Monthly Archives: June 2014

C C Humphreys: Plague (Review)

C C Humphreys


aka Chris Humphreys

Author Bio (and web site)

Book Description

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Buy from WH Smiths

Buy from Waterstones


London, 1665. A serial killer stalks his prey, scalpel in his hand and God’s vengeance in his heart.

Five years after his restoration to the throne, Charles II leads his citizens by example, enjoying every excess. Londoners have slipped the shackles of puritanism and now flock to the cockpits, brothels and, especially, the theatres, where for the first time women are allowed to perform alongside the men.
But not everyone is swept up in the excitement. Some see this liberated age as the new Babylon, and murder victims pile up in the streets, making no distinction in class between a royalist member of parliament and a Cheapside whore. But they have a few things in common: the victims are found with gemstones in their mouths. And they have not just been murdered; they’ve been . . . sacrificed.
Now, with the plague is returning to the city with full force, attacking indiscriminately . . . and murder has found a new friend.


Plague for me was always going to be a difficult book by this exceptional author. His last title Shakespear’s Rebel was just so amazingly well written, researched and composed, it became my book of the year last year, a book that had more than just writing passion, but I felt a little of the authors soul poured onto the pages. How can you follow that? Can you follow that?

Plague isn’t in the same league as Shakespear’s Rebel, but once again C C Humphreys has served up a real reading treat. The book very patiently paints a vivid and real London of 1665 (the dirt and squalor, but also the families who live there), adding in the authors usual realistic and dramatic main characters, developing the plot introducing each character carefully and fully. Moving carefully from a Highwayman, to a dangerous killer who is every bit as nasty as Jack the ripper, to a thief catcher of one of the boroughs of London. It doesn’t end there, some big great players walk upon this stage, including the King, I really enjoyed seeing the king portrayed in the book, his love of theater giving the impression of a frivolous king, but clearly hidden under that a sharp and keen mind. As ever I enjoyed the introduction of one of the Absolute Clan, the link that ties the authors books together.

Writing a book about the Plague is also a tough ask, its a seriously dark period of time, and a dark subject matter. Chris manages to imbue it with something different, the plague is happening, but it isn’t the key driver for the plot. There is instead a Psychotic and dangerous killer loose in London, a dangerous plot brewing,  families struggling to survive the danger that is daily life, let alone the plague. All of this we see though the eyes of Captain Coke and Pitman the thief and the thief catcher. So while this isn’t a new Shakespeare Rebel, it is a plot with many many levels with characters real, but for me having a hint of the stage about them, not that i mind that, in fact i enjoy it in this author books because its coupled with such vivid portrayal of the time, place and circumstances (the many sub plots).

So as ever I highly recommend this book, this time to fans of Historical Fiction, Crime, and books that are just brilliantly written.


Other Books

French Executioner
1. The French Executioner (2002)
2. Blood Ties (2002)
The French ExecutionerBlood Ties
Jack Absolute
1. Jack Absolute: The 007 of the 1770s (2003)
2. The Blooding of Jack Absolute (2004)
3. Absolute Honour (2006)
Jack Absolute: The 007 of the 1770sThe Blooding of Jack AbsoluteAbsolute Honour
Vlad: The Last Confession (2008)
The Hunt of the Unicorn (2011)
A Place Called Armageddon (2011)
Shakespeare’s Rebel (2013)
Plague (2014)
Vlad: The Last ConfessionThe Hunt of the UnicornA Place Called ArmageddonShakespeare's RebelPlague


Filed under C C Humphreys, Crime, Historical Fiction, Thrillers

Noble Smith: Spartans at the Gates (review)

Author Bio (Noble Smith)


Noble Smith is an award-winning playwright and documentary film executive producer as well as a 16-year veteran of the interactive entertainment industry as a narrative designer. He is the author of The Wisdom of the Shire, a guide to life for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien (translated into 8 languages), praised by Kirkus Reviews as a “must-have” for fans of Middle-earth. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and children.

Book Description (Spartan at the gates)


The Peloponnesian War has begun. An army of merciless Spartan invaders have arrived at the gates of Plataea, bent on obliterating the city and its inhabitants. Plataea’s oldest allies, the Athenians, are spread too thin in their own campaigns to send help. Cut off and alone, the Plataeans dig in behind their high walls for the coming siege, while the ruthless Spartans gather outside.

On a rugged mountain road a young Plataean warrior named Nikias rides to Athens on an urgent quest. He carries with him a bag of ill-gotten gold, hoping to raise an army of mercenaries to help defend his city from the coming Spartan assault. But in the sprawling stronghold of Athens, Nikias encounters perils that prove to be more dangerous than those he has faced on the battlefield.
Noble Smith’s Spartans at the Gates is a thrilling action-adventure novel set during the war between the great powers of Ancient Greece.


