Monthly Archives: March 2012

Anthony Riches: Competition

Competition is to win a signed 1st Numbered Hardback limited edition of Arrows of Fury

Anthony Riches Following a childhood which featured a deep interest in the military rooted in my father and grandfather’s service in the two world wars, I took a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. Working for a succession of blue chip companies over the next twenty five years, I gravitated into business systems and change project management, and I’ve worked as a freelance project manager in the UK and Europe, the USA, the Middle and Far East over the last decade.
Over the same period I’ve gradually refined my ability to write fiction, initially for my own entertainment but more recently with the serious aim of achieving my debut publication. The manuscript of Wounds of Honour eked out a precarious ten year existence on a succession of computer hard drives and memory sticks until a life changing encounter in Belfast energised me to rewrite the manuscript and seek publication. Thanks Gerry!
I’ve been married to Helen, our family’s only true adult for 25 years now, and we live in Hertfordshire with our three children. I’m a confirmed petrol head, and I spend my spare time listening to music, reading (mainly on planes going to and coming back from work) and surfing internet car reviews with a purposeful glint in my eye.

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)
Wounds of Honour
The first book in the Empire series (2009)
Marcus Valerius Aquila has scarcely landed in Britannia when he has to run for his life – condemned to dishonorable death by power-crazed Emperor Commodus. The plan is to take a new name, serve in an obscure regiment on Hadrian’s Wall and lie low until he can hope for justice. Then a rebel army sweeps down from the wastes north of the Wall, and Marcus has to prove he’s hard enough to lead a century in the front line of a brutal, violent war.
Arrows of Fury
The second book in the Empire series (2010)
The Battle of the Lost Eagle saved Hadrian’s Wall, but the new Roman governor of Britannia must stamp out the rebellion of the northern tribes or risk losing the province. Rampaging south with sword and flame under the command of their murderous chieftain Calgus, they have stretched his forces to the limit. For Marcus – now simply Centurion Corvus of the 1st Tungrian cohort – the campaign has become doubly dangerous. As reinforcements flood into Britannia he is surrounded by new officers with no reason to protect him from the emperor’s henchmen. Death could result from a careless word as easily as from an enemy spear Worse, one of them is close on his heels. While Marcus is training two centuries of Syrian archers to survive a barbarian charge and then take the fight back to their enemy, the new prefect of the 2nd Tungrians has discovered his secret. Only a miracle can save Marcus and the men who protect him from disgrace and death …Anthony Riches once again brings meticulous research together with brilliant storytelling to capture the authentic feel of what life was like for the Roman Army in a brutal war with a remorseless enemy.
Review I stumbled across Anthony’s first book last year and being a fan of various series like Simon Scarrows eagle’s books, Christian Cameron Tyrant series and Conn Igguldens Genghis Series, my first thought was “excellent, another series to read” . Im a fast reader and always after something new.
BUT…would it be any good?
I didn’t need to worry book one Wounds of Honour and this sequel Arrows of Fury are excellent, a true example of how this genre should be written, full of action, pace, drama and twists. Couple that with brilliant characters that literally leap off the page, and you have books that you cannot put down.
I devoured book two in a single sitting and then went back and re-read it and enjoyed it more the second time, the true mark of a great book and writer is the ability to re-read their work and still enjoy it to find new parts to appreciate with every read.
I would recommend this book to anyone, you don’t have to be a fan of historical fiction, you could be a fan of any Genre and still enjoy this book, its that good.
Book three cannot come soon enough for me…..So crack on Anthony!!
Fortress of Spears

