Monthly Archives: December 2016

Matthew Harffy: Blood and Blade (Review)

Matthew Harffy's picture

Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels. The first of them is the action-packed tale of vengeance and coming of age, THE SERPENT SWORD. The sequel is THE CROSS AND THE CURSE.

Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. He has co-authored seven published academic articles, ranging in topic from the ecological impact of mining to the construction of a marble pipe organ.

book cover of Blood and Blade

Buy the book on Kindle

635AD. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and third instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Oswald is now King of Northumbria. However, his plans for further alliances and conquests are quickly thrown into disarray when his wedding to a princess of Wessex is interrupted by news of a Pictish uprising.

Rushing north, Oswald leaves Beobrand to escort the young queen to her new home. Their path is fraught with danger and uncertainty, Beobrand must try to unravel secrets and lies if they are to survive.

Meanwhile, old enemies are closing in, seeking brutal revenge. Beobrand will give his blood and blade in service to his king, but will that be enough to avert disaster and save his kith and kin from the evil forces that surround them?

Review

In previous reviews i have stated that The Bernicia Chronicles was the gritty reality that Bernard Cornwell wished his Uthred series was. Matthew Harffy with impeccable research into the period, but also into insight into human nature weaves a tale of a troubled man, facing his past, and building a future.

Set in a period of history with limited known hard facts, there is still much for the author to call upon, the ruins and awe of the Roman world, the power and mystery of the new religion, Christianity, and the slow death of the old religions. The author has immersed himself in the known works of the time and absorbed the facts and suppositions, and blended them with his passion for the subject. All of this then told with a powerful set of characters woven into the path of the key players of the time provides an action packed story that is utterly engrossing.

With the lead character you can sense and feel the anger, confusion and passions that he is struggling with. Matthew draws on as many emotions as possible, but also the insecurities and angst of the young man thrust into a position of power, one coupled with extreme violence.

This is a series that gets better and better and one i highly enjoy.

(Parm)

Series

Bernicia Chronicles
1. The Serpent Sword (2015)
2. The Cross and the Curse (2016)
3. Blood and Blade (2016)
4. Killer of Kings (2017)
Kin of Cain (2017)

 

 

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Most Anticipated for 2017

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Every Year i try to pull together a list of as many books that i can think of, that will be worth reading in the coming year.

for 2017 that means all of the below. I have included art work where it exists, and links to where you can pre-order and read about the book.

Pre-orders are great for authors, they show there is demand…. so go bankrupt yourself like me, and order as many of these excellent titles as you dare, and keep coming back for reviews of those you missed and i will do my best to let you know if they are worth your cash…. (im sure they are, these are all amazing writers.

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Michael Arnold Stryker 7 21st Sept 2017

Pre Order Stryker 7

Anthony Riches Betrayal : Centurions 1 9th March 2017

Pre Order Betrayal

Anthony Riches: Onslaught (The Centurions 2) 21st Sept 2017

Pre Order Onslaught

Christian Cameron: Untitled (Chivalry)  17th May 2017

Pre Order Untitled (Chivalry)

Christian Cameron: The Green Count  Chivalry book 3 13th July 2017

Pre Order Green Count

Angus Donald: Bloods Game October 2017

Neil Gaiman : Norse Mythology 7th Feb 2017

Pre Order Norse Mythology

Julian Stockwin: Persephone (18) 18th May 2017

James Heneage: By Blood Divided 1st June 2017

Pre-Order By Blood Divided

David Gilman: Vipers Blood 9th Feb 2017

Pre-Order Vipers Blood

James Wilde: Pendragon 13th July 2017

Pre-Order Pendragon

Christian Cameron : Tudor Knight  18th Jan 2018

Pre-Order Tudor Knight

Christian Cameron:

Last of the Spartans Part 3  9th March 2017

Pre-Order Last of the Spartans Part 3

Last of the Spartans Part 4  13th April 2017

Pre-Order Last of the Spartans Part 4

Last of the Spartans Part 5  11th May 2017

Pre-Order Last of the Spartans Part 5

Ian Ross: The Mask of Command 12th Jan 2017

Pre-Order The Mask of Command

Robyn Young: Court of Wolves (2) 27th June 2017

Pre-Order Court of the Wolves

Robert Fabbri: Arminius 5th Jan 2017

Pre-Order Arminius

SD Sykes : City of Masks 15th June 2017

Pre-Order City of Masks

Simon Scarrow: Eagles of Empire (16)  19th Oct 2017

Pre-Order Simon Scarrow

Douglas Jackson : Glory of Rome 10th Aug 2017

Pre-Order Glory of Rome

Paul Fraser Collard: The True Soldier 13th July 2017

Pre-Order The True Soldier

Jane Johnson: Court of Lions 6th July 2017

Pre-Order Court of Lions

Tony Clements: Kingmaker : Kingdom Come 1st June 2017

Pre-Order Kingdom Come

Conn Iggulden: Dunstan 4th May 2017

Pre-Order Dunstan

Geraint Jones : Blood Forest 6th April 2017

Pre-Order Blood Forest

Tim Severin: Freebooter (Pirate) 9th March 2017

Pre-Order Freebooter

A D Swanston: Incendium 23rd Feb 2017

Pre-Order Incendium

Alex Gough: Carbo (3) Date 1st Quarter 2017

Steve A McKay: The Abbey of Death 1st Quarter 2017

SJA Turney: Marius’ Mules X: Fields of Mars 20th Feb 2017

SJA Turney: Praetorian 3: Eagles of Dacia May 2017

SJA Turney: Tales of the Empire 5: Invasion Aug/ Sept 2017

Gordon Doherty Legionary 6: Empire of Shades – summer 2017

Gordon Doherty: Empires of Bronze vol 1 2017

Kin of Cain: A Short Bernicia Tale by [Harffy, Matthew]

