Monthly Archives: May 2013

Tom Harper: Orpheus Descent (Review)

The Author


Tom Harper (real name Edwin Thomas) won the CWA debut award in 2001 for The Blighted Cliffs. He also wrote The Mosaic of ShadowsKnights of the Cross, and Siege of Heaven, published by Random House

Edwin Thomas grew up in West Germany, Belgium and America before returning to England to study history at Lincoln College, Oxford. His conclusion to the short story ‘Death by the Invisible Hand’ was published in The Economist in 1997, and the first chapter of The Blighted Cliffs was runner-up in the 2001 Crime Writers’ Association Début Dagger Award for new fiction. The first two installments of the adventures of Martin Jerrold, The Blighted Cliffs and The Chains of Albion, are available in Bantam paperback.

orpheus cover med

Buy the book from Amazon

Buy a signed copy from Goldsboro Books

Book Description

I have never written down the answers to the deepest mysteries, nor will I ever…The philosopher Plato wrote these words more than two thousand years ago, following a perilous voyage to Italy — an experience about which he never spoke again, but from which he emerged the greatest thinker in all of human history. Today, twelve golden tablets sit in museums around the world, each created by unknown hands and buried in ancient times, and each providing the dead with the route to the afterlife. Archaeologist Lily Barnes, working on a dig in southern Italy, has just found another. But this tablet names the location to the mouth of hell itself. And then Lily vanishes. Has she walked out on her job, her marriage, and her life — or has something more sinister happened? Her husband, Jonah, is desperate to find her. But no one can help him: not the police and not the secretive foundation that sponsored her dig. All Jonah has is belief, and a determination to do whatever it takes to get Lily back. But like Plato before him, Jonah will discover the journey ahead is mysterious and dark and fraught with danger. And not everyone who travels to the hidden place where Lily has gone can return.


I was really not sure what to expect with Orpheus Descent, I have to admit to owning all of Tom Harpers Books and reading none (until now). They languish in my mountainous TBR (to be read) pile.

So this was always going to be a new experience of style and plot. That said I’m a big fan of well written time-slip books, the interplay of differing era’s, attitudes and people if done right can be fantastic.

Add to the above my love of ancient Greece, thrillers and the glowing praise filtering through on Twitter, what choice did I have but to make Orpheus Descent my first Tom Harper read.

Firstly I need to add that I did read the short story “Twelfth Tablet” (Buy the book) that acts as a teaser for this book. For anyone not sure of Tom Harpers writing, go read this, it had me hooked from page one. It is however a teaser for the modern era side of the time-slip tale only but gives a great insight into Greek tycoon who acts as principle antagonist in both stories.

12th tablet cover small

The main thrust of the plot follows the two  distinct and yet gradually blurring timelines. In modern Greece Lilly an archaeologist goes missing, her husband who has utter faith in his relationship and wife knows she has not run out on him and sets out to find her, battling inner demons and the voices of family and friends who all tell him that she has just left him, he knows something isn’t right, and he will stop at nothing to find her again.

In the alternate plot-line Plato leaves Greece for Italy, to search for his friend Agathon. That simple voyage turns into a life and death series of mishaps, misfortune, and calamity that tests the great philosopher’s will, beliefs  and view of the world, making him challenge all he holds dear, his vision of the world and his place in it.

I think there will be some who struggle with Plato’s side of this story, it does get very involved in the differences of philosophical types, eg: sophistry and Plato’s view of it. It covers many myths and the thinking of the classical man. But while for me this slowed the pace of the plot, it also gave it a very very different edge and a much greater depth. It made me think which isn’t the norm for treasure hunter/ thriller plot. I used (online) the description that the book “Thrills and messes with your mind in equal measure”, and it really did. The philosophical elements made you stop and contemplate what was meant, what was hidden, what was the meaning behind it. Writing this review is making me stop and re-examine some of the points of the book and its meaning all over again. I think you could re-read the book and find something new every time. The story is very much a product of you the reader, at the time you read it, in the emotion that you read it in (as much as what was written by the author). As the readers position is a changeable position/ emotion so your view and enjoyment of the book I think will change, and what you take away from it… see …it messed with my head!

 So do I recommend it… Of course. Any book that you can read again and again is right up there on the go read it list. Just go in with an open and inquisitive mind.