The battle for Hadrian’s Wall has been won but the enemy is not destroyed. Calgus, the rebel war leader, has retreated deep into his people’s northern territory. The new Roman leader makes an audacious plan to take the legions – and more important, the cavalry – north to their strongholds. Marcus Aquila, disguised as Centurion Corvus, is caught up in the campaign even though it will mean constant danger of being discovered by his family’s enemies. His protectors, though, are powerful . . .
This is a bitter sweet book for me, the third and last in the current crop of books about our hero Marcus Aquila. Anthony for me has a way of looking at the Roman world that very few other historical authors manage, its a real soldiers view point using language that feels authentic / real and when you combine that with the setting along Hadrian’s wall and beyond, a location that Anthony walked recently for charity the book just drips with authenticity and originality, when he talks about a soldiers blisters they could be his own he is describing, they are that real, and the whole book has that sense of realism.
As usual the plot of the story races along, the plot is plit between the rebel alliance story, The Roman Troops chasing them down and the agents from Rome hell bent on capturping Marcus all of which adds a tense dramatic edge to the plot over and above the previous two. I think its the introduction of some truly nasty bad guys in the form of Rapax and Tiberius Varius Excingus who really add some spice to the story and that extra tense gritty edge. Anthony Riches has truly cemented his place amongst the elite of the historical fiction authors writing today, and i wait with bated breath to see what he will write next.

Leopard Sword

The Empire series begins a new era–Marcus has fled from Britannia, but the emperor’s henchmen are still on his trail
Britannia has been subdued–and the murderous Roman agents who nearly captured Marcus Valerius Aquila, alias Corvus, have been defeated by his friends. But in order to protect those very friends from the wrath of the emperor, Marcus must leave the province which has been giving him shelter. He travels to the Tungrian auxiliary legion’s headquarters in northern Gaul where a different kind of war and very different dangers await him.

Click to visit authors web site : where he is also holding a competition to win a signed copy of his new book

So the competition:

1 In 2010 Tony did a charity walk: Where? and for what charity?

2 What is the name of his publisher?

3 Tony has an author quote on his web site, from which author?

4 What is the name of Tonys Agent?

5 Have you purchased your copy yet?

All entries to



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Angus Donald : Competition

(Keep reading for competition details)

Angus Donald was born in 1965 and educated at Marlborough College and Edinburgh University. He has worked as a fruit-picker in Greece, a waiter in New York and as an anthropologist studying magic and witchcraft in Indonesia. For the past 15 years, he has been a journalist in Hong Kong, India, Afghanistan and London. He is married to Mary, with whom he has a baby daughter, and he now writes full time from home in Tonbridge, Kent.
The Books
Outlaw Chronicles

1. Outlaw (2009)

2. Holy Warrior (2010)

3. King’s Man (2011)

4. Warlord (2012)


When he’s caught stealing, young Alan Dale is forced to leave his family and go to live with a notorious band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest. Their leader is the infamous Robin Hood. A tough, bloodthirsty warrior, Robin is more feared than any man in the county. And he becomes a mentor for Alan; with his fellow outlaws, Robin teaches Alan how to fight – and how to win. But Robin is a ruthless man – and although he is Alan’s protector, if Alan displeases him, he could also just as easily become his murderer…From bloody battles to riotous feast days to marauding packs of wolves, Outlaw is a gripping, action-packed historical thriller that delves deep into the fascinating legend of Robin Hood.
I have always been a fan of Robin Hood, i suppose it has something to do with being named after him and then eventually ending up living in the back yard of the exploits of the Man/ Myth.
When this series started it was with a part groan part apprehension that i picked it up, so many times i have read the tale and its been awful prancing Nancy’s in tights, and then there are the movies, inc the recent Russell “where the hell is that accent from” Crowe version.
But All of that gets thrown to the wind with Angus Donald’s books, this is a different Robin Hood, this is a man who protects the poor, but at a price, this is a Robin Hood where there is still mystery and Awe, but also fear, in the same way that Pacino gave mystery and Awe to Michael Corleone and he was still feared.
Angus Donald’s writing its self is excellent, tight, fast paced, descriptive without drowning in it and detracting from the plot, and the pace so well set you have finished the book before you know it.
This is a book as with the whole series you simply must buy: Its An offer you can’t refuse.
Highly recommended

