Mark Lawrence: Grey Sister (Review)

Mark Lawrence

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

Second novel in the brilliant new series from the bestselling author of PRINCE OF THORNS.

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.

All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.

As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.

And in all this only one thing is certain. There will be blood.


I LOVE this series, Mark Lawrence is one of the most exciting writers in the fantasy genre.  Yet when i started this book i worried if he could reach the heady heights of Red Sister, and for a little while at the start of the book i felt that worry coming to fruition, the book while containing the wonderfully vivid and imagined world and characters of Red sister, seemed to be just a continuation of nun training, with a little angst over the death of a friend…. I worried, what was going on? was this book two doldrums, a filler?…. but then the threads of the beginning of this book started to come together the angst and training made sense, Nona’s enemies and the church’s enemies start to coalesce, The big players in the SIS start to show their hands.

Grey Sister took flight and soared after about 50 pages, my doubts were washed away, what was left was breathless breakneck writing of the highest quality. I don’t want to drop any spoilers, so excuse some of the vagueness…. but by now some of the novices have some truly astounding abilities it would be very simple for Mark Lawrence to have them carve up whole armies, he manages to neutralise those abilities with cunning, guile and astounding twists, pitting the girls against some truly terrifying opponents, he introduces some new beings that leave you guessing all the way through and i believe we will understand more in the next book, we have a league of assassins, we have regal plots, the inquisition, the whole world teeters on the edge….. and at the center of the storm is Nona.

The last part of this book is so beguiling and breathtaking that i was actually holding my breath, the run away finale so completely absorbing that i was shattered when i had finished reading, and my copy has creases where i was gripping the book so hard.

Grey Sister better than its Red predecessor?… hell yes! I’ve never been so tired and so captivated in a fantasy book.




Broken Empire
1. Prince of Thorns (2011)
2. King of Thorns (2012)
3. Emperor of Thorns (2013)
Mark Lawrence 2-Book Bundle (omnibus) (2013)
The Complete Broken Empire Trilogy (omnibus) (2014)
The Secret (2015)
The Broken Empire (omnibus) (2016)
Road Brothers (2017)
Red Queen’s War
1. Prince of Fools (2012)
2. The Liar’s Key (2015)
3. The Wheel of Osheim (2016)
Book of the Ancestor
1. Red Sister (2017)
2. Grey Sister (2018)
During the Dance (2014)

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Ben Kane: Clash of Empires (Review)

Ben Kane

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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.

Clash of Empires  (2018)
(The first book in the Clash of Empires series)

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When a new empire rises, and old one must fall

After 16 years of bloody war against Rome, Hannibal Barca is on the verge of defeat. On the plains of Zama, Felix and his brother Antonius stand in the formidable Roman legions, ready to deliver the decisive blow. Victory will establish Rome as the pre-eminent power in the ancient world.

But in northern Greece, Philip V of Macedon is determined to restore Alexander the Great’s kingdom to its former glory. Charismatic leader, ruthless general, he will use the unforgiving might of his phalanx to unite Greece and to fend off Rome’s grasping fingers.

In Rome, young senator Flamininus is set on becoming one of the Republic’s greatest military commanders. With Hannibal on the verge of defeat, the as-yet-unconquered Macedon and Greece are ripe for conquest. Strategist and spymaster, politician and general, Flamininus will stop at nothing to bring Philip V to heel.

Demetrios slumps on the rowing bench of his Macedonian ship. Thirsty, hungry, burnt by the unforgiving Mediterranean sun, dreams are his only sustenance. Dreams of the perfect thrust of a 15-foot sarissa spear, of the unyielding phalanx wall, of the glory of Macedon.

The Roman wolf has tasted blood, and it wants more. But the sun of Macedon will not set without a final blaze of glory.


Series five begins for Ben Kane with Clash of Empires, two empires butting up against one another, one a shadow of its once greatness but still with sharp teeth, and the other an Empire on the rise, growing, determined and ravenous for conquest.

Ben Kane’s books are always an annual treat, his ability to tell a tale from each and every side in  such a personal fashion has always been the uniqueness that brings me back book after book. Clash of Empires is no different, no matter how low each of the major players can go at some point Ben Kane has you rooting for them, You find sympathy for Flamininus despite his rampant ambition, you find sympathy and root for Philip despite his ruthless streak as king. Ben also lifts the narrative up and down, showing us the heights of power and the machinations of the political climates of both worlds, and then in the next breath takes us down to the dirt where the soldiers abide, to what drives them, what makes them stand in line and die, to the camaraderie and the drive of men with nothing but each other.