Other titles

Demetrios Askiates
1. The Mosaic of Shadows (2004)
2. Knights of the Cross (2005)
3. Siege of Heaven (2006)
The Mosaic of ShadowsKnights of the CrossSiege of Heaven
The Lost Temple (2007)
The Book of Secrets (2009)
The Lazarus Vault (2010)
Secrets of the Dead (2011)
The Lost TempleThe Book of SecretsThe Lazarus VaultSecrets of the Dead

Books as Edwin Thomas

Reluctant Adventures of Lieutenant Martin Jerrold
1. The Blighted Cliffs (2003)
2. Chains of Albion (2004)
3. Treason’s River (2006)
The Blighted CliffsChains of AlbionTreason's River

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime, Historical Fiction, Thrillers

Stewart Binns: Anarchy (review and Q&A)



Stewart has spent most of his professional life in television. Initially trained as an academic, he was variously a teacher, soldier and copy-writer before joining the BBC, where he worked in documentary features and current affairs, including stints on Panorama and QED.He was Director of Special Projects at TWI and later Head of Production at Octagon CSI. He produced a wide range of innovative programmes from sports magazines like Trans World Sport, Futbol Mundial and Golazo to historical documentaries like Britain at War, Century and Indochine.He has won over thirty international television awards including a BAFTA, Grierson and Peabody, was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and is Visiting Professor at the University of Bedfordshire.The author of several non-fiction books connected to his work in television, his first work of historical fiction, Conquest, set around the pivotal events of 1066 and the life of legendary hero Hereward of Bourne, was published by Penguin in February 2011. Stewart now lives in Somerset with his wife, Lucy and their twin boys, Charlie and Jack. Their home is also the base for Big Ape Media International, the independent media company run by Stewart and Lucy.

Book Description


Buy book from Amazon

Anarchy is the knuckle-whitening third novel in Stewart Binns’ The Making of Englandseries.

Ruthless brutality, greed and ambition: the Anarchy

The year is 1186, the thirty-second year of the reign of Henry II.

Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of London, has lived through long Henry’s reign and that of his grandfather, Henry I. He has witnessed the terrifying civil war between Henry II’s mother, the Empress Matilda, and her cousin, Stephen; a time so traumatic it becomes known as the Anarchy.

The greatest letter writer of the 12th Century, Folio gives an intimate account of one of England’s most troubled eras. Central to his account is the life of a knight he first met over fifty years earlier, Harold of Hereford.

Harold’s life is an intriguing microcosm of the times. Born of noble blood and legendary lineage, he is one of the nine founders of the Knights Templar and a survivor of the fearsome battles of the Crusader States in the Holy Land.

Harold is loyal warrior in the cause of the Empress Matilda. On his broad shoulders, Harold carries the legacy of England’s past and its dormant hopes for the future.



It’s such an apt name for the time period of this book, and one I’m ashamed to know little about.

This title by Stewart Binns is something on the surface I should have found fault with, should have picked holes in. There is a certain amount of generality to the people, the nations, the time period. The plot misses so much rich depth that could have been added to the time period.

And yet none of this matters, because the plot powers along at a wonderful pace, the characters are real, humble, flawed and at the same time stylised in such a fashion that it appeals at a different level, (for me). This series has for me been about a journey to find and explore the innate elements that make the British, British. What are the character building blocks that created the stiff upper lip, the boys own childish delight in tinkering, the genius for innovation, the intrepid explorers, and the do or die trying spirit. When you break it down to Celts, Saxons, Danes, Normans etc. Mix all of this into a pot that is the unique landscape and history of the country you get the British.

Harold of Herford is the latest incarnation, the latest ingredient in the mix, and all of it is done with power pace, style and a little I believe humour.

The Historical content, to be honest I didn’t even give it a thought. I’m sure there are many fictional elements in here driving the story against a flat background of real history. But the power and charm of this book is the telling not the facts. I will go an learn more about this period and I expect there to be many differences. At the same time this is more about the mix, the moral and the tale telling. EG: the introduction of Robert of Hode and William of Scarlette. It Should have added an element of farce, but instead added a great little side legend and the development of the Robin Hood legend and its possible tie to the Hereward legend. The whole book was a pleasure to read and I think shows the authors talent in television, how to engage with the audience and carry them on a journey with his cast of characters. This book was devoured in a single sitting and went past so fast it left me missing the people involved and wondering what comes next and how long do I need to wait. (for me a sure sign of a really good read)…and a book can be a damn fine read whilst not being the best book ever.

I have no issue recommending this very Highly as a splendid way to spend the day.


Author Q&A

Many thanks for taking the time to answer some questions.

1) What was the inspiration behind the series?

Because the 11th/12th centuries were full of great stories, many of them, like the Anarchy, not often told. Also, because the period was the anvil upon which England and Britain was forged, especially through the struggles between the indigenous English and Celts and those nasty Normans!

2) What is more important to you, Historical accuracy or story pace/ plot?

I’m ducking this: both – I love to weave dramatic fiction into real events, but to retain the historical integrity of the events.

3) Was Hereward always your first choice to write as lead, or did you toy / write others?

Always Hereward; I see him as the symbolic embodiment of my answer to 1 above. Thus, the parallel stories of him and his descendants and their relationships with, in turn, the Cerdician, Norman and Plantagenet kings is the central thread of the Making of England quartet. Admittedly, he’s a tenuously contrived symbol, but his story survived (just) the Norman purge, so is a powerful one all the same.