Holy Warrior

King Richard the Lionheart has been crowned, and his loyal subject Robin Hood is preparing an army to take on the Third Crusade with Richard’s forces to free the Holy Land from the grip of Saladin and his victorious Saracen army.In Sicily, en route to the Holy Land, the crusaders sack the town of Messina and Alan rescues and then falls in love with a beautiful Muslim slave-girl. But someone is trying to assassinate Robin – possibly the duo’s old enemy Sir Richard Malbisse, who joins King Richard’s army in Sicily and very soon has the royal ear as a favoured courtier.As Alan and Robin fight their way through the conquest of Cyprus, the siege of Acre and the climatic carnage of the battle of Arsuf near modern-day Tel Aviv, Alan discovers that Robin’s motive for coming to the Holy Land is not as honourable as he had imagined.
I have always been a fan of Robin Hood, i suppose it has something to do with being named after him and then eventually ending up living in the back yard of the exploits of the Man/ Myth.
When this series started it was with a part groan part apprehension that i picked it up, so many times i have read the tale and its been awful prancing Nancy’s in tights, and then there are the movies, inc the recent Russell “where the hell is that accent from” Crowe version.
But All of that gets thrown to the wind with Angus Donald’s books, this is a different Robin Hood, this is a man who protects the poor, but at a price, this is a Robin Hood where there is still mystery and Awe, but also fear, in the same way that Pacino gave mystery and Awe to Michael Corleone and he was still feared.
Angus Donald’s writing its self is excellent, tight, fast paced, descriptive without drowning in it and detracting from the plot, and the pace so well set you have finished the book before you know it.
This is a book along with the whole series you simply must buy: Its An offer you can’t refuse.
Highly recommended

The Kings Man

Returning from the Crusades, King Richard is captured and held for ransom. As his evil brother John schemes to keep the king imprisoned forever, Robin Hood and his band of wily outlaws cut a bloody swathe through England in an effort to free him. But a traitor lurks within Robin’s camp, and the battle is far from won…
Review I have always been a fan of Robin Hood, i suppose it has something to do with being named after him and then eventually ending up living in the back yard of the exploits of the Man/ Myth.
When this series started it was with a part groan part apprehension that i picked it up, so many times i have read the tale and its been awful prancing Nancy’s in tights, and then there are the movies, inc the recent Russell “where the hell is that accent from” Crowe version.
But All of that gets thrown to the wind with Angus Donald’s books, this is a different Robin Hood, this is a man who protects the poor, but at a price, this is a Robin Hood where there is still mystery and Awe, but also fear, in the same way that Pacino gave mystery and Awe to Michael Corleone and he was still feared.
Angus Donald’s writing its self is excellent, tight, fast paced, descriptive without drowning in it and detracting from the plot, and the pace so well set you have finished the book before you know it.
This is a book you simply must buy: Its An offer you can’t refuse.
Highly recommended


Click the above link to visit the authors web site

So the competition:

The Prize: an exclusive signed limited edition paperback of Outlaw.

The Questions:

1 Robin makes his first appearance in  English literature in what form? written by whom?

2 When did Richard the Lionheart take the cross? (year and month)

3 When is the fourth book in the series due to be published and by which publisher?

4 Have you ordered your copy?

Entries to :

The winner will be the person with the highest score and in the case of a tie first name out of the hat.

More great reviews from Kate:

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Writers: Thank you.

Writers & Reviewers

I thought today that i would sit and write about something very very close to my heart. Books.

I think a lot of people who truly love reading and books can usually point to where it started. For me it all began with David Gemmell and Legend, but didn’t really fire my imagination until Lion of Macedon, maybe not the best story ever written and maybe not the best writing by Gemmell, but a story that hit every right note with me, with characters, places, language and history.

I loved that book so much that it reignited my passion for history, something my school history teacher had done his best to murder, and bury beyond all hope of resurrection with things like the corn law and toll puddle martyrs.

I was soon devouring every book i could find, and at the time my main genreof choice was Fantasy.

Fantasy led me to meet many great people, David Gemmell, Stan Nichols, James Barclay, Raymond Fiest, Gerorge R Martin and many others. Of this group I’m still struck today by a man who affected my life in so many ways, David Gemmell.

David Gemmell was a man of such presence he could effect those around him with just a few words. I first met David via email when out of the blue I received an email thanking me for all the hard work I had put in selling his books, and raising the profile and value of the books (signed).

