Simon Turney / Gordon Doherty : Sons of Rome (Guest Post & review)

book cover of Sons of Rome

Sons of Rome  (2020)
(The first book in the Rise of Emperors series)
A novel by Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney

Four Emperors. Two Friends. One Destiny.

As twilight descends on the 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire is but a shadow of its former self. Decades of usurping emperors, splinter kingdoms and savage wars have left the people beleaguered, the armies weary and the future uncertain. And into this chaos Emperor Diocletian steps, reforming the succession to allow for not one emperor to rule the world, but four.

Meanwhile, two boys share a chance meeting in the great city of Treverorum as Diocletian’s dream is announced to the imperial court. Throughout the years that follow, they share heartbreak and glory as that dream sours and the empire endures an era of tyranny and dread. Their lives are inextricably linked, their destinies ever-converging as they rise through Rome’s savage stations, to the zenith of empire. For Constantine and Maxentius, the purple robes beckon…

Guest Post

A Choice of Emperors
by Gordon Doherty & Simon Turney

Between 305 and 312 AD, the Western Roman Empire was dominated by two figures. The conflict between Constantine and Maxentius – and in particular their seismic battle at the Milvian Bridge in 312 – has grown over the centuries to achieve mythic proportions, and like all myths we must look beyond the obvious if we wish to discern the truth. The rivalry between the two emperors was not a religious schism, nor a personal crisis, it was simply a conflict between two men who claimed rulership over one land. That Constantine has come down through history to become arguably one of the most famous of emperors, while Maxentius has been vilified and damned by the centuries and even then to become an almost forgotten figure, is largely the work of Christian writers colouring events with their inescapable bias.

Constantine’s history before his rise to the purple is scarcely covered, with a few events and anecdotes and little in the way of confirmed motivation. Maxentius’s life, even throughout the better-recorded period during which the two emperors came to blows, is barely detailed at all except insofar as it impacts upon Constantine. So what was the history of these two men who rose to become the two most powerful figures in the West, and was there more to their conflict than the simple inevitability of power-clashes?

When Gordon and Simon first conjured up the idea of writing the tale of these two larger-than life figures, the first challenge was deciding where to begin. Well, what better place to begin than at the beginning? The child is the father of the man, after all. Thus, Simon and Gordon instigated their tale during the early years of Maxentius and Constantine, in better times, prizing open their little-known childhoods and trying to understand the humans behind the history.

What history does not tell us is whether their paths crossed in those earlier days. This was a welcome challenge for Gordon and Simon, the opportunity to debate and speculate over how the two characters might plausibly have possibly known one another in childhood and adolescence. Both were children of Rome’s leading men, so it seemed likely that they could have met at the many imperial court gatherings across the empire. The starting point seized, the story planned, Gordon and Simon were all set to begin writing. All that remained now was to each settle upon which protagonist each author would write.

Simon’s literary career thus far had been solidly built upon tales of the Roman military. As such, the action-packed life of Constantine, with his war-hero record and empire-spanning military career which propelled him to power, might seem the obvious choice. However, Simon has always had a soft spot for history’s underdogs, and the idea that Maxentius, perhaps Rome’s quintessential underdog, might be more than simply a black-and-white villain was too much to refuse. With little confirmed information about Maxentius in sources, and much of that clearly apocryphal and biased, the opportunity to create a vision of this man as he might have been was a great pull. And so Simon turned away from his usual military fare and began to explore the world of a man who was more politician and patriot than warrior and hero.

Gordon’s writing career has largely centred on the late Roman Empire and the period that led to the collapse of the West and the continuation of the ‘Byzantine’ Empire in the East. Many point to Constantine’s day as the definitive starting point for that period. But in his reading, Gordon has long been unsatisfied by the polarised opinion surrounding Constantine: he was either a saint, the thirteenth apostle who bestowed Christianity upon the world of Late Antiquity… or he was a political monster, bloodthirsty, manipulative, ambitious and determined to make the world his own. But no man is all good or all evil. This was the proverbial gauntlet for Gordon – to explore the fog in between these two extremes, to mine the scant anecdotes and scraps of evidence we have for Constantine the person and to truly understand his motivations.

Armed with their story plan, their burning enthusiasm to tell the tale of these two giants of history, Gordon and Simon set to work. The story of Constantine and Maxentius begins with ‘Sons of Rome’.

Review

What happens when two very talented and prolific authors get their heads together and come up with an idea…. The result can be pure genius.

Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty with over 56 novels between them have really become among the best individual writers in their genre, but combining their talents… that was something new and would need a huge amount of cooperation and discussion. Thankfully these two friends have meshed together their talents and voices seamlessly.

