Monthly Archives: September 2015

Sven Hassel & Jiordy Diago : Wheels of Terror Graphic Novel (Review)

Author (From his web site)

Sven Hassel (born Pedersen) was born in 1917 in a small town in Denmark called Frederiksborg. Here he was raised in an impoverished Danish working-class family that drove him to join the merchant navy as a ship-boy at the very early age of 14 to earn a living. Later, in 1936, 19-year-old Sven had completed the Danish mandatory military service.

After completion he found himself in the midst of increasing unemployment and an overall crisis in Denmark. He therefore decided to try his luck and moved to neighboring Germany in hopes of finding employment: “Germany was obviously not the right country to move to, but then again, you must remember that those times were chaotic and at that point there was still no war,” Sven related in hindsight.
Even so, his job hunt was unsuccessful and he therefore decided to join the German army(Wehrmacht) as a volunteer in 1938. In order to sign up, however, he had to take on German citizenship, which he was granted by falsely stating his father was of Austrian origin (to enlist in the Wehrmacht it was a prerequisite for a foreigner to have a father of German or Austrian descent). He initially enrolled in the 2ndPanzerregiment and later in the 11th and 27thPanzerregiment (both in the 6th Panzer Division). An unsuccessful attempt to desert landed Sven within the penal battalion of the 27th. It was here that Sven encountered the comrades that would motivate and inspire the novels to come.As a soldier on the front, Hassel was exposed to the dangers of fighting on various front lines and the injuries that came with it. He was wounded 8 times in total and during one of these stints he was temporarily transferred to theAbwehr (espionage) in Denmark for a few months (from December 1944 to January 1945). By the end of the war, Hassel had gone from enlisting as a volunteer to making the ranks of a lieutenant and earning the Iron Cross, first and second class.Nonetheless, when the war ended in 1945, as a consequence of fighting on the German side, he had to serve multiple prison terms in various camps as a P.O.W., which included Russian, American, and French. Afterwards and upon returning home to Denmark, Hassel’s German citizenship was cancelled and he was initially condemned to 10 years in Danish prison for treason (for serving in the German army), but in 1949 amnesty was granted to a great majority of political prisoners, having them hereby released. Hassel’s entire career in the German army was carefully written down in hisHeeresstammkarte (a card handed to each soldier to be carried on their person at all times) showing his rank, positioning, and whereabouts throughout the war.It was while serving sentence in one of these prison camps Hassel began writing his first book. The

Legion of the Damned was first published in Denmark in 1953. To this day, it is the only Danish novel that has been sold consecutively for more than six decades since its first edition. But it was not an easy start, and 12 publishers initially rejected the novel, prior to its first release. Also, he had to write under a pen name (Sven Hassel) because of the hostile feelings towards Danes who had served on the German side. “It was necessary to write under a pseudonym after the war when one had been convicted of German military service, you could easily get fired from work because of this. The fact that I used a pen name has been used against me on numerous occasions, but many writers through history have chosen to do the same,” Hassel explained.“Hassel,” however, was a protected family name in Denmark, and so his publishers changed it to “Hazel” in Denmark, Norway and Iceland – elsewhere it remained “Hassel.” In later years, Sven was legally able to acquire the name “Hassel,” but due to the popularity of his books the name continued with a “z” in the above-mentioned 3 countries.

Initially, post-war, Hassel had the intention of joining the French Foreign Legion, like many of his comrades, as that seemed to be the only option since the trade of a soldier was all he knew. However, and luckily, he met his future wife before enlisting, and that change of fate drove him to eventually become the writer we know of today. Sven married Dorthe in 1951 and together they had a son a year later.

Meanwhile, and despite of having released his first novel, Hassel continued to work at a Mercedes Benz distributor in Copenhagen, Denmark, among other jobs, to support his wife and son, as authorship was still not in the cards and certainly not a reliable means of income.

His career could have been short-lived. In 1957, Hassel fell ill with a rare disease causing total paralysis and a dramatic weight-loss. He was forced to leave his job at the time, which left the family without earnings. It wasn’t until he was admitted to the

Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, in Hamburg, Germany, that they were able to discover the source of his illness – a rare fever originating in the Caucasus region – and thereby treat it. Hassel made a full recovery and was completely cured one year later. Shortly thereafter, his wife encouraged him to start writing again.Hassel went on to create a series of 14 World War II inspired novels, drawing from his own encounters and experiences of the war. The books take the reader on a journey following the trial and tribulations of Hassel and his comrades from the penal battalion:

Porta, Tiny, the Legionnaire, Old Man, Heide, Gregor Martin, Barcelona Blom and the author himself. The few to survive the war were Sven, Tiny, the Legionnaire, Heide, and Gregor Martin.

