Transworld Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Transworld Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

http://www.historytellers.co.uk/blog/?p=477

Love reading?

Love historical fiction?

Love free hardbacks?

Then this challenge is for you…

All you have to do is pick four titles out of this amazing collection of hardbacks that you would like to read and contact Elizabeth Swain either via email e.swain@transworld-publishers.co.uk or on twitter @EKSwain

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

When she has your four selections, she will send you the first of your choices and once a review has been posted, she will send you the second and so on.

So send over the following to her if you would like to participate:

  • Your name
  • Blog URL & details (if you have one)
  • Twitter handle (if you have one)
  •  Top four books of choice (please note the publication dates of each title in brackets as there may be a little wait for your book to arrive)

Do let her know when your reviews are up so she can let the author’s know and if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

(Thanks, Elizabeth)

READING CHALLENGE ENDS ON 31ST JULY

So far in my own bash at the challenge i have read and reviewed the below:

(so dont miss out, this is a great chance to read some fantastic books and say how much you love them)

The Bleeding Land : Gile Kristian

England 1642: a nation divided. England is at war with itself. King Charles and Parliament each gather soldiers to their banners. Across the land men prepare to fight for their religious and political ideals. Civil war has begun. A family ripped asunder. The Rivers are landed gentry, and tradition dictates that their allegiance is to the King. Sir Francis’ loyalty to the crown and his desire to protect his family will test them all. As the men march to war, so the women are left to defend their home against a ruthless enemy. Just as Edmund, the eldest of Sir Francis’ sons, will do his duty, so his brother Tom will turn his back on all he once believed in… A war that will change everything. From the raising of the King’s Standard at Nottingham to the butchery and blood of Edgehill, Edmund and Tom Rivers will each learn of honour, sacrifice, hatred and betrayal as they follow their chosen paths through this most savage of wars.

Review

The Bleeding Land

The Bleeding Land by Giles Krisitan is very different from his previous series the Raven. This book may be set at the outset of a bloody and violent Civil War and have Raven fans slavering for blood, but the book is very much about family, familial bonds and how they become tested strained and broken by War (especially Civil War). ….dont worry there are battles.

There are some great insights into the relationships between the Brothers Tom and Mun and also the strain that exists in any time period between a father and his sons who are bordering adulthood, and asserting their opinions and thoughts over the opinions and thoughts of the man who has guided them to maturity. Add in the devoted sister and the strength of the mother, who is the backbone of every family, especially in a time of War when she has to run and guide the family and this alone is a tale well worth reading.

But that is only a single facet of the Bleeding Land, because as the title suggests, religion and politics are tearing the land apart and so into this normal family mix you can throw 17th Century life, society/ hierarchy, politics and family dynamics, and a country tearing itself apart over Monarchist power v Parliament, religion and as some might see it a popular uprising (English Revolution).

In this tumultuous backdrop Giles introduces us to and weaves us into the lives of the Rivers in such a way that you feel part of the family, the hurts the trials the passions, the success and the failures they belong to you the reader as much as the characters. I have read quite a few civil war titles and the only one before now not to bore me was Plague Child by Peter Ransley. Both that title and this one took the civil war to a new place for me, removed it from the boring drone of a History teacher who hated the subject, and who’s voice had stuck with me for anything to do with that period, to something new exciting, something relevant to me my family and my history and something i want to learn about.

Any book and writer that can achieve the above for me has a huge success on the cards, i just wish that Giles was up to 2 books a year, the thought of an entire year before the next in the series is a hard pill to swallow.

I highly recommend this book, for writing skill, story telling and because its so different in style from the Brilliant Raven series, and yet also a Brilliant read, not many authors can pull off a change in period and style and do it so well. A rare talent.

The Last Caesar: Henry Venmore-Rowland

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.

BUT:

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 http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2012/03/empire-of-the-saviours-cover-reveal-and-competition/ ) , 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.

(Parm)

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.

BUT:

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 http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2012/03/empire-of-the-saviours-cover-reveal-and-competition/ ) , 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.

