Monthly Archives: January 2014

Christian Cameron: Great King review

Christian Cameron


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 (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age seven. He attends the University of Toronto when the gods move him and may eventually have a Masters in Classics, but right now he’s a full time historical novelist, and it is the best job in the world.

Christian is a dedicated reenactor and you can follow some of his recreated projects on the Agora. He’s always recruiting, so if you’d like to try the ancient world, the medieval world, or the late 18th century, follow the link to contact us.

Author Web site

Author Forum

Also Christian Cameron is Miles Cameron: read about the reveal


great king

I find it more and more difficult to write a review of Christians books, it’s so expected to write how wonderful they are.

This book is no exception. The characters as ever are some of the most rounded and real that you will read in any historical fiction novel, the action is probably the most realistic and authentic (all driven by his passion for Re-enactment and trying to live the parts, to write about them). What sets these tales apart is that while i get the cut and thrust of battle that i love in these ancient tales, i also get so much more.

The Hero Arimenestos isn’t perfect, he is very flawed, he can be vain, arrogant, passionate, impulsive, heroic. But more than that, he is a family man, his family being more than just relations, his ship mates, his friends, Plataea and his fellow hero’s. So often he finds himself on opposing sides to people he cares about while fighting with of for those he is indifferent to, but country wins over personal loyalty. The tug of war for his soul played out on the page. It’s this emotional tug of war that Christian Cameron excels at in his writing, drawing on what i can only assume is personal experience in the armed forces, and his own innate kindness as a human being.

I can’t go into the history behind the novel in anywhere close to the depth of the author or even JPS (review on here) what i can say is that i felt the history, it felt real. I felt i was there for every battle, for every race, for every tear and every heartbreak and betrayal. The ending and the inevitable death of the Spartan king is heart-breaking and crushing for the reader, portraying a fraction of what the men of the time must have felt. all again showing the skill of the writing.

This truly ranks up there as my all-time favourite series.


Other books by this author

1. Tyrant (2008)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
TyrantStorm of ArrowsFuneral GamesKing of the BosporusDestroyer of Cities
Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon: Freedom or Death (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2013)
Killer of MenMarathon: Freedom or DeathPoseidon's SpearThe Great King
Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
Alexander: God of War (2013)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarAlexander: God of WarThe Ill-Made Knight

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Tudor Conspiracy Blog Tour (Final Day). Plus an Original Essay by C.W. Gortner Mary Tudor: A Catholic Tudor Queen

The Tudor Conspiracy blog tour poster

Tudor Conspiracy

 The Author


C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into fourteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.

Author Web Site

Welcome to CW Gortner and thank you for the blog post Mary Tudor Catholic Queen

Mary Tudor: A Catholic Tudor Queen

An Original Essay by C.W. Gortner

Mary I of England is without doubt one of history’s most reviled and misunderstood figures—a queen who overcame tremendous odds to win her throne in 1553 yet who managed by her death in 1558 to have deeply divided her realm, responsible for a savage persecution that terrorized her realm. She ruled only five years but so terrible is the memory of her deeds that she has earned the sobriquet of “Bloody Mary”, a name for which she is still known today.

Mary was the sole surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. Catherine was sent to England to marry the Tudor heir, Prince Arthur, but his sudden demise left her a widow. Catherine claimed the marriage had never been consummated, and her impoverished isolation in the years that followed stoked the ardor of the new heir, Henry, who, upon his coronation, wed Catherine despite a six-year difference in their ages. Catherine and Henry were married for twenty-four years; stalwart and devout, indubitably in love with her husband, Catherine endured numerous miscarriages and the death of an infant son before finally giving birth to Mary in February of 1516.

