Michael lives in Hampshire with his wife and two children. His childhood holidays were spent visiting castles and battlefields, but his fascination with the civil wars was piqued partly by the fact that his hometown and region of Hampshire are steeped in Civil War history.
The Sixth in The Civil War Chronicles featuring Major Stryker – ‘the Sharpe of the Civil War’ FIVE ARMIES FORTY-SIX THOUSAND MEN ONE CROWN THE BIGGEST BATTLE OF THE AGE 2 July 1644. Five armies converge outside York. It will be a battle for honour, glory, and the fate of three kingdoms. And it will pit two great leaders – Oliver Cromwell and Prince Rupert – directly against one another for the first time. It is a day that will change the course of history. Into the cannon fire and musket smoke marches Major Innocent Stryker, battle-scarred hero of the Royalist cause. He must not only lead his men through the bloody horror and outwit his Parliamentary enemies, but uncover foul treachery on his own side. He will need every shred of experience and determination to survive. Marston Moor will be the decisive turning point in the British Civil Wars. This is the thrilling and shocking story of that battle
This is not a tale for the faint hearted, this is war, and of all types it’s the worst, Civil War at its peak rages across England, the Scots have joined parliament and the combined armies march south laying siege to York, drawing Prince Rupert north in a lightning series of battles to clear a path through Lancashire and secure his rear and also a resupply point at Liverpool. The Royal master of horse is at his best and runs rampant and is soon on his way to York to relieve the siege… the result of this brilliant march is the ill-fated (for him) battle of Marston Moor.
This book pulls no punches, it starts as it means to go on with a realistically dark and brutal retelling of the sacking of Bolton, where our man Innocent Stryker encounters “The Vulture” for the first time. The sacking of Bolton is a very dark passage in this book, but it sets up the introduction of key characters and their motivations in the story, why Stryker is where he is and what drives him. The grim aspect of war is needed and as ever with Michael Arnolds writing it is uncompromising yet eloquently written, there are no rose tinted glasses anywhere near this book. War is hell and Civil War in 1644 England was mud, excrement, alcohol, blood and prayers. It needed hard men on both sides.
The parallels I always find myself seeing with this particular period of history is in a comparison between elements of the Parliamentarian War machine and ISIS (or similar) , it’s the religious fervour, the unwavering belief that all should bend to their view of god, the destruction of all that has gone before, the fact that a Man like William Dowsing titled “Commissioner for the destruction of monuments of idolatry and superstition” existed furthers that view. Parliament was a nest of religious zealots, but it also was the footprint for the recognition of men of trade over mean of nobility. Likewise the side of the King isn’t all about privilege and nobility. The author has a fantastic way of walking the middle ground with Innocent Stryker, whom despite being one of the Kings men you can also feel him waver at times to some of the ideals of Parliament, especially when some entitled twerp goes off and loses a battle whilst seeking individual glory.
The Vast majority of this book is one battle, it is the battle of Marston Moor, it charts the rise of Oliver Cromwell’s star and the beginning of the end for the cause of the king, many may not like that so much of a book is committed to a single battle, but its not all cut and slash. It’s the ebb and flow of the fight, it’s the tactics and politics of the different wings of the opposing armies sand the men who commanded them, it’s the foot against the mounted, the pikes and the lance, the musket and the man, Swords and armour. Amongst all of this Stryker has a charge to protect a secret to ponder and all the while hounded by the Vulture and his men, hell bent on killing Stryker and anyone who gets in their way.
I love the way that Michael Arnold weaves his characters through the battle and the history of the time, interspersing them in legitimate and utterly believable ways into the action, always where its hottest but never making anyone a super human. This book more than any before has surprises, and the author is not afraid to put any character in harm’s way, you never quite know who will make it to the end of the chapter.
This is a highly enjoyable series, one that grows in maturity with every book, and leaves you fulfilled but wanting move every time. Michael is also one of a select group of authors who writes a battle so well you can smell the battlefield and hear the crash of the cannon and muskets. (he brings the whole period to life around the reader)
I highly recommend both the book and the series.
1. Traitor’s Blood (2010)
2. Devil’s Charge (2011)
3. Hunter’s Rage (2012)
4. Assassin’s Reign (2013)
5. Warlord’s Gold (2014)
6. Marston Moor (2015)
Stryker and the Angels of Death (2013)
Hollow Heroes (2015)