Gregor Martin became the owner of a large transportation company and proved to be a real entrepreneur. “Julius Heide became a major in the Eastern German army. I kept in touch with him, the Legionnaire, and Tiny for many years. The Legionnaire and Tiny both joined the French Foreign Legion, and eventually ended up in a home for retired legionnaires. But they all passed away a long time ago,” Hassel explained in his last interview in 2010.Sven Hassel’s 14 novels include:

The Legion of the Damned, Wheels of Terror (also a motion picture), Comrades of War, Marchbattalion, Assignment Gestapo, Monte Cassino, Liquidate Paris, SS General, Reign of Hell, Blitzfreeze, The Bloody Road to Death, Court Martial, O.G.P.U. Prison, and The Commissar. These novels have seen worldwide success with over 53 million copies sold, translated into 25 languages and published in more than 50 countries. In Great Britain alone, the books have sold more than 15 million copies.Hassel’s antiwar novels portray the ordinary soldier – showing us the flipside of the medals. These soldiers are not men who provoke wars, but instead are used as pawns forced to fight them. The novels are based not only on the author’s own experience fighting in WWII, but also incorporate fictional elements and plotlines, accentuated with a tremendously witty sense of humor. It should be noted that the books while based on Hassel’s experiences and those of his battalion, contain fictional elements and should not be considered autobiographical nor historical documentary pieces. His hopes are to warn younger generations against the atrocities of war, stressing that war is the last resort exploited by flawed politicians.

Sven Hassel peacefully passed away on September 21st, 2012, in Barcelona, Spain, where he had been residing since 1964

Author website


A graphic novel adaptation of Sven Hassel’s classic war novel, WHEELS OF TERROR, illustrated by Jordy Diago.

Stationed on the Eastern Front and now equipped with armoured vehicles, Sven Hassel and his comrades from the 27th Penal Regiment fight on remorselessly . . . All of them should be dead: life expectancy on the Front is measured in weeks. But Sven, Porta, the Old Un and the Legionnaire fight to the end, not for Germany, not for Hitler, but for survival.

From the blistering cold to the horrors of tank warfare, WHEELS OF TERROR is a sobering depiction of war’s brutalities, and the violence and inhumanity that the history books leave out.


Reading this authors books is always a sobering experience, i grew up reading Valiant, commando and similar comics, all of which told from the perspective of the allies and more often than not seeking the heroic deeds and outcome of a mission. Wheels of Terror is very unlike those tales. Told from the German perspective it gives a sobering  view of the horrors the average German soldier experienced and how they persevered and survived the war.

The dialogue translated to Graphic novel is sharp and insightful and still manages to bring each characters persona to life. The art work is from someone i have not read before.  He,  Jordy Diago manages to capture the darkness and horror of the text perfectly and infuses the characters with the personalities so well described in the novel.

This is an excellent book for fans of WW2 reading and Graphic novels in general.



Legion of the Damned (1953)
Wheels of Terror (1958)
Comrades of War (1960)
March Battalion (1962)
Assignment Gestapo (1963)
Monte Cassino (1963)
aka The Beast Regiment
Liquidate Paris (1967)
S. S. General (1969)
Gestapo (1972)
Reign of Hell (1973)
Blitzfreeze (1975)
The Bloody Road to Death (1977)
Court Martial (1979)
O. G. P. U. Prison (1982)
The Commissar (1985)


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Conn Iggulden: War of the Roses (Bloodline) Review

I was born in the normal way in 1971, and vaguely remember half-pennies and sixpences. I have written for as long as I can remember: poetry, short stories and novels. It’s what I always wanted to do and read English at London University with writing in mind. I taught English for seven years and was Head of English at St. Gregory’s RC High School in London by the end of that period. I have enormous respect for those who still labour at the chalk-face. In truth, I can’t find it in me to miss the grind of paperwork and initiatives. I do miss the camaraderie of the smokers’ room, as well as the lessons where their faces lit up as they understood what I was wittering on about.