As Henry’s sole heir (for despite his later obsessive quest for a son, a daughter could inherit his crown) Mary was adored by her parents. Historical sources recount numerous occasions when the handsome king displayed his fair-haired daughter to his court, showing off her skill with music and graceful charm. But Henry’s disillusion with his aging, now-barren wife catapulted him into a tumultuous affair with one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting, the ambitious Anne Boleyn, who would settle for nothing less than marriage. Thus, at the age of fifteen, Mary’s entire world was turned upside down, her status yanked out from under her as she watched her mother, clinging to her title and rights, exiled to a remote manor, where Catherine died in appalling conditions and in fear for the safety of the daughter she’d been forbidden to see. Anne Boleyn also vented her spleen, forcing Mary to serve Anne’s infant daughter by Henry, Princess Elizabeth, and even, sources claim, plotting to have Mary killed. The cataclysm unleashed by Henry’s passion for Anne changed England forever, resulting in a nascent reformation that would in time make Protestantism the official faith, even as Anne waged desperate battle to protect herself and her child. In 1536, Anne lost her battle and was executed on trumped-up charges; within weeks Elizabeth joined her half-sister Mary as a bastard daughter of the king.

Mary’s struggles continued while Henry married four more times. Steadfast in her Catholicism, the faith in which she’d been reared and which her mother had exhorted her to uphold, she finally gave into her father’s demands to acknowledge him as Head of the Church—an act that haunted her for the rest of her life, as she felt she’d betrayed her mother’s trust and her own belief that the only true church was the Catholic one. In those years, she developed an often uneasy relationship with her half-siblings, Elizabeth and their brother Edward, born of Henry’s third wife, both of whom had imbued the radical spirit of the Reformation.

Various suitors for Mary’s hand came and went; at the age of thirty-seven, when many women were considered unmarriageable, she found herself in the hunter’s snare once more when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, usurped her claim to the throne upon Edward VI’s death and set his daughter-in-law, Jane Grey, in her place. Often neglected and ignored, prematurely aged by self-imposed seclusion, Mary displayed her innate Tudor ferocity, eluding her pursuers to amass an army and march on London. She may have been a Catholic spinster but the people cheered her as the rightful queen and rallied to her cause. She was crowned in the summer of 1553, sending Jane Grey, Northumberland and his sons to the Tower. Many of the new queen’s advisors, including the wily Imperial ambassador, Renard, urged Mary to execute her prisoners but she consented only to Northumberland’s death, promising release in time for Jane and the Dudley sons. Even in questions of religion she expressed caution, citing her people’s hearts could only be won back in stages. Nevertheless, one of her first acts was to overturn the annulment of her mother’s marriage to Henry VIII, casting further doubt on Elizabeth’s legitimacy.

The advent of her marriage to Philip of Spain, son of the Hapsburg emperor and Mary’s cousin, Charles V, who had long been a scion of support, if not actual assistance, changed everything. Suddenly, Mary saw the possibility of happiness bloom before her: the chance to be love and be loved, to become a wife and mother. As Renard pressured her to deal with all remaining threats to her faith and crown, including Elizabeth, whom he believed was the active figurehead of Protestant opposition, the deep-seated wounds inflicted on Mary since adolescence flared anew. She remembered her hatred of Anne Boleyn, her helpless horror over her father’s zeal to amass the Church’s wealth and abolish its power, her heartrending sorrow at the separation from, and death of, her mother, and the long years of humiliation. The past could be absolved, she believed. Everything that had gone wrong could be put to right, if only she roused the strength that Catherine of Aragon had shown; the unstinting fervor that her maternal grandmother, Queen Isabella, had employed to unite Spain. She saw herself as a savior, who must do whatever was required to bring about her people’s return to the Catholic fold.

Caught in a maelstrom of her own convictions, Mary precipitated her tragedy.

It is too simple to condemn her as a monster, though she behaved in a monstrous way. Her execution of Jane Grey and subsequent burning of over two hundred Protestants, among who were Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, and Bishops Ridley and Latimer, blackened her name and left her country in chaos, the smoke of the pyres only clearing once she took to her deathbed after a false pregnancy that may have been uterine cancer. She left behind a realm ravaged by political and religious dissension, widespread famine and penury. The loss of England’s last possession in France, the city of Calais, was a blow Mary declared would be found engraved on her heart. Even in her final hours, she was beset by those who implored her to condemn Elizabeth—an act she refused. In doing so, Mary unwittingly accomplished in death what she had failed to do in life: She gave England back its hope, in the form of a virgin queen, whose unparalleled grandeur and longevity would define an era.

Product Description

Tudor C jpe

 Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen – or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy
England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope – the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing – and no one – is what it seems.