Its always easy to say a book is better than the last, because its fresh, its new and both of those things drive that vision of it being better. But in the case of this book its more, its an immersive read, a total absorption into the worlds of both Greece and Rome driving you both one way then the next, splitting your loyalties, despite knowing the history it makes you hope for different outcomes, living with the soldiers of both armies and somehow wanting all to survive and both to walk away winners.

Ben Kane has tapped into a fantastic period of history, one with a rich vein of story, and he writes it so well, this will appeal to fans of both Greek and Roman history and once read they will be hooked for this series…. and his others.

A highly recommended book




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)
1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
2. Fields of Blood (2013)
3. Clouds of War (2014)
The Patrol (2013)
1. The Gladiator (2012)
2. Rebellion (2012)
Pompeii (with Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter)
A Day of Fire (2014)
Eagles of Rome
The Shrine (2015)
1. Eagles at War (2015)
2. Hunting the Eagles (2016)
3. Eagles in the Storm (2017)
Clash of Empires
1. Clash of Empires (2018)
The Arena (2016)


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Josiah Bancroft: Senlin Ascends (review)

Josiah Bancroft

Josiah Bancroft started writing novels when he was twelve and by the time he finished his first, he was an addict. Eventually, the writing of Senlin Ascends began, a fantasy adventure, not so unlike the stories that got him addicted to words in the first place. He wanted to do for others what his favourite writers had done for him: namely to pick them up and carry them to a wonderful and perilous world that is spinning very fast. If he’s done that with this book, then he’s happy.

Josiah lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sharon, and their two rabbits, Mabel and Chaplin.


Mild-mannered headmaster, Thomas Senlin prefers his adventures to be safely contained within the pages of a book. So when he loses his new bride shortly after embarking on the honeymoon of their dreams, he is ill-prepared for the trouble that follows.

To find her, Senlin must enter the Tower of Babel – a world of geniuses and tyrants, of menace and wonder, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. He must endure betrayal, assassination attempts and the long guns of a flying fortress. And if he hopes to ever see his wife again, he will have to do more than just survive . . . this quiet man of letters must become a man of action.


This book is a wonderful surprise, a steady building strong story with twisting turned imaginative design and evocative prose. I was all set to dislike this book. Its steampunk as far as i can see with all its little machines and airships, and that for me is as bad as Sci-Fi, neither genres i really like, yet there keeps popping up these amazing surprises in both generes, little nuggets of brilliance.

Writers with such a wonderful style of writing and a depth of imagination that goes beyond describing the immediate surroundings, to an immersive style that creates the world and every nuance down to the smallest item while still letting the imagination soar free, to add colour, sound and smell to the prose.

In all the journeys of Senlin there are many hints and teases dropped, often misdirection, but then looped back to later. leaving you reading but also speculating, what is the tower? why are things the way they are? what is its hierarchy? but this is backdrop and tease to the the story of a mans struggle, his search for his identity and his wife, his search to understand the tower, something he thought he knew intimately, but now knows he knew nothing.

Josiah Bancroft has created some wonderful characters and an amazing backdrop, and if you stick with the slow build of the story then you will be rewarded in spades by this book, i look forward to book 2.




1. Senlin Ascends (2013)
2. Arm of the Sphinx (2015)
3. The Hod King (2018)

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Saul David: The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders (Review)

Saul David's picture

 Saul David UK flag (1966 – )
Saul David was born in 1966 and educated at Ampleforth College and Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities. He is the author of several acclaimed history books, including Mutiny at Salerno: An Injustice Exposed (made into a BBC Timewatch documentary), The Indian Mutiny: 1857 (shortlisted for the Westminster Medal for Military Literature) and Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879 (a Waterstone’s Military History Book of the Year). He has presented and appeared in history programmes for all the major channels, including BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five. He lives in Somerset with his wife and three children.