Sons of Rome is a story that grabs you from the first page, it follows both Maxentius and Constantine from childhood , through their growth to power and how they survive the perilous intrigue and back stabbing that forms the daily life in the courts of Emperors, how their personalities and Psyche were formed, how they developed into such powerful figures of history.

Both of these authors are characters writers and creators, in their various series they have a skill that breathes life into dusty history, adding flesh to these famous names is not enough, they want you to love their creations, to root for them, to become invested in them, but with diverging agendas you find yourself invested in two people who are destined to become at odds with one another, its a strange feeling. The style of one author writing Constantine and the other Maxentius and then having them staggered through the books adds a frenetic pace to the reading of this book, you cant put it down because you want to find out what Constantine did next, then how did Maxtenius react to that…. and on and on until…. suddenly the book is over and you’re left desperate to have more.

I honestly put this book as a really contender for book of the year, its a brilliant achievement, and one i encourage you all to read.

(Parm)

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Jonathan Spencer : Napoleon’s Run (Review)

Napoleon’s Run

 (2020)
(The first book in the William John Hazzard series)
A novel by Jonathan Spencer

book cover of Napoleon\'s Run

 

One man against an armada

London, 1798. Late one night, a junior naval officer at the Admiralty intercepts a coded despatch, marked with blood: Napoleon Bonaparte is about to launch the largest invasion fleet in history. Target: unknown.

England is vulnerable, bereft of allies, and the Sea Lords fear a direct assault on Britain. Admiralty Intelligence sounds the alarm and prepares to unleash Nelson and the Mediterranean squadron.

But before they can, they need vital information. They need a special officer to infiltrate by land or by sea to uncover the destination of Napoleon’s armada – a man who never stops.

Marine Lt William John Hazzard.

But will he agree to help them?

Betrayed by the Admiralty at the African Cape three years earlier, Hazzard has vowed never to trust them again. Bitter memories poisoned his return home, and his devoted fiancée Sarah, unable to bear his pain any longer, disappears in Naples – never to be seen again.

But the Admiralty knows just how to get him back.

They know where Sarah is, and her life is in danger…

Review

Its been ages since there was a new Napoleon fictional tale out, having enjoyed the likes of Bernard Cornwells Sharpe and Simon Scarrows Wellington i had high expectations.

To start with i was a little concerned, it all felt a bit to Sharpe, the grizzled veteran officer and the big Sargent, but very quickly that dissipated, and gave me a sense of Paul Collards Jack Lark, the same dark, brooding, tortured quality of character. This is no bad thing, because the Jack Lark series is one of the best Historical Action series out there for character driven plot.

Jonathan Spencer though soon started to plot his own course, a debut is always going to feel a bit like something else because we all have influences, its the mark of a new great writer when you see their own style come to life and their characters chart their own course.

Marine Lt William John Hazzard is a new name on the role call of great characters, but a worthy one, dark, brooding, full of menace, and also regret and love. A man who bucks the trend of dilettante officer in an army where rank is purchased, this is a man very much like Sharpe and Lark, a man who charts his own course, a man who shares the dangers and struggles of his men, a man with a conscience and his own moral compass. Orders are to be carried out, but not if they impinge on his own morality.

In this book we see Hazzard badly treated by the admiralty and yet despite a long convalescence from the injuries bot physical and mental he finds himself dragged back into their world of intrigue and back stabbing. His lady love is on danger and they use this to trap him, to use his passion, his moral compass and his drive to get her back safe…

Hazzard set out with a backing cast of veterans, men who have seen it all and are loyal only to their officer, the man who has sweated and bled alongside them, a man who has earned their respect, a man who they would die for, because he would die for them.

I found myself utterly engrossed in this book, its wonderfully vivid characters and explosive action, there was never a moments peace to relax and pause for breath, Hazzard goes at 100mph and never lets up in his search, not for one moment does he think of personal danger, only how he can find Sarah and save her, and you the reader are dragged along on a white knuckle adventure by his Bombay coat tails.

A fantastic Debut, a man to watch, i feel we will be seeing many more fantastic books and a definite contender for a top 5 spot in my best book of the year

Highly Recommended

‘Never give up the boat’

(Parm)

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Kenneth Cameron: Moody and the Fateful Lightning (Review)

Once a Roman soldier, the man called Moody wanders through time and space, following voices calling him for help and never understanding what drives him to obey. A few years after the end of America’s Civil War, his hot-air balloon follows a tornado into a small Southern town, seeking a woman he thinks he heard as Lulu. But Lulu turns out to be the handsome and commanding madam of a brothel in Darktown, an enclave of impoverished freed blacks across the railroad tracks from the whites-only Doobeyville. He Wants Lula, not Lulu – the disturbed daughter of “Lord” Doobey, owner of a thousand slaves – eight years after slavery was supposedly been abolished.