Its always a privilege to be invited to take part in a blog tour for a new book, historical fiction is a genre I really enjoy reading so i pretty much had to take part in this. But… Im really not a fan of the Tudor period, its one of the few parts of English history we covered at school. The trouble is my history teacher was terrible, she like to sneak off for a cigarette in the supply room rather than teach, we were educated in most of our subject matter direct from dry dusty text books. Recently though several authors have managed to bring to life periods of history i considered “potentially boring” so how could i not give C.W. Gortner the benefit of the doubt.

I’m bloody glad i did, the book was incredible; the whole period brought to life, given colour and passion, intrigue , violence, action and the tension of well constructed conspiracies. The characters especially Brendan Prescott are life like and more importantly believable. Its very easy to make a hero larger than life in a book, but Prescott is just a clever real young man, someone thrust into the middle of big conspiracies, hiding his own secrets like the rest of the people he deals with. Princess Elizabeth  is cool, calm and enigmatic as expected, but also scared, troubled, frightened and doing all she can and all she thinks is right for her country, and to survive her sisters papal leanings and advisers. This really is a wonderful book that flys along at such a pace its over before you know it or want it to be.

I highly recommend reading this book and series


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What to read in 2014


Books for 2014:

Every year i spend hours sorting out what im going to read this year. So why should we all spend this time fnding out whats due out when, who is publishing when?

So to help you all out here is my list (so far…. i know based on experience there will be quite a few i missed that need to be added yet) : feel free to comment and add to this list.

I hope to review as many of them as i can for you this year.