(Parm)

Eagle of the Twelfth: M C Scott

Book Description

Throughout the Roman Army, the Twelfth Legion is notorious for its ill fortune. It faces the harshest of postings, the toughest of campaigns, the most vicious of opponents. For one young man, Demalion of Macedon, joining it will be a baptism of fire. And yet, amid all of the violence and savagery of his life as a legionary, he realises he has discovered a vocation – as a soldier and a leader of men. He has come to love the Twelfth and all the bloody-minded, dark-hearted soldiers he calls his brothers.

But all that he cares about is ripped from him when, during the brutal Judaean campaign, the Hebrew army inflict a catastrophic defeat upon the legion – not only decimating their ranks, but taking away their soul – the eagle.

There is one final chance to save the legion’s honour – to steal back the eagle. To do that, Demalion and his legionnaries must go undercover into the city of Jerusalem, into the very heart of their enemy, where discovery will mean the worst of deaths, if they are to recover their pride.

And that, in itself, is a task worthy only of heroes.

Review:

There are many Roman era Historical Fiction books and authors on the market now and they explore differing facets of the Roman world and the roman army. What the majority of them have in common is that the culmination, the pièce de résistance of the story is the great battle, the pulling together of all the threads so the hero wins, or survives to fight another day over coming terrible odds. All this is what most of us readers want in a novel, something of great power and motivation, coupled with great story telling and that touch of escapism to take us beyond the borders of our lives into another time and place, to maybe give us a little piece of that heroic feeling.

With Manda Scott’s Eagle of the Twelfth you get all the usual accomplished parts of a roman novel, but then you get something more, something that I always felt I got touches of in Simon Scarrow’s early eagle novels, but In Manda’s to a much greater depth. You get to be the hero, to feel the heroes thoughts, cares concerns, you ride along in his skin rather than as an observer, but you experience it as a real person doing heroic deeds rather than a prefab hero.

Eagle of the Twelfth is not just Manda’s triumph, Demalion of Macedon is her triumph.

For those readers who are expecting a swords and sandals heroic ride with a Scarrow or Riches style swagger, its there, but expect also for the legion to finally be stripped back to its real warts and all self. Because Eagle of the Twelfth gives an expose on just why these men conquered the world, how they were so tough, why they fought so much as a unit and how they used that comradeship, that family of the eagle to survive the cold the heat, the rain the hell of war, Life in the ancient world.

The cover of the book proudly states on a sticker, “as good as Conn Iggulden or your money back”, And I have to say Conn in the case of this book, I think Manda has you beat (well maybe not Wolf of the Plains) but Rome for Rome.

This book captures not just the epic scale of Rome’s legions, but its core, its heart, its soul, its very essence, what made the men tick.

This book is going right up there as one of my best for 2012 Very Highly recommended, not just for those who like Historical fiction, but for those whole love great fiction told by a great story teller.

(Parm)

James Holland: Hellfire

Product Description (from back of book)

August, 1942.North Africa. The desert war hangs in the balance. Although their retreat has finally been halted, morale in the British Army is at rock bottom. When the commander of the Eighth Army, General Gott, is killed, it seems that foul play is at work. An impenetrable Axis spy circuit could be compromising any hope the Allies have of stemming the Nazi tide. Jack Tanner, recovering from wounds in a Cairo hospital, is astonished to receive a battlefield commission which will propel him into a very different world when he returns to action. Fit once more, he finds himself facing the full onslaught of Rommel’s latest offensive. In its aftermath, Tanner and his trusty sidekick Sykes are recruited to work behind the Axis lines in a desperate attempt to take the fight to the Nazis. But the murky world of subterfuge, deceit and murder they find themselves in is a million miles away from the certainties of the battlefield and somehow they must discover who they can trust in the cat-and-mouse world of counter-espionage.

Review

There are very few writers producing anything of note for WW2 fiction reader at present, there are certainly very few who are doing it this well (Guy Saville and James Delingpole being the only notable exceptions) As usual the books are well written with a pace that picks the reader up and carries you along with our heroes, the action is real and visceral, its written with a real passion for the subject and the characters. But with all this it still contains that element of boys own adventure that readers of Commando, Victor and Battle would have come to love and expect from their war stories, Heroes can still be Heroes here without all the sordid parts of the real world crowing in, leaving it real but idealistic at the same time. Another excellent story from James Holland Recommended (Parm)
My Reviews still to do:

James Wilde: Hereward: The Devils Army

1067 – the Battle of Hastings has been lost and the iron gauntlet of William the Bastard slowly throttles the life out of England. The length and breadth of the country, villages are burned and men, women and children put to the sword as the brutal new King attempts to impose his cruel will upon the unruly nation.
One man stands in the way of the Norman duke’s savage campaign: Hereward, warrior, master tactician, and the last hope of the English. As adept at slaughter as the imposter who sits on the throne, he has vowed to meet blood with blood and fire with fire.
In a Fenlands fortress of water and wild wood, his resistance is simmering. His army of outcasts grows by the day – a devil’s army that comes with the mists and the night and leaves only bones in its wake.
But William is not one to be cowed. Under the command of his ruthless deputy, Ivo Taillebois – known and feared as ‘the Butcher’ – the invaders will do whatever it takes to crush these rebels, even if it means burning all England to the ground.
Here then is the tale of the bloodiest rebellion England has ever known…the beginning of an epic battle that will echo down the years…

Review:
When i first started Hereward: Devils Army it was looking forward to what should be a great read. Book one Hereward was a fantastic book (see review http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hereward-eboo… )
So it was very worrying to start the book and struggle to get into it.
So I took a step back remembering that I know you have to be in the right frame of mind for every author and every book you read. Its why my TBR pile is so fluid. On reflection I think I pushed myself into this one and wasn’t ready, I was more conscious of the publication date than being ready for it. (I had just finished 4 Historical Fiction books back to back and I usually take a breather in-between)….
After a particularly light hearted cheesy thriller I picked Hereward The Devils army up again, and it clicked immediately, how? why had i struggled?
All I know is that instantly I was submerged in what is a splendidly visual piece of writing. So many sights sounds and smells written so well you can experience them all intimately.  The characters grow again from book 1 to book 2, taking you further and further into life under the cosh of William Duke of Normandy. The side plots are all so enticing and aided the plot by giving the reader a much wider view of the realm at the time, rather than just the immediacy of Ely’s and Hereward’s experience.
When the threads finally pull together towards the final chapters its with such a sudden immediate increase in pace you really just cannot put the book down, even if you wanted too and the story is breath taking in its action, pace and horror.
So the worry for a debut author is always can you do it twice, can you repeat the eloquence of book one?
In this case Hell Yes!
Highly recommended
(Parm)

Douglas Jackson: Avenger of Rome

Rome, summer 66AD and Nero’s agents mercilessly hunt down the last survivors of the Piso Conspiracy. Yet, despite purging this viper’s nest with fire and iron, the increasingly unstable young Emperor feels his grip on power weakening. In Judaea, rebels have bested his army and taken an eagle, in Germania, the Rhenus legions agitate for better conditions. In Hispana, his governor plots. But the most dangerous threat is in the east where Rome’s greatest general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, presides over an Empire within an Empire. Is Corbulo preparing to march against Rome and take the purple? Gaius Valerius Verrens, Hero of Rome, is ordered to Antioch with the power of life and death over the soldier he worships. There he finds every man’s hand against him and Corbulo’s eyes not on Rome, but on a new threat from the Parthian King of Kings, Vologases. Outnumbered, Corbulo marches with Valerius at his side into the barren wastes beyond the Tigris, to meet Vologases in a mighty confrontation that will decide the future of the Empire.  In Avenger of Rome, Valerius will face his greatest enemy and his greatest challenge, but neither will be what he believes.

Andrew Swanston: The Kings Spy

Summer, 1643. England is at war with itself. King Charles I has fled London, his negotiations with Parliament in tatters. The country is consumed by bloodshed. For Thomas Hill, a man of letters quietly running a bookshop in the rural town of Romsey, knowledge of the war is limited to the rumours that reach the local inn. When a stranger knocks on his door one night and informs him that the king’s cryptographer has died, everything changes. Aware of Thomas’ background as a mathematician and his expertise in codes and ciphers, the king has summoned him to his court in Oxford. On arrival, Thomas soon discovers that nothing at court is straightforward. There is evidence of a traitor in their midst. Brutal murder follows brutal murder. And when a vital message encrypted with a notoriously unbreakable cipher is intercepted, he must decipher it to reveal the king’s betrayer and prevent the violent death that defeat will surely bring.

See its easy!!

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