Moody is drawn into a world of racial injustice that makes him the object of a Ku Klux lynching after a kaleidoscopic mix of a tournament of “White Knights,” a charge of murder, a chain gang, and a surreal trial. Fighting his way free of the lynching, he confronts the slave owner in a climax that endangers Darktown itself and even his own existence.

 

Review

Self published books are always a bit of a crap shoot, except that more and more authors with a writing pedigree are embarking on this route, one of these is Kenneth Cameron a man with a fantastic writing bibliography (see below) 26 Novels is an impressive number in anyone Biblio.

Now at the impressive age of 89 Kenneth has embarked on another series about Moody, Moody is a complex character, a time travelling angel of good? a man driven to end evil? a man directed by unknown voices and compulsions?  Born at the end of the Roman occupation of Britain he became a warrior and follows his own moral compass.

In fateful Lightning Moody and his sidekick arrive in Southern mid west america, just after the Civil war, racism is still rampant, and made worse by having had to emancipate their slaves…. but emancipation is only an idea when the locals can still hold the power of life and death over the ex slave population, when they can still brutalize and abuse them, and control their every waking and sleeping moments. Moody is called by a voice asking for help arriving with his wagon full of everything he could ever need, a wagon akin to the doctors tardis, with never ending compartments. Moody must find out why he has been called, he must walk the line between the white overlords and the Black slaves, his swarthy skin seeing him truly accepted by neither.

On the surface this is a great supernatural story of good vs evil, but at its core its also a story of the evils of slavery and the horror that that life and society created. Its a story that entertains and educates, the delights and horrifies the reader in equal measure, and its one that i enjoyed more than i expected to, and left me wanting to see where Moody goes next, what adventure will call him, what wrong will need to be put right.

(Parm)

Series
Alan Craik (as  Gordon Kent)… Co written with Christian Cameron
   1. Night Trap (1998)
aka Rules of Engagement
   2. Peace Maker (2000)
   3. Top Hook (2002)
   4. Hostile Contact (2003)
   5. Force Protection (2004)
   6. Damage Control (2005)
   7. The Spoils of War (2006)
Denton
   1. The Frightened Man (2008)
   2. The Bohemian Girl (2009)
   3. The Second Woman (2010)
   4. The Haunted Martyr (2013)
   5. The Backward Boy (2013)
   6. The Past Master (2013)
   7. The Oxford Fellow (2013)
Louisa Conan Doyle Mystery
   Winter at Death’s Hotel (2012)
Novels
   Fair Game (1973) (as by George Bartram)
   A Job Abroad (1975) (as by George Bartram)
   The Aelian Fragment (1976) (as by George Bartram)
   White Peril (1977) (as by George Bartram)
   The Sunset Gun (1983) (as by George Bartram)
   Under the Freeze (1984) (as by George Bartram)
   In the Noonday Sun (1985) (as by George Bartram)
   Master of Secrets (1987) (as by George Bartram)
   The Sun Is Bleeding (1989) (as by George Bartram)
   Cauldron of Violence (2000) (as by Gordon Kent)
   The Falconer’s Tale (2007) (as by Gordon Kent)

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Theodore Brun: A Burning Sea (review)

book cover of A Burning Sea

A Burning Sea  (2020)
(The third book in the Wanderer Chronicles series)

Erlan Aurvandil has turned his back on the past and his native Northern lands, taking a perilous journey to the greatest city in the world, Constantinople. But as his voyage ends, Erlan is brutally betrayed, captured and enslaved by a powerful Byzantine general. Meanwhile, Lilla Sviggarsdottir, Queen of Svealand, has lost her husband and with him, her father’s kingdom. Her life in danger, Lilla escapes to find Erlan, the one man who can save her, following his trail to the very gates of Constantinople. But corruption infests the city, and a dark tide is rising against the Emperor from within his own court. As the shadows darken and whispers of war begin to strengthen, Erlan’s fate becomes intertwined with that of the city. Are they both doomed to fall, or can freedom be won in the blood of battle?