Title Author Date Publisher
The War of the Grail Geoffrey Wilson 07/11/2013 Hodder
The Maharajah’s General Paul Collard 21/11/2013 Headline
The Loch Ness Legacy Boyd Morrison 21/11/2013 Sphere
Something More Than Night Ian Tregellis 03/12/2013 Tor
Command Authority: A Jack Ryan Novel (Jack Ryan 13) Tom Clancy 05/12/2013 Michael Joseph
Hens Teeth Manda Scott 05/12/2013 Transworld
No Good deed Manda Scott 05/12/2013 Transworld
Stronger than Death Manda Scott 05/12/2013 Transworld
Innocent Blood: The Order of the Sanguines Series James Rollins 10/12/2013 william Morrow
Fell Sword Miles Cameron 19/12/2013 Gollancz
The Winter King (A Hawkenlye Mystery) Alys Clare 19/12/2013 Severn House
The Great King (Long War 4) Christian Cameron 02/01/2014 Orion
The Last Dragon: Twilight of the Celts Book I M K Hume 02/01/2014 Headline
Mirage: Oregon Files #9 (The Oregon Files) Clive Cussler 02/01/2014 Michael Joseph
The Dead Can Wait Robert Ryan 02/01/2014 Simon & Schuster
The Rome Prophecy: A Thriller Sam Christer 09/01/2014 Overlook Press
Mayhem Sarah Pinborough 14/01/2014 Jo Fletcher
The Valhalla Prophecy (Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase 9) Andy McDermott 16/01/2014 Headline
Red Rising Pierce Brown 28/01/2014 Del Ray
The Tournament Matthew Reilly 30/01/2014 Orion
The Watchman (A Marc Portman Thriller) Adrian Magson 30/01/2014 Severn House
Road to Reckoning Robert Lautner 30/01/2014 Borough Press
The Gospel of Loki Joanne Harris 01/02/2014 Gollancz
Rogue Ted Bell 11/02/2014 Harper
EmpireI VII: The Emperor’s Knives Anthony Riches 13/02/2014 Hodder
The Forbidden Tomb (Hunters 2) Chris Kuzneski 13/02/2014 Headline
You Will Never Find Me Robert Wilson 13/02/2014 Orion
The Crimson Campaign: Book 2 in The Powder Mage Trilogy Brian McClellan 18/02/2014 Orbit
Bayonets Along the Border (Simon Fonthill Series John Wilcox 24/02/2014 Alison & Busby
Hannibal: Clouds of War (Hannibal 3) Ben Kane 27/02/2014 Preface
Innocent Blood: The Order of the Sanguines Series James Rollins 27/02/2014 Orion
Extinction Jt Brannan 27/02/2014 Headline
The Backward Boy Kenneth Cameron 01/03/2014 Orion
The Past Master Kenneth Cameron 01/03/2014 Orion
The boy with the porcelian blade Den Patrick 01/03/2014 Gollancz
Sword of the North: The Grim Company Luke Skull 04/03/2014 Head of Zeus
Words of Radiance: The Stormlight Archive Book Two Brandon Sanderson 06/03/2014 Gollancz
Imperial Fire Robert Lyndon 11/03/2014 Redhook
The Last Viking Berwick Coates 13/03/2014 Simon & Schuster
A King’s Ransom Sharon Penman 13/03/2014 Macmillan
The Bootlegger: Isaac Bell #7 Clive Cussler 13/03/2014 Michael Joseph
Valour: Book Two of The Faithful and the Fallen John Gwynne 27/03/2014 Tor
The Facts of Life and Death Belinda Bauer 27/03/2014 Bantam
Gladiator: Mark of Spartacus Simon Scarrow 30/03/2014 Hyperion
The Oxford Fellow Kenneth Cameron 01/04/2014 Orion
The City Stained Red Sam Sykes 01/04/2014 Gollancz
Son of the Morning Mark Alder 02/04/2014 Gollancz
The Kill Switch: A Tucker Wayne Novel (Sigma Force Novels) James Rollins 08/04/2014 william Morrow
Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims Toby Clements 10/04/2014 Century
The Kings Return Andrew Swanston 10/04/2014 Bantam
Fool’s Assassin (Fitz and the Fool, Book 1) Robin Hobb 10/04/2014 Harper Collins
Untitled Fantasy 1 Hb [ Peter V Brett 10/04/2014 Harper
King of Ashes (The War of Five Crowns, Book 1) Raymond Feist 24/04/2014 Harper Voyager
Prince of Darkness Sharon Penman 24/04/2014 Head of Zeus
Keanes Challenge Iain Gale 24/04/2014 Heron Books
The Blood of Alexander Tom Wilde 29/04/2014 Forge
Valkyries Song M.D. Lachlan 01/05/2014 Gollancz
Tithe of the Saviors AJ Dalton 01/05/2014 Gollancz
The Lincoln Myth (Cotton Malone) Steve Berry 06/05/2014 Ballentine Books
The Three Emperors: An Ethan Gage Adventure (Ethan Gage Adventures) William Deitrich 06/05/2014 Harper Collins
God of Vengeance Giles Kristian 08/05/2014 Bantam
Black Lotus K’wan 13/05/2014 Akashic
The Hydra Protocol David Wellington 13/05/2014 Harper
Queen of the Dark Things Robert Cargill 15/05/2014 Gollancz
The Smoke at Dawn Jeff Shaara 20/05/2014 Ballentine Books
Untitled David Kirk 22/05/2014 Simon & Schuster
The Death Trade (Sean Dillon Series, Book 20) Jack Higgins 22/05/2014 Harper Collins
Ghost Ship (NUMA Files) Clive Cussler 27/05/2014 Putnam
The Splintered Gods Stephen Deas 01/06/2014 Gollancz
The Prophecy of Bees RS Pateman 01/06/2014 Orion
The Abduction (Carnivia Trilogy) Jonathan Holt 03/06/2014 Harper
The Blooding (Matthew Hawkwood 5) James McGee 05/06/2014 Harper Collins
The Black Stone of Emesa (Agent of Rome) Nick Brown 05/06/2014 Hodder
Prince of Fools (Red Queen’s War, Book 1) Mark Lawrence 05/06/2014 Harper Voyager
American Winter Sam Bourne 05/06/2014 Harper Collins
Whose Business is to die Adrian Goldsworthy 11/06/2014 W&N
Zodiac Station Tom Harper 18/06/2014 Hodder
The Storm Lord: Twilight of the Celts Book II M K Hume 19/06/2014 Headline
Kingdom (Insurrection Trilogy) Robyn Young 19/06/2014 Hodder
Untitled Simon Scarrow 19/06/2014 Headline
Vengeance: The Last Roman Book 1 (The Last Roman Trilogy) Jack Ludlow 19/06/2014 Alison & Busby
The Sixth Extinction James Rollins 19/06/2014 Orion
Cleopatras Asp Anthony Everitt 19/06/2014 Head of Zeus
Spartans at the Gates Nobel Smith 24/06/2014 Thomas Dunne
Plague – serial killers 1665 CC Humphreys 17/07/2014 Century
The Shadow Throne: Book Two of the Shadow Campaigns Django Wexler 01/07/2014 ROC
Peter Pan must Die John Verdon 01/07/2014 Crown Publishing
Storms of War Kate Williams 01/07/2014 Orion
Untitled Hayden book Sean Thomas Russell 01/07/2014 Michael Joseph
1914 Stewart Binns 01/07/2014 Michael Joseph
Historical Novel 1 James Wilde 03/07/2014 Bantam
The Iron Castle (Outlaw Chronicles) Angus Donald 03/07/2014 Sphere
Time Riders 9 Alex Scarrow 03/07/2014 Puffin
Half a King Joe Abercrombie 08/07/2014 Harper Voyager
The Queen Of The Tearling Erika Johansen 17/07/2014 Bantam
Foxglove Summer Ben Aaronovitch 17/07/2014 Gollancz
The Last Crusaders: Ivan the Terrible William Napier 31/07/2014 Orion
Divining Light Ted Kosmatka 05/08/2014 Henry Holt
Vanishing Games Roger Hobbs 14/08/2014 Orion
Run Them Ashore Adrian Goldsworthy 14/08/2014 W&N
Tyrant Force of Kings Christian Cameron 28/08/2014 Orion
Traitor Son Cycle bk 3 Miles Cameron 01/09/2014 Gollancz
The French Executioner CC Humpreys 01/11/2014 Source Books
Firefight Brandon Sanderson 20/11/2014 Gollancz
The Long Sword Christian Cameron 04/12/2014 Orion
Fixer Patrick Lennon 30/04/2015 Hodder
Untitled marathon Christian Cameron 06/08/2015 Orion