At first I of course thought it was someone taking the Michael, but he gave me his agents number to verify it was him, he sent me a letter as well and we discussed my favourite books, where i had got the name Parmenion Books and many other subjects. The main i found with him was that he never judged never pushed an opinion, he just listened and even helped me resolve a couple of issues myself.

When I heard about his heart attack and then death I have to say it was one of the most shocking days of my life, I shed a tear for a great man. And still to this day I have not been able to finish the last book in the Troy series, I’m saving it, I will reread the whole series at some point when I can give the series the time and attention it deserves.

David Gemmell’s death also led me to stop reading fantasy, I was already drifting away towards Historical fiction, but after his passing fantasy seemed to become repetitive.

Historical fiction became my new love and led me to meeting so many people in life. Simon Scarrow and Alex Scarrow, who I’m lucky enough to call friends. Alex even when he doesn’t know it makes me stop and think about what I could and can do and to not just accept what I am, but don’t tell him he inspires me he might get all bashful about it  😉

Simon and his Macro and Cato series  gave me a new love of history, and Simon is the History Teacher that every person wants for their kid, I have never met someone so infectiously passionate about history or with such an ability to pass that excitement on.

The pair of them have given me a love of not only reading but also writing, the method of writing, and the publishing industry, they did me the huge honour of  adding me as a character in their books (Lt Robin Carter in Last Light & Centurion Parmenion in Eagle in the Sand and Centurion ) They have included me in the writing process as a test reader and Alex has asked my opinions while writing the some of his books. All of this for me has been unexpected but as close as i might get to actually writing. Im not sure they will ever appreciate how much it has meant to me, as has their friendship.

The confidence this gives is priceless, the trust is amazing. My only regret is that its too far along in life to get into the publishing industry and start at the bottom. But still they encourage my faint desire to write and maybe one day i will do them proud.

To those two great guys I also add a man who is in my opinion the best writer around and someone who I can also call a friend, Christian Cameron. A man who has re ignited my love of things Greek (Alexander era) but someone who reminds me so much of David Gemmell with his warm inclusive approach and his infectious passion for his subject matter, and how much he actually puts into the process.

Along with these two guys I have met so many others who have become important for their books, and also for their friendship their encouragement and for becoming part of my everyday life.

I could name you all but im scared of missing someone and you are all to important for that, those on twitter and at the HWA and the forums know who you are. Those from the publishers who trust me with proofs and provide those advance copies, thank you, you indulge my passion  and I’m glad I can give back with my reviews.

And what led to this love in?

Today I took possession of a and original piece of art work from one of those early books that ignited my passion, unfortunately not Lion of Macedon, but the next best thing Dark Prince.

So here I share my fortune…and also I say THANK YOU to all you writer and publishers and artists, you make my life better and more fun and inspire me to do more.

And the artist was nice enough to also send me a print of Lion of Macedon

So in conclusion go buy more books, get others to buy books, because we are fortunate to have these great people in our lives.


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Sean Thomas Russell : A Ship of War

Who is the Author
Sean Russell was born 1952 in Toronto. At the age of three his family moved to the outskirts of the city, where they lived in a cottage at the beach of Lake Ontario. At the age of ten he decided to become an author, and the fantasy genre caught him years later, while reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. After university, he moved to Vancouver, and two years later to Vancouver Island, where he still lives with his family. He published his first novel in 1991. His first historical naval novel Under Enemy Colours, published in 2007, introduced a new Royal Navy hero, Charles Hayden, and HMS Themis, a fictitious frigate.

Adventures of Charles Hayden

1. Under Enemy Colors (2007)

2. A Battle Won (2010)

3. A Ship of War (2012)


A Ship of War : Product Description (From Back of Book)
1794, the height of the French Revolution.
Charles Hayden sets off aboard the ill-fated HMS Themis with orders to destroy a French frigate sailing from Le Havre and to gather intelligence from a royalist spy. On discovering French plans for an imminent invasion of England , Hayden must return to Portsmouth to give warning before it’s too late.
But the enemy have been lying in wait for him, and so begins a dangerous chase out into the Atlantic and into the clutches of a powerful French squadron. After a failed attempt to masquerade as French sailors, Hayden and his officers are taken prisoner. A shipwreck following a storm and a case of mistaken identity befall Hayden and his men as they try in desperation to escape in order to warn the Lords of the Admiralty. Failure will mean the invasion of England – and the guillotine for Hayden.