4) Was the need to explore the innate British character a deliberate plot ploy, or something that developed?

Deliberate. It was sparked by the contemporary debate about ‘Englishness’ in the light of the resurgence of Celtic consciousness, which left the English wondering who we are, having lost ourselves in our invention of the ‘British’. As I’m sure is obvious, my view is that much of what we are – especially our political and social proclivities – were born through the synthesis of the English, the Celts and the Normans between 1066 and 1215.

5) Who is your favourite character so far in the series?

Hereward – mighty, mythical, legendary – every little boy’s (and girl’s) hero.

6) How far can this go (Richard the Lionheart is next… is he the last?)

He’s the last; a new era beckons. Watch this space.

7) What do you read for enjoyment?

Non-fiction – the next quartet.

8) Who is your favourite author?

Bernard Cornwell.

9) Sell your series to a new reader in your own words…Why should they buy it?

What else would you want to do during a long, wet English summer?

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Fiction

David Gibbins: The Pharaoh (Author Interview + Review)

The Author

David gibbins

Author Web Site

David Gibbins has worked in underwater archaeology all his professional life. After taking a PhD from Cambridge University he taught archaeology in Britain and abroad, and is a world authority on ancient shipwrecks and sunken cities. He has led numerous expeditions to investigate underwater sites in the Mediterranean and around the world. He currently divides his time between fieldwork, England and Canada.

Interview with David Gibbins for, 8 August 2013

What was the inspiration for Jack Howard?

There’s a good deal of me in Jack – we share a diving and archaeological background, and have many of the same historical and intellectual interests. But I very much think of him as a separate fictional character, drawn from my experience of others in our profession. Like many leaders Jack can be solitary and introspective, but his friendships are intense and down-to-earth and a driving force in the novels. What Jack and I share most is a passion for archaeology and the determination to see a project through, and that’s where I identify most closely with him.

How does a marine archaeologist become a writer?

I’ve been writing fiction since I was a teenager – my English teacher at school was adamant that I should study English at university, not archaeology – but I hadn’t attempted a full-length novel until Atlantis, which I completed when I was nearly 40. During my previous career as an academic I’d begun to think more and more about how my own experiences as an archaeologist could be the basis for fiction, and when the idea for Atlantis came to me I finally took the plunge, resigned my job and went for it. One of the other reasons I left my university teaching career was to create more time for research and exploration, and my novel-writing has been closely associated with that – so I never left one profession for the other.

What is the most exciting wreck you have dived?

The wreck I’ve just discovered this summer, a 17th century site with cannons and Spanish silver coins! I’d probably always say that the site I’m currently working on is the most exciting. In the past some of the highlights have included a classical Greek wreck of the 5th century BC, but I can also remember my first sighting of an intact wooden wreck looming out of the depths of the Great Lakes in Canada – it only dated from the 19th century but was an incredible thrill.

In the books there are some insanely dangerous dives where Jack risks all, have you ever taken a risk in the search for history, or is that all fiction?

I never felt it at the time, but looking back on my early years I certainly stretched the envelope a few times. Once during a very deep exploration in the Mediterranean my dive buddy panicked and froze, and we very nearly didn’t make it back to the surface. On another occasion I was so intent on excavating that I failed to realise that my regulator was leaking air, and I reached the safety tank on the site just as I was beginning to black out. So the answer is yes, many times, but the occasions when it’s nearly gone wrong have been few and far between. I was superbly trained and that’s what counts. And since becoming a father I’ve been a good deal more cautious about risk-taking!

Are the characters based on people you have worked with?

Not specifically, but yes – on expeditions you get to know people intimately including all of their quirks and strengths, and there’s no doubt my cast of characters is drawn from that.

Jack Howard seems to be on a story arc that is philosophical as much as historical. Was this planned from day one? Or did it evolve?

I think this represents my own intellectual bent, and my intention to keep true to myself even in a genre which traditionally has little of that kind of content. Many archaeologists and adventurers have a strong philosophical demeanour; even Indiana Jones was a professor! The great joy of adventure is in the voyage as much as the destination, and that voyage is often about self-discovery and reflection. Jack’s particular arc probably represents the time in my own life when I’ve been writing these novels, through my 40s, as I’ve begun to reflect more on my own philosophical interests – in the broad sense of the term – and where I’d like to go with them.

The concept of Atlantis in the Black Sea is probably the best put together I have ever read; it seems 100% plausible. How much is based on real life research and how much on speculation?

