Monthly Archives: September 2014

City of Stairs: Competition

The wonderful people at Jo Fletcher Books have a competition for you, set to coincide with the launch of the excellent City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett.

An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city–from one of America’s most acclaimed young SF writers.

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions – until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself – first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it – stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem – and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.”

untitled stairs 1

They have five copies of the book to give away, plus one lucky winner will receive a £100 Red Letter Day experience.

All people have to do for a chance to win is let them know on their Blog, Facebook page or Twitter – with #CityOfStairs – what tangible miraculous object you would create if you were a god of Bulikov.  A door which takes you to the past and a knotted cord that brings rain when untied are just some of the miracles the gods brought to Bulikov, but they want to know what other… you and me… would add to them.

The competition is open until October 30th for your chance to win.

Good Luck…

(Parm)

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Christian Cameron: Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade (Part 1) review.

Christian Cameron's picture

Christian Cameron

USA (1962 – )

aka Miles Cameron, Gordon Kent

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.

Author web site

(The first book in the Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade series) …and really book 7 of the Tom Swan Tales.

belgrade pt 1

Review:

Christian Cameron, quite simply one of the finest writers i know and enjoy reading. Why? what makes his work so unique, so realistic?

Well….

chris 1 chris 3

 

In both of these we see Christian immersing himself in history. research via books only taking him so far, he always challenges the accepted norm, pushes the boundary to see himself that those text books are correct, but also to fill in the gaps and experiences that text books fail to provide, the pain, the exhaustion, the weight, the places where Armour catches and digs in etc..

Tom Swan is in my opinion one of Christians finest characters, and i don’t know that i can put my finger on why? All his characterisation is exceptional, the research and history, well I’ve not seen anyone poke a hole in it yet, and the plot and experiences so well defined and immerse that you lose yourself in them so fast its like time travel.

Tom Swan isn’t just a warrior, he is the daring, conflicted, real young man, a long way from home caught up in politics he is only beginning to understand, earning and building friendships for life, and enemies that may last longer. The deep dark twisted politics of the time are portrayed in an elegant understandable fashion and actually made to be tense and exciting (yes exciting politics…so much better than a yes no vote) the dirty politics of Rome and the Popes is a truly difficult quagmire to navigate. Christian adds in Love, life, street fights, comrades and art.  The amount of entertainment and adventure packed into 96 pages is truly remarkable.

I highly recommend this whole series: and at 99p per installment you get more than a whole novel (in the 7 current books) for under £7 , with books 8 & 9 due in Oct and Nov 2014.

(Parm)

Series
Tyrant
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 CitiesForce of Kings
Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon: Freedom or Death (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2014)
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)
CastillonVeniceConstantinopleRomeRhodesChios
Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade
1. Part One (2013)
2. Part Two (2013)
3. Part Three (2013)
Part OnePart TwoPart Three
Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarThe Ill-Made KnightThe Long Sword

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Filed under Christian Cameron, Historical Fiction

SD Sykes: Plague Lands (Review)

SD Sykes lives in Kent with her family and various animals. She has done everything from professional dog-walking to co-founding her own successful business. She is a graduate from Manchester University and has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam. She attended the novel writing course at literary agents Curtis Brown where she was inspired to finish her first novel. She has also written for radio and has developed screenplays with Arts Council funding.

plague land

 

Buy a signed copy from Goldsboro Books

Oswald de Lacy was never meant to be the Lord of Somerhill Manor. Despatched to a monastery at the age of seven, sent back at seventeen when his father and two older brothers are killed by thePlague, Oswald has no experience of running an estate.

He finds the years of pestilence and neglect have changed the old place dramatically, not to mention the attitude of the surviving peasants.

Yet some things never change. Oswald’s mother remains the powerful matriarch of the family, and his sister Clemence simmers in the background, dangerous and unmarried.

Before he can do anything, Oswald is confronted by the shocking death of a young woman, Alison Starvecrow. The ambitious village priest claims that Alison was killed by a band of demonic dog-headed men. Oswald is certain this is nonsense, but proving it – by finding the real murderer – is quite a different matter.

Every step he takes seems to lead Oswald deeper into a dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.

And then the body of another girl is found.

SD Sykes brilliantly evokes the landscape and people of medieval Kent in this thrillingly suspenseful debut.

Review:

Even as i write this book im still not 100% sure how i feel about it. The author is clearly talented, the descriptions of post Black Death England (1350) is bleak, filled with the tension of communities at the time, the loss the chaos and the vacuum left behind by so many deaths. The story told from the perspective of Oswald de Lacy , a young man thrust into the forefront of his family, the new Lord of Somerhill Manor, a youngest son never expected to inherit, and destined for the clergy, in fact recalled from his monastery to take the reins.

