when I finish working on a novel as I can read more freely. As I have a lot of friends who are writers, it also means a chance to catch up on their latest books. Recent highlights include: A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, Us by David Nicholls and The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall. I’m currently reading The Night Falling by Katherine Webb.

Finally… the one all writers hate… sell your book in your own words, what sets it apart?

The Madagaskar Plan is set in 1953 and imagines an alternative history where the Nazis have triumphed but there has been no Holocaust. Instead the Jews have been exiled to Madagaskar, a remote island off the coast of East Africa and now a tropical ghetto. Into this world come three men: Burton Cole, an ex-mercenary searching for his lover; Walter Hochburg, the Nazi governor of German Kongo, and Reuben Salois; the only Jew to have escaped the ghetto. Their paths will interweave and finally converge on Madagaskar with the fate of the world in their hands. The book is a detailed evocation of what Madagaskar would have been like for the Jews, as well as an epic tale of love, revenge and survival. I’d certainly buy it!

Many thanks, Guy, and best of luck, this book truly deserves a huge success.

An honour to be here… and I hope you’ll have me back for Book 3.

Novels

The Afrika Reich (2011)
The Madagaskar Plan (2015)

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Joe Abercrombie: Half a War (Review)

 

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Half a War ( Buy a signed copy )

(2015)
(The third book in the Shattered Sea series)
A novel by Joe Abercrombie

Words are weapons.

Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright.

Only half a war is fought with swords.

The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships only Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil.

Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness….

Review

So often with a final book im left feeling a bit disappointed, slightly unfulfilled, not so in the case of this book and this series.  I have criticised this author a few times for lack of brevity (to be fair I think I used the term windy) … but in this series every word is not only needed, but is a powerful driver in the story, I could have been happy with twice the book length and still thought it not enough.

The subtle mix of post apocalyptic world, where the remnants of our world and its people are seen as magical elves, to be feared and reviled for their short-sighted destruction of the world. Coupled with the Norse style world that has grown around the shattered sea, nations war like in nature, man recreating all its old mistakes, grasping with greedy hands for what others have, climbing the rungs of power, willing to moralise and justify any step to settle a grudge or avenge a loved one. Vows to the gods being as powerful as ever.

The author does a wonderful job of showing us the cyclical nature of man’s destructive ambition, the futility of war and how easily a good man can be subverted by power. All this though is wrapped in a highly entertaining fantasy/ post apocalyptic world, crammed with atmosphere and deep cunning!

Half a King

Half the World

The reviews of the two previous books will give you a flavour for the characterisation and the quality of the prose in the series, the author continues this in style, quality and power, he makes you care for each and every character, turning once quite despicable characters into ones you can sympathise with and ones you once loved start to despair for , he makes you walk in their shoes for a while, understand their drivers, suddenly even their horrific reality isn’t quite so evil, it’s just their nature, beat a dog and it will bite you eventually, and those who swear vengeance are often destroyed by it.

As always with the final book in a series you hope to see it all tied up, and while the author does this to a degree, there is plenty left, because the world keeps turning, life keeps being lived and ambition is never defeated.

not only the author should be congratulated for this fantastic series, but also the whole team behind the publishing of the book, the art work for this series has been stunning, and the teasing delivery out to reviews and fans has been a great success from the publishers, the whole series all 1344 pages (3 books) in the space of a year.

I cant wait to see what comes next from Joe Abercrombie, it’s always something new fresh and exciting.

(Parm)

First Law
1. The Blade Itself (2006)
2. Before They Are Hanged (2007)
3. Last Argument Of Kings (2008)
The First Law Trilogy Boxed Set: The Blade Itself / Before They Are Hanged / Last Argument of Kings(omnibus) (2012)
The First Law Trilogy (omnibus) (2015)

First Law World
1. Best Served Cold (2009)
2. The Heroes (2010)
3. Red Country (2012)
The Great Leveller: Best Served Cold, The Heroes and Red Country, together in one omnibus volume (omnibus)(2015)
Shattered Sea
1. Half a King (2014)
2. Half the World (2015)
3. Half a War (2015)
Omnibus
The Collected Joe Abercrombie (2013)

 

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Toby Clements: Broken Faith (Review) + Q&A

Author

Image: Toby Clements Author

Toby Clements lives in London: “It is Clements’s ability to excite both tender emotions and a capacity for bloodthirstiness that has allowed him to achieve what Shakespeare couldn’t manage, and spin a consistently enthralling story out of the Wars of the Roses.”