My mother is Irish and from an early age she told me history as an exciting series of stories – with dates. My great-grandfather was a Seannachie, so I suppose story-telling is in the genes somewhere. My father flew in Bomber Command in WWII, then taught maths and science. Perhaps crucially, he also loved poetry and cracking good tales. Though it seems a dated idea now, I began teaching when boys were told only girls were good at English, despite the great names that must spring to mind after that statement. My father loved working with wood and equations, but he also recited ‘Vitai Lampada’ with a gleam in his eye and that matters, frankly.

I’ve always loved historical fiction as a genre and cut my teeth on Hornblower and Tai-Pan, Flashman, Sharpe and Jack Aubrey. I still remember the sheer joy of reading my first Patrick O’Brian book and discovering there were nineteen more in the series. I love just about anything by David Gemmell, or Peter F. Hamilton or Wilbur Smith. I suppose the one thing that links all those is the love of a good tale.

That’s about it for the moment. If you’d like to get in touch with me leave a comment in the forum or you can tweet me @Conn_Iggulden. I’ll leave it there for the moment. If you’ve read my books, you know an awful lot about the way I think already. There’s no point overdoing it.


Buy a signed copy

Bloodline  (The third book in the Wars of the Roses series)
A novel by Conn Iggulden

Winter 1461 – Richard Duke of York is dead, his ambitions in ruins, his head spiked on the walls of York city. King Henry VI is still held prisoner. His Lancastrian queen rides south with an army of northerners, accompanied by warriors from the Scottish Highlands. Margaret and her army seem unstoppable. But his death has unleashed York’s sons.

Edward of March, now Duke of York, proclaims himself England’s rightful king. Through blood and treason, broken men and vengeful women, brother shall confront brother, king shall face king. Two men may claim a crown. Only one can keep it.


The latest book from Conn Iggulden in his War of the Roses series and i have to say the finest in this series and quite possibly in his personal library of writing.  This book follows the next stage of the War of the Roses, Margaret of Anjou has killed Richard of York and defeated his army, but she makes her mistake by rubbing his son Edward Duke of March nose in it. She mounts York’s head on a traitors spike on the city gate. As nothing else this drives Edward to proclaim himself king, aided by his friend and mentor Warwick both of whom want nothing more than to defeat the killers of their fathers and retrieve their honour and heads.

Thus two great armies must meet on the great and bloody battlefield of Towton. If you know the history you know that this is a resounding win for Edward ending with the utter defeat of Henry’s forces, and leaving England with one strong king and thousands of dead bodies.

Throughout the entire lead up, battle and its aftermath Conn Iggulden tells his tale with an impartial insight and compassionate approach to viewpoint of the narrative. Margaret’s reasons seem sound when seen through her eyes, Edwards revenge vindicated, Warwick and the Neville’s decisions sound. even the reasoning behind King Edwards wifes persecution of certain nobels has a certain logic seen though her perspective. All of this leaving the way open for the reader to enjoy, be involved and interpret their own personal view of events.

I’ve always been a fan of Conn Igguldens style of writing, but this book is a new step in my opinion, one i wasn’t aware of the source until i read about his personal loss, something i think that has infused a certain extra depth and emotive layer which when coupled with the dramatic and extremely descriptive action packed style he has, makes this truly and exceptional book.

I doff my cap sir, i didn’t think you could out do wolf of the plains, but you prove me wrong again…. I look forward to you doing so again and again.

1. The Gates of Rome (2002)
2. The Death of Kings (2004)
3. The Field of Swords (2004)
4. The Gods of War (2006)
5. The Blood of Gods (2013)
Gates of Rome / Death of Kings (omnibus) (2009)
Emperor: The Gates of Rome / The Death of Kings / The Field of Swords / The Gods of War (omnibus) (2011)
The Emperor Series Books 1-5 (omnibus) (2013)
Emperor Series Collection 5 Books Set (omnibus) (2014)

1. Wolf of the Plains (2007)
aka Genghis: Birth of an Empire
2. Lords of the Bow (2008)
aka Genghis: Lords of the Bow
3. Bones of the Hills (2008)
4. Empire of Silver (2010)
aka Khan: Empire of Silver
5. Conqueror (2011)
Conqueror and Lords of the Bow (omnibus) (2009)
The Khan Series (omnibus) (2012)
Conqueror Series 5-Book Bundle (omnibus) (2013)

1. Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children (2009)
2. Dynamite Tales (2011) (with Lizzy Duncan)
Wars of the Roses
1. Stormbird (2013)
2. Trinity (2014)
aka Margaret of Anjou
3. Bloodline (2015)
Blackwater (2006)
Fig Tree (2014)
Series contributed to
Quick Reads 2012
Quantum of Tweed (2012)
Non fiction
The Dangerous Book for Boys Yearbook (2007) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys (2007) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to Do (2007)(with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: How to Get There(2008)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: Nature Fun (2008)
The Dangerous Book for Boys: 2009 Day-to-Day Calendar (2008)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Facts, Figures and Fun (2008)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to Know(2008) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Wonders of the World (2008) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys 2010 Day-to-Day Calendar (2009) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book of Heroes (2009) (with David Iggulden)


Filed under Conn Iggulden, Historical Fiction

Nathan Hawke Gallow Guest Blog.


Nathan Hawke's picture

Nathan Hawke
UK (1968 – )

A pseudonym used by Stephen Deas
Nathan Hawke is a British writer of fantasy fiction. He has worked variously in the City, as a consultant to the police and to the services. He has travelled in the far east, worked for a time in Las Vegas, was briefly involved in video game design, and once skied off a mountain under a parachute for a bet. His current ambitions include rafting the Colerado River and walking the Milford Track.The Gallow series are his first novels.


I fought for my king for seven long years. I have served lords and held my shield beside common men. I have fled in defeat and I have tasted victory and I will tell you which is sweeter. Despise me then, for I have slain more of your kin than I can count, though I remember every single face.

“Perfect for fans of historical fiction who want a little more bite to their reading, this trilogy earned rave reviews from authors such as Conn Iggulden and James Barclay.
It’s been two years since my Gallow books were published by Gollancz. In the normal run of things the third book in the trilogy would be coming out about now and I’d be submitting the manuscript for a fourth (or not) having been contracted (or not) for more at some point over the last six months. But that’s not how we did this. If you’ve been reading the series then you’ll know that all three came out in consecutive months back in 2013. If you haven’t then the good news is that there’s an omnibus of all three novels and about a dozen little shorts…
book cover of Gallow
(And if you’ve already got the novels, the shorts are all available for free via a rather neat little interactive map thing at  ).
I wanted Gallow to be something a bit modern and a bit retrospective. I wanted the visceral grit of modern fantasy but with a more solid hero, less moral ambiguity (you want moral ambiguity? Go read Stephen Deas’ Dragon Queen). A formidable warrior in his day, Gallow has settled down to peaceful family life only to find himself torn between duty to his people, duty to his family and duty to his own code. Actually I think moral people can be a lot more fun to write, in that it’s much easier to put them into a really difficult dilemma. So yes, there are a few of those. He’s also an outsider among his adopted people, which doesn’t go down too well when his own kith and kin start swinging axes about the place, and no matter whether Gallow stands against them. Life gets as difficult as a heartless author can make it, but Gallow will generally try to do the right thing. That’s the hero I wanted to write back then and it’s the hero I want to write now.
There’s a down side to publishing three books in quick succession though. What’s happened since is . . . an awful lot of nothing. But here’s where anyone who wants to can actually help. See, Gallow did well enough that my editor at Gollancz is keen to do more. I’ve got outlines. They’re good and I really want to write them. But to convince the dragons of Sales and Marketing I need some help with the three shorts Gollancz published earlier this year.
Shorts? What shorts?
Exactly. THESE shorts.
You want to know what happened to the Eyes of Time? You want to know about the drowned tomb under the lake? There’s The Anvil, in which Arda gives Gallow a taste of his own medicine. There’s Solace, in which Mirrahj does Gallow’s job for him; and then there’s Dragon’s Reach, in which Oribas meddles with things with which perhaps he shouldn’t; and if none of these names make any sense, that’s because you haven’t read The Fateguard Trilogy yet!
I need the dragons of Sales and Marketing not to have an excuse to say no. Because I really, really want to write Gallow some more. I can’t promise Gollancz will go for more if the shorts pick up. I can’t say for sure they won’t if they don’t. I can say that here’s an opportunity to make a difference.
So: as they say… Buy My Book (or at least my shorts)! Gallow is, to an extent, in your hand.
Thank you.
– Nathan Hawke
From Parmenion:
I personally love these books, the artwork is some of the best in recent years for any fantasy book, and thats just a prelude for the brilliant contents:

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Pen and Sword II LAST CHANCE