On returning he struggles with running the estate, an estate that is slowly descending into superstitious bedlam, led there by the local priest Cornwall. Oswald is dragged from his closeted existence worrying about the estate to view a murder, a murder that he is led to investigate and leads him deeper and deeper into the lives of the villagers, the superstitions of the people and the secrets accumulated by the families all twisted into this plot. I’m not going to sugar coat it, some of the mysteries don’t take a genius, but at the same time there are parts that keep you guessing. Like another book i read recently The Royalist the plot isn’t the winner in this book its the characters the descriptive and the language of the time period.

I certainly think you should read this book and decide for yourself, because someone i trust very highly with book recommends Kate gives it a very high recommend,  i may even read it again to see if my mood was off or it landed wrong on the day. Either way the book is a descriptive treat and a time capsule on a part of history where few dare to tread, for a debut its very well executed.

(Parm)

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SJ Deas: The Royalist (Review)

Stephen Deas's picture

Stephen Deas

UK (1968 – )

aka Gavin Deas, S J Deas, Nathan Hawke

Stephen Deas is an engineer in the aerospace industry, working on communications and imaging technology in the defence sector. He is married with two children and lives near Writtle in Essex.

 
The Royalist

(2014)
(The first book in the William Falkland series)
A novel by S J Deas

Buy the book

royalist

William Falkland is a dead man.

A Royalist dragoon who fought against Parliament, he is currently awaiting execution at Newgate prison. Yet when he is led away from Newgate with a sack over his head, it is not the gallows to which they take him, but to Oliver Cromwell himself.

Cromwell has heard of Falkland’s reputation as an investigator and now more than ever he needs a man of conscience. His New Model Army are wintering in Devon but mysterious deaths are sweeping the camp and, in return for his freedom, Falkland is despatched to uncover the truth.

With few friends and a slew of enemies, Falkland soon learns there is a dark demon at work, one who won’t go down without a fight. But how can he protect the troops from such a monster and, more importantly, will he be able to protect himself?

Review

The Royalist is a historical mystery, but for me that is almost incidental to the reading of the book, i’m sure for some it may be detrimental, but the real talent of this book is something that the author excels at, in his Guise as Stephen Deas and Nathan Hawke.

Just like the Gallow series the author takes us on a tour of the darker side of war, rather than the Fog of war we get the Grime of War, all the much and horror, the cold and disease that many leave out of a tale. The tale its self is told (narrated) by William Falkland, a Royalist in the enemy camp, recruited by non other than Cromwell himself, taken from the hangman’s noose, to investigate a spate of suicides in his newly formed and trained New Model army, the hope of the parliamentary cause. There are no rose-tinted glasses in this tale, and for me that’s its brilliance, war isn’t pretty it isn’t clean and it doesn’t have absolutes its all shades of dirty grey. Why would a royalist agree to do this? well why would any man want to live? In the winter of the Civil War just existing and surviving is damn hard, let alone in the midst of a nation riven by war.

I take my hat off to the author for his ability and desire to portray all of this horror and dirt, but i echo my friend Kate in my view that the scale of the detail took from the mystery, but i honestly don’t know how you can give that much detail and darkness without consuming the attention of the reader from other parts of the tale.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Other Series

 

Memory of Flames
1. The Adamantine Palace (2009)
2. The King of the Crags (2010)
3. The Order of the Scales (2011)
The Adamantine PalaceThe King of the CragsThe Order of the Scales

 

Thief-Taker’s Apprentice
1. The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (2010)
2. The Warlock’s Shadow (2011)
3. The King’s Assassin (2012)
The Thief-Taker's ApprenticeThe Warlock's ShadowThe King's Assassin

 

Silver Kings
1. The Black Mausoleum (2012)
2. Dragon Queen (2013)
3. The Splintered Gods (2014)
4. The Silver Kings (2015)
The Black MausoleumDragon QueenThe Splintered Gods
Series
Empires
Empires: Extraction (2014)
Empires: Infiltration (2014)
Empires: The First Battle (2014)
Empires: ExtractionEmpires: InfiltrationEmpires: The First Battle
 Series contributed to
Elite: Dangerous
1. Wanted (2014)
Wanted
Fateguard Trilogy
1. The Crimson Shield (2013)
2. Cold Redemption (2013)
3. The Last Bastion (2013)
Gallow (omnibus) (2014)
The Crimson ShieldCold RedemptionThe Last BastionGallow
Gallow
1. The Anvil (2015)
The Anvil

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Filed under Historical Fiction, SJ Deas

Edward Cox : Relic Guild (review)

Edward Cox's picture

Edward Cox

UK (1971 – )

Edward Cox began writing stories at school as a way to pass time in boring lessons. It was a hobby he dabbled with until the late 80’s when he discovered the works of David Gemmell, which not only cemented his love of fantasy but also encouraged a hobby to become something much more serious.