Thanks very much! It’s great to return to that question ten years after I wrote my novel Atlantis. I still stand by the real-life basis for the story, that the Black Sea inundation several millennia after the end of the Ice Age would have flooded Neolithic settlements along what is now the coast of Turkey. My sequel The Gods of Atlantis was partly inspired by some extraordinary early Neolithic sites recently found in Anatolia, reinforcing my belief that one day something like that will be discovered underwater in the Black Sea.

Where and when are Jack and Costas going next?

Aha! That would be a secret. But those who’ve read my novel Pharaoh will have guessed that the story in the book doesn’t end there, and I can reveal that the sequel Pyramid next year will take up where that one left off. After that they’re on a very exciting adventure in a part of the world where they’ve never explored before. More on that in due course on my website!

How did Rome II: Destroy Carthage come about? (review coming soon on Parmenionbooks)

It was mainly a confluence between an idea from my agent, that the Total War: Rome games might lend themselves to companion novels, and the enthusiasm of the people at The Creative Assembly and Sega for the project. What attracted me was the high degree of historical accuracy and authenticity in the games, similar to my own approach as a novelist. It’s been a great experience for me to do something a bit different, and will undoubtely benefit the writing in my main series.

What/Who do you read for personal enjoyment

I’ve always been a voracious reader of fiction but less so since beginning to write my own novels, mainly because of time. Most of my reading is research for my novels, and I’ve particularly enjoyed 19th century history, travel and biography where the novel requires it – for Pharaoh one of my favourites was the journal of General Gordon of Khartoum, a really fascinating work. Among fiction I’ve been doing a lot of re-reading of authors I first read years ago, most recently Hemingway, Orwell, Defoe and Patrick O’Brien’s marvellous Jack Aubrey novels.

When/What is your favourite period of history?

That’s really hard to say, and tends to change according to the period of my most recent novel. I’ve always been fascinated by the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly maritime exploration and the early development of archaeology, but also British colonial adventure and war. For ancient history I’d probably say the long period, veering back into prehistory, when seafarers were stretching the boundaries of the Mediterranean and beyond – that really take us from the Bronze Age through to Roman traders on the Indian Ocean, but I’m more comfortable saying I’m fascinated by that breadth of history than I am with a particular period.

Finally if you had to sell someone new on Pharaoh and the Jack Howard series, how would you do it?

I’d say that my novels are often singled out for their historical plausibility, but for me what makes them work is as much the passion that I put into them – they have an authenticity that I think is unusual in this genre because I’ve actually come close to living the fiction myself. But I’m also a dreamer, and have gone one step further into a realm where anything is possible. Then I’d tell them to read this interview!

 David Gibbins

8 August 2013

Book Description

Buy a signed copy


Marine archaeologist Jack Howard has made an astounding find in the depths of the Red Sea: proof of a mass suicide by a pharaoh and his army. But what could have driven the most powerful people of their age to hurl themselves to their deaths? What terrible new king, revered as a new god, came to take their place?

Howard’s search leads back through the ages to the discovery of the vault of Tutankhamun in 1928, the legacy of American adventurers in Egypt, the fate of General Gordon’s doomed garrison in Khartoum – and a long-shrouded catastrophe that saw a unit of Gordon’s would-be rescuers swallowed by a mysterious Nile whirlpool. Between the story told by a crazed survivor of that horror, a lost labyrinth, and the truth behind a three-thousand-year-old conflict, Howard is on the verge of a discovery that will change history – for good, for evil, and for the future of all humankind.


I have been a fan of David Gibbins since the first Jack Howard book (Atlantis) was released in 2005, when I first started into the series I thought he was one of the new writers opening up a genre of History mixed with action adventure. But it soon became obvious that he had more passion for his subject matter than the average writer in this genre.

His love of archaeology and of diving really brings these books to life, alongside Jack Howard and his friend and sidekick Costas who are an extension of the author as much as a creation. Add to this passion for diving, a true passion for history and a writing skill that has grown book by book. By the time we get to Pharaoh the series is as serious example of how this genre should be written it does not get much better than this. Don’t be fooled into thinking this writer is another guy who writes the implausible and the mythical, and that you the reader have to swallow the imaginary.  Gibbins makes the astounding seem more than plausible, he writes the history in such a way that the myth feels factual or at least highly plausible, and its more that just places and names, its a philosophical undertone to the extended plot, to the ethos of Jack Howard and his search for the facts and the truth.

I find every single one of these books so plausible, so real I hate coming up for air. I thought that Gods of Atlantis was the pinnacle of this series, when I should have known that there was more and better to come.

History, Mystery and Myth all brought together to astound the reading senses.

A true leader of his genre and his art.

