Monthly Archives: April 2015

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Had to reblog this because
A: it’s a great review.
B: you need to follow becci’s blog
C: she is just lovely
4: she called me a genius … It’s not often I can fool someone so clever 😇

the lost and found library

Bizarrely, I have been recommending this book to people for a while now, but had not got around to reading it myself. Commercially its been very successful and I’ve seen the trade edition everywhere in the UK and still at big airports on my travels. It came highly recommended to me by the sorts of people I always listen to, namely two of my old HoZ colleagues – Editorial Director Laura Palmer, who knows everything about books, and the FD Ian Rutland, who knew nothing about books before joining the company, other than that he is the genuine type to buy them at the airport on holiday. If he says a thriller is really good – he is usually right.

Another bit of context worth pointing out, lots of people in the trade talked about this book when it first came out for its big brassy cover with the title

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Writing about Magic — Fantasy, History, and Electronic Warfare

… Needs no intro … Just read!

With Pen and Sword

Art of MemoryDoctor Illuminatus

Lancelot GrailMedieval Craft of Memory

As you know, if you follow this blog, I don’t see the boundaries between Historical Fiction and Fantasy as clearly as my readers (or editors) might like.

When I set out to design a magic system–oh, about thirty-five years ago, I was heavily influenced by a single book that I had just read–really, two books, one a fantasy novel, Ursula le Guin’s phenomenal ‘Wizard of Earthsea’…

Wizard of Earthsea

….and a wonderful book which promised me, when I took it from the library at age 16, that I would be able to cast real spells.  If you have never held a copy in your hands, I recommend that you buy one; it’s Isaac Bonewits‘ seminal ‘Real Magic’.

Real Magic

Now, those of you who read my books, or even my blog, must have discerned that I have a hands-on attitude to most things–I have to try them for myself, and magic is, I fear…

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Writing about Crafts — Interviewing Jiri Klepac

I seem to be regular re-blogger of Christian’s blog posts, but they are so damn good. and the people he knows are true masters of their art.

With Pen and Sword

portret Jiri Klepac

This week, I thought I’d interview another armourer.
Now, perhaps you are all bored by armour, but to me, it is the most complicated costume artifact ever. Let me put this in perspective as a writer. I wear armour 20-30 times a year, and almost every time I wear it, I learn something—something about fit, perhaps, or fatigue avoidance, or maybe just a better way to lace the plates to my arming coat, or a better place to put my hands. This process has slowed, but it never stops, and the process itself has a sort of meta-learning—I now have an ever-better notion of how much training it required for a knight to be able to wear, and maintain his harness. And how long it takes to put it on or get it off.

Me at Days of Knights in Kentucky.  At this point I've had ten bouts and I've also served as a referee (still in harness) so tired.  Arms and gauntlets by Jiri Klipac, helmet by Craig Sitch, legs by Mark Vickers, and breastplate by Peter Fuller.
There’s a piece out there in Youtube land about how hard it is to…

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E S Moxon : Wulfsuna (Review)

E S Moxon

Of Anglo-Italian heritage, E S Moxon’s life has always involved languages and travel. Growing up she spent many family holidays visiting ancient burial sites and stone circles, exploring Britain’s multi-cultural past. Her Italian grandfather’s tales of the roguish adventures of his youth fuelled Elaine’s passion for writing from a young age. A former holistic therapist and current member of the Historical Novel Society, she lives in the Midlands with her family.

Author Web Site




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AD433 Torn apart when Rome abandoned Bryton, the Wulfsuna are a disparate tribe. Twenty years on, two long ships sail for the east fens to honour their Warrior-Lord’s dream and reunite with lost kin. Soon after landing however, a murderous betrayal divides loyalties, some craving revenge and others indignant on pursuing their Lord’s dream. Blood and brotherhood are tested to their deadly limits. The discovery of a young Seer adds to the turmoil. Expelled from her village after foretelling of an attack by blue painted savages, the Wulfsuna are equally wary of the one they call ‘Nix’. None fear her more than Lord Wulfgar, who refuses to believe an ancient saga bearing his name, is weaving the Seer’s destiny into his own. But a treacherous rival threatens their fate and Wulfgar must accept the Seer’s magic may be all that can save them.


A debut book is always a privilege to review, its also a tough responsibility. You can do untold damage if enough people read your blog, as well as give plenty of benefit with a good review. Ultimately my view is that you need to walk a fine line. bridge the gap. Give and honest review, but also factor in the fact the writer is beginning a career. I’m not arrogant enough to yet know what impact my review has, but i’m honest enough to know it has an impact….

So … what does that mean for Wulfsuna? well happily for me Elaine can write, she has clearly spent many long hard hours, days and nights pouring her passion for a subject into a novel. She has chosen a period in time that is very underwritten, and seems to be gaining popularity at the moment, that period when Rome has pulled out of Britain and the populace has been left to fend for its-self against the ever migrating hordes from the the mainland.

The story follows the Sons of the Wolf as they look to meet up with past members of their group, people who have settled the land, farmed it. The plot follows the leader of this band and a young woman, a seer. Both suffer personal tragedy, She expelled from her village, forced to fend for herself, He the loss of family to betrayal. Fate has their lives interwoven, and she will have her fickle way.