With his first short story published in 2000, Edward spent much of the next decade earning a BA 1st class with honours in creative writing, and a Master degree in the same subject. He then went on to teach creative writing at the University of Bedfordshire. During the 2000’s he published a host of short stories with the smaller presses of America, where he also worked as a reviewer.

Currently living in Essex with his wife and daughter, Edward is mostly surrounded by fine greenery and spiders the size of his hand. The Relic Guild is his first completed novel, and it is the result of more than ten years of obsessive writing.

The Relic Guild

(2014)
A novel by Edward Cox

Buy a signed copy from Goldsboro Books

Relic

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls 100 feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.

Review

Debut novels are always a treat for me, they are among of my favourite reads in the year, not because they are often the best books, but because they are the hope for the future of writing in their genre and in some cases across genres.

Reading Edward Cox’s bio was straight away a draw for me, a man who enjoys Gemmell, who’s love for reading and fantasy grew from my own personal all-time favourite writer. This fills me with hope as a reader, but also dread, will they try to be DG? Or will they be unique and exemplify his best traits?

Relic Guild shows a bit of a mix, the author clearly shows a great skill for characterisation, he has spent a great deal of time weaving the plot so that the reader is drip fed the importance of the plot while surrounded by the adventure. He incorporates one of Gemmell’s best character traits the flawed hero, Old Man Sam being a mix of deadly Bounty hunter, a man who can kill without compunction, who is utterly remorseless if he needs to be, a man of legend (see my sneaky Gemmell reference) this is mixed with his non nonsense dialogue, a demeanour that holds you at bay but at the same time makes you want to know more about this man who has truly lived his life. As with DG you need to blend this type of character with others who offer humour, genuine laugh out loud moments, this is embodied well in Hamir the necromancer, a man with a sense of humour after my own heart, at times a darkly humours little swine, and there are many many more well thought out well fashioned characters, making you want to be part of the story, not an observer.

One of the truly interesting styles in the book was the introduction of timeslip, the story being told in 2 time periods, I know this device is regularly used in thrillers, but I cant think of another Fantasy that uses it (im sure you can all point out how wrong I am). Its this that made me look further that the style and realise, that while the author uses some of the best parts of Gemmells style he has brought something new, a little bit of darkness of Grim Dark, a bit of the flawed hero, the pace of a good thriller, the western style of Abercrombies Red Country / John Horners Incorruptibles mixed with that little dose of horror and blended it into a wonderful unique tale. My only criticism would be a slight tendancy to get wordy, but only slight and for a debut it’s a cracking read, im simply stunned it’s a debut.

This truly is a do not miss fantasy title for 2014, right up there with the stunning Incorruptibles and Traitors Blade

(Parm)

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J T Brannan: Whatever the cost (Review)

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JT Brannan is the Bradford-born author of high-concept thrillers.

Trained as a British Army officer at Sandhurst, before deciding to pursue a writing career, he is a former national Karate champion and doorman.

He now writes full-time, and teaches martial arts in Harrogate, where he lives with his wife and two young children.

He is currently working on his next novel.

 

Whatever the Cost

(2014)
(A book in the Mark Cole series)
A novel by J T Brannan

Buy the e-book

whatever the cost

A Chinese cargo ship is hijacked off the coast of Indonesia by ruthless pirates; North Korea is involved in a covert plan to reunify the country by taking control of the South; and in Saudi Arabia, a terrifying new terrorist group has emerged that threatens to destabilize the entire world.

Adrift and psychologically damaged after the brutal murder of his family, ex-covert operative Mark Cole stumbles across a clue which might lead him to the hijacked ship. Realizing that it offers the opportunity to give him a purpose in life, Cole sets out to find the ship in a bid to earn redemption for his past.

From a gun market in the ancient jungles of Cambodia, to the teeming streets of Jakarta, Cole stumbles upon a plot far greater than the simple hijacking of a ship; and as he battles against North Korean agents and Islamic fundamentalists, he promises himself that he will do whatever it takes to stop the unleashing of a terrifying jihad which threatens the Western world like never before.

Review

Firstly, my apologies to the author, not sure how i have let this slip through my reading net until now. I really enjoyed the first Mark Cole tale (Stop at nothing) , and was immensely pleased to see a quote from it on the new front cover.

So how does the follow-up novella “Whatever the Cost” stack up after such a brilliant book 1?