Highly Recommended


Jack Howard
1. Atlantis (2005)
2. Crusader Gold (2006)
3. The Last Gospel (2008)
aka The Lost Tomb
4. The Tiger Warrior (2009)
5. The Mask of Troy (2010)
6. The Gods of Atlantis (2011)
aka Atlantis God
7. Pharaoh (2013)
AtlantisCrusader GoldThe Last GospelThe Tiger WarriorThe Mask of TroyThe Gods of AtlantisPharaoh
Also coming soon, something new:
Total War Rome II: Destroy Carthage (2013)
Total War Rome II: Destroy Carthage


Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, Historical Fiction, Thrillers

Dan Brown: Inferno (Review)

The Author

dan brown

Dan Brown is the author of numerous bestselling novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Da Vinci Code. He is a graduate of Amherst College and Phillips Exeter Academy, where he spent time as an English teacher before turning his efforts fully to writing.

In 1996, Dan’s interest in code-breaking and covert government agencies led him to write his first novel, Digital Fortress, which quickly became a #1 national bestselling eBook. Set within the clandestine National Security Agency, the novel explores the fine line between civilian privacy and national security. Brown’s follow-up techno-thriller, Deception Point, centered on similar issues of morality in politics, national security, and classified technology.

The son of a Presidential Award winning math professor and of a professional sacred musician, Dan grew up surrounded by the paradoxical philosophies of science and religion. These complementary perspectives served as inspiration for his acclaimed novel Angels & Demons-a science vs. religion thriller set within a Swiss physics lab and Vatican City. Recently, he has begun work on a series of symbology thrillers featuring his popular protagonist Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor of iconography and religious art. The upcoming series will include books set in Paris, London, and Washington D.C.

Dan’s wife Blythe-an art historian and painter-collaborates on his research and accompanies him on his frequent research trips, their latest to Paris, where they spent time in the Louvre for his new thriller, The Da Vinci Code.

In its first week on sale, The Da Vinci Code achieved unprecedented success when it debuted at #1 on The New York Times Bestseller list, simultaneously topping bestseller lists at The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and San Francisco Chronicle. Later, the book hit #1 on every major bestseller list in the USA.

Dan has made appearances on CNN, The Today Show, National Public Radio, Voice of America, as well as in the pages of Newsweek, People, Forbes, Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, The New Yorker, and others. His novels have been translated and published around the world.

Book Description



Writing a review for a Dan Brown book is not an easy thing, he is one of the biggest selling authors out there. His Da’Vinci code achieved almost a cult following status, to even attempt any sort of critic would bring down the wrath of the Brown followers. (but what the heck)

For me personally the book has its good points as well as its bad points. There is a good plot buried within this book, but the book inst an over all great book.

I love thrillers filled with action and quirky unknown symbolism or archeology, and Robert Langdon should be able to deliver that. At times he does, at times I feel educated and feel the pace of the plot building. Then out of the blue Dan Brown decides to take on the role of Florentine, Venetian tour guide, or Dante Historian. Its not that I mind being educated, in fact I love learning this stuff, I really want to visit Florence now. BUT: the stories pace and power and writing style changes as the author introduces this stuff. All of a sudden I feel like I’m starting again, the brakes have been slammed on to the tension and it’s lost, the pace is gone, and the purpose of the thriller writer is wasted, for the role of tour guide.

If you read a book by for example Andy McDermott, you will get explosive action, highs and lows and a continual build of tension through to a dramatic conclusion. This dramatic and heart pounding conclusion gets lost with Inferno because of all the tour guide info, and because of the style of its delivery. If the same info had been delivered as part of the narrative at a higher level and with the full content in authors notes at the end….? well this may have been a reading hit as much as it will sell just fr having Dan Browns name on the cover.

I have seen some criticism in reviews, of the science behind the book, on population expansion, and I don’t agree with the criticism, I liked this part of the book, I also recommend reading this book when you have the flu and are a little spaced with a fever, because the global disease thing gets a freaky scary edge while you are struggling with the coughing and wheezing.. (a bit odd but there you go).

If I the lowly, unpublished novice could offer the multi million book selling writer any advice it would be to go back to basics, don’t try so hard to educate and show your obvious intelligence to the reader. You’re supposed to be writing a fast paced balls out conspiracy thriller, the reader wants a ride through their biggest fears, they want heart in the mouth action, you can be forgiven for almost implausible get away’s, if the plot is fast. Save the education for the end, we readers do also read authors notes (and are happy to learn from them). But from a thriller we want action action action, plot plot plot, nothing wrong with salting some education along the way in a subtle fashion..but the tour guide while great, should be a separate book in the tour guide section.

I give this book 3/5 : like I said, I had fun and being sick helped. But this idea had 5/5 written all over it, it just needed better execution.


A side note: my son almost never reads, but he likes Dan Brown’s books, so no matter what I think of the book, there are and will be many people out there who for them this is great. If Dan Brown can make people like my son pick up a book and read, well that’s a great thing, and if it inspires others to write, who look at DB and think, WOW how much money? and they go out and write new, better, greater books, then DB has done something wonderful.