I have to admit I looked for ward to this read, having read Under Enemy Colours and A Battle Won I already knew that Sean Thomas Russell could write, what I was more surprised about (again) was the differing nature of the stories with the story, this truly was a multi layered book. Normally you will have plots and sub plots in a book, and you will have threads that pull together at points in the book like fine stitching, and this book in most respects was the same, and yet different. On the one hand you have the blistering action, the harsh reality of nature on the high seas and the comradeship of those on board ship, and yet on the other you have Henrietta and her family, the family and social dynamic of the period, and the love, betrayal and formality of her relationship with Hayden, at times they feel like different worlds and different stories.
Without giving any plot away I have to say that the scenes written around the ship wreck are among the most harrowing I have read, giving the reader a real sense of the danger, the fear, the heroics, the cold and the power of nature, truly a great section of the book.
I had thought that Julian Stockwin was the Master of this part of the Historical fiction genre, but I’m revisiting that opinion after this book, it seems he has some serious competition.
I very much recommend this book, it not all balls out action, it has heart, soul and passion as well as action, danger and heroics.


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Robert Low : The Lion at Bay


So who is Robert Low (in his own words)

I am the wrong side of older and I have been a journalist and writer since the age of 17.

At 19, I went to Vietnam on spec to try and cover the war in the firm belief that I could not be any sort of writer until, as Hemingway put it, I had been as drunk as could be, suffered a broken heart and experienced war. Naturally at 19, I believed I had the first two under my belt and just needed the third. After 18 months of it, I swore I would never do anything as stupid ever again.

Since then, I have earned a living as a writer safely in Scotland, with occasional lapses of judgement taking me to Sarajevo, Romania Albania and Kosovo, in a desperate attempt to salve my conscience and prove that I am, still, a real journalist and not a tabloid nithing. Happily, there I found enough wannabes with too much sense to risk themselves who’d hire me to do their job for them.

Then, to satisfy a craving for action and couple it to an obsession with ancient warfare, I took up riding, taught myself horse archery and, latterly – having moved to an area rich in Viking tradition – took up re-enactment, joining The Vikings group. I still turn out with sword and shield, in a variety of guises from Norse trader to Pictish chieftain to wise and ancient Hospitaller.

The Oathsworn Series began in 2007 and runs to four titles: The Whale Road, The Wolf Sea, The White Raven and The Prow Beast, all available from HarperCollins

The Kingdom Series, which I am writing now, deals with the Scottish Wars of Independence – the era of Wallace, Bruce and Edward Longshanks. It has begun with the publication of The Lion Wakes and continues with……

Review: The Lion at Bay

As with book one im left speechless by the excellent writing of Robert Low, his obvious passion and love of the subject matter come across in ever page and every character, im quite jealous of the fact that he has obviously spent the last couple of years doing something he loves for a living, it must have almost seemed effortless.. (git).
The bit i have at the start and im sure other reader might struggle with is the Scottish “brogue”, i found a similar experience with Julain Stockwins Kydd series, but if you give yourself over to it you find that you can make that mental switch and soon you find yourself thinking in the same “brogue” just for fun…or maybe that’s just me? As Lows books go and his character go i still think the Oathsworn is his best work, but the Bruce series is so well written and the plot so well constructed that it will be hard for any one to not love it. Yes there are some Historical tweaks, but that’s par for the course, this is FICTION, not a text book, and the flow is more important at times than the facts. As long as the story transports you to the time, and the period costume is right and the description of the locations is spot on so that you are not sat at home reading a book, you are there in the thick of it at the shoulder of the hero & villains, then that’s a good book…and thats just what this book does.
Excellent work Mr Low.
Highly Recommended (Parm)
Product Description (From back of book) A NATION WILL FIGHT FOR ITS FREEDOM.
Scotland in turmoil. Robert Low at his best.
William Wallace fled to France after his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk, which ended his rebellion against the English King. He would have been slain at Falkirk but for the courage of Hal of Herdmanston, whose home was razed in reprisal by King Edward – but who has become a follower of the Earl of Carrick, known as the Bruce, now a friend of the English.
The Bruce is playing a dangerous game in submitting to Edward since his own ambition, fostered by his auld reprobate grandfather, is to be the King of Scotland. But bitter rivalry amongst the Scots nobility is as grave an obstacle to its independence as the forces of the English Edward Longshanks, and the Bruce has powerful rivals.
Wallace has returned home, though he still faces betrayal from his own. His loyalty is to the previous king, John Baliol, a prisoner of the Pope. Knights Templar, Cathar heretics, and a Curse laid on the Bruce’s family all conspire against Robert, as well as Edward’s forces. Murder and treachery will be crucial weapons in the long and bloody rise of the Bruce to his coronation.