Review

This is a series that has intrigued me since book one, its in the main an Historical Fiction novel, but dances around some fantasy and supernatural, which is to say that in its historical period anything that cannot be explained has a supernatural/ fantasy edge, especially with the introduction of Azazel (from the book of Enoch, the demon/ fallen angel that corrupted man). Its the inclusion of this element/ character at first that made me skeptical of the book, but came for me to make the book. It added a darker hidden element to the original plot, and now in book 3 has become a driving force in Erlan’s travels and life. It is to excise this influence that he leaves and travels to Constantinople and becomes embroiled in the politics and war of a much larger world, truly a wanderer, a man haunted by so much of his past that he must keep moving, a man who is driven to be more than he is, but weighted down by so much regret for what has gone awry with his life and his perceived destiny.

To offset Erlans POV we also have Lilla’s, who herself has gone through so much to and given up so much to save her fathers kingdom, only for it to be cruelly snatched away from her again. She must chase Erlan footsteps into the unknown, following his trail to the greatest city on earth, and attempt to bring him and hopefully an army back and win her kingdom again.

This for me is easily the best book of the series, while i have enjoyed the Azazel edge to the tales, book 3 brings about its climax (or does it… never assume and author is done)… Erlans internal fight against the taint of this demon and its baresark rage sets him apart, but his fight for more, to prove he is more, that he can fight and live without the demon really makes his character stand out in book 3, we start i think to see who Hakan is and can be. The inclusion of Einar in the book is IMHO genius, he brings the needed humour to the tale that could otherwise be too dark at times, a character with indomitable courage and will, a man with an iron word who will be there to the end and beyond, and most especially with something sarcastic or funny to add.

In among all the fighting and scheming is also a love story and a story of personal discovery, Erlan has loved and lost, and in that loss he lost his identity, he lost his home, his life and how to be himself, in part he has run from so he is so he can try and escape the pain of that loss, both family and his childhood love. Nothing in his life prepared him for the pain he would feel and the desolation it would bring to his world, i think this allowed him to throw himself into what ever came next, he had tried to numb himself to mental emotion and pain, and accept the physical pain in its stead, this helped shape the warrior he has become, his fatalistic approach to all, yet some part of Hakan is always there because he still craves that friendship, and then the sunrise of Lila has slowly made him doubt Erlans existence….its this underlying plot that really gives the story its power.

All of this is against the backdrop of Constantinople on the verge of destruction, the Muslim army is at the door, traitors abound, and a new emperor must walk the tightrope of politics and war, both internally and externally. I normally shy from byzantine books, but every now and again someone manages to show me the majesty and the machinations of the time and its location and so hooks me (it helps that it includes vikings).

I find these days the speed that i read is a very good indication of my enjoyment, this is a 512 page book, a decent door stop, as all in the series have been. But i read it in the same amount of time i read my last 200 page book, its a book that engages from the first page, and throws you into the plot, i felt at times like i’d been kidnapped, stuck in the bowels of the ship or the corner of a cell to cower and endure the journey/ confinement, to feel all the trials of Erlan and just when finally we are saved from servitude and punishment i was thrust with him into the tale of backstabbing and war. its a book that thrills and exhausts at the same time (i was up until the early hours reading this, i couldn’t put it away). I’m now left lamenting the end, but rejoicing that there will be more, and i shall be prodding Mr Brun for book 4…. because i cant wait.

This book is easily going to be top 10 for the year, i highly suspect top 5.

Very highly recommended

(Parm)

 

 

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Series
Wanderer Chronicles
   1. A Mighty Dawn (2017)
   2. A Sacred Storm (2018)
   3. A Burning Sea (2020)
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Novellas
   A Winter’s Night (2018)
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Steven A Mckay: The Northern Throne (Review)

book cover of The Northern Throne

(The third book in the Warrior Druid of Britain series)

Northern Britain, AD431, Spring.
Bellicus the Druid and his friend Duro, a former Roman centurion, have already suffered a great deal in recent years but, for them, things are about to get even worse.
Britain is changing. The Romans have gone and warriors from many different places seek to fill the void the legions left behind. In the south, the Saxons’ expansion seems unstoppable despite the efforts of the warlord Arthur, while north of Hadrian’s Wall various kings and chieftains are always looking to extend their borders.
In Dun Breatann, Bellicus believes the disparate northern tribes must put aside their differences, become allies, and face the Saxon threat together, under one High King. Or High Queen…
Small-minded men don’t always look at the bigger picture though, and, when Bellicus and Duro seek to form a pact with an old enemy, events take a shocking and terrible turn that will leave the companions changed forever.
This third volume in the Warrior Druid of Britain Chronicles is packed with adventure, battles, triumph, and tears, and at the end of it a new course will be set for Bellicus.
But at what cost?