The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders  (2018)
(The third book in the Zulu Hart series)

Buy a Signed HB

London 1888: George ‘Zulu’ Hart is the mixed-race illegitimate son of a Dublin actress and (he suspects) the Duke of Cambridge, commander-in-chief of the army. George has fought his way through wars in Africa and Afghanistan, won the VC and married his sweetheart, but he’s also a gambler, short of money and in no position to turn down the job of ‘minder’ to Prince Albert Victor, second in line to the throne.
George is to befriend the charming young cavalry officer and keep him out of trouble – no easy task, given that the Prince is a known target for Irish nationalist assassins, while his secret sexual orientation leaves him open to blackmail and scandal.
To make matters worse, the Prince is also in the habit of heading out late at night to sample the dubious pleasures of the East End.
Both outsiders in their different ways, perhaps the two men have more in common than they know, but when a series of horrible murders begins in Whitechapel, on just the nights the Prince has been there, George is drawn into an investigation which forces him to confront the unthinkable…
A brilliant standalone adventure based on detailed research, this is a thrilling novel of suspense and a fascinating new twist on the Jack the Ripper story.


I cannot believe its been 10 years since Zulu Hart was released, a book that i highly enjoyed along with its follow up Hart of Empire, Saul David brought alive the character of George Hart, the history of the time and the depth of history in each of those books, as an author he truly brought those books to life.

The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders was a wonderful surprise after a 6 year break from George Harts adventurous life, a long awaited next on the series. Its has been sometime since the last fictional novel from Saul David and i felt it in the start of this book, unlike the previous two books this one didn’t capture me immediately, or at least it wasn’t George who did, as with other books the realism of the authors portrayal of the period did, it was my previous attachment to the character that kept me totally involved and interested in him. However it didn’t take long for the author to bring George back to life, particularly with the intrigue around his past.

What follows next is a well crafted crime novel full of intrigue and misdirection, set in a period where great squalor and hardship exists, an environment where the weak can be preyed upon, an environment where Jack the Ripper roams. While George is tasked with protecting Prince Albert Victor from Fenian terrorists, he also gets drawn into the investigation for one of the most notorious killers in British history. Saul David doesn’t just then take the reader on a fanciful ride, we are treated to an accurate and plausible account of the investigation of who the ripper may have been. In doing so i defy anyone to not be hooked by the plot and enamored with the characters.

During the book the author also drops many little Easter eggs from Georges past, the gap in time that exists between Hart of Empire and this book, all of which could be potential stand alone novels or novellas, i hope this means we will see much much more of Georges past and his future, and i also hope that we don’t have to wait another six years for it because Saul David has a talent for creating the most fantastic scenery for his characters to grow into.



Zulu Hart
1. Zulu Hart (2008)
2. Hart of Empire (2010)
3. The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders (2016)
Non fiction series
First World War
1. 1914: The Outbreak of War to the Christmas Truce(2014)
2. 1915: The Battle of Dogger Bank to Gallipoli (2014)
3. 1916: Verdun to the Somme (2015)
4. 1917: Vimy Ridge to Ypres (2016)
Non fiction
Churchill’s Sacrifice of the Highland Division (1994)
Mutiny At Salerno (1995)
The Homicidal Earl (1997)
Military Blunders (1997)
Prince of Pleasure (1998)
The Indian Mutiny (2002)
Zulu (2004)
Victoria’s Wars (2006)
Great Battles (2011)
All The King’s Men (2012)
Mud and Bodies (2013)
100 Days to Victory (2013)
Fighting Times (2013) (with David Boyle, Joseph Conrad, Stephen Cooper, Richard Foreman, Richard Freeman, Rachel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, Matt Lynn, Roger Moorhouse, Marc Morris and Stuart Tootal)
The Devil’s Wind (2013)
Great Military Commanders (2013)
Operation Thunderbolt (2015)
After Dunkirk (2017)
Entebbe (2018)


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SJA Turney Caligula (review)

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Simon lives with his wife, children and dogs in rural North Yorkshire. Having spent much of his childhood visiting historic sites with his grandfather, a local photographer, Simon fell in love with the Roman heritage of the region, beginning with the world famous Hadrian’s Wall. His fascination with the ancient world snowballed from there with great interest in Egypt, Greece and Byzantium, though his focus has always been Rome. A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of country, history and architecture, Simon spends most of his rare free time travelling the world visiting historic sites, writing, researching the ancient world and reading voraciously.

Simon’s early career meandered along an arcane and eclectic path of everything from the Ministry of Agriculture to computer network management before finally settling back into the ancient world. During those varied years, Simon returned to university study to complete an honours degree in classical history through the Open University. With what spare time he had available and a rekindled love of all things Roman, he set off on an epic journey to turn Caesar’s Gallic War diaries into a novel accessible to all. The first volume of Marius’ Mules was completed in 2003 and has garnered international success, bestseller status and rave reviews, spawning numerous sequels. Marius’ Mules is still one of Simon’s core series and although Roman fiction features highly he now has Byzantine, Fantasy and Medieval series, too, as well as several collaborations and short stories in other genres.