Leave a comment

Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, Historical Fiction, Thrillers

Christian Cameron: Tom Swan Book 5 Rhodes


Christian Cameron was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa, and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice.
Product Description
TS 5
A young Englishman, Tom Swan, has been ordered by his Cardinal to find a spy-a traitor. At the same time, a rich merchant has offered him a great deal of money to-well, to steal something. Something that belonged to Alexander the Great.Suddenly he’s not a thief or a merchant or a scholar-he’s a ‘donat’ or volunteer with the knights of St. John, the famous ‘Hospitallers,’ and he’s in the middle of a losing war to hold the Aegean against the Turks. He’d like to steal the ring, kiss the girl, and catch the spy, but there’s a war…


Every time a new Tom Swan is released the sneaky little sucker becomes top of my reading list (even if i’m reading something else).
The character is just so right, so real, I cant help but feel i’m learning every time i read his tale. learning the history of the period, the politics, the people, the clothes , the weapons, the whole kit and caboodle.
I know a fair few re-en-actors and from what they say the fight scenes are very accurate, the archery is spot on, the sword fighting I know is going to be accurate, because the authors lives and breathes this stuff, fights in armour regularly.
This is fast becoming one of my all time fav series.

Tom Swan, has now been sent by his Cardinal to find a spy/ a traitor. Also a rich Genoa merchant has offered him a great deal of money to steal a ring that belonged to Alexander the Great, and failure to do this would not be in his interest.
Young Tom Must fight his instinct to steal for himself, or anyone else. he is learning morals and courage that exists deep within. He is expanding his knowledge of the classical world, and vicariously so is the reader.

VERY Highly recommended.


Buy rest of the series

Buy Book 5

Buy book 4

Buy book 3

Buy book 2

Buy Book 1

Pre-Order Book 6

Also on sites like amazon there seems to be a lot of backlash at present on Amazon regarding short stories. Comments like
. It’s too short
. I didn’t know it was a short story
. It stops just as it gets going
and many many more:
These things do not belong in feedback for a book on here: Amazon clearly label all short stories (EG see below for this book)
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 286 KB
Print Length: 100 pages
Publisher: Orion (11 April 2013)

Note where it says 100 pages, dead give away for the length of the book. (that answers the first couple of issues raised above)
Re: it stops just as it gets going! Well look at it in the same way as an episode of a great TV series. It’s a self-contained story, and leave you wanting more at the end so you come back next week… or in this case next month.
For 99p its an utter bargain.

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Fiction

Joe Hill NOS4R2 (Review)



Joe Hill, born in 1972 as Joseph Hillstrom King, is an American writer of speculative fiction. Hill is the second child of the authors Stephen and Tabitha King. His younger brother Owen King is also a writer.

Book Description


Buy a signed copy of the book

NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble – and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.


NOS4R2 is the latest book from the very impressive Joe Hill (son of some bloke called Stephen King),  His previous books Heart Shaped Box and Horns both well worth buying and reading, in fact its the skill of each book that makes me want more.

NOS4R2 tells the story of Vic McQueen a young girl who using her own special gift is able to travel on her Raleigh Burner  across a portal to a world hidden behind our own.

Unfortunately for Vic, she is not the only person who can cross between this world and the other, these worlds are also well-travelled by the evil Charlie Manx who kidnaps children in his black 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith after promising them a visit to Christmasland; a place where every day is Christmas Day and every night is Christmas Eve.

Both Vic and Charlie are vividly written characters, a skill that Joe Brings to all his books. We follow Vic through various stages of her life, in various scenarios, Allowing Joe to give the reader many insights into her personality. To allow a real emotional bond to grow between character and reader. You the reader are left fully invested in the safely of Vic, to the point the plot really gets your heart pumping.

Likewise, whilst Charlie Manx is the villain of the book he is also a multidimensional character rather than just being the bad guy who commits evil acts. Manx is delusional and dangerous, but also funny and charismatic (when the mood takes him). This makes his interaction with Vic all the more real, dark and unpredictable. Manx also has a sidekick, in the shape of his car, this is his means of transport, and his means of sucking the souls from children to spend their eternity in christmasland.

NOS4R2 is a brilliantly written tale of horror, compassion and Lost youthful innocence. Joe Hill’s writing just gets better with every book. This book just keeps you going for every one of its 700 pages providing Horror, Humour and action from first to last page.

For a book that is not normally on my reading radar, I can’t recommend this highly enough. I look forward to whatever Joe Hill writes next.


Leave a comment

Filed under Fantasy, Supernatural

Ben Kane : Fields of Blood (Review)



Who is Author Ben Kane?

Click for Author Bio

Book Description

Released on June 6th 2013

Click for Amazon Copy

Click to buy Signed 1st Edition copy

fields of Blood

Hannibal’s campaign to defeat Rome continues. Having brought his army safely over the Alps in winter, he now marches south to confront the enemy. With his is a young soldier, Hanno. Like his general, Hanno burns to vanquish Rome. Never has the possibility seemed so likely.