Review

I’ve enjoyed watching the growth of Steven as a writer, i’ve been lucky enough to be involved in giving him feedback on some of the books, and most of all i’ve enjoyed this latest series “Warrior Druid of Britain” where he can grow his own main character, but also make it live on the edges of of one of the greatest tales of Britain, King Arthur and Merlin. Each book of this series sees the growth of Bellicus and the formation of his friendship with Duro a former Roman Centurion. There are shades of Macro and Cato (Simon Scarrow) in their relationship, but in these tales they are pure Mckay in their telling.

This latest book sees our duo put to the their greatest test, tortured , abused and betrayed, they must survive and they must save their queen and their home and as important they must find a way to get south and help Arthur and Merlin, to fight the great Saxon threat. There are some truly harrowing moments for both our heroes and neither will be the same by books end, but blimey its a hell of a ride for the reader, one i cant wait to continue.

Every book Steven has written has seen his skill as a writer evolve and grow to the point now that he is as good as anyone in his genre, if you haven’t read his work you are now spoiled for Legends with both Robin Hood and now Arthurian Britain… and both series are an excellent read.

(Parm)

 

Series
Forest Lord
   1. Wolf’s Head (2013)
   2. The Wolf and the Raven (2014)
   3. Rise of the Wolf (2015)
   4. Blood of the Wolf (2016)
   The Prisoner (2016)
   The Escape (2017)
Warrior Druid of Britain
   1. The Druid (2018)
   2. Song of the Centurion (2019)
   3. The Northern Throne (2020)
   Over the Wall (2020)
Collections
   The Rescue And Other Tales (2017)
Novellas
   Knight of the Cross (2014)
   Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil (2015)
   The Abbey of Death (2017)
   Faces of Darkness (2019)

 

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Anthony Riches : River of Gold (Review)

book cover of River of Gold

River of Gold (2020)
(Book 11 in the Empire series)

After saving the emperor’s life in Rome, Marcus and his comrades have been sent across the sea to the wealthy, corrupt Greek metropolis of Aegyptus, Alexandria.
An unknown enemy has slaughtered the garrison of the Empire’s last outpost before its border with the mysterious kingdom of Kush. Caravans can no longer reach the crucial Red Sea port of Berenike, from which the riches of the East flow towards Rome.
The Emperor’s most trusted and most devious adviser has ordered Marcus’s commander Scaurus and his trusted officers to the south. With orders that are tantamount to a suicide mission, and with only one slim hope of success.
Can a small force of highly trained legionaries restore the Empire’s power in this remote desert no-man’s-land, when faced by the fanatical army of Kush’s iron-fisted ruler?

Review

11 Books into this series and it still feels fresh new and exciting, which is a testament to the authors skill in writing a well researched and exciting story, but most of all a story full of real and alive characters, characters who make you feel the story. Anthony Riches main skill as a writer for me has always been his characters, and when he couples that with his utter disregard for their safety you get a book and series that is always going to thrill, always going to make you turn the next page and never let you put the book down until the last page is turned.

Anthony Riches is on my very short list of authors who are a one sit read, the book needs a whole day set aside to just sit back and enjoy, because the people and the plot wont allow for anything else, wont allow you to put it down for a moment. You spend the whole book wondering which main character he will murder next, and when you find it, when that moment hits you can imagine the evil little glint in his eye, because he knows you never saw it coming. He has developed so many characters to be the “Main character” that absolutely no one is safe, and this adds a truly unique element to his series. Mixing that with his truly impressive ability to thill and entertain has created on of the best series in the genre.

I loved River of Gold because i knew nothing of Kush, and as always with this authors books he left me just enough information and education to want to go and find more about this fascinating empire and its culture. I met new characters that i feel will be back in book 12, and after an utterly thrilling roller-coaster ride full of misdirection, action, humour, sudden violence and intricate problem solving, i was left totally satisfied with the story because there is that perfect mix of completion and desire for more.

Anthony Riches remains one of my all time favourite writers, because i can read anything he writes again and again, and never lose a moments enjoyment.

I highly recommend this book and the entire series.

(Parm)

Series
Empire
   1. Wounds of Honour (2009)
   2. Arrows of Fury (2010)
   3. Fortress of Spears (2011)
   4. The Leopard Sword (2012)
   5. The Wolf’s Gold (2012)
   6. The Eagle’s Vengeance (2013)
   7. The Emperor’s Knives (2014)
   8. Thunder of the Gods (2015)
   9. Altar of Blood (2016)
   10. The Scorpion’s Strike (2019)
   11. River of Gold (2020)
Centurions
   1. Betrayal (2017)
   2. Onslaught (2017)
   3. Retribution (2018)
   Betrayal: The Raid (2017)
   Centurions: Codex Batavi (2018)

 

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Paul Fraser Collard : Fugitive (Review)

book cover of Fugitive

Roguish hero Jack Lark – soldier, leader, imposter – crosses borders once more as he pursues a brand-new adventure in Africa.

