Monthly Archives: October 2015

S.D. Sykes: THE BUTCHER BIRD (Blog Tour)

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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.


S.D. Sykes

Published by Hodder & Stoughton in hardback

22nd October 2015


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Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more – something the King himself has forbidden.

Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear.

Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumour, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters.

From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald’s journey is full of danger, dark intrigue and shocking revelations.


This is book two in this series, and always an interesting prospect for any author, but especially a new author. Book one Plague land was reviewed here and if i’m 100% honest is pretty much on a par with book one. Once again the author offers a charismatic portrayal of the time period, and wraps the warp and weft of the crime thriller around the complex dark and atmospheric local climate of the period.

SD Sykes Characters are once again the clear winner in this story, breathing life into a story that may not have held my attention as well as it did without their truly lifelike portrayal. SD Sykes is one of those writers who can give you you the smell of the place along with the description, you take in all the detail the author gives you and your brain fills in the sensory gaps giving an immersive portrayal of the time. Probably the best section of the book is when Oswald journeys across the bleak English landscape of post plague England to London, but a London very different to the one we know, a city of migrants, of people escaping the hinterlands of England and the plague destroyed villages.

So once again, a thumbs up, recommend this book , and the series… you don’t get characters like this every day, so go read them…. i do however hope book 3 gives a little more complexity to the twists and turns. (but that could also be because i’m a jaded old book reviewer who reads too much)

4/5 stars though



Somershill Manor Mystery
1. Plague Land (2014)
2. The Butcher Bird (2015)

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The Dread Wyrm Launch Date Today! (or maybe tomorrow…)

With Pen and Sword



Traitorson three, will finally be released in the next few hours.  In Canada, a surprising number of people already have it.  I’m glad for them, but not particularly glad that the mega-chain Chapters Indigo gets my books before my friends at Bakka Phoenix, without whom I’d never have been writing fantasy at all.

And I do not know why the Publishing Drow have elected, in their deep underground publishing centers, to have the US, Canadian and UK versions all come out on different days; none of them the date announced months ago (October 15th).

But anyway, it’s about to be out, and chances are you will have your hands on a copy very soon, or already do.

The glory of digital media is that I can now have a conversation with you about the book.  There are things I’d like you to know…

As of today, my new…

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Writing about the past – and the present, too

With Pen and Sword

cataphract1 That’s my friend John Conyard of Comitatus

Sometime next fall, I plan to write a novel about Philopoemen, the so-called ‘Last Greek Hero,’ cavalry commander and strategos of the Achaean League in the time of Hannibal and the 2nd Punic War; a brilliant soldier, an innovator, and according to some, the creator of the concept of ‘special forces.’ He’s an exceptional character, and so is his ally and sometimes rival, the Roman Titus Quinctius Flamininus. The two of them are the subjects of a pair of biographies in Plutarch’s Lives’; the only pair that were contemporaries and friends (each of Plutarch’s lives is part of a pair, always one Greek and one Roman, always supposed to be similar men, but usually spread apart in time).
So, in the best tradition of Plutarch… while I write about Philopoeman, my friend SJA Turney is going to writer about…

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Chris Kuzneski : Prisoners Gold (Review)

Chris Kuzneski attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he played football, wrote for three newspapers, and passed most of his classes. He earned a master’s degree in teaching, then taught English for five years before pursuing a career in writing. His first novel, THE PLANTATION, introduced the characters of Payne and Jones, and received rave reviews.

Prisoners Gold:

Buy a signed copy


Book three in the #1 bestselling action series


At the end of the 13th century, Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan gave an Italian merchant unfettered access to his kingdom. The traveler was Marco Polo, and his journey would become legendary. Aided by a special passport that protected him throughout the land, Polo amassed unbelievable wealth and hid it before his return to Italy. To this day, the location of his treasure remains a mystery.


The Hunters – an elite group assembled by an enigmatic billionaire to locate the world’s greatest treasures – are tasked with finding the missing fortune. Guided by firsthand accounts of Polo’s travels, they quickly discover there are hostile forces willing to do anything to stop them from taking the riches from Chinese soil. Before long, the treasure hunt becomes a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that will rewrite history while taking the lives of many.


As the danger mounts, will the Hunters rise to the challenge? Or will the team be killed before they find Polo’s treasure?


Chris Kuzneski has over the course of the Hunters series become a guilty pleasure, his characters remind me of the fun and enjoyment I felt when I first read Clive Cussler, and it was amusing to see he had emulated the man with a small cameo (I hope he keeps these up, they always give me a laugh).

This is book three of the Hunters series and sends our team once more on a seemingly impossible mission, first Nazi treasure, then the tomb of Alexander the Great, now they search for the treasure of Marco Polo. The team are still mourning the loss of one of their own when a new member is introduced adding a new dimension to the team, and much needed expertise on a search thats begins with rumour and worse than third hand knowledge. In the background Cobb is still trying to uncover why they are being asked to solve these great mysteries and why the Frenchman takes no credit for them, who is really pulling the strings and for what reason, and how much danger are the team in?

As per the rest of the series the book is an explosive action packed thrill ride, tempered with real laugh out loud moments, (usually courtesy of their resident sniper and weapons expert, you just can’t beat gallows humour). Many of this style of action adventure lack plot maturity, but that’s not the case with Prisoners Gold or the other books in the series, the plot has multiple layers and enough twists and turns to wrap you in knots, and yet a balance and flow that means you just cannot put it down, once again the author has written a sleep killer of a book.