What i love about Mark Cole is that he embodies everything that’s fun in an action thriller, he is the consequential Bond, in that he is just so damn good, both tactically and martially. He is a weapons expert, an unarmed combat specialist, well almost to Bruce Wayne levels, bringing in lethal arts from India that go beyond power and speed. More than this though he is fallible, remorseful, punished by his doubts, his failings and in this book while he punishes himself he comes to a deeper understanding of himself and his own motivations, (this isn’t just a fluff character who fights a lot), that’s a continuation of the Jason Bourne element, the doubt, the unknown, the reactions taking over ahead of conscious thought.

All that powerful characterisation is blended with what is rapidly becoming the norm for this author, plots devilishly woven together, so large, so devious and malicious as to at first be implausible, but the worst disasters are the most implausible, who could have envisaged the hijacking of passenger jets and their use as weapons of destruction? J T Brannan, takes our worst fears as a civilised society and gives them voice in the potential for Armageddon, be it globally in Extinction, or nationally in Whatever the cost. At every turn when you expect the tension to subside he cranks up the pace, and the plot twists one more time, coming to a thrilling conclusion.

I cant wait to get my hands on Beyond all Limits, and what ever novel he has in the work. The books are always a breakneck thrill ride and just the sort of escapism i want when sitting down for an escapist read.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Mark Cole
Stop at Nothing (2014)
Whatever the Cost (2014)
Beyond All Limits (2014)
Stop at NothingWhatever the CostBeyond All Limits
Adventures of Sally Johnson
How I Accidently Helped Columbus Discover America(2014)
How I Accidently Helped Columbus Discover America
Novels
Origin (2012)
Extinction (2014)
OriginExtinction
Novellas
Destructive Thoughts (2014)
Destructive Thoughts

 

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Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, J T Brannan

Alix Christie: Gutenberg’s Apprentice (Review)

Alix Christie's picture

Alix Christie

Alix Christie was born in the Silicon Valley while it was still orchards, and grew up in California, Montana, and British Columbia. A move to New York state to attend Vassar College, where she was a Phi Beta Kappa philosophy major, led to Manhattan and a stint in advertising copywriting. She returned home to pursue a masters degree in journalism at the University of California and have been a peripatetic reporter and writer ever since.

Gutenberg’s Apprentice

 

GD

(2014)
A novel by Alix Christie

An enthralling literary debut that evokes one of the most momentous events in history, the birth of printing in medieval Germany – a story of invention, intrigue, and betrayal, rich in atmosphere and historical detail, told through the lives of the three men who made it possible.

Youthful, ambitious Peter Schoeffer is on the verge of professional success as a scribe in Paris when his foster father, wealthy merchant and bookseller Johann Fust, summons him home to corrupt, feud-plagued Mainz to meet “a most amazing man.”

Johann Gutenberg, a driven and caustic inventor, has devised a revolutionary – and to some, blasphemous – method of bookmaking: a machine he calls a printing press. Fust is financing Gutenberg’s workshop and he orders Peter, his adopted son, to become Gutenberg’s apprentice. Resentful at having to abandon a prestigious career as a scribe, Peter begins his education in the “darkest art.”

As his skill grows, so, too, does his admiration for Gutenberg and his dedication to their daring venture: copies of the Holy Bible. But mechanical difficulties and the crushing power of the Catholic Church threaten their work. As outside forces align against them, Peter finds himself torn between two father figures: the generous Fust, who saved him from poverty after his mother died; and the brilliant, mercurial Gutenberg, who inspires Peter to achieve his own mastery.

Caught between the genius and the merchant, the old ways and the new, Peter and the men he admires must work together to prevail against overwhelming obstacles – a battle that will change history . . . and irrevocably transform them.

Review

This world of books that we love so much, how did it come to be? The Gutenberg Apprentice is a fascinating albeit fictional account of the of how printing and publishing the Gutenberg Bible came to fruition. 

The author gives a wonderful portrayal of the time period and the setting and the characters and well rounded and quickly come to life on the page. There are no great surprises in the book, well we all know the Bible was printed; that however i’snt always the purpose of Historical Fiction, what is important is how the tale happens, and getting to know all the players involved in the tale. As ever with a new industry there is politics, intrigue, backstabbing (sorry said politics) secrecy and many other shenanigans going on whilst the revolutionary Gutenberg tries to bring this new process to life.

For many it may seem like a bit of a dry subject, but its not and because the author tells the tale with such vivid characters and locations, you find yourself quickly lost in the book.

What truly amazes me is that this is a debut… clearly Alix Christie is a talent to watch.

Well worth reading

(Parm)

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