London, 1868. Jack has traded the battlefield for business, running a thriving club in the backstreets of Whitechapel. But this underworld has rules and when Jack refuses to comply, he finds himself up against the East End’s most formidable criminal – with devastating consequences.

A wanted man, Jack turns to his friend Macgregor, an ex-officer, treasure hunter and his ticket out of England. Together they join the British army on campaign across the tablelands of Abyssinia to the fortress of Magdala, a high-stakes mission to free British prisoners captured by the notorious Emperor Tewodros.

But life on the run can turn dangerous, especially in a land ravaged by war . . .

 

Review

In 2013 i was asked to review a new title called “The Scarlet Thief”, and so was born one of my new favorite characters. Jack Lark was and is a newer grittier, tougher version of Sharpe, a more fallible and broken character, and at the same time one that felt so much more real and filled with adventure.

Jack Lark has had a rough time of it under Paul Collards pen, but every story is realistic and plausible and high octane fun. More than anything Jack Larks growth as a character has been a pleasure to experience, even the toughest, darkest days, because those are the ones where you the reader dig deep to urge him on, to hope for his survival and success, and experience every nuance of the story along side him.

Fugitive in the beginning sees a more peaceful Jack, a man enjoying the fruits of his labour, but at the same time you can sense the hidden darkness, like a caged tiger placidly walking the boundaries of his cage, looking for that moment when his true nature can explode and he can once again let loose his true nature, a killer of men.

Very soon life decides once again that Jack Lark isn’t destined to enjoy a peaceful retirement. He falls foul of a local gangster and needs to leave London fast, so adventure beckons in the form of an expedition to Abyssinia and to the fortress of Magdala. His friend Macgregor, an ex-officer and treasure hunter had asked for him to join him in making a name and making themselves rich, what hadn’t appealed to Jack before has suddenly become a lifeline, and so Jack joins a group of 4 headed into the unknown . As always with Jack, danger and death will be their companions and only Jack truly has the experience to help them survive whats ahead.

After some truly dark times for Jack that started in the devils assassin, i think this book helps Jack truly come to terms with who he is, his true nature and his place in the world, where he had fought against the darkness he accepts it now, a darkness he can control, unlike the evil men of the world Jack can turn to his darkness to survive and to save others but when peace reigns again then jack can settle back again to enjoy life, or to seek out more adventure. Abyssinia see’s jack come closer to death than ever before and to come alive in a way he hasn’t for a long time.

As always Paul Collard has written a truly wonderful story, one that pulled me into Jack Larks life again from page one and didn’t let me go until i turned the last page. He is one of the very few authors that i have to set aside a whole day for, because i simply cannot put the book down. Its a day i look forward to every year, drinking some beers, and sitting back in my comfy chair so i can devour the book in a single uninterrupted sitting.

Very Highly recommended, as is the whole series.

(Parm)

Series
Jack Lark
   0.5. Rogue (2014)
   1. The Scarlet Thief (2013)
   2. The Maharajah’s General (2013)
   3. The Devil’s Assassin (2015)
   4. The Lone Warrior (2015)
   5. The Last Legionnaire (2016)
aka The Forgotten Son
   6. The True Soldier (2017)
   7. The Rebel Killer (2018)
   8. The Lost Outlaw (2019)
   9. Fugitive (2020)
   Recruit (2015)
   Redcoat (2015)

 

 

 

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Adam Croft: What lies Beneath (Review)

Adam Croft's picture

 

Adam Croft is a British author, best known for his standalone psychological thrillers and the Knight and Culverhouse series of crime thrillers.

With more than 1.5 million books sold to date, he is one of the most successful independently published authors in the world.
He’s a USA Today best-selling author, has hit the number one spot in multiple countries, and even briefly knocked J.K. Rowling off the top as most widely read author in the world.

In March 2018, Adam was conferred as an Honorary Doctor of Arts, the highest academic qualification in the UK, by the University of Bedfordshire in recognition of his achievements. Adam presents the regular crime fiction podcast Partners in Crime with fellow bestselling author Robert Daws

 

book cover of What Lies Beneath

(The first book in the Rutland crime series)

A peaceful Sunday morning in Rutland is shattered when a dead body is discovered on the rocks at Normanton Church.

The victim has been laid out in a crucifixion pose, facing the altar. DI Caroline Hills is certain there’s a religious connection — one which threatens the tranquility of life in the area.