Now, with in excess of 25 novels available and 5 awaiting release, Simon is a prolific writer, spanning genres and eras and releasing novels both independently and through renowned publishers including Canelo and Orion. Simon writes full time and is represented by MMB Creative literary agents.

Look out for Roman military novels featuring Caesar’s Gallic Wars in the form of the bestselling Marius’ Mules series, Roman thrillers in the Praetorian series, set during the troubled reign of Commodus, adventures around the 15th century Mediterranean world in the Ottoman Cycle, and a series of Historical Fantasy novels with a Roman flavour called the Tales of the Empire.


Author Web site

Caligula (The Damned Emperors)

book cover of Caligula

Everyone knows his name. Everyone thinks they know his story.

Rome 37AD. The emperor is dying. No-one knows how long he has left. The power struggle has begun.

When the ailing Tiberius thrusts Caligula’s family into the imperial succession in a bid to restore order, he will change the fate of the empire and create one of history’s most infamous tyrants, Caligula.

But was Caligula really a monster?

Forget everything you think you know. Let Livilla, Caligula’s youngest sister and confidante, tell you what really happened. How her quiet, caring brother became the most powerful man on earth.

And how, with lies, murder and betrayal, Rome was changed for ever . . .


As always full honest disclosure, Simon is an author i have known and reviewed for many years, and is someone i class as a very good friend, that said he knows if he turns out a stinker i’m going to tell him.

In Caligula i hoped for not another take on the madness and depravity of an emperor, and you know what Simon delivered, this is a very new and unique look at this emperor. Take everything you have thought and heard and read about the mad youthful emperor and sit it on a shelf, sit back and listen as Simon Turney delivers a new and highly plausible view of who and what Caligula really was and all from the view point of his younger sister.

The book starts with the innocence of youth and to some degree retains this with Livia for most of the book, a girl then woman who can see no wrong in her brother, and who is devoted to her family. Despite all the perils thrown at her, all the dangers and misfortunes, the deaths and murders in her youth her belief in her brother is unwavering, when she eventually see’s the parallels in her brother she may waver slightly in her conviction but never in her love and its this that will be her eventual downfall…. and the eventual downfall of the man himself.

Simon Turney delivers the entire story with a level of intriguing plausibility and  leaves you wondering if he isn’t just a bit more on the nose than the history books have always portrayed this emperor so loved by the people and the Legions. His writing style as always is highly engaging and draws you slowly and surely into the story until you find that the clock says 3am and you want to curse him for how you will feel at work the next day, but this is a mark of his talent as a writer, something that ranks him right up there in the pantheon of current great Historical fiction writers.

I had thought he could not surpass his ottoman series in my eyes, but he managed it with this book, a true masterpiece that leaves you questioning your opinions and views, and heading off to do some research yourself, and there is no greater accolade i think for a writer in this genre than to know he has educated and then sent you off to learn more.

I highly recommend this book


Marius’ Mules
1. The Conquest of Gaul (2009)
aka The Invasion of Gaul
2. The Belgae (2010)
3. Gallia Invicta (2011)
4. Conspiracy of Eagles (2012)
5. Hades’ Gate (2013)
6. Caesar’s Vow (2014)
7. The Great Revolt (2014)
8. Sons of Taranis (2015)
9. Pax Gallica (2016)
10. Fields of Mars (2017)
Prelude to War (2014)
Marius’ Mules Books 1-3 (omnibus) (2017)
Tales of the Empire
1. Interregnum (2009)
2. Ironroot (2010)
3. Dark Empress (2011)
4. Insurgency (2016)
5. Invasion (2017)
6. Jade Empire (2017)
Emperor’s Bane (2016)
Tales of the Empire Books 1-6 (omnibus) (2018)
Ottoman Cycle
1. The Thief’s Tale (2013)
2. The Priest’s Tale (2013)
3. The Assassin’s Tale (2014)
4. The Pasha’s Tale (2015)
1. The Great Game (2015)
2. The Price of Treason (2015)
3. Eagles of Dacia (2017)
Roman Adventure
1. Crocodile Legion (2016)
2. Pirate Legion (2017)
A Year of Ravens (2015) (with Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter and Russell Whitfield)
A Song of War (2016) (with Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton and Russell Whitfield)
Caligula (2018)
Tales of Ancient Rome (2011)
Deva Tales (2017)
Bear and the Wolf (2017) (with Ruth Downie)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, S J A Turney