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Alex Connor The Caravaggio Conspiracy (review)

Alex Connor

Alex connor

Alex Connor is also known as Alexandra Connor and she has written a number of historical novels. This is her first crime thriller. She is an artist, and has worked in the art world for many years. Alex is also a motivational speaker and is regularly featured on television and BBC radio. She lives in Sussex.

The Caravaggio Conspiracy (2014)
A novel by Alex Connor


1608. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the greatest Italian painter of his day, is expelled from the Order of the Knights of Malta. Subject to a clandestine hearing, his crime remains a closely guarded secret.

2014. Two bodies are found in a London art gallery – stripped naked, necks bound with wire and legs obscenely contorted. They are twin brothers – successful art dealers – their brutal murder linked to the mysterious disappearance of two paintings by the master Caravaggio.

Investigators are confounded, and it falls to art expert Gil Eckhart to identify the killer before he slays again. But as the search for clues takes him from the glamorous skyline of New York to the fetid catacombs of Palermo, Eckhart finds that in the high-stakes world of art, good and evil are often tarred with the same, blood-soaked, brush.


This book was a very pleasant surprise, far too often today thrillers are formulaic and predictable, the “bad guy” standing out by a country mile. Not the case in the clever well written interesting tale. The plot and the characters are extremely well written, very real and often very flawed, the true triumph of the book being Gil Eckhart, such a multi dimensional interesting lead character, but with a great supporting cast.

The back plot of Caravaggio provides an educational and illuminating setting both in the world of the art trade and also with the use of timeslip 1608 Europe.  I loved the idea of a long lost descendant suddenly appearing and throwing the art world into turmoil with the revelation that not one but two long lost master pieces could be about to resurface. The resulting appearance of an old Killer, many years silent is both disturbing and chilling, with some very cleverly derived murders.

The book sped by and entertained me immensely.I will be without doubt picking up the other books by this author, finding a good thriller writer is hard, finding a great one is nigh on impossible. (thanks Milo for this tip)

Highly recommended


Other Books by this author

The Rembrandt Secret (2011)
aka The Other Rembrandt
The Hogarth Conspiracy (2011)
aka Legacy of Blood
The Memory of Bones (2012)
Isle of the Dead (2013)
The Caravaggio Conspiracy (2014)

The Rembrandt SecretThe Hogarth ConspiracyThe Memory of BonesIsle of the DeadThe Caravaggio Conspiracy

Unearthing the Bones (2012)
Blood on the Water (2013)
The Forger, the Killer, the Painter and the Whore (2013)

Unearthing the BonesBlood on the WaterThe Forger, the Killer, the Painter and the Whore

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Toby Clements: Kingmaker

Kingmaker: Toby Clements

Hardcover: 560 pages

Publisher: Century (10 April 2014)

Language: Unknown

Product Dimensions: 24 x 15.6 x 5.1 cm


February, 1460: in the bitter dawn of a winter’s morning a young nun is caught outside her priory walls by a corrupt knight and his vicious retinue.