Latest update from Christian Cameron , also last invite to an excellent trip of a lifetime

With Pen and Sword


On November 2nd, 2015, I will again lead a hardy band of adventurers through Greek history.  Well, and possibly some ouzo…

This year, following the recreation of the time of the Battle of Marathon at Marathon, Greece, (October 29th – November 1st, 2015) we will visit Athens for some great museums and possibly some examinations of the current refugee crisis; we’ll go to Corinth and see both wineries and fortresses (and the site of a coming Tom Swan adventure and a past Tyrant episode) and then we’ll take our beautiful and luxurious bus (it really is like traveling in a land yacht) through the Peloponnese to Nafplion.  For those interested, the Peloponnese is ‘Morea’ in my Red Knight books.  Nafplion has another superb fortress, as well as a fantastic museum full of Bronze Age through Medieval artifacts, great restaurants and is sometimes called the ‘Venice of Greece.’

We’ll also…

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Simon Toyne Solomon Creed (2015) (A book in the Solomon Creed series) Review

Simon Toyne

Author Bio (From the authors Web Site)

An introduction to me…

I’ve been hooked on thrillers ever since I picked up my dad’s dog-eared copy of Alistair MacLean’s ‘The Satan Bug’ and discovered there was more to life than Paddington Bear and Roald Dahl.  But the journey towards actually becoming a writer of such stories was a gradual one.

At first I wanted to be an actor, until a degree in English and Drama at Goldsmith’s College in London made me realise I really didn’t.  Actors told other people’s stories.  I wanted to tell my own.  So now I had a new dream.  I wanted to write screenplays and direct films.

To try and achieve this slightly ambitious goal I wrote and directed a few shorts and produced a couple of full-length screenplays that were designed to be my ticket to the big time.  To fund this work I also freelanced in television, starting as a runner in an editing facility in Soho making tea and toast for people, then gradually working my way up the production ladder.  My show-reel of self-produced, self-written, directed and edited films got me noticed and I suddenly found myself a director, aged 25.  The master plan was working.  Surely the step from TV director to feature film-helmer was just around the corner.

Fifteen years later and I’m staring down the barrel of forty.  I’m a fairly successful TV producer with a good track record, particularly as a scriptwriter, and a good job in a leading UK independent production company.  I’m married with two kids.  I’m not going to direct feature films.  But I still have the ambition to tell a big story.  But when am I going to find the time?

My eldest is about to start school and I know that once she does I’ll be locked in a cycle of school terms and holidays.  If I ever want to write something big – now is the time.  But not a screenplay.  A screenplay is just the beginning of something.  I need to write something that once written is a finished thing.  I also need to write something commercial.  I can’t afford to take time off from a well-paid career and turn my back on my responsibilities as a husband and father on some kind of self-indulgent creative whim.  We had enough savings for me to take a sabbatical.  After that the dream was over.

So, a couple of ideas in my head and the fear of failure lighting a huge fire beneath me, I quit my job and moved with my family to France for seven months with the intention of writing a commercial thriller.  We nearly didn’t make it at all.

Setting sail on the midnight ferry to Dieppe on Dec 1st 2007 a force eight gale battered the ship, destroying not only the entire contents of the duty free shop but also any hope we had of sleeping in our tin-box cabin.  Consequently we arrived in France, exhausted but relieved to be alive, with all plans of driving for eight hours to our new home flapping tattered in the wind.  We limped inland, to Rouen, where in the pre-dawn light, I saw the twisted spires of the cathedral rising up into the lightening sky, and a new idea started to form.

As it turned out I only managed to write a third of my novel during our time in France.  We returned, as planned, when the money ran out.

My little girl started school and I went back to work freelancing at the same TV production where I’d once held a nice, safe, staff job.  It took another year and a half of writing in the evenings and in between bouts of more paid TV work to finish the book, which ended up being called SANCTUS. To date it has been translated into 27 languages, published in over 50 countries, and was the biggest selling debut thriller of 2011 in the UK and an international bestseller – as were The Key and The Tower, the next two books in the Sanctus trilogy. In the summer of 2013 I signed a new five book deal for Solomon Creed, a new action-thriller series following a man with no past and no memories on an epic journey of redemption. He may even make his way to Rouen, or possibly Ruin. I haven’t decided yet. His past is unknown – his future, unwritten…