The killer has gone to extraordinary lengths to make the symbolism clear. And the deaths will continue until Caroline and DS Dexter Antoine uncover the truth behind the dark secret — and what lies beneath.

 

Review

This is not my normal read, normally the crimes i read took place in the ancient past, or on a fantasy world, so this book was a real move to something new for me. What made me pick it up? … Well i have a little shop in the lovely town of Oakham and when talking to my lovely customers about life and hobbies we discovered that i review books and the son of one lovely couple is an author, but more than that, he was writing a crime series based in Rutland. The immediacy of the area intrigued me greatly, how would he turn the picturesque town and county into a murder scene? Add in the cover of the book with the iconic Normanton Church on the cover and i was in.

I have to be utterly honest that while reading the first quarter of the book i really didn’t like the key character, DI Caroline Hills, i was worried that for a reader she just wasn’t engaging me in a positive fashion, and as such i didn’t feel drawn to her situation as a new copper in a new area, she really did come across as the copper from the big smoke who was just a bit to arrogant, thankfully her sidekick DS Dexter Antoine was there to keep me reading, urging him on to prove the boss wrong. What i think i missed initially, is that i believe there is a deliberate ploy to have that dynamic, to integrate Caroline into the sleepier, more community focused lifestyle of Rutland as apposed to London. As someone who grew up in oxford and the surrounding Cotswold’s, but spent many many weekends in London, I can see how the character would appear more rushed, impatient, brash even, because Living in London is a different world by comparison, and people just move faster both physically and in daily interactions, and so they appear brash and rude, more impersonal.

But you do reach a point where something seems to click with DI Caroline Hills, you notice something is wrong, missing from the narrative, she is holding something back, and when it hits you will feel the emotion, the tears will be there for even the hardiest of reader, or maybe that’s me because i’ve been in her situation, wanting to hold a secret so personal to save others from worry.

The main plot driver, hunting for a killer is only part of the overall plot, because we have to get to know the area , the people and the lead character of what will be a fantastic new series. Adam Croft keeps you guessing as long as possible abut who the killer is, with misdirection and plot leads that head off on tangents, tangents mixed into DI Caroline Hills character growth, i have to say i was really impressed with the plot / character development and all the blending that happened. (although i had the murderer pegged right…. but i’ve read too many books 😉

I did also love the way the book is also a tour guide for Rutland, I’ve been here for 18 months owning a shop and learned more about the area in one book than all that time. Its made me want to get out and explore the area more, it answered my own question about Normanton Church and in a truly entertaining fashion, it beautifully portrays a county many have not heard of.

This book for me is the start of Adam Crofts version of Morse, having grown up with Morse being filmed around my youth and even nabbing some extra roles in the TV series as a kid i know it just has the same vibe. And i think it would creatively make a perfect basis for a new TV series.

Grab a copy online

Paperback

Kindle

And locally in Oakham you can also pick up a signed paperback from many of the shops, i know i will have a few on the counter soon

(Parm)

Series
Knight and Culverhouse
   1. Too Close For Comfort (2011)
   2. Guilty As Sin (2011)
   3. Jack Be Nimble (2015)
   4. Rough Justice (2015)
   5. In Too Deep (2016)
   6. In the Name of the Father (2016)
   7. With A Vengeance (2017)
   8. Dead & Buried (2018)
   9. In Plain Sight (2019)
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Kempston Hardwick Mysteries
   1. Exit Stage Left (2011)
   2. The Westerlea House Mystery (2013)
   3. Death Under the Sun (2014)
   4. The Thirteenth Room (2015)
   5. The Wrong Man (2019)
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Young Culverhouse
   1. The Rookie (2017)
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Sam Barker (with Steven Moore)
   1. Absolution (2019)
   2. Betrayal (2020)
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Rutland crime
   1. What Lies Beneath (2020)
   2. On Borrowed Time (2020)
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Novels
   Her Last Tomorrow (2015)
   Only The Truth (2017)
   In Her Image (2017)
   Tell Me I’m Wrong (2018)
   The Perfect Lie (2018)
   Closer To You (2020)
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Novellas
   Gone (2016)
   Love You To Death (2017)
   The Harder They Fall (2017)
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Non fiction
   We Need to Talk About Adam (2013)
   Tips for Writers (2013)
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Ben Kane (Lionheart) Review.

book cover of Lionheart

 

Lionheart  (2020)
(The first book in the Richard the Lionheart series)

 

1179. Henry II is King of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine. The House of Plantagenet reigns supreme.

But there is unrest in Henry’s house. Not for the first time, his family talks of rebellion.