Broken Faith

(2015)
(The second book in the Kingmaker series)
A novel by Toby Clements

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Broken Faith

‘An enthralling adventure story, honest and powerful. The Wars of the Roses are imagined here with energy, with ferocity, with hunger to engage the reader.’ Hilary Mantel England: October, 1463. The great slaughter of the battle of Towton is two years past, but England is still not at peace. The Northern Parts of the land remain in the hands of the Lancastrian king, while in the south, the princes of the house of York prepare for war. Uneasy alliances are forged and just as quickly broken: a friend one day might be your enemy the next, and through this land, pursued by the Church and the Law, a young man, Thomas, and a young woman, Katherine, must make their way, bearing proof of a secret both sides would kill to learn. Bent on revenge for a past outrage, Thomas and Katherine must turn their backs on their friends and journey to the mighty castle of Bamburgh, there to join a weakened king as he marshals his army to take up arms in one of the most savage civil wars in history: the Wars of the Roses.

Review

Book two, that terrible, fateful demand on the author, especially on an author who has produced something as exceptional as Winter Pilgrims. Can the author recreate that magic, meet it, and hopefully surpass it?

The beauty of Winter Pilgrims was always in the simplicity, in avoiding the major players as much as possible, or staying on the fringes, but still allowing the horror of the war of the roses to playout in the imagination of the reader.

Broken Faith has to go further, it is by the nature of history forced closer to the major events and players of the period, Its the only way to get our key characters into places like Bamburgh Castle at the right time.

Thomas and Katherine are slowly drawn back together in this book, the shifting perspectives both driving the plot and drawing the reader in. The shifting male and female perspectives so well written, with a keen eye on the differing perspectives and motives. The simplicity remains because this despite its harrowing backdrop and blood drenched landscape is to all intents and purposes a love story, the gradual realisation and coming together of Katherine, who works through her grief to eventually find Thomas again, and Thomas who finally comes back to himself and hunts across the country to track down the woman he needed, and then realised he loved, very hard for a man who had dedicated himself to god.

Behind this love story is also a story of revenge, revenge against the Rivers, the machinations of this family once against at the center of the woes for the King, and also the previous king. Both father and son create the perfect protagonists for Katherine and Thomas, out of their social strata, but also tied by a shared history of desired revenge.

Once again the author provides a monster read, at 464 pages and yet the book glides along effortlessly, its a simple excellent love story, bursting with action, intrigue and history. a real contender for book of the year.

I highly recommend this and cannot wait to see what Toby writes next.

(Parm)

Q&A

 

HI Toby, thank you for taking time to answer a few questions:

 

1) Given that so many authors have said book two is harder than book one to write, what was your experience like?

 

Hello Robin, and thanks for the interest. Book 2 was much less fun to write than book 1 as you suggest, because there was a deadline, and an editor, and writing it suddenly seemed much more like a job. Book 1 took ages to write, and felt, in retrospect, like a labour of love, something that I thought about privately, like a slightly suspect hobby, but book 2 was very written quickly, to order, and it felt like giving blood, or having it taken, without the moral satisfaction. Having said that, without the editor and the deadline, I would absolutely not have finished it yet, and it would already be a good 1200 pages long. It would have been unbelievably good though!

 

2) Book one Winter Pilgrims was a truly fantastic book. I hope it was the success it deserved. One of the key elements that made it so great for me was the use and viewpoint of the normal person, away from the key figures in history. Was it a conscious decision to gravitate towards those key figures in book two, or circumstance?

 

Thanks for that. It did all right, and it was pretty well received, not least because of the slight shift away from those key figures. But you have to start with them. You have to start with the nobs – the Earls of Warwick and so on – since theirs is the only history that is written, and that is what you are taught when you are kid. Can you name 10 people who weren’t dukes etc who lived before 1500?  It is tricky. But I was always interested in The Other, and after reading The Face of Battle, by John Keegan, a brilliant description of a common soldier’s experience in three battles: Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme, which I would press on anyone, I began to find more interest in the lower–status individual generally: not just him – the soldier – but his wife and children, his house, his clothes and so on.  Another reason I drifted away from the nobs, is that they’ve been done to death in fiction, really, and all I’d be bringing that was fresh would have been my voice (about which I was less than sure) and something that would have been self-consciously invented to be different from all the many great novelists to have ploughed this furrow before.

 

3) There were some fantastic images you shared as part of the research for book one, do you have anything you would like to share for book two?

 

Hmmm! I have neglected that part of it, really but look, here is a picture of Bamburgh castle in the snow, form the north. Book 2 takes Thomas and Katherine there in 1464, not necessarily the best time to visit.