John Gwynne: A Time of Dread (Extract, GIVEAWAY!!! & Review)

John Gwynne was born in Singapore while his dad was stationed there in the RAF. Up until he retired that meant a lot of traveling around, generally a move every three years or so.
He lives with his wife and four wonderful (and demanding) children in East Sussex. Also three dogs, two of which will chew anything that stands still. He has had many strange and wonderful jobs, including packing soap in a soap factory, waitering in a french restaurant in Canada, playing double bass in a rock n roll band, and lecturing at Brighton University
.I stepped out of university work due to my daughter’s disability, so now I split my time caring for her and working from home – I work with my wife rejuvenating vintage furniture, which means fixing, lifting, carrying, painting and generally doing what my wife tells me to do…

Image result for john gwynne

And somehow during this time I started writing. I’ve always told my children stories at bed-time, and they pestered long and hard for me to write some of it down. At the same time I felt that my brain was switching off a little – vintage furniture is my wife’s passion, whereas my passions are geekier!

book cover of A Time of Dread

A Time of Dread (2018) (The first book in the Blood & Bone series)

The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient enemy may not be as crushed as they thought.

In the snowbound north, Drem, a trapper, finds mutilated corpses in the forests – a sign of demonic black magic.

In the south, Riv, a young, tempestuous soldier, discovers a deadly rift within the Ben-Elim themselves.

Two individuals with two world-changing secrets. But where will they lead? And what role will Drem and Riv play in the Banished Land’s fate? Difficult choices need to be made.

In the shadows, dark forces are gathering, waiting for their time to rise. . .


He turned, looked around wildly, saw the camp in chaos,
giants and bears everywhere. Others were arriving, columns of
normal-sized warriors on foot, clad in black leather, with huge,
rectangular shields upon their arms, silver wings embossed
upon them. They spread in tight-packed lines about the camp,
surrounding everyone within it and their shields came together
with a resonating snap. Bleda glimpsed shadowed faces in silver
helms, smaller figures appearing amongst them: children, he
realized, offering water skins after a hard march. As he stared,
he saw a figure staring back at him, pale and dark-haired, a girl,
holding a water skin up to a warrior, even as she stared straight
at him.
Shadows flitted across the ground and the sound of wings
filled Bleda’s ears as the Ben-Elim swooped low. One flew
lower than the rest, great wings beating as he hovered above
Erdene and Bleda a long moment, grass and dust swirling, then
he alighted gently upon the ground. He was tall, taller than any
man Bleda had seen, his hair raven-black, wearing a coat of
bright mail and gripping a spear in his fist. Blood crusted the
spear’s blade.
‘Is this him?’ the Ben-Elim asked, eyes lingering on Bleda a
moment, then rising to Erdene.
Erdene was silent for so long that Bleda thought she would
not answer.
‘You must be strong,’ Erdene said to Bleda

Fear trickled through Bleda, then, at something in his
mother’s voice, and in the way the winged warrior had looked
at him.
He tried to master his fear, to control the prickling in his
eyes that threatened tears.
No. I am Sirak. I am son to Erdene, Lord-of-all-she-sees.
‘Good.’ The Ben-Elim stooped down and grabbed Bleda by
the collar of his tunic, hoisting him into the air. Bleda instinctively
snatched for an arrow from his quiver, nocking it to his
bow, but with a flick of his wrist the Ben-Elim slapped it from
Bleda’s grip, sent his bow falling to the ground. Bleda glared at
the Ben-Elim, expecting his mother to intervene, to protect
him, as she always had done, but she just sat upon her horse,
looking at him with her grey eyes.
‘I am Israfil, Lord Protector of the Land of the Faithful,
and you are coming with me,’ the Ben-Elim said. ‘A surety that
your mother will keep the peace once we are gone.’
‘What? Where?’ Bleda said, the Ben-Elim’s words seeping
through to him slowly, as if through water.
‘You are my ward, Bleda, and Drassil will be your new
home,’ the Ben-Elim said.
Ward. Drassil.
The words set Bleda reeling as if they were blows. Drassil
was the Ben-Elim’s fortress, far to the west.
I am to be their Ward. A prisoner, he means.
‘No,’ Bleda whispered. ‘Mother?’
A long silence, a look between Erdene and Israfil that spoke
of pride and shame, of the victor and the defeated. The fear
returned then, a chill in Bleda’s heart, seeping into his veins,
carrying a tremor to his lips.
The cold-face. Do not shame Mother. Do not shame my people.
‘It is agreed,’ Erdene said, her face a mask, only her eyes
speaking her message.
You must be strong.
‘It is the price that must be paid,’ the Ben-Elim intoned.