Buy a signed copy

Solomon Creed  (2015) (A book in the Solomon Creed series)
WHO IS SOLOMON CREED? The first in an electrifying new high concept series from Sunday Times bestselling author of SANCTUS, Simon Toyne A plane crash in the Arizona desert. An explosion that sets the world on fire. A damning pact to hide an appalling secret. And one man bound to expose the truth. He is Solomon Creed. No one knows what he is capable of. Not even him. When Solomon Creed flees the burning wreckage of a plane in the Arizona desert, seconds before an explosion sets the world alight, he is acting on instinct alone. He has no memory of his past, and no idea what his future holds. Running towards a nearby town, one name fires in his mind – James Coronado. Somehow, Solomon knows he must save this man. But how do you save a man who is already dead?


I always find it interesting that i enjoy Simon Toynes thrillers so much, his books are not my normal go to thriller type. This latest book is no exception, If i had to make a comparison it would be to say that it felt like a cross between Lee Childs Jack Reacher and Stephen Kings Colorado Kid.  Solomon Creed has all the power and presence of the action hero but the mysterious nature and slightly supernatural element of The Colorado Kid. I’m personally not a fan of either of those authors, yet this book works, it works really really well, i galloped through this book at breakneck speed.

Solomon Creed is introduced to us walking out of an inferno with no memory of who he is or why he is there. This book follows that search for self and purpose, but mixed in with it are multiple plots of dirty cops, drug cartels, town politics, murder, grief and the history of the town of redemption. Because Simon Toyne is not satisfied with all these twists and turns and differing perspectives he also needs to add an element of timeslip to bring in the creation of the Town of Redemption, all intrinsically tied up in the present of the town. You would be forgiven for thinking that this would make the plot complicated and open to confusion, but Simon Toyne has such an open flowing style, couple this with his very real and excellently imagined world and people, that you are drawn into the town and become part of the story.

My personal favorite part of the concept is the total blank slate of Solomon Creed set against the roiling pain and anger that is encapsulated in the leader of the Drug Cartel, then the whole plot being brought forth in what is essential a wild west town that has never really shaken off its frontier town conception.

The whole tale is an absolute thrilling success, and a mind blowing set of twists and turns from fist page to last, certainly a contender for thriller of the year.


Sancti Trilogy
1. Sanctus (2011)
2. The Key (2012)
3. The Tower (2013)
Simon Toyne 2-Book Bundle (omnibus) (2013)
The Sancti Trilogy (omnibus) (2014)
Solomon Creed
Solomon Creed (2015)
The Searcher (2015)

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Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, Simon Toyne

Harry Sidebottom: Blood and Steel (Review)

Harry Sidebottom

A Lecturer in Ancient History at Merton College, Oxford, and part-time lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick. He has written for and contributed to many publications, including Classical Review, Journal of Roman Studies, and War and Society in the Roman World.

Buy the book

Blood and Steel  (2015)
(The second book in the Throne of the Caesars series)
A novel by Harry Sidebottom


Blending heart-pounding action and historical accuracy, Harry Sidebottom’s bestselling Warrior of Rome series took readers from the shouts of the battlefield to the whisperings of the emperor’s inner circle. In this second book of his new Throne of the Caesars series, Sidebottom continues his retelling of one of the bloodiest periods of Roman history – the Year of the Six Emperors.

In Rome in the year 238 AD, Emperor Maximinus’s reign hangs in the balance. The empire is bleeding manpower and money in an attempt to sustain its wars in the north, and rebellions flare in the far reaches of its territories.

Meanwhile in Africa, Gordian the Elder and Younger are proclaimed as the new Augusti. A family descending from the Imperial bloodline, they represent a chance for the establishment to take back the empire. The first blood of the revolt is shed in Rome when an assassin murders the emperor’s prefect, announcing to Rome that the Gordians have taken the throne; still bitter at Maximinus’s rise from the barracks to power, the Senate endorses the rebellion, and chaos descends on the capitol.

But in his heart, Maximinus is a man of war: when he hears of the betrayal, he acts with decisive brutality and violence. On the dusty plains outside Carthage, blood and steel will determine the fate of the Roman Empire.


Blood and Steel is a direct continuation of book 1 Iron and Rust, and like its predecessor it’s a cracking read. Harry Sidebottom is at his core an educator but having met the man a few times he is also a bit of an entertainer. In his books he teaches every reader something new, not surprising really for a man who lectures at Oxford. The surprising thing is the gripping and engaging way he tells the tale, his passion for the subject bleeding into every chapter. As ever his chosen period is riddled with upheaval, powerful moments and just as powerful characters, ones that he plays like a maestro.