I first discovered Noble last year when i stumbled across Sons of Zeus, The concept was the bit that intrigued me despite the cover being another unfortunate US cover (sorry guys, but US publishers have an amazing skill for awful covers, Spartans at the Gates isn’t really an improvement…sorry Noble). In the last five years plus I have developed a real passion for books set in ancient Greece, something driven mainly by the awesome writing of Christian Cameron. Couple that with Nobles setting of Plataea again a location at the heart of Christians writing and I was hooked in to read book one and give it a go. What i didn’t expect was excellent pace and plotting of the book and its characters. My review of Sons of Zeus is Here

When I know Spartan at the Gates was ready in advance copy I was front and centre begging the author for a copy. I hadn’t enjoyed a book this much in this time period since Christian Cameron’s works first hooked me in. (and that really is my highest compliment). The worry of a great first book is “can the author repeat it?”

In the case of Spartan the answer is yes with a tiny quibble. The fantastic setting is there, the descriptive is there, the research is impeccable, the characters are once again sublime. Noble imbues Nikias and all his family and friends with a real passion, the protagonists are all complex bad guys, giving an amazing keep you guessing plot, who will pop up where, what are the real motives? Introduce the multitude of whisperers (spies) from all sides and factions and you don’t know what will happen next.  This book has Nikias thrown from one set of issues and adversity to another, testing his stamina and metal to the limit, We also fill in more of the blanks on Chusor the mysterious Smith and will Nikias young friend Kolax finally find his father, and how many people will this whirling devil of a Scythian boy kill on his journey to find him. The whole book flew by, it was over before I felt I had really got to the meat of it, and I think that was my only regret with the read, it felt like a bridging book, moving pieces on the chess board and shifting them into position for the final book in the series, its done so well that on the Amazon scale I would still give this 5/5 stars, but on a personal note I felt that bridging and plot building too keenly in its ending, that could just be a great compliment that i never wanted it to end? but in a world of hefty tomes, i felt this could have benefitted from another 100 pages of meat.

So once again from Noble Smith a truly excellent read, crammed with great characters and story telling , an engaging and fast paced writing skill and style to rival the best of them (Bernard Cornwell, , Conn Iggulden, Christian Cameron, Giles Kristian, Anthony Riches, Ben Kane, Paul Collard, Michael Arnold, Angus Donald (hope I didn’t miss anyone 😉 etc..) and well worth the cover price, a book I heartily recommend.



Stolen from Gypsies (2000)
Sons of Zeus (2013)
Spartans at the Gates (2014)
Stolen from GypsiesSons of ZeusSpartans at the Gates
The One-Armed Warrior (2013)
The One-Armed Warrior
Non fiction
The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life (2012)
The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life




Filed under Historical Fiction, Noble Smith

Livi Michael: Succession (Review + Q&A)

Author Bio


Livi Michael has written four books for adults and began to write for children in 2000 when she wanted to amuse her seven-year-old son over the summer holidays. She started writing when she was seven years old and never stopped! If she hadn’t been a writer Livi thinks she would have been ‘a very sad person or, alternatively, an Arctic explorer’. The Frank titles are special for their humour and originality and appeal hugely to readers of fantasy fiction as well as to animal-lovers.


Succession (Book description)


Succession tells the extraordinary tale of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, and how she became one of the most formidable women of her age. 1444. Henry VI is married by proxy to Margaret of Anjou: an unpopular choice that causes national uproar. At the same time, the infant Margaret Beaufort is made a great heiress after her father, the Earl of Somerset’s, death. Everyone at court is competing to be her guardian: she brings with her the Beaufort fortune and an advantageous alliance with her uncle. In the years that follow, English rule in France collapses, Henry VI goes insane, civil war erupts, and families are pitted against each other. And though Margaret Beaufort is still little more than a child, by the age of thirteen she has married twice and given birth to her only son – the future King of England. Succession tells the thrilling, bloody story of the fall of the House of Lancaster and the rise of the Tudor dynasty. Livi Michael has published four novels for adults: Under a Thin Moon which won the Arthur Welton award in 1992, Their Angel Reach which won the Faber prize in 1995, All the Dark Air (1997) which was short-listed for the Mind Award, and Inheritance, which won a Society of Authors award. Livi has two sons and lives in Greater Manchester. She teaches literature part-time at the Manchester Metropolitan University and has been a senior lecturer in creative writing at Sheffield Hallam University.




When I first started this book I have to admit to some concern. I had just finished some fairly well proportioned books that were heavy going. I needed something engaging, initially the style seemed so alien it didn’t work for me. But all of a sudden it clicked and the book took on its own life.

The characters are not just whole, rounded and alive, their emotions pour off the pages. The lives of the great women of the day, from the Duchess of York, a lady who stood up to an army, down to the youngest of girls (eg: Margaret Beaufort), married to great men of their day for property, position, power, and future power; lineage is everything. It can only be this trial by fire from a young age that tempers them into the strongest of steel; and then the power behind their respective men. Its very easy to overlook these women in history, the books i was taught as a child were very male orientated. But clearly in their day, you over looked these women at your peril.