The authors love for her characters and her time period clearly shine through on every page, i did feel that the book was perhaps over polished, when you have too much time to finish a book, its easy to go back and tweak a phrase, add a description, and i think Elaine has perhaps suffered that first book wobble where she had that extra time. To her credit she finished a book, and made it a decent plot, one which really pulls the reader with it. I think knowing her as i do (for quite some time online) she will be taking on board all her feedback to make book 2 really hit home. Also she has set herself a much shorter window to write the book, thus removing the habit of polishing.

The book i would rate as a 3/5, it has lots of charm and plenty of action and great characters, but more than anything it has potential, so i will be back for book 2. I hope you will also give this a go and join the journey, because if we don’t support new authors…. we lose anything new and different.




Filed under E S Moxon

Ben Kane : Eagles at War (Review)

Author: Ben Kane

Author Bio

Click above for author bio info: (and visit his wonderful web site)

eagles at war

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AD 9, German frontier: Close to the Rhine, a Roman centurion, Lucius Tullus, prepares to take his soldiers on patrol. On the opposite side of the river, German tribes are resentful of the harsh taxes about to be imposed upon them. Suspicious that there might be unrest, Tullus knows that his men’s survival will be determined not just by their training and discipline, but by his leadership.


What neither Tullus nor his commander, Governor Varus, realise is that ranged against them is the charismatic chieftain and trusted ally of Rome, Arminius, who has long been plotting to drive the Romans from the tribal lands east of the Rhine.


As Varus’ legions prepare to leave their summer encampment, thousands of warriors – directed by Arminius – are massing nearby. Eager to throw off the Roman yoke, the tribesmen prepare a deadly ambush. Only the gods can save the Romans now…


I am somewhat torn by this book, on the one hand the writing is simply brilliant, as ever Ben Kane has impeccable attention to detail and history, driven by his knowledge of marching in roman kit, and having walked the ground in Germany, couple that with his passionate research of the subject and empathy for the subject, all you can expect is brilliant writing.

But: and this is purely personal, i think every person will experience this in their own way; I found that i was being led down an inevitable path and for me it robbed the plot of some of its power and pace. Couple that with the absolute certainty that Arminius was destined to betray the legions it took some of the sinister edge and suspense, you know he isn’t going to get caught. The foil to this is the simply brilliant character of Tullus, who i’m personally convinced is Tony Riches given life in AD9. A man bigger than the room, who you want to follow, who inspires, a man who lifts others with the weight of his personality and presence. (don’t tell him i said so)

This character powers the reader through the lead up to the inevitable ambush, and then at this point the story explodes into life for me. The story can enter the realm of unknowns, allowing the author to finally break the bounds of history and give free reign to his story telling talent. It was the slog through the dark boggy forest, dragging the remnants of his dying legion that made me love this book. The reader bleeds with every mile, suffers the horror of putting friends down to save them from the Germanic tribes, and the shame of leaving behind their pride and their friends, its the hope that kills you with every page.

By the end of the book i was forced to agree that this book is Ben Kane’s best work, (my fav is still Forgotten Legion though).

you must buy this book, and begin this wonderful journey. Because this is a story so powerful it leaves a mark


Forgotten Legion Chronicles

1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
3. The Road to Rome (2010)
The Forgotten LegionThe Silver EagleThe Road to Rome
1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
2. Fields of Blood (2013)
3. Clouds of War (2014)
The Patrol (2013)
Enemy of RomeFields of BloodClouds of WarThe Patrol
1. The Gladiator (2012)
2. Rebellion (2012)
The GladiatorRebellion
Pompeii (with Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter)
A Day of Fire (2014)


Filed under Ben Kane, Historical Fiction

S.J.A Turney The Pasha’s Tale (The Ottoman Cycle Book 4) Review

Author Bio in his own words

Find me on Twitter@SJATurney

I live with my wife, son and daughter, 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 paint ing and decorating sales. I have lived in four counties and travelled as widely as time and budget allowed and find myself finally 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 have inflated my head so that I can no longer comfortably fit through doors, and has spawned sequels to each work, with the fantasy trilogy complete, six volumes in the Marius’ Mules series, and two books of the Ottoman Cycle quadrilogy now out.

I maintain another website detailing the Roman sites I visit and photograph, and write a blog about books. I am an almost terminally chatty person. That’s just a due warning if you feel like contacting me (see above.) I am always happy to speak to people and have put together an FAQ gathered together from things I have been asked previously

TPT Cover

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Five years have passed since Skiouros left Istanbul with his brother’s remains and a nebulous goal to make the usurper prince Cem pay for Lykaion’s death. Skiouros is older and wiser, and has come to understand the dreadful price that vengeance exacts from its wielders. Saved from the French authorities by Dragi, the Romani crewman of a Turkish galley, he and his friend Parmenio are bound once more for the east.

But Dragi’s aid in desperate times comes with a price: the Romani await Skiouros’ return to the great city of Constantine, bringing about the conclusion of a series of events that has been building since those that first led to his flight five years ago.