This is a Roman tale at its best, extravagant, corrupt, a bloated empire with an Emperors power in the balance, the halls of power filled with bitter rivalries and petty jealousy. Its vast wealth struggling to keep its borders safe and rebellion at bay across vast distances. This at its heart is a battle of the new man over the noble (approved) bloodlines, but war isn’t about bloodlines, its about power, brutality and a will to win, Emperor Maximinus is not a man to underestimate, have the Gordians and the Senate bitten off more than they can chew?

Read the book and find out, and do so with some wonderfully described personalities, You truly must read this book, and this series, not only for the elegant fictional account, but also the copious and well explained historical notes (50 pages worth ) at the end of the book. You will be entertained.

Highly recommended




Warrior of Rome
1. Fire in the East (2008)
2. King of Kings (2009)
3. Lion of the Sun (2010)
4. The Caspian Gates (2011)
5. The Wolves of the North (2012)
6. The Amber Road (2013)


Throne of the Caesars
1. Iron and Rust (2014)
2. Blood and Steel (2015)
Silence & Lies (2015)

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Filed under Harry Sidebottom, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized

Wilbur Smith with Giles Kristian : Golden Lion (Review)

Wilbur Smith  – Zambia (1933 – )

Wilbur Smith was born in Central Africa in 1933. He was educated at Michaelhouse and Rhodes University. He became a full-time writer in 1964 after the successful publication of WHEN THE LION FEEDS, and has since written nearly thirty novels, all meticulously researched on his numerous expeditions worldwide. His books are now translated into twenty-six languages.

Wilbur Smith lives in London and continues to have an abiding concern for the peoples and wildlife of his native continent, an interest strongly reflected in his novels.

Giles Kristian

He is half Norwegian and his storytelling hero, Bernard Cornwell, inspired Giles Kristian to write his first historical novels, the acclaimed and bestselling Raven Viking trilogy Blood Eye, Sons of Thunder and Odins Wolves. For his next series, he drew on a long-held fascination with the English Civil War. The Bleeding Land and Brothers Fury follow the fortunes of a divided family against the complex and brutal backcloth of a conflict that tore this country apart and ended with the killing of a king. In his most recent novel God of Vengeance Giles returns to the world of the Vikings to tell of the beginnings of Sigurd and his celebrated fictional fellowship.

Golden Lion

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The Courtney series. East African Coast, 1670. In a time of brave and brutal adventure, one man will journey across land and sea to pursue his greatest enemy …The Golden Bough, captained by Henry ‘Hal’ Courtney, is running south from Ethiopia to Zanzibar. Below deck, both his crew and his lover, the fearless warrior Judith Nazet, sleep. As the moon glints through clouds, Hal sights a ship passing close by. Although there is an uneasy truce between the warring English and Dutch, Hal scents danger. When the Bough is boarded, the crew must go hand to hand to defend their ship and their lives. But soon Hal will face even graver danger, as he discovers his mortal enemy still lives and is hell-bent on revenge. he must pursue his nemesis across desert savannah, through the seedy underbelly of Zanzibar’s slave markets and shark-infested waters, imperilling his own life at every turn. But it will take more than a slave’s shackles to hold Hal Courtney…A thrilling blend of extraordinary drama and epic storytelling, Golden Lion sees Wilbur Smith return in triumphant form to the adventures of his beloved and bestselling Courtney family.


I have thought long and hard about the best way to approach reviewing this book and as usual i have decided to fall back on my usual frank open honest feelings and hope nothing offends.

I’m not a reader of Wilbur Smiths books and im a huge fan of Giles Kristian’s, i have read both authors multiple times so feel i can comment on either style.

The book opens in dramatic style and and roared into action but very soon (for me) i felt that  the book became something very much led and styled by elder statesman of thrillers, Mr Smith  rather than a true collaboration and that was always my concern as i’m not his biggest fan, mainly because i feel a series should not go on  for that many books (14 Courtney books now) and each book should improve on the last, and i think his stopped doing that some time ago.

The difference in writers for me is when Giles Kristian writes a book you can feel and taste the salt spray of the waves, you can smell the brine and the sweat of the sailors, in battle the coppery tang of blood is tangible in the air and it  just wasn’t there, or at least it was there is flashes, but didn’t fill the book in the way i have come to expect and love when reading his work.