Its this teaching angle that i think is the true power of this book. Every now and again an author comes along that leaves me thinking “I wish you had been my history teacher”. Once again this is the case, this book has elements of the text book about it with its chronicle excerpts, this though mixed with the fictional element makes for (in my humble opinion) a powerful teaching tool. I think books and teaching like this can and would capture the imagination of many children, fire their enthusiasm and educate where other styles had failed.

This book has left me thoroughly entertained and educated, and wanting more, what more could i ask for from an author of historical fiction.





Interview questions

Many thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions:

1) What led you to choose this period?

In April 2007 I was doing some research at Manchester Cathedral . In the roof of the cathedral there are 14 stone angels, each playing a different medieval instrument. They were said to have been donated by Margaret Beaufort.
I had never heard of Margaret Beaufort. I began to look into her, just out of curiosity, but the more I found out the more fascinated I became. The details of her life are extraordinary. She was married three times before she was 15 and gave birth to her only son at the age of 13, (who, on an unlikely chance, became King of England). By the end of her life she was the most powerful woman in the country, a patron of education and the arts who was herself a writer. Also, as the mother of Henry VII she was the founder of the Tudor dynasty. People have been interested in the Tudors for a long time, but they didn’t just come out of nowhere, and the story of where they did come from is fascinating. It’s an epic tale of the birth of a nation, or at least of a recognisably modern England, and it has all the elements of high drama – conflict, heroism, love & betrayal, violence and idealism.

2) The book is a very interesting (dare i say unique) style, how did this come about? was it deliberate from the start of writing? or did it evolve?

History is full of extraordinary stories. The main challenge for the novelist is to do justice to them. There was so much material! Margaret Beaufort lived through the reigns of six kings, and the period of bloody civil war now known as the Wars of the Roses. In her lifetime, the concept of the world, and in fact the universe, changed. England changed from medieval feudalism to a recognisably modern society. She herself was instrumental in that change.
How to convey all, or any, of that?
This is where the medieval chronicles came in – contemporary accounts of life as it was lived then. Initially I read about Margaret Beaufort in modern books but these all referred to the chronicles and I was increasingly convinced that I needed to go back to the original sources. Then once I started to read them I was hooked. They are so vivid, personal, partisan, sometimes scurrilous – and they really convey the spirit of the time.
I don’t believe that 21st century novelists can truly convey the spirit of the 15th century. They run the risk of sounding artificial, or of overloading their narrative with the research.
I became interested in the difference between the chronicles and the contemporary novel: one is focussed almost exclusively on events and action, the other, potentially at least, offers a more intimate exploration of individual feelings and motivation. The chronicles seem to have been written by and about men – women feature peripherally if at all, – but the novel allows us to reimagine the lives of the women concerned. The two different kinds of narrative seemed to me to complement one another rather well. And the chronicle extracts allowed me to cut through large swathes of complex history – without them the book might have been 5 times longer than it is!
So now Succession is substantially my own narrative interspersed by chronicle extracts. It should be obvious which bits I’ve made up – which I know is sometimes a problem for readers. Hopefully the relationship between the two kinds of writing might generate a new way of reading historical fiction.

3) I have personally read 3 books in this period this year, and each portrays the major personalities in their own unique voice, how did you develop the personalities of Henry, Suffolk, Margaret, York etc?

Interestingly, although the chronicles don’t focus on the interior world of their characters at all, personality traits do shine through. So the Duke of York, for instance, comes across as a capable commander, but someone who did not go into war lightly, especially against his king. Most of the chronicles portray Henry VI as a deeply religious, possibly holy man, but some of the writers evidently see him as a fool. It seemed to me that the two things weren’t necessarily incompatible – he was neither worldly nor aggressive enough to rule. These days he would probably be diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness. Margaret of Anjou is warrior-like, and much defamed, but now we can see that she did have a lot to put up with, and Margaret Beaufort comes across as tough, shrewd, pious and ascetic. It’s all there really!

4) If you had been a player in the times, which side would you have backed? (removing your knowledge of victory).

When I first started Succession I didn’t think I had a bias. My family is almost exactly divided between Yorkshire and Lancashire & I have always lived on the borders of these two counties. In some ways the House of York is more colourful. But I do feel that the Lancastrians have had a bad press, even though they were ultimately successful. Henry VII, for instance, gets far less attention than either Edward IV, or Richard III, and certainly than his own son, Henry VIII, but he really laid the foundations of everything that followed. Henry VI is remembered, if at all, for being mad or feeble, and the chronicles have nothing good to say about Margaret of Anjou. Margaret Beaufort tends to be portrayed as a shrewish ascetic, ruthless and manipulative. I just think their stories are more interesting than that.
If I’d been a player at the time, though, who I supported would have depended on family connections, or whose retainer I was, or, if I was ambitious, what I thought I might get out of it!

5) What’s next for your writing skills?

Well I will certainly be writing the sequel to Succession – which will take a similar form and follow the characters through to the Battle of Bosworth. I do have other ideas for the future, but this is taking up all my time and energy at the moment.