In the fight that follows, she is rescued by a young monk and the knight is defeated. But the consequences are far-reaching, and Thomas and Katherine are expelled from their religious Orders and forced to flee across a land caught in the throes of one of the most savage and bloody civil wars in history: the Wars of the Roses.

Their flight will take them across the NarrowSea to Calais where Thomas picks up his warbow, and trains alongside the Yorkist forces. Katherine, now dressed as a man, hones her talents for observation and healing both on and off the fields of battle. And all around them, friends and enemies fight and die as the future Yorkist monarch, Edward, Earl of March, and his adviser the Earl of Warwick, later to become known as the Kingmaker, prepare to do bloody battle.

Encompassing the battles of Northampton, Mortimer’s Cross and finally the great slaughter of Towton, this is war as experienced not by the highborn nobles of the land but by ordinary men and women who do their best just to stay alive. Filled with strong, sympathetic characters, this is a must-read series for all who like their fiction action-packed, heroic and utterly believable.


I have Ben Kane to thank for this fantastic read, When an author of his calibre posts about a book “‘Magnificent. An historical tour de force, revealing Clements to be a novelist every bit as good as Cornwell, Gregory or Iggulden. Kingmaker is the best book I’ve read this year ? by some margin.’ Ben Kane” You have to sit up and take notice.

What I didn’t expect was the scope and style of the book. Having just read excellent Stormbird by Conn Iggulden, set in roughly the same period, i had some expectations set for how a War of the Roses book should play out. Toby Clements took those expectations and stood them on their head. Instead of a book driven by the power houses of history, a book lit and led by the great and the powerful, Toby starts in a humble monastery/ nunnery,  and from their takes the reader on one of the most down to earth profound journeys I have been privileged to read in this genre. Thomas is a man living the life of a monk, a man with skills and education, but a man who finds out he has depths he had not explored, skills he didn’t expect to have or use, and that life is more than just the walls of a Monastery, and a people are more than they seem, life isn’t black and white, its many shades of grey.

Katherine, living in a nunnery, but slightly apart, a young woman with a missing past, and an uncertain future, one that isn’t helped by the continual abuse from her superiors.

One day, one event, one action changes both their lives, and slingshots them on a journey of exploration, self examination and adventure. But none of it is glorified, it is set at the coal face of life, and battle and history. Surrounded by the blood and butchery of every class of man, buffeted by the changing politics of the times and changed by the havoc of war, killing and death surrounding them. At 560 pages its not a small read, but I could have read 2060 pages and not been bored, is series has so much to offer and so much promise of more. As its a 2014 title it will not feature in my books of 2013, otherwise it would be winner of the top spot. The established order will need to work very hard to beat this in 2014.

Very highly recommended


Toby, thank you for a wonderful read and for allowing me to review it. Thank you also for agreeing to answer these questions

1: So who is Toby Clements? I am a journalist, I suppose, since that is the job I’ve held the longest – on the books pages of the Daily Telegraph – but it is only one of many that I have given up on because I’ve never really grasped the point of being good – by which I mean the best I can be – at anything other than writing. So I’ve never wanted to become a manager, or get on the board of a company, or become a partner, or run my own business, even if I had the talent to do so, which I probably don’t, since the only thing my heart has ever really been in, is writing. For most areas of my life my motto is “it’ll do” but for some reason I have always tried to write as well as I possibly can.

2: With the whole of recorded history at your disposal, why the War of the Roses?

Three things: the first was this book


I read it when I was about ten until it fell apart.