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Kenneth Cameron :- Winter at Deaths Hotel

Kenneth Cameron is the author or co-author of more than thirty books, including historical novels and novels of espionage, a critical history of the African safari, and an award-winning analysis of films about Africa. He lives most of the year in the woods of New York State’s Adirondacks.

Winter at Deaths Hotel (From back of book)
New York, January 1896. Arthur Conan Doyle, the renowned creator of Sherlock Holmes, arrives at the Britannic Hotel with his wife, Louisa, ready to begin his first American tour. While he prepares his lectures, Louisa becomes mesmerised by this brash, vibrant, dangerous city, especially when a woman’s brutally butchered corpse is found in a Bowery alley and Louisa is convinced from the artist’s sketch in the paper that she’d seen the victim at the hotel. Arthur is patronisingly sceptical about her womanly ‘fantasies’ but when she sprains her ankle and is forced to remain at the hotel while Arthur goes on tour, Louisa cannot resist pursuing her intuitions. And when more bodies start appearing, she’s convinced that she holds the key to the killings. With the help of the hotel’s hard-bitten detective and an ambitious female news reporter, Louisa starts to piece together a story of madness, murder and depravity – a story that leads inexorably back to the hotel itself, the strange story of its unique construction and a madman who is watching her every move.
When i first got my hands on this book (as usual i avoided a book synopsis) i had caught a glimpse of the words Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle, i felt sure i was in for a book on Holmes and Doyle maybe similar to the Sherlockian, only with Kenneth Cameron’s brilliant attention to detail and ability to transport the reader to the late 1890’s.
But to my utter reader horror it wasn’t, it was about his wife, a man writing from the perspective of a woman, it never works, men just know how to write from a woman’s perspective and it always shows, or at least in any book i have read, so 2 chapters in i was worried, but as i read on it became obvious that Kenneth could not only write from that perspective, but could also write as a woman from 1896, it was stunning to read, the book could have carried on about knitting patterns it was so well written in that style.
It didn’t what it did do was take me on a tour of old new york, a new york being born into the great city it is now, riddled with corruption but with a Teddy Roosevelt at the start of his Civil career, we learn how hard it is for a woman in what is the Mans world of 1896, even an American world with all its extra freedom from european traditional decorum and manners that hinders any thought of breaking out of the “little woman” model, we see some of the fight for womens rights and the 2nd class status a wife could be treated with.
If i had to sum this book up it would be: This is not a book in a genre i would normally buy, and not normally a style i would buy, i don’t like horrific crime books. But if this is an example of the books in this genre then i need to find more. I fear its not a standard example. This is an example of just how well Kenneth Cameron writes, I have seen as much in “The Frightened Man”, “The Second Woman” & “The Bohemian Girl” three books in the simply brilliantly written Denton Series.
Would i recommend this book? without the slightest doubt and very highly recommended at that.

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The Last Caesar: Henry Venmore- Rowland: Published 21st June

So who is Henry Venmore-Rowland?

Henry Venmore-Rowland was born and bred in rural Suffolk. Aside from the occasional family holiday, often to Italy, his only escape from school and village life was in the pages of historical fiction. His fascination with military and political history, the kings and battles approach, somehow got him into Oxford to read Ancient & Modern History at St. John’s College. After dedicating so much time to reading grand tales of epic wars and political intrigue, trying his hand at writing such a story was always inevitable. The Last Caesar is his first novel. He lives in Suffolk.