6) Right its soap box time…. sell your book to the readers, give us the blurb for the jacket in your own words… so in your best Del Boy….

This is what my son said about it:
Folks, my Mum’s latest book is out this week – her magnum opus! As accurate a telling of that rollercoaster of English history, the Wars of The Roses (pt1), as you’ll find! Begun long before the current spate of similar novels on bookstore shelves, it’s had more incarnations than there were Kings of England between 1455 and 1485, and it’s finally arrived, in Tudor-like grandeur!

7) And a bit of fun; you have a dinner party and can invite anyone from history, pick the top 4, who and why?

I would certainly invite Margaret Beaufort. For one thing it would be wonderful to have her perspective on events and especially to learn the truth about what did happen to the Princes in the Tower. I have my own take on that of course!
I remember being asked this question a long time before I’d even heard of Margaret Beaufort, and I said Elizabeth I then – her great granddaughter. They have a lot in common – both sharp independent women who knew everything there was to know about politics and the arts. I think they’d make an interesting combination. Especially in view of the religious upheaval brought about by Henry VIII – they might have opposing views on that.
Karl Marx, just to give us a slightly different perspective on royalty…
And possibly Simone Veil 20th century Jewish, later Christian mystic. So we’d have the main fields of politics, religion, philosophy and the arts covered.
I’m sure we’d be too busy arguing to eat!


many thanks again, and i hope the book is a great success.



Filed under Uncategorized

Thorkil Jewelry..and more.

Thorkils Shop Click link

Main web site

They are a small family business, based in Poland, with 12 years experience in making replicas of arms and armour for reenactors, collectors and museums. Greg (thorkil) is known especially for his replicas of Vendel period and Viking finds and other projects, which needs skill to recreate the most difficult and elaborate decoration on arms and armour. Most of these creations you can see on their main web site : (link above)

2014-06-15 11.15.15 2014-06-15 11.15.29

2014-06-15 11.15.482014-06-16 18.02.10


Normally i review books, so this is an interesting move to a different art form.  (and this really is art)

These bracelets are thick, unique, impressive and eye-catching silver Viking style, mine being sized from 18cm to 20cm. This is a completely hand-made bracelet, consisting of plaiting, hand woven in so-called Viking knitting technique of fine silver wire, ended with faithful replica of Gotlandic dragon head terminals cast in sterling silver.

The bracelet is made using Viking knitting technique:

weaveweave 2

This bracelet has a stiff construction, but at the same time it is flexible enough, to be easily fitted (bent) to your wrist size.
Thanks to this construction, this bracelet fits many sizes – from 18 cm to 20 cm in wrist (circumference).
The Thickness of wire plaiting is approx. 6,2 mm, mine is made entirely of fine and sterling silver.
I felt compelled to write a review because it is such a wonderful piece, a true piece of functional art work. Flexible and yet durable, like a true arm ring fit for a norseman. I wear mine every day, and it has already had many people asking where i bought it.

I highly recommend both the quality and craftsmanship put into this item.


and if you think the quality of the bracelet is stunning, look at a couple of Greg Thorkils helmets.

35a 53a


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Nick Brown: The Black Stone (Review and Q&A)

Nick Brown

Nick Brown grew up in Norfolk and has taught English and history in both the UK and abroad. He was inspired to try his hand at historical fiction after reading C.J. Sansom’s Dissolution.

The Black Stone (2014)
(The fourth book in the Agent of Rome series)
A novel by Nick Brown

black stone

AD 273. Obsessed by the solar religions of the east, the emperor Aurelian sets out to obtain every sacred object within his realm. But one – a conical rock said to channel the very voices of the gods – lies beyond his reach. Arabian king Amir Adi has captured the stone and intends to use its fabled power to raise an army against Rome. For imperial agent Cassius Corbulo and his bodyguard Indavara, recovering the stone will constitute their toughest mission yet.


Since book one of this series i have been a fan, I don’t normally find myself gravitating towards mixed genres and this series with its Roman Spies, investigations all mixed in with classic blood and sandals Roman battles is as mixed as you can find.

BUT…it works and works well. I think for me its because it doesn’t really have the big muscle-bound hero, on one person who is just amazingly good at fighting or intelligent beyond his peers etc.. Cassius Corbulo is young, too young, and scared, he never wanted to be part of the Frumentarii, he wanted to be an Orator, to belong to the cerebral arts, to enjoy his status at the top of society. At the beginning he would never have survived without his bodyguard Indavara a man with his own troubled past. The series is set against varying locations of the empire, but always at a time when the Roman world was still struggling with all the varied religions and revolts, as much as it wanted to absorb other cultures, it struggled with the Christ Cult and to add to Cassius’s problems his slave Simo is a member.