‘There will be peace in the Land of the Faithful. There is only
one enemy, only one foe who shall be fought: the Kadoshim
and their followers.’
‘No,’ Bleda said, both denial and refusal. He felt hot tears
bloom in his eyes, snatched at them, knowing the shame they
‘Altan and Hexa will not allow you to do this,’ Bleda said,
anger and fear twisting his voice, then there was a rushing of air
and a beating of wings as more Ben-Elim sped from the sky,
alighting around Israfil. The first was fair-haired, a long scar
running from forehead to chin. He threw something at Israfil’s
feet. They dropped with a thud, rolled in the grass and fell still.
Two heads, eyes bulging, blood still dripping.
Altan and Hexa.
The world went silent. Bleda’s vision was reduced to the
severed heads of his brother and sister. He heard something,
distantly, realized that it was him, that he was screaming, twisting
and bucking in Israfil’s grip, hands reaching to gouge the
Ben-Elim’s eyes, but Israfil held him at arm’s length until
slowly Bleda’s strength drained away, like wine from a pierced
skin. Israfil regarded Bleda with dark, emotionless eyes, then
finally shifted his gaze to the fair-haired Ben-Elim who had cast
the heads at Israfil’s feet. Although Israfil asked no questions,
did not even utter a word, the blond Ben-Elim spoke as if
answering a reprimand, his eyes dropping.
‘They would not surrender,’ he said, his feet shuffling in the
dirt. ‘They slew Remiel.’ His eyes came up, fierce and defiant,
and met Israfil’s. ‘They slew a Ben-Elim, gave me no choice.’
Israfil held his gaze a long moment, then gave a curt nod. With
a flick of his wrist he threw Bleda into the air, a giant catching
him and placing him on the saddle in front of him. Bleda found
new strength, fighting and squirming, tears blurring his vision,
but the giant held him tight.
Israfil waved his hand and then the giant was tugging on his
reins, shouting a command and the huge mountain of fur and

muscle beneath Bleda was turning, lumbering away from the
Ben-Elim and Bleda’s mother, from his kin and people, away
from everything he knew, away from Bleda’s whole world.
Towards his new home.
Towards Drassil.


John Gwynne has created a world of stunning quality, depth and complexity, this i’m sure is no surprise to anyone who has read the Faithful and the Fallen series but for someone coming in fresh, this new book can be ready as a stand alone (ok there are a few things that could be niggly mentions from the past, but i’m a purist who reads from book one) , all i can say is WOW what an amazing feast for the mind.

John Gwynne from the earliest pages weaves in his characters and plot, and subtly threads in his information drops to capture the reader and make them part of the tale, to draw them into this vividly real and highly imagined world. Like only the best writers, the author seems capable of making the fantastic utterly real and believable and thus transporting the reader right into the center of the story.

Finding a series that manages to sidestep a magic system (mainly) and yet provide a world that feels full of magic is a triumph, one i think created by the various beings that inhabit the world, there is nothing strange about creatures with wings or giants, or giant vampire bats… they all fit seamlessly into this world, a place both deadly and ruggedly beautiful, described so the scenery unfolds in the mind as you read.

I have to say i expected good when i picked up this book, i got stunningly great. Its January and i already have one book that sets the bar for the year.



Its very simple to be in with a chance to gain one of the 5 copies of this excellent book.

You get one point for every one of the following:

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each point is an entry so if you do all the above, you get 5 chances to gain a copy.

Draw to take place 21st Jan.

UK only. (Sorry)

Faithful and the Fallen
1. Malice (2012)
2. Valour (2014)
3. Ruin (2015)
4. Wrath (2016)
Faithful and the Fallen Collection 4 Books Set (omnibus)(2017)
Blood & Bone
1. A Time of Dread (2018)
Better to Live than to Die (2015)

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Filed under Fantasy, John Gwynne, Uncategorized

John Owen Theobald: A Kingdom Falls (Extract and Giveaway)

A Kingdom Falls  (2017)
(The third book in the Ravenmaster Trilogy series)

London, 1944. Britain’s capital is back in the firing line. It has been several years since the Blitz ended, but now death is dropping from the skies once more. Has the tide of war turned again?