BUY the book:

Only £7.01

Or buy a signed copy


And what is “The Last Caesar” about?

AD 68. The tyrant emperor Nero has no son and no heir. Suddenly there’s the very real possibility that Rome might become a republic once more. But the ambitions of a few are about to bring corruption, chaos and untold bloodshed to the many. Among them is a hero of the campaign against Boudicca, Aulus Caecina Severus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar’s dynasty, he commits treason, raises a rebellion, faces torture and intrigue – all supposedly for the good of Rome. The boundary between the good of Rome and self preservation is far from clear, and keeping to the dangerous path he’s chosen requires all Severus’ skills as a cunning soldier and increasingly deft politician. And so Severus looks back on the dark and dangerous time history knows as the Year of the Four Emperors, and the part he played – for good or ill – in plunging the mighty Roman empire into anarchy and civil war…

Review of the book:

This is a book I had been eagerly awaiting for, for a few months. The story is set in AD68 leading into AD69 the year of 4 Emperors an era the more you look at it the more amazed I am that it has not been written about. ” The Year of the Four Emperors was a year in the history of the Roman Empire, AD 69, in which four emperors ruled in a remarkable succession. These four emperors were Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian.” When ever you get a debut author there is always some trepidation in the purchase. Is this person good enough for my money, how does he stack up against the giants of the genre? is he the next Christian Cameron, Conn Iggulden, Ben Kane, Anthony Riches, Simon Scarrow, Douglas Jackson etc? All authors at the top of their game, but with unique differing styles. So how did Henry do?

I will admit that at first I was worried, the style is very modern, there are no pretences to Latin vernacular in the book, this is very much told for a modern audience by a modern writer, and I know this is going to jar with a section of the historical fiction buyers market.


The book quickly picks up its pace and the characters hit their stride very very fast. Its clear that the author knows his Romans and knows his locations. What you have to apply to the book is who wrote it, The author is 21, and wrote the majority at the age of 19, the list of established authors above are *cough* a little older *cough*. The age difference is apparent in the writing because this book is chock full of enthusiasm, a sort of breathless excitement at the subject and the era, and it soon comes across to the reader and sweeps you along with the plot.

I found Caecina not only a likeable main character but someone who I could personally relate too, Totavalas the slave, a character that I think will really come to the fore in the next book, I just wish he had been a little more in the slave mold, I don’t think he would have lasted long with many masters with his sardonic cocky attitude, but you have to accept these character types as part of the enthusiastic pace of the book and the writing slant of Henry Venmore-Rowland.

Is there some innocent naivety to the writing? Yes for me there was, but a naivety of the market its being sold to.  This genre is littered with people who will crucify an author for the cover art (usually they have little input into the cover, this article from Gollancz gives some very interesting insight into the cover process ) , they will also simply throw their arms in the air in mock / feigned and sometimes real disgust at the wrong buttons on a jacket, or a pilum being called a spear etc. Its a shame that so many readers cannot see the joy in a story well told with enthusiasm.

Henry’s writing will age and change and improve, how could it not, this is a person aged 21 at the start of a great and I hope long writing journey. Think on this, how many of the great authors named earlier were published at such a young age? None, and their books get better and better as they spend time in the writing world, learning from the editor and the fans and their peers, and become more widely traveled and life experienced, I’m a big believer in the ” A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts”: King James bible, the more we age the deeper and more rounded the thoughts.

This book and the writing style is fresh, it felt like a blending of Historical Fiction and Action Thriller, both genres I love to read. It is one of those books that gives you hope in the future of the genre, if the publishing world can keep discovering talent like this then we shall never lack for great books and great stories.

So the big question, Do I recommend this book, should you part with your hard earned cash?

Yes, very much recommended, We need to support new talent and as readers review and feedback and help this great talent grow, do our part as the reader, and I’m sure the author and the publisher will do theirs and give us many more fantastic reads, especially from Henry.



Filed under Historical Fiction