Untitled

And I like this, from a longer project to show an infantryman’s clobber throughout the ages:

Boot

This is what a very well to do Yorkist man-at-arms might have had with him during the battle of Bosworth – only a few years after the setting for my story. There is something quite touching about it, I think, since we can all imagine ourselves slipping into that gear. Though Jaysus, look at the poll axe!

And because I was researching a quieter moment in the wars, I have been to a hundred re-enactment events, and taken some of my own photos, but none so good as these. I should say that I have no copyright, so if anyone wants me (you to take them down) then I am sure we could do that instantly?

Below are three ladies. Life for the reasonably well off could be quite nice, as this moment shows. There are some lovely details here – look at the way the sleeve of the lady on the left is joined to the body of her dress. It is nothing you could use in a novel, but just knowing it helps you to imagine what it might be like to be Katherine.

ladies

pike

And this is a bloke – from the continent somewhere – with a weapon – not sure if it would actually have a name – in what I can imagine pretty typical condition for someone not expecting to have to use it. This is a debate re-enactors often have: should they look after their gear as if it were special to them, or as if it were everyday? And if you were a soldier, would you try to get the best weapon you could, and keep it really sharp, or would that weapon just become something you had to carry around with you, a hassle? If that makes sense?

 

Finally, a child. I don’t know what he or she is up to, but they don’t get much of a look in, do they, usually? So here’s one.

child 

4) Was it always your intention to write a love story, or was this how the series evolved? 

 

I have to admit I gravitated toward a more repressed love story, given their – and particularly her – background and upbringing, but my editor was probably right to force me to get them to make hay while the sun shone, which I did. It was tricky, because I had been so graphically matter of fact about the violence, so I felt it would have been dishonest if they then shut the door on us while they got on with it, but trying to describe a medieval sex scene without the use of the word codpiece proved very tricky.

 

5) Are Katherine and Thomas based on any real people, or just an amalgamation of parts?

 

They are just made up. I have a theory about writers’ heroes and heroines. A really great storyteller can come up with a hero that is his ideal person, who may be the absolute opposite of him, whereas most writers create heroes who are just slightly exaggerated versions of themselves, so Thomas is the sort of man who when push comes to shove can do most things, as I sort of imagine I’d be able to, but he is also the sort of man who hasn’t a clue what to do on a Sunday. Katherine would always have a plan, hopefully better than visiting Homebase.

 

6) So what’s next?

 

Book 3 – the last in the trilogy, and a real corker, I promise, takes us up to the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. That was the battle in the Wars of the Roses that got me hooked, and so I am really looking forward to that one. Everything will come together in a massive, massive dust up, and secrets will be spilled and revelations… revealed.

 

7) Who are you reading at the moment for fun?

I have been shortlisted for the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown, along with some really stiff opposition, so I have been reading them. It is both inspiring and alarming at the same time, so I am not sure you’d call it fun. But I have also been reading The Last English Poachers, by Bob & Brian Tovey, about a couple of unrepentant villains who shoot deer on the Berkley estates. Oddly, I think I went to school – primary – with Charles Berkley, now Lord Berkley – who was a very nice bloke, who bowled left arm spin, whom I bullied, about which I feel regret, though it is probably misplaced  – so the book has an extra resonance. But it is a great read: really salty, and full of pungent, If not entirely credible, detail.

 

8) All time fav book / Series?

 

Hmmm. I have to admit it is the Courtney novels, by Wilbur Smith. I am not sure they would stand re-reading, but they were dynamite when I read them first and in my book 3 there is a little jink in the plot that is in direct homage to the great man himself. I am sick with envy that Giles Kristian is colluding with him, I have to say. Or Perhaps the Patrick O’Brian novels. I have not finished them, and got fed up with the endless exposition that took up increasingly large chunks of each book, and one day I’d love to be given the job of editing them. Robert Hardy reads the abridged audiobook, and that is a real pleasure on long – solo – car journeys.

 

9) If you could write any one/ or any period regardless of potential sales, what would it be?

 

I have a slight plan up my sleeve, and I want to keep it there for superstitious reasons, but if it comes off, and out, it will involve two of my current yearnings in life: sailing and carpentry. I can see that does not answer your question at all, and sounds only 50 % promising at most, but if I talk about it, I will jinx it (and the man who gave me the idea will sue).

 

Many thanks… and best of luck with this next book, it really is another brilliant read.

Parm

 

Series
Kingmaker
1. Winter Pilgrims (2014)
2. Broken Faith (2015)
Novels
The Asti Spumante Code: A Parody (2005)
The No.2 Global Detective (2006)

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