Anna Cooper survived the Blitz but she lost her mother and the people closest to her. Amid the flames and rubble, she discovered that everything she thought she knew about her family was a lie. She learned that nobody was prepared to take an orphaned girl seriously and she decided to fight back.

Now, Anna flies warplanes for the Air Transport Auxiliary but she knows it is not enough. Hitler is ready to unleash one final terrifying secret weapon, against which there is no defence. But Anna won’t let that happen. If there is no defence, there is only one option: attack.

book cover of A Kingdom Falls


6 June 1944 

We float in silence through the night. It is the silence of the abyss.

Twenty men sit facing each other across the narrow fuselage. I turn my head away to the porthole. At first it’s an enormous wall of black, but I can just make out shapes in the light of the moon: other gliders headed to other targets, also crowded with soldiers and vehicles.

I look back at the men inside – decent blokes, most of them. D-Company, first boots on the ground. The thought hits me like a brick: Timothy Squire, one of the first soldiers in the greatest invasion ever attempted. Only a year ago, I was working as a builder down at the docks.

A voice rises up, as Bishop, one of the younger soldiers, tries a Cockney tune to mask the fear.

I don’t want to be a soldier, 

I don’t want to go to war; 

I’d rather hang around 

Piccadilly underground 

Some of the lads join in, but swiftly fall silent, and again we are soundless men, stuffed in a glider with a jeep and two anti-tank guns.

I rest my boots lightly on the plywood floor, trying not to think of what would happen if we were shot from beneath – how the whole thing would cave in and crack into pieces. I try not to think of what might happen if the tow rope snaps, and we ditch into the North Sea. I try not to think at all.

With shaking hands, I ease the buckles strapping me in. No matter what happens, I will not be belted in here to drown or burn.

I glance over at Arthur Lightwood, the other sapper and my best mate through all this, ready to make a joke, but his eyes are squeezed shut. It barely looks like him, under a camouflage helmet, his face black with stove soot. I must look the same. Not as ugly, of course.

I can’t worry about us being shot down. Just do my bit. We will land ahead of the armies, find the bridge, and disarm the bombs. I’m a sapper, I can disarm a bomb. That’s all. Then we hold the bridge until the reinforcements arrive.

A man couldn’t ask for better reinforcements. In a few hours a whole continent of British and American troops will be crossing the sea, tens of thousands of trained soldiers. The greatest bloody cavalry you could ask for.

I look back at the window. I’ve got to see something, otherwise this rolling will have me sicking up in my helmet. Clouds hide the stars, I can see only the haze of the full moon.

‘All right!’ Major Roland’s voice blasts into the stillness.

The glider is ready to be cut loose and there is no going back. A powerless glider falling to the earth. The well-defended earth.

I think again of ‘Rommel’s asparagus’ – great sharp poles erected against glider landings. Major Roland had no bright ideas about avoiding these. We’ll try not to land on them. My heart throbs in my chest.

My mind flees to happy, easy, warm thoughts. Anna Cooper on Tower Green, the ravens croaking on the battlements, Dad dusting off his beloved suits of armour. The earth unmoving under my feet.

With a great heave we are cut loose. I count – six heartbeats before gravity rushes in. Seconds have never passed so slowly. My stomach drops to my feet, but I keep my eyes on the porthole.

I can only see a broad shape, dark against the darkness, but I know what it is: the great bomber that towed us here is heading back. There goes Cecil Rafferty, swanning off back to England. Back home. His job is done, ours is about to begin.

Once Rafferty’s plane has vanished, my shoulders sag with relief.

I told him to watch out for Anna, to make sure she is safe from her father, that sneaky German who’s turned up in her life in the middle of a bleeding war. We shook hands on it, Cecil Rafferty and I. 

She’ll be safe, I know. Relief is followed by the suffocating thought that I will never see her again.

Forward motion jolts my head down. The pressure builds in my ears, pushing against my skull. We are falling, fast. No time to spare a thought for Anna or Cecil Rafferty. The dive builds, our speed growing, as we plummet into the howling darkness.

And the abyss swallows us whole.

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Filed under Historical Fiction, John Owen Theobald, Young Adult