Books 4 The Black Stone: unlike books two and three which (were excellent books) showed incremental improvements, the improvements I look for in authors as a series progresses. Book four however goes to a whole new level, the plot is woven with multiple layers of religious intrigue and intolerance, political intrigue, fighting, comradeship and the ever growing relationship and maturity of our band of hero’s. Cassius learns more about his limits, his courage, and his friends. Indavara starts to learn and over come his past. The relationship between these two has matured to a whole new level in this book.

The story the black Stone is well thought out and put together, and has the layers to keep you galloping along at a decent pace. But its the characters that make it a winner, the development of the characters in the book alone is excellent (let alone the series). There are many teasing glimpses of Indavara and his past which i feel will become the focus if a future book in the series. There is very real wear and tear on the team and their personalities and the dynamic as a group. Its this frailty this real humanity that shines out from the page and makes this such a good book. Its so easy to make a near invincible hero or villain, but Nick creates shades of grey. Good guys do bad things for the sake of others or politics, or just that its expedient. Bad guys do good things on a whim, or because they just want to walk away.  All of it means that when reading it you can empathise with the characters, to think..”Yeah..I get that”. The introduction of Gutha was a master-stroke, the perfect bad guy foil to Indavara, you spend so much of the book waiting for them to face off. Also the mystery of a Germanic warrior in the far east, adds such an element of difference to the tale, also bad guy is probably the wrong term, he is a mercenary, he fights for money and his master, so good guy / bad guy in this time period is a matter of perspective, His side pays him, and while they do, they are the good guys! I found this sort of thinking refreshing in a book of this type, rather than the standard good v evil. (im going to stop now before i give something away)

At almost 500 pages you get your moneys worth and a whole lot more, not once did this book feel like it should have been trimmed, despite the length the writing is sparse where it needs to keep the pace flowing and descriptive where you need to feel the heat and desolation of the desert. By the end of the book i guarantee you will be wanting more!

This book is Highly recommended



When did you first consider yourself a writer?

That’s a good question; it’s probably only recently that I’d say I was if someone asked what I do. Of course anyone who writes is a writer but I think most people – possibly unfairly – would expect you to have had something published. In creative terms, I’m a big believer in just putting in the hours. Stephen King said it takes a million words to really get to grips with writing and I think there’s a lot of truth to that.

What led you to write Roman fiction?

Even though there are so many books covering the period, the Empire was so long-lasting and vast that the story opportunities are almost endless. Also, the sources allow us to picture the Roman world yet we remain in the dark about so many aspects. That is a compelling and attractive blend for creative minds.

 How much of the character behaviour in the series is based on people you know?

Not a huge amount though I do occasionally use real people for little details like speech patterns or physical behaviour. While I was on holiday in Croatia a couple of years back I saw a striking fellow and started making notes describing his appearance. My girlfriend was a bit bemused at the time but he turned out to be Captain Asdribar from ‘The Far Shore’!

 Where did the inspiration for Cassius come from?

I think it’s quite interesting to focus on a character from the patrician class because it provides a window on the ruling ‘elite’ – both the good and the bad. I appreciate that some of his antics can occasionally put readers off but I have always tried to stay true to how I believe someone like him would behave. At heart he is a good person but very much a product of his class and with all the accompanying traits of a young man with considerable status and power.

 Your Roman books are a mix of investigation (crime) and classic swords and sandals is this deliberate and why?

Absolutely. I think readers are very well served elsewhere if they want huge battles and political machinations so if I had to use one word to describe what I’m aiming for I would say ‘adventure’. There have been military and mystery elements in all four so far but I am always on the lookout for new story ideas.

Where next for our very mixed trio of (mis) adventurers?

Without being too specific, they are returning to a province where they’ve seen plenty of action before. Cassius thinks he’s found himself a nice and easy assignment but you won’t be surprised to hear that things soon go awry.

 If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I wouldn’t say I’ve studied anyone’s work to that degree but I am aware of certain aspects of my stuff being influenced by Tolkien, Fleming and Macdonald Fraser.

 Just for Fun: All time fav book?

Easy. ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ Story and character tremendous, not to mention the fact that Tolkien pretty much invented a genre.

Dinner…any 4 people from history, who would you invite and why?

First off, the Roman emperor Aurelian, who ruled at the time my series is set. Mind you, there’s then a danger I would ignore the rest of my dining companions so they need to be just as intriguing. Hammurabi would be another – the ruler of ancient Babylon lived in a fascinating time and led his people for about forty years. Then perhaps Boudicca, though I’d have to remember to seat her well away from Aurelian.  Lastly, I would go for the Roman gladiator Asteropaeus, who was said to have won 107 victories in the arena. Now that guy would have some stories to tell!