The second was this door:

tewkesburysacristy (1)

It is the Sacristy door at Tewkesbury Abbey, reinforced by strips of armour taken from remnants left after the battle there fought in 1471. After the battle the Lancastrian claimants to the throne were killed in the nave of the abbey, despite having claimed sanctuary, and the place had to be reconsecrated afterwards. I do not think you are allowed to touch the door now, but I was taken there on a school trip when I was about 12 and have never forgotten a sort of electric jolt I imagined I got when I touched it.

The third thing was – were? –  two great teachers – Colin Stoupe (English) and Hugh Fairey (History) – who knew what made boys tick, and could fire up weird and wild enthusiasms. It was they who took me to Tewksbury. Perhaps this Great Teacher thing is a bit of cliché, but it remains true, and I owe them a real debt of gratitude.

3.What led you to use the slant of the common man rather than picking one of the great men of history to follow? I am not sure. Possibly I started out reading everything I could about the Great and the Good – witness the Ladybird Book above – and I may have reacted against those early enthusiasms?  And I have come to dislike romantic takes on the period, especially if they involve any misunderstood brooding hero called Dickon who is constantly patting his horse’s muscular neck, which is a Wars of the Roses trope. Or then again the more I looked into the 15th Century, into the facts behind the dates as it were, the more impressed I became with the way in which the common man and woman just got by, against steep odds, and just kept on going.  Or, possibly, it reflects my own taste in life? I like scruffy things and scruffy people without that sense of self entitlement you have to have if you are going to be a proper medieval earl. I genuinely don’t think I would have liked the earl of Warwick if I’d met him as a man, or even William Hastings, whom I paint in a good light in my novel.  

4: What inspired you to write your first book? I had an image of the battle of Towton and how bloody awful it must have been to fight all day in the snow. I wondered what could have brought so many Englishmen from so far afield to come try to kill each other in such horrible ways. And their fathers would have fought shoulder to shoulder in France, remember.

5: What books and authors have most influenced your life most? When the Lion Feeds by Wilbur Smith was the first “grown-up” book I read on my own and I remember thinking Woah! This is ace. Really salty. Few books have had such an impact since though I have at various times been an avid reader of Patrick O’Brian, Dorothy Dunnett, Elmore Leonard and Alan Furst. A mixed bag, as you see.

6: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? I like the element of compulsion here! Do you mean mentor as in who influenced me to write as I do? Or whom would I want help from in the future, like Louis on the X factor? If the first, then… Hmmm. I just don’t know. I am a magpie, like most writers I bet, and I know I have borrowed a bit from here and a bit from there, so I suppose it would have to be a very strange looking composite of Hilary Mantel and Bernard Cornwell, each rolling their eyes at the other. Bernard would be telling Hilary no one cares what he – Thomas – thinks and she would be telling him not to start another sentence with “and” or “because”. If you mean the latter, then I’d like my Louis to be Wilbur Smith, I think. Or Harold Robbins! Dead now of course, and a horrible man I’ve read, but he could tell a story, couldn’t he?  

7: What was the hardest part of writing your book? I find telling stories the most difficult thing. I am not a natural at it at all. Early drafts of this book were all “this happened and then that happened”, and though they all seemed plausible enough, I’d look at them and wonder why anyone would ever care if they had happened or not. Hence my call to Harold Robbins above. Though I am sure he would play very fast and loose with historical accuracy.

8: Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? I have many but at the moment I have to say it is Hilary Mantel. I love her sprawling yet meticulous characterisation, the way she gets around into different heads and makes their thoughts and actions totally compelling, totally plausible. Her use of research is fascinating, too. There is one paragraph in Wolf Hall when Thomas Cromwell wonders why Thomas Moore thinks he is evil, and he wonders if Moore thinks the Devil crept in to corrupt Cromwell with the hawthorn branches that were used to resuscitate the fire in the bread oven in the morning, or with the washing or something else I cannot now recall. In that short paragraph she gives you a brief, bright jewel like glimpse of what life must have been like for low status individuals nearly 500 years ago, but it is all about something else. What she does not do very well is huge battles though, involving men with long bows, and others smacking the crap out of one another with blunt instruments, so she still has some things to learn!