Ferdia – an Irish nobleman taken captive during the conquest of his homeland – saves the life of Richard, the king’s son. In reward for his bravery, he is made squire to Richard, who is already a renowned warrior.

Crossing the English Channel, the two are plunged into a campaign to crush rebels in Aquitaine. The bloody battles and gruelling sieges which followed would earn Richard the legendary name of Lionheart.

But Richard’s older brother, Henry, is infuriated by his sibling’s newfound fame. Soon it becomes clear that the biggest threat to Richard’s life may not be rebel or French armies, but his own family…

(Review)

I will have to admit that when i heard Ben Kane was writing about Richard the Lionheart i groaned a little, im always going to read a book by him because he is simply an excellent writer, But…. I hate the crusades, or at least i usually find that i do, there is usually just a bit to much pious religion, knights flogging themselves and dodgy priests galore, so i tend to steer clear of them, in the same way i tend to with anything plague related, because they are just dark and grim.

With Lionheart though Ben has taken me back to his writing style of 12 years ago, taking a character from youth and growing the story around them, in this case Rufus (Ferdia), and then he lets the story resolve its-self around this character, its a style i love and always makes me very invested in a character.

The story of Rufus takes us from his time as a hostage to his families good behaviour, through the harsh times and brutality of his captivity, to his steady rise as a squire and beyond. We get to see life in a border castle, through to royal courts of europe and the battles for the provinces of Duke Richards lands and those of France and Normandy. Ben has a style and ability to remove the grandeur that can be distracting to the story and concentrate on the intimate life of his character, the world is how Rufus perceives it and gives a different lens to the times. Mixed in with his view comes that of Sir William Marshall, who allows us to see a different view, that of a Knight in the employ of the Royal Heir Henry, and thus the pair provide opposing views of the machinations of the big stage and its players.

I devoured this book in a couple of days, and at 400 pages its no small read. But the whole concept and the characters had me from the first chapter and didn’t let go, it left me desperate for the next installment of what i think will be Ben Kanes best work to date, this is easily going to sit in the top 5 for the year for me.

Very Very Highly recommend this book

(Parm)

Buy The book

Buy a signed copy

Forgotten Legion Chronicles
   1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
   2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
   3. The Road to Rome (2010)
   The March (2018)
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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
   0.5. The Shrine (2015)
   1. Eagles at War (2015)
   1.5. The Arena (2016)
   2. Hunting the Eagles (2016)
   3. Eagles in the Storm (2017)
   Eagles in the Wilderness (2019)
   Eagles in the East (2020)
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Clash of Empires
   1. Clash of Empires (2018)
   2. The Falling Sword (2019)
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Richard the Lionheart
   1. Lionheart (2020)
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Conn Iggulden: The Gates of Athens (Review)

book cover of The Gates of Athens

 

 

490 B.C.

Two great empires are about to go to war . . .

The momentous struggle between Athens and Sparta as rival powers and political systems will last for twenty-seven years (431 to 404 BC).

It will end in the fall of a dynasty.

Filled with cunning political scheming and astonishing military prowess, invasions and treacheries, plagues and slaughters, passion and power, Conn Iggulden brings to life one of the most thrilling chapters of the ancient world.

Review:

As always with Conn Iggulden he has produced a great book set against an epic backdrop of history, he has populated it with big names from history and set the scene for action and adventure in spades and he pulls it off as usual with a casual ease, and the pages fly by while you read and get drawn back in time.

But…. and this is a big but for me as i don’t think i’ve every criticized anything he has written before (and this is purely personal my feeling , not the writing), the main protagonists for me didn’t come alive. This is usually the authors bread and butter and something that he achieves with ease. Now this may be me and my own fault as a reader because i have read some truly astounding books in this period, and while i was reading this i was also reading the latest daily doses of Arimnestos by Chrstian Cameron as part of Authors without borders where i have grown with that character from his youth over 7 books . I also think that with Conn i have come to expect the characters to also grow from a youth into the great warriors/ Statesmen that he is well known and loved for writing, in this book those people are already leaders, so there felt like no emotional tie to them, that bond that is created, wasnt….I have high hopes that this will resolve in book 2 as we have followed the growth of Cimon and touched on Pericles as a youth as well.

That said thats my (very) person gripe, the book is still an astounding story, from Marathon through to the sacking of Athens its a truly amazing period of history with so much going on and so many heroic names that you can fail to be stunned by the momentous events and people, i know it will sit proudly in my book collection and i look forward to the next in this new series.

(Parm)

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Filed under Conn Iggulden, Historical Fiction