Agent of Rome
1. The Siege (2011)
2. The Imperial Banner (2012)
3. The Far Shore (2013)
4. The Black Stone (2014)
The SiegeThe Imperial BannerThe Far ShoreThe Black Stone
Death This Day (2012)
The Eleventh Hour (2013)
Death This DayThe Eleventh Hour

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Nick Brown, Uncategorized

Lia Mills: Fallen (Guest Blog) THE STORY OF ‘FALLEN’ – How I Came To Write This Novel by Lia Mills

Lia Mills

Lia Mills

THE STORY OF ‘FALLEN’ – How I Came To Write This Novel by Lia Mills



The Easter rising of 1916 is the best-known and probably the best-loved story in Irish history.  We’re very proud of it, and with good reason.  It has all the elements of the best kind of fiction: a cast of characters that any century would be proud to claim, a few hundred brave men and women laying their lives on the line against a vast Imperial army and holding on against overwhelming odds for nearly a full week.  In the end they were defeated – of course they were – and the leaders were quickly executed. But that turned out to be a PR disaster for the British government, who were already at war in Europe and beyond.  Little by little, support for the idea of Irish independence grew and that led to the War of Independence followed by a Civil War. Ultimately most of Ireland became a republic, while the north remained as part of the United Kingdom.


I was fascinated by all this because I used to study and teach the literary and social history of the period.  There are subplots to the Rising involving acts of extraordinary courage and outright betrayals, split families, glamour, romance, tragedy and comedy.  The story is so smooth and crafted, so well polished that it was difficult to see a way in under its skin to tell it from the inside out, which is what a novel needs.  It took me a while to see the connection that had been right in front of me all along: my grandparents were living right on the battlelines drawn between the rebels and the British army – as in, on those actual streets.  I began to wonder what it’s like when all hell breaks loose around you, if your city erupts into violence and you’ve no idea what’s going on or where it will all end.


That’s where the story began for me.  The novel opens in Dublin, 1914, soon after WWI begins. Katie Crilly is a young woman trying to figure out what to do with her life, given the constraints of the world she lives in.  She’s appalled when her twin brother, Liam, joins the British Army and goes off to fight in the war, as hundreds of thousands of Irishmen did.  When the Rising begins in April 1916, she’s past caring about her own future because Liam has been killed.  She takes shelter from street violence with friends and meets Hubie Wilson, who’s been discharged from the army with wounds.  Both of them are damaged, both are wary and combative. The novel is about the impact they have on each other and the choices they make as the city catches fire and burns around them.

Win a free copy of the book: Follow and leave a comment. on 21st June i will draw 1 name to get a copy of the book.

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James A Moore: The Blasted Lands (2014) Guest Blog (Divine Inspiration)

James A Moore

James M

USA (1965 – )

James A. Moore has been writing professionally for almost 10 years. During that time he’s worked in the comics field, on numerous role playing games and has written and sold four novels, while working any number of jobs to pay the bills. He’s been both the Secretary and the Vice-President of the Horror Writers Association, and has recently made his first foray into editing with the forthcoming “The Bedlam Reports: Memoirs from Padded Cells.”

He lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA, with his wife, Bonnie, to whom he owes more than he could ever hope to express.

The Blasted Lands (2014)
(The second book in the Seven Forges series, from Angry Robot books)
A novel by James A Moore

Blasted land

Buy Paperback (UK)

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The Empire of Fellein is in mourning. The Emperor is dead, and the armies of the empire have grown soft. Merros Dulver, their newly-appointed – and somewhat reluctant – commander, has been tasked with preparing them to fight the most savage enemy the world has yet seen.

Meanwhile, a perpetual storm ravages the Blasted Lands, and a new threat is about to arise – the Broken are coming, and with them only Death.

Author Guest Blog

Divine Inspiration?

The question has come up as to what is the inspiration for the story arc in the Seven Forges Series. It’s an interesting question and I rather like it, but it’s also one I don’t have an easy answer for. To me that’s even more challenging than “Where do you get your ideas?” and believe me, that one’s a killer by itself.

I don’t have an easy answer because the answer is, to a very real extent, that I get the inspiration from everything.

If I wanted to go back and try to remember exactly what started the notions for SEVEN FORGES I guess I’d have to say part of it came from the ongoing issues with war in our own world. When I was a child in school the usual pat answers about warfare could be boiled down to the following sentence: “The United States of America got involved in that war because it was the right thing to do.” Things are really much simpler when we’re kids, aren’t they? Not so many shades of gray, just black and white.

The truth is a different beast entirely and normally involves economic sanctions, the pressures of trying to run a country and, of course, the powerful need of some people/countries to stick their noses into world affairs and try to fix things to their satisfaction.

Ultimately what I have learned is that no one gets up in the morning and decides to be the bad guy. Well, no one who is sane at least.

What kept me coming back to Seven Forges, what keeps me coming back, is a fascination with how things evolve. There’s that old adage about the unstoppable force and the immovable object, and to a real extent that’s what I was thinking about when I started the series.

On the side of the Immoveable Object you have a ponderously large empire. Fellein is old, well-established, and strong enough that it has long since removed all of its enemies.  There are other countries outside of the empire, locked on the periphery of the story as it were, but mostly there’s just the empire sitting in the same spot and content to grow no larger.