Please don’t think its doom and gloom though, there are many of these flashes of Giles Kristian his descriptive slipping into the book, and among some of the more stylized Smith characters there are some real gems for example Aboli and the Amadoda sailors, the young slave saved from the block by General Judith. The Buzzard himself as a broken figure of devilry is a much greater protagonist for not being a master villain, because he is a man driven by hate and pain it makes his desire to gain revenge feel more realistic all of these make the book more than Courtney does. Is this the work of Giles or Wilbur i don’t know  but a writer of Wilbur Smiths Stature and sales doesn’t release and sell this many books by being average so i have to credit the enjoyment i had with the book equally, yet I hope fans of Wilbur Smith also take the time to read Giles Kristian’s own work to see what i mean about his powerful  and emotive writing.

For this book however I wish more time could have been spent on rounding out more of the characters, the main crew of Courtney’s ship for example, too many of the side characters in the book were just cardboard cutouts or as i call them Red Shirts (ala Star Trek) because they have no back story they hold no emotional reaction and thus a death means nothing. Writers who excel at rounding all the characters in a book and creating that true “bloody hell” moment are the like of Giles Kristian, Anthony Riches, Christian Cameron and a few others, but its the extra lines and care they put into cannon fodder that take a book from average to great.

Most of all i felt that this book had more to offer as a duology, there were so many plot lines that if played out to the full would have made for an exceptional tale (i resist naming them for fear of spoilers), and unfortunately fell slightly lacking being crammed into one book. There could have been so much more played out with William Pett also with Mr Tromp IMHO a wasted character, there was so much that could have been done with him.

So the ultimate question… do i recommend it? Yes, because i think every reader should make up his or her own mind, that and the book contains many truly entertaining scenes and some wonderful characters, eg The Buzzard, not a nice character, but one that was so real you could despise him, the twisted nature of Mr Pett and the devious charm of Mr Tromp.  So please read this, make your mind up and come back and voice an opinion on the book i’d love to hear it, i find these collaborations very intriguing and how they land with readers.


Giles Kristian
1. Blood Eye (2009)
2. Sons of Thunder (2010)
3. Odin’s Wolves (2011)
Bleeding Land
1. The Bleeding Land (2012)
2. Brothers Fury (2013)
God of Vengeance
1. God of Vengeance (2014)
2. Wings of the Storm (2016)
Wilbur Smith
1. When the Lion Feeds (1964)
2. The Sound of Thunder (1966)
aka The Roar of Thunder
3. A Sparrow Falls (1977)
The Courtneys: When the Lion Feeds / The Sound of Thunder / A Sparrow Falls (omnibus) (1987)
1. A Falcon Flies (1980)
aka Flight of the Falcon
2. Men of Men (1981)
3. The Angels Weep (1982)
4. The Leopard Hunts in Darkness (1984)
Courtney 2
1. The Burning Shore (1985)
2. Power of the Sword (1986)
3. Rage (1987)
4. Golden Fox (1990)
5. A Time to Die (1989)
Ancient Egyptian
1. River God (1993)
2. The Seventh Scroll (1995)
3. Warlock (2001)
4. The Quest (2007)
5. Desert God (2014)

Courtney 3
1. Birds of Prey (1997)
2. Monsoon (1999)
3. The Blue Horizon (2003)
4. The Triumph of the Sun (2005)
5. Assegai (2009)
6. Golden Lion (2015) (with Giles Kristian)

Hector Cross
1. Those in Peril (2011)
2. Vicious Circle (2013)
The Dark of the Sun (1965)
Shout At the Devil (1968)
Gold Mine (1970)
aka Gold
The Diamond Hunters (1971)
The Sunbird (1972)
Eagle in the Sky (1974)
The Eye of the Tiger (1975)
Cry Wolf (1976)
Hungry As the Sea (1978)
Wild Justice (1979)
aka The Delta Decision
Elephant Song (1991)Full Fathom Five (2016)
Predator (2016)

The Eye of the Tiger / Hungry as the Sea (2005)
River God / Warlock (2006)
Sunbird / Wild Justice (2006)
Wilbur’s Smashing Thrillers (2013)
Selected Works (1983)
Non fiction
Wilbur Smith: The Early Years Collection (2013)


Filed under Giles Kristian, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized, Wilbur Smith