Facing Hanno is his former friend, Quintus, whom Hanno met while in Roman captivity. A bitter quarrel with his father leads Quintus to join the Roman infantry under an assumed name. Among his legionaries, he finds that his enemies are not just the Carthaginians, but men of his own side.

A stealthy game of cat and mouse is being played, with Hannibal seeking to fight, and Rome’s generals avoiding battle. But battle cannot be delayed for much longer. Eventually, the two armies meet under a fierce summer sun in August in the south of Italy.

The place is Cannae — the fields of blood. The encounter will go down in history as one of the bloodiest battles ever fought, a battle in which Hanno and Quintus know they must fight as never before — just to stay alive.


Ben Kane now belongs to one of those rare few authors who, when they have a book coming out you buy it. His skill as a writer has been proven time and time again, now its just enjoying the stories and people he writes, and how closely he gets his history to match the plot.

I have read and heard before about Hannibal Barca and Cannae, but never before in such vivid and at times gory detail  This book is not called Fields of Blood for nothing.

As usual Ben’s research is impeccable (the man would be harder on himself for getting it wrong than any reader could be). If there are any mistakes it will take a better person than me to spot them, and if you are such a person, make sure you read the authors note before you pick fault (it is fiction so tinkering is a must at times).

In this book we get to follow the ups and downs of Hanno, Quintus and Aurelia. All suffer hardships, all suffer the trials of adolescents becoming adults, and all do it in a world of upheaval  When I think back to the moans my son gave and I did as a teen and compare them the trials of the ancient world…. well trivial comes to mind.

There are many flashes of emotion in the book, from elation at a relatives survival, to dark morbid brooding at being forced into an unexpected life, or the thoughts of imminent death through to manic bestial savagery just in the name of survival. In the next book I would like to see the main characters Hanno and Quintus suffering with some form of PTSD. They have both been portrayed as intelligent and compassionate men, at times quite emotive, and while it should not cripple them I would think that combination will colour who and what they become next after the horror of Cannae. Hanno I think has already shown some signs of PTSD from his imprisonment and slavery, his desire for revenge by the end of the book is savage and could be his undoing. Its a depth of character examination that really brings his cast to life (well it did with Hanno).

I enjoyed (if that’s the right description) the regular highs and lows of emotion for Aurelia, not just her own situation, but the stress and strain on top of that, of not knowing, of the fact that the news of lost battles reached them quickly but in the ancient world, news of individuals is sporadic and time-wise a lengthy process. (if you think royal mail is bad)! These extended periods of not knowing mean some really dark periods for Aurelia followed by extreme highs. All captured so well by Ben, and again we start to see the subtle cracks in her persona as this mental strain takes it toll.

Its this gradual attrition that is subtly captured that really makes this book great, battles are as i have heard some authors say “a piece of pi$$ to write” writing them so well and then expanding the fall out into the souls of his cast, that’s the real skill which Ben pulls off in style. That said, the battles in this book are not a glorification of war, but more the endless grind and peril, the violence without clear result, and the tactical genius of Hannibal.

I’m a little astonished how fast this book went (granddaughter tends to curb my reading time) , but despite all the interruption this book was gone in 2 days, and for a 400 page book in my daily routine that’s a darn speedy read, and can only be the result of being utterly engrossed. Its a feeling i have had with all but one of Ben’s books (wont name it, as many others loved it).

So Mr Kane, once again I doff my hat in your direction at what is a Bloody Splendid book, set in a bloody dangerous time and ending in one of the bloodiest fields of all time.

Highly Recommended


Other Books

Forgotten Legion Chronicles
1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
3. The Road to Rome (2010)
The Forgotten LegionThe Silver EagleThe Road to Rome
1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
2. Fields of Blood (2013)
Enemy of RomeFields of Blood
1. The Gladiator (2012)
2. Rebellion (2012)
The GladiatorRebellion

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Fiction

Jonathan Holt: The Abomination


JONATHAN HOLT read English literature at Oxford and is now the creative director of an advertising company. He lives in London.

Book Description


Set in two Venices, the modern physical world and its virtual counterpart, The Abomination by Jonathan Holt is a propulsive tale of murder, corruption, and international intrigue – the first book in an outstanding new trilogy in which Carabiniere Captain Kat Tapo must unravel a dark conspiracy linking the CIA and the Catholic Church.

By the stunning white dome of one of Venice’s grandest landmarks a body with two slugs in the back of the head has been pulled from the icy waters. The victim is a woman, dressed in the sacred robes of a Catholic priest – a desecration that becomes known as the Abomination.