Except that no one is ever content for long, are they? With nothing else to conquer the Empire of Fellein turns its attentions toward the Blasted Lands, a ruined area with alleged riches hidden away and with a distant mountain range that gives off light and maybe offers a promise of that wealth to anyone who might want to risk the voyage through a wasteland.

One thing about human nature that always amuses me is summed up in a saying my mother used to throw around: the grass is always greener on the other side. No one stays content. I think it goes against human nature. We are as bad as cats when it comes to curiosity.

On the other side of the story you have the Unstoppable Force, the Sa’ba Taalor: a breed of people who have trained themselves in the art of war and survival for roughly one thousand years, carving away any weaknesses they find among their own people as mercilessly as a gardener mows a lawn and removes weeds.

I have always been fascinated by religion. Not by faith, which is an entirely different thing for me, but by religion. Faith I can understand. It’s almost elemental, really. Religion, on the other hand, can be as simple as faith or as confused as a cat in a room with a hundred active laser pointers.

I got to thinking about the differences between monotheism, the worship of only one god and polytheism, and I decided I wanted to explore that notion. How does it work? How do people worship multiple gods without getting themselves into some kind of trouble? More importantly, how do they do it when the gods are active in their lives? I mean a case where the gods seem to interact on an individual basis and take an active interest in each person’s life?

What we have in the Sa’ba Taalor is a race that is fanatically devoted to their gods, and determined to keep their gods happy at any cost. Their lives mean nothing as long as the gods are happy. If they live or die they see it as the will of their gods and they have proof on many levels that their gods are active and participate in their lives (many of which have not been revealed yet, but which, you may rest assured, are very good reasons in their eyes to behave and obey.).

I wanted to set these two forces against each other, but I wanted to do it as carefully and organically as I could. I didn’t want a sudden invading force that storms into the idyllic land where everyone is happy and innocent of any wrongdoing. I don’t like those books. They are too black and white and I still love my shades of gray (though, to be fair, not 50 SHADES OF GRAY, ha ha.). I have written and contemplated a great deal about this world already. There are two finished novels and four short stories out there and the on thing they have in common, hopefully, is that deciding exactly who the good guys are and separating them from the bad guys, is a bit of a challenge.

Everyone has a reason for doing what they do. That’s what I like to explore. There are a lot of characters, a lot of moving parts as it were, and I love examining how they move and why they move and what makes them work properly.

That was the notion I started with. After setting it into motion a lot of what I have been doing, a lot of my inspiration, comes from the back of my mind when I’m thinking about other things. I watch the news from time to time and very often some little tidbit of a story finds its way into my thoughts and blends itself into the stew of my thoughts about Seven Forges. Those bits of information and random thoughts shape and change everything that I’m doing in a hundred different ways.

I know the characters—I made them, so if I don’t know their basic attitudes something has gone wrong—but I don’t always know how they’re going to react to a situation and I love finding out. It’s the part of the process that I find endlessly fascination: that odd moment when I think I know what a character is going to do and the character promptly ignores me completely and does something else. For me, at that moment, the characters seem amazingly alive.

Everything is the only answer I can give, really. Everything inspires me. From news stories to the way I see people interacting in the real world to the endless buzz of ideas that sink or swim in my mind. SEVEN FORGES is not the book I thought it would be. I think it’s a better book, because it evolved and the storyline is continuing to change regularly.

I hope that answers the question and thanks


Other books by James A Moore

John Crowley
Under the Overtree (2000)
Serenity Falls (2003)
Cherry Hill (2011)
Smile No More (2011)
Under the OvertreeSerenity FallsCherry HillSmile No More
Chris Corin
1. Possessions (2004)
2. Rabid Growth (2005)
PossessionsRabid Growth
Serenity Falls
1. Writ in Blood (2005)
2. The Pack (2005)
3. Dark Carnival (2005)
Writ in BloodThe PackDark Carnival
Black Stone Bay
Blood Red (2005)
Blood Harvest (2011)
Blood RedBlood Harvest
Bloodstained (with Christopher Golden)
Bloodstained Oz (2006)
Bloodstained Oz
Subject Seven
1. Subject Seven (2011)
2. Run (2012)
Subject SevenRun
Seven Forges
1. Seven Forges (2013)
2. The Blasted Lands (2014)
Seven ForgesThe Blasted Lands
Blood Magic : Secrets of Thaumaturgy (1998)
Fireworks (2001)
Newbies (2004)
Deeper (2008)
Harvest Moon (2009)
Blind Shadows (2012)
Blood Magic : Secrets of ThaumaturgyFireworksNewbiesDeeperHarvest MoonBlind Shadows
Game Books
Get of Fenris: Tribebook 05 (1995)
Werewolf Storytellers Screen (1995) (with Tony DiTerlizzi)
Get of Fenris: Tribebook 05Werewolf Storytellers Screen
The Walker Place (2009)
The Walker Place
Series contributed to
World of Darkness
House of Secrets (1995) (with Kevin Andrew Murphy)
Hell-Storm (1996)
House of Secrets
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Chaos Bleeds (2003)
Chaos Bleeds
Buffy the Vampire Slayer : Tales of the Slayer (withChristopher Golden, Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro and Mel Odom)
3. Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 3 (2003)
Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 3
Earthling Halloween
1. Blood Red (2005)
3. The Haunted Forest Tour (2007) (with Jeff Strand)
7. Blood Harvest (2011)
Blood RedThe Haunted Forest TourBlood Harvest
Sea of Sorrows (2014)
Sea of Sorrows
Anthologies edited
British Invasion (2008) (with Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon)
British Invasion
Anthologies containing stories by James A Moore
Bending the Landscape: Fantasy