In the Ottoman capital, the populace prepares for a great festival, and for the first time in many years the Sultan’s three sons are all present in the same place at the same time. And in the dangerous streets a sect of disenfranchised Romani plot a deadly coup to overthrow the Sultan and place one prince on the throne. Can Skiouros, Dragi, Parmenio and Diego thwart the mysterious Kingbreaker and save the lives of the Sultan’s sons? The sequence of events that shattered Skiouros’ life is coming to an end…


Regular blog readers will be aware of this, but for anyone new, full disclosure, Simon Turney is a good friend as well as some one i enjoy reading. I have been a friend and fan since before book one and have been privileged to have seen, enjoyed and been a small part of his journey. This is a Journey that seems to reach new heights with every book.

While im a big fan of his Marius Mules series, his latest work for me is his best work, both in the roman world with Praetorian and even more so his Ottoman Cycle series. This series following Skiouros the thief, the adventurer, the explorer fighter and spy. A boy who had to quickly grow, and become a man, haunted by his dead brother, hunting retribution. A retribution that takes him across the globe and back.

Pasha’s tale will see him return home, to face up to his past and help guide the future of the world as Islam and Christianity clash over the succession of the Ottoman throne. Aided by his friend Parmenion, and his sword master Diego and guided by the mysterious Dragi the trio bounce from one perilous situation to another as they try to outwit their enemies. As a book it has everything, pace, action, wonderful character and the authors deep empathy for the trade-off between religions , walking the tightrope between christianity and Islam, so fraught with danger and yet so well accomplished while not compromising the plot one bit.

As a series it culminates with a beautifully poetic ending, with shades of butch and Sundance, seeing Parmenio sailing off into the sunset, hopefully his version of Bolivia gives him peace and Skirouros neatly closing off so many of the stories threads. It’s not often a series leave you satisfied and yet still longing for more. I will miss these friends, and yet it only leads me to wonder what Simon can do next outside of the Roman world.

very 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)
7. The Great Revolt (2014)
Prelude to War (2014)
The Conquest of GaulThe BelgaeGallia InvictaConspiracy of Eagles
Hades' GateCaesar's VowThe Great RevoltPrelude 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
Praetorian: The Great Game (2015)
Praetorian: The Great Game
Tales of Ancient Rome (2011)
Tales of Ancient Rome


Filed under Historical Fiction, S J A Turney

Writing about war–tactics, decisions, and the edge of battle

For those who love Fantasy and Historical Fiction…. (a must read… as is following this blog by Christian Cameron)

With Pen and Sword

It's not battle.  It's just foraging.... It’s not battle. It’s just foraging….

Yesterday I began book 4 of the Traitor Son series–which for now, I’m calling ‘A Plague of Swords.’  I’m starting a week late because I did some fun things like visiting my friends in the USA and spending a day with Jeffrey Hildebrandt.  But now I’m ready to get down to some serious writing.

A great deal of all my writing has to do with what I call the ‘edge of battle’ or the build up to battles.  I think this is because I am fascinated by the process that leads armies to clash–perhaps I find this more fascinating than the actual clashes.  When I wrote my first historical novel–Tyrant–I had Kineas, my protagonist, say that he didn’t love war, he loved the preparation for war–the training and the planning.

I suspect that’s me.

I’ve been reading military history since…

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Crafts and Craftspeople–Jeffrey Hildebrandt–writing about the past

Yet another amazing blog from Christian Cameron

With Pen and Sword

DSCF3002chapter 3 - the red knight

Those of you who have the UK editions of the Red Knight know that the cover and the internal illustrations are not ‘generic’ and represent characters and scenes from the book. The chapter heads were drawn by my friend Dimitry Bondarenko, and some of them are portraits of people and artifacts and costumes that inspired characters (and armour) in the book.  Perhaps the most oft-repeated image from the books is of the Red Knights ‘falcon-beaked’ helmet, which I confess is my own fighting helmet, a late 14th century bassinet based on an original and made by Craig Sitch, the master armourer at Manning Imperial in Australia–one of the world’s great craftsmen, as well as a pillar of the world reenacting community, a fellow historical armizare practitioner, and one of my favorite people.

But today’s article is actually about the process of the fabrication of armour; about craftsmanship, and what it…

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Whores and Heroines–writing about war and women

One of the best blogs you can read, if you dont follow you should do so.

With Pen and Sword

common womenCavalry MaidenTigressUlrich

This is not, strictly speaking, a book review of ‘Common Women’ by Ruth Mazzo Carras or of ‘The Cavalry Maiden’ or ‘The Tigress of Forli’ or Ulrich’s superb ‘Midwife’s Tale’ although I truly recommend all four books.

It is more of an essay on writing about women in the midst of war.  I’m going to try to keep this as unpolitical and coldly analytical as I can.  But I have to say, up front–I’m a feminist, and the story I’m about to tell can be pretty awful.  You can stop here, if you like.

War is terrible, and yet many men enjoy it.  Certainly, a great many people enjoy reading about it.  And I confess that I study it and (sometimes) enjoy writing about it.  But to the women of the past–and this cannot be too much emphasized–war was probably the most horrible thing they could imagine, especially when war…

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