Working her first murder case, Captain Kat Tapo embarks on a trail that proves as elusive and complicated as the city’s labyrinthine backstreets. What Kat discovers will test her loyalties and remind her of a simple truth: Unless old crimes are punished, corrupt forces will continue to repeat their mortal sins.

The Abomination is book one of Jonathan Holt’s Carnivia Trilogy.


This book was my latest foray outside my reading comfort zone. I’m not a big reader of crime fiction and it takes something special to make me pick it up, and after all the feedback the lovely ladies at Head of Zeus had given me on this one, well I didn’t really have a choice but to read it…(a no brainer).

Its a book I’m glad I picked up, the writing is clean, crisp and has a nice steady pace that draws you (the reader) in.  The plot switches between the various characters builds and adds pace and makes this a book that’s hard to put down. If I had to pick fault with any of the writing it’s that the authors love of Venice/ Italy and the food/ culture can bleed though too much, there are a few bits that feel like a tourist guide and gourmet cookbook. That said the authors love of the country is infectious, I wanted to book a plane ticket and pop out for some Italian food every time I picked the book up.

The plot is skilfully blended together, multi layered with the ancient (religion), the violent (crime lords, Serb/ Croatian war) the modern (Carnivia social media) and the romance blossoming between characters.  Throw in some deep political and international conspiracy add a soups-ant of the occult and religion and you get a dish as fine as those served in the restaurants of the book.

would I recommend it?

Yes, it was a really good read, it didn’t set my world alight, but then I’m new to the genre. for me it was a 3.5/5 stars.

I can however see it being a 5 star for many fans of the genre.

so go buy it, it will repay the cover price many times over.


Hardback Purchase

Kindle Version

Signed Limited Edition (Goldsboro Books)

1 Comment

Filed under Crime, Thrillers

Stella Gemmell: The City (review)

The Author

Stella Gemmell (c) The Studio Bexhill

Stella Gemmell is a journalist, and worked with her husband David Gemmell on all three Troy novels. She concluded Troy: Fall of Kings after his death.


Book Description
In her debut solo novel, Stella Gemmell, coauthor of the �powerful” (Booklist) conclusion to David Gemmell’s Troy series, weaves a dark epic fantasy about a war-torn civilization and the immortal emperor who has it clutched in his evil grasp.

The City is ancient, layers upon layers. Once a thriving metropolis, it has sprawled beyond its bounds, inciting endless wars with neighboring tribes and creating a barren wasteland of what was once green and productive.

In the center of the City lives the emperor. Few have ever seen him, but those who have recall a man in his prime, though he should be very old. Some grimly speculate that he is no longer human, if he ever was. A small number have come to the desperate conclusion that the only way to stop the war is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.

From the mazelike sewers below the City, where the poor struggle to stay alive in the dark, to the blood-soaked fields of battle, where few heroes manage to endure the never-ending siege, the rebels pin their hopes on one man—Shuskara. The emperor’s former general, he was betrayed long ago and is believed to be dead. But, under different aliases, he has survived, forsaking his City and hiding from his immortal foe. Now the time has come for him to engage in one final battle to free the City from the creature who dwells at its heart, pulling the strings that keep the land drenched in gore.

It was with split emotions that i took on reading this book. I had no direct experience of Stella’s writing, as i have still not read the last ever Gemmell Troy novel that she completed for her Husband David Gemmell, for me reading that book means the end of all David Gemmell books. David Gemmell is the man who inspired my love of reading and every rich, powerful, educational, inspirational thing that has brought to my life, including many great friends.
I promised myself i would read Stella’s book as if she was just another debut writer, i would avoid comparing her to DG (its only fair), it was an impossible task. I constantly found myself looking for and sometimes finding glimpses of the big man. (which is only natural, as i’m sure Stella had a huge influence on Davids books).
So The City: firstly Stella is an excellent writer, she has a depth of style that surpasses DG in complexity.  She seems to use a similar muse or historical base to her story, in the same vein as DG. This City being (for me)the end of the mighty yet corrupt Byzantine empire. What Stella weaves from this base is a vastly complex dark city of levels and labyrinths, of darkness and greed. She builds characters who are heroic yet deeply flawed (and this was pure DG…but in a good way). Ultimately she builds a world that becomes as real as our own. If i had to pick a gripe its the over complex bounding around of the plot, it leaves the reader no respite if he/she wants to keep up with the plot. If i were to give some advice for a reader, find a weekend where you can sit with the book and not be disturbed, its a book that demands your complete and total attention, if you can do this you will keep up with the complex weaving of the plot, that all pulls together at the end in a gripping climax and wonderful multi dimensional characters.

so whilst im not the kid captured by the brilliance of DG any-more, i am a grown up who has been drawn in hook line and sinker by a new and very powerful voice in the world of fantasy.

Highly Recommended

Leave a comment

Filed under Fantasy