Filed under Fantasy

S.J.A Turney The Assassin’s Tale (The Ottoman Cycle book 3)

Author Biography


(In his own words)
I live with my wife, my son and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire, where my wife and I both grew up, surrounded by friends and family. A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of the country, I cannot envisage spending my life anywhere else, though my anchor is sometimes tested as the wanderlust hits and we travel wherever I can find the breathtaking remains of the classical world. I have a love of travel and history, architecture and writing and those four interact well enough to keep me almost permanently busy.Since leaving school and University, I have tried a great number of careers, including car sales, insurance, software engineering, computer network management, civil service and even painting and decorating sales. I have lived in four counties and traveled as widely as time and budget allowed and find myself, on the cusp of my fortieth year, back where I began and finally doing something I love.

Having written a number of unpublished short stories in my early days, I decided back in 2003 to try and write a full length novel. That was the start of Marius’ Mules. Being a lover of Roman history, I decided to combine my love of writing and my love of classical history. Marius’ Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum, my attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome. Since then, the success and popularity of both has spawned sequels to each work, with three tales in each series so far and more planned.

As well as my own website at I maintain a website detailing the Roman sites I visit and photograph at, and blog at I am an almost terminally chatty person. That’s just a due warning if you feel like contacting me (via my website.) I am always happy to speak to people and have just put together an FAQ gathered together from things I have been asked previously.

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Product Description


Italy, 1493. Returning from the new world to the old, Skiouros is confronted with lands ruled by a strict and unyielding religion, and which yet still contrive to be corrupt and debased, as the inquisition takes hold in Spain and the Vatican seethes under the rule of the Borgia family.Through this world of intolerance, greed and wickedness, the former thief-turned-explorer finally sets his mind to that mission that has underlain his every move since leaving the great city of Istanbul some two years earlier: the death of the usurper sultan, Cem.

Gathering old friends and new, Skiouros travels the length of Italy in his quest for vengeance and the quieting of his brother’s restless soul. But on his dreadful quest he will face more than mere physical danger, for beneath all his strength and will, does Skiouros have a heart black enough to commit murder in the name of revenge?

I know Simon prefers transparency in the case of reviews, so to be totally upfront: I would always struggle to dislike this book. Simon is about as good a friend as i have, add to that he did me the huge honour of adding a character to this series (Parmenio). Its those things that put a huge smile on my face and give a wonderful gloss to this reviewing lark.
All that aside; This is a wonderful book, even without being predisposed to want to love the book. Simon has a true talent for story telling, and a prodigious output (see below for his full book list). This series (Ottoman Cycle) is my personal favorite from Simon. Filled with a deep sense of connection for every location, i know Simon has meticulously researched each and every one, but research only takes you so far, its the passion for history in general that makes this a winner add to that the writing, the locations and telling talent a story that shines through on every page and you get a little bit of magic.
Assassins Tale see’s our main character Skiouros return from an unexpected trip to the new world, he returns to a Europe divided and held together at the same time by religion, its wars, its politics and its superstitions. Skiouros returns older, wiser, stronger; ready to take on the rest of his mission. He has to find his friends and return to his pledge to rid the world of the man responsible for his brothers death.
A journey that will place him at the heart of Roman politics, in direct harms way of a warrior king hell bent on expanding his empire, and smack in the middle of Borgia politics.
There is so much in this book i was riveted, i remember emailing Simon at midnight to go “What the F…” on at least one occasion.
A book that can elicit emotions like that is for me a winner.
So this is highly recommended.
Marius’ Mules
1. The Conquest of Gaul (2009)
aka The Invasion of Gaul
2. The Belgae (2010)
3. Gallia Invicta (2011)
4. Conspiracy of Eagles (2012)
5. Hades’ Gate (2013)
6. Caesar’s Vow (2014)
Prelude to War (2014)
The Conquest of GaulThe BelgaeGallia InvictaConspiracy of EaglesHades' GateCaesar's VowPrelude to War
Tales of the Empire
1. Interregnum (2009)
2. Ironroot (2010)
3. Dark Empress (2011)
InterregnumIronrootDark Empress
Ottoman Cycle
1. The Thief’s Tale (2013)
2. The Priest’s Tale (2013)
3. The Assassin’s Tale (2014)
The Thief's Tale The Priest's TaleThe Assassin's Tale

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Filed under Historical Fiction, S J A Turney