Highly recommend this and cannot wait to see it on the big or small screen, because its perfect for either format.


Payne and Jones
1. The Plantation (2000)
2. Sign of the Cross (2006)
3. Sword of God (2007)
4. The Lost Throne (2008)
5. The Prophecy (2009)
6. The Secret Crown (2010)
7. The Death Relic (2011)
8. The Einstein Pursuit (2013)
Slipcase: Sign of the Cross / Sword of God / Lost Throne(omnibus) (2011)

1. The Hunters (2013)
2. The Forbidden Tomb (2014)
3. The Prisoner’s Gold (2015)

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Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, Chris Kuzneski

C.C. Humphreys: Shakespeare’s Rebel (Review)

Author Bio

David Cooper Photography 2007

Chris (C.C.) Humphreys is an actor, playwright, fight choreographer and novelist.  He has written nine historical fiction novels including The French Executioner, runner up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers; Vlad – The Last Confession,  the epic novel of the real Dracula; and A Place Called Armageddon. His latest YA novel is The Hunt of the Unicorn. His work has been translated into thirteen languages. Find out more about him on his Website

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Title: Shakespeare’s Rebel

Author: C.C. Humphreys

ISBN: 9781492609902

Pubdate: October 6, 2015


Shakespeare's Rebel cover

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Amazon US

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Indie Bound

To be (or not to be) the man to save England

England’s finest swordsman and fight choreographer at the magnificent new Globe Theatre has hit rock bottom. John Lawley just wants to win back his beloved, become a decent father to his son, and help his friend William Shakespeare finish The Tragedy of Hamlet, the play that threatens to destroy him.

But all is not fair in love and war. Dogged by his three devils—whiskey, women, and Mad Robbie Deveraux—John is dragged by Queen Elizabeth herself into a dangerous game of politics, conspiracy, and rebellion. Will the hapless swordsman figure out how to save England before it’s too late?

Brimming with vivid periodic detail, Shakespearean drama, and irresistible wit, Shakespeare’s Rebel is a thrilling romp through the romantic, revolutionary times of Elizabethan England that will delight historical fiction fans and Shakespeare enthusiasts alike.


“Buffoon!” John bellowed. “Whoreson dog! Do you think I have time to play with fools and children? I am going to pluck out your liver and eat it raw before your fading eyes.” Accompanying this with a great swish down through the air with his cutting edge, he leaped forward, seeming to cover a lot of ground while only taking a pace, then bringing his back edge fast up, steel whistling through the air. Next, he put himself into guard—­but not in a quiet way, for as he yelled again, he took the step back he needed for room, at the same time sweeping his sword up in a great stroke against the edge of his buckler, making the small shield clang. At shout and strike, the men before him again slowed, so once more he brought his sword hard down from the height, ringing metal on metal again, taking another step back. Then, with a final retire and his guard low, he jerked the sword tip hard up in an unmistakable severing of man’s most precious part. All winced as he then aligned his sword’s tip with his buckler, thrusting both forward, peering over the twin steel even as he stepped back once more.

It was a true swashbuckle. He had executed it well, perhaps lessening the memory of his previous slide to the cobbles. A cheer came from the crowd, drowning Silver’s “Oh, sir!” at this breach of English restraint. Yet both men knew also that the noise had caused a distraction. Both used it now.

John heard that swish of steel beside him, a first yelp of pain, the last things he heard. It was ever thus with him in a fight, the near silent place he went to, entering it even as he launched himself. Thought and action, one.

The main threat was in the middle, so he avoided it directly, slamming the blades on his right with both his own weapons, collecting his foe’s with a slight circle of his own sword, before knocking aside the first thrust at his side with a downward sweep of his buckler. The boy who’d delivered it recovered with a step back, taking guard again, giving John the moment to close right, keeping the rapier and dagger he’d gathered with his sword while sweeping his elbow up, driving it into the apprentice’s cheek.

His weight was behind the blow. The youth went down, falling into the butcher’s boy, blocking another advance—­which gave John the second moment he needed. As the apprentice on the other side lunged at his face, from the crouch where his elbow strike had taken him John swept his blade across and hard, knocking the weapon away, exposing the man’s face to the buckler, driven in like a fist, a metaled fist, straight to the nose. The youth cartwheeled backward, dropping both his blades as he went, and smashed into the

eel cart.

“Oy!” the stallholder screamed, steadying his stall, though not enough to prevent some of his produce from flopping onto the cobbles.


When i get to the end of a book im always eager to sit and write the review, to express my opinion and feelings of the work i have just finished. I think this is probably the first time i have been intimidated by the process, worried that i didnt have the right words or the eloquence to do justice to the book.

Yes the book is simply that good.

I have read many stories where the authors love of the subject is clear in the telling of the story. But this time its more than that its a passion for the tale, for the time, for the people and for the subject. This passion leaps from every word, every utterance of every character the very bones and soul of the story.

The synopsis will tell you enough about the plot im certainly not going to spoil a single line of it for you.  What my utmost desire is by writing this, is that you go and buy a copy.  Because this story has it all; a love story, a family story, History, mystery and intrigue, passion, sex, plots, fighting, infighting, backstabbing…the list could go on and on. Its is the complete package.

A book this good comes along only rarely and deserves to hit the bestseller list.

Highest possible recommendation:



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)
The Curse of Anne Boleyn (2015)
Fire (2015)
Vlad: The Last ConfessionThe Hunt of the UnicornA Place Called ArmageddonShakespeare's RebelPlague

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Filed under C C Humphreys, Historical Fiction