Many thanks and I hope the book is the utter success it deserves to be



Filed under Historical Fiction, Toby Clements

COLOSSUS by Alexander Cole

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Todays blog is courtesy of the debut author Alexander Cole to coincide with the release of his book Colossus:

Book Description:

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Alexander the Great rests in Babylon as he decides which should be his next world to conquer. A war elephant, Colossus, disturbs the peace of the camp when he is provoked to a killing rampage. Only one young mahout has the courage to stop Colossus. And when Alexander notices his bravery, Gajendra begins a meteoric climb through the ranks of the Macedonian army. Gajendra is fiercely loyal to Alexander, the great General who plucked him from obscurity. But as he rises to become Captain of the Elephants, Gajendra sees how Alexander is being corrupted by luxury and power. Forced to choose between keeping faith with Alexander or with his comrades, Gajendra must find the strength to make the right decision as Alexander’s army approaches the gates of Rome. 

Guest Blog: 





They called him Alexander the Great. But ‘the great’ what?

Greatness was not calculated in the distant past in the way we would judge it now. Alexander was considered ‘great’ by ancient history because he achieved conquest from the Mediterranean to the Ganges. It is true this made him a great general; but by today’s standards, this does not make him a great man.

Conquest on the scale of Alexander’s could not have been achieved without unrivalled ruthlessness.

Parmenion is testament to that.

Who was Parmenion? He was a Macedonian nobleman who rose to become second in command of Alexander’s army. He commanded Alexander’s left wing at both major battles in the Persian campaign, at Issus and Gaugamala. He was Alexander’s steadying influence, fiercely loyal but very conservative in his tactics.

After Issus the Persian king, Darius III, offered Alexander his daughter’s hand as well as all Minor Asia in exchange for an alliance. Parmenion’s advice? ‘If I were Alexander, I should accept it.’

To which Alexander famously replied: ‘So would I – if I were Parmenion.’

Soon afterwards, one of Parmenion’s sons, Philotas, was accused of plotting against Alexander’s life, a conspiracy to which he confessed under torture.

He was then stoned to death.

While this was happening, Parmenion was in Media, in command of one of Alexander’s armies and guarding his treasury and his supply lines. Alexander rightly supposed that once Parmenion discovered that his son had been tortured and executed he must certainly look to take revenge. Because of his experience, his tactical position and his popularity, he was in the ideal position to do it.

Alexander immediately sent two of his men, Cleandor and Sitalces, across the desert to Media on racing camels. Before news could reach Parmenion about his son’s fate, the two officers had arrived and stabbed him to death.

Parmenion had faithfully served both Alexander and his Alexander’s father; he was a hugely competent soldier with a brilliant career, and was immensely popular with the soldiers.

But Alexander did not hesitate, Loyalty counted for nothing and neither did friendship.

It was a pragmatic decision from a ruthless man.

Or was there more to it? What makes Parmenion’s death more intriguing is the suggestion that there actually was no plot against Alexander. Could it have been Alexander’s ploy to rid himself of a general whose popularity threatened to rival his own? 

If true, it was a strategy that he was never to change. He died himself just seven years later, without a clear heir or successor. He remained adept at keeping his generals at odds with each other.

His quest for greatness was for Alexander and Alexander alone.

After his death Macedonian unity disappeared and his generals squabbled over the empire like buzzards over a carcass.

COLOSSUS begins at which Alexander’s true history ends; it is the story of what might have happened if he lived to march an army out of Babylon, instead of succumbing to illness – or was it poison? – at the age of just 33.

His army was not only pre-eminent, it had been seemingly strengthened with the addition of ancient weapons of mass destruction; war elephants from India. He had recently created a unique post within his army – ‘elephantarch,’ the captain of the elephants.

By then his megalomania and paranoia was well advanced; he was also grief stricken over the loss of his soul’s companion, Hephaiston, and had survived wounds that would have killed ten men.

He had become monstrous.

Meanwhile every general within his army was positioning themselves for the coming game of thrones.

But as Parmenion could have told them, it was a battle they could not win.

This is the world to which Colossus, a monster of a different kind, is introduced. Soon after he survives the assassination attempt Alexander sets out to conquer again – to Carthage, to Sicily and then onto Rome.

Thank You: Alexander Cole, i know reading this has given me a different viewpoint for the story, i hope those reading this will take this view of Alexander the Great into their reading of the book.

My review will follow in a few days……..


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Filed under Alexander Cole, Fantasy, Historical Fiction