Matthew Harffy: Kin of Cain 1st March 2017

Pre-Order Kin of Cain

Killer of Kings (The Bernicia Chronicles Book 4) by [Harffy, Matthew]

Matthew Harffy: Killer of Kings 1st June 2017

Pre-Order Killer of Kings

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Ruth Kozak: The Field of Hades 2017

Edward Ruadh Butler: Lord of the Sea Castle 1st June 2017

Prue Batten: Cabinet of Curiosities Oct/ Nov 2017

Harry Sidebottom: The Last Hour 2017

Martin Lake: Fire in the Blood Spring 2017

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Tad Williams: The Heart of What Was Lost: 31st Jan 2017

Pre Order The Heart of What Was Lost

Tad Williams : Empire of Grass Book 2 of the Last King of Osten Ard 5th Oct 2017

Pre Order Empire of Grass

Alex Marshall: A War in Crimson Embers 10th Sept 2017

Pre Order A War in Crimson Embers

Miles Cameron : The Fall of Dragons 19th Oct 2017

Pre-Order Fall of Dragons

Darien - Die Herrschaft der Zwölf: Roman (German Edition) by [Iggulden, Conn]

C V Iggulden : Darien (Empire of Salt)  27th July 2017 (could only find a german cover)

Peter V Brett: The Core 10th Aug 2017

Pre Order The Core

Nicholas Eames: Kings of the Wyld (The band book 1) 21st Feb 2017

Pre Order Kings of the Wyld

Bradley Beaulieu: With Blood upon the Sand 7th Feb 2017

Pre Order With Blood upon the Sand

Sebastian De Castell: Tyrants Throne (book 4)

Pre Order Tyrants Throne

Anna Smith Spark: The Court of Broken Knives 29th June 2017

Pre-Order Court of Broken Knives

Michael J Sullivan: Age of Swords (2) 20th June 2017

Pre-Order Age of Swords

Peter Newman: The Seven (2) 20th April 2017

Pre-Order The Seven

Anthony Ryan: The Legion of Flame 6th July 2017

Pre-Order Legion of flame

Mark Lawrence: Red Sister

Pre-Order Red Sister

Raymond Fiest : King of Ashes 18th Jan 2017

Pre-Order King of Ashes

Miles Cameron: The Master (Master and Mages) 11th Janl 2018

Pre-Order The Master

John Hornor Jacobs: Infernal Machines 27th July 2017

Pre-Order Infernal Machines

Antoine Rouaud: The Ember in the ashes 16 Nov 2017

Pre-Order Ember in the Ashes

Elizabeth May: The Fallen Kingdom 15th June 2017

Pre-Order Fallen Kingdom

Robin Hobb Assassins Fate 4th May 2017

Pre-Order Assassins Fate

Neil Oliver: The Black Glass 16th Nov 2017

Pre-Order The Black Glass

Scott Oden: A Gathering of Ravens 29th June 2017

Pre-Order Gathering of Ravens

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Robert Lautner: The Draughtsman 9th Feb 2017

Pre-Order The Draughtsman

David Gemmell : Rhyming Rings 18th May 2017

Pre Order Rhyming Rings

Terry Hayes: The Year of the Locust 24 August 2017

Pre Order Year of the Locust

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Dan Brown: Origin (Robert Langdon) 26th Sept 2017

Pre Order Origin

Simon Toyne: The Boy who Saw 15th June 2017

Pre Order The Boy who Saw

Clive Cussler: Nighthawk (Numa) 30th May 2017

Pre-Order Nigh Hawk

Clive Cussler: The Cutthroat (Issac bell) 14th March 2017

Pre-Order The Cutthroat

Steve Berry: The lost Order 4th April 2017

Pre-Order The Lost Order

Michael Crichton: Dragon Teeth 1st June 2017

Pre-Order Dragon Teeth

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Pierce Brown: Iron Gold 1 24th August 2017

Pre Order Iron Gold 1

 

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Paul Crilley: Department Zero 24th Jan 2017

Pre-Order Dept Zero

Paul Crilley: Clockwork City Delphic Division 2 17th Aug 2017

Pre Order Clockwork City

Angela Slatter: Corpselight 13th July 2017

Pre Order Corpselight

Alex Scarrow: Re-Born 29th June 2017

Pre Order Reborn

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Matthew Harffy: Blood and Blade Blog Tour inc Extract.

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Author info:

harffy_matthew

 

Matthew Harffy is the author of the Bernicia Chronicles, a series of novels set in seventh century Britain. The first of the series, The Serpent Sword, was published by Aria/Head of Zeus on 1st June 2016. The sequel, The Cross and The Curse was released on 1st August 2016. Book three, Blood and Blade, was released on 1st December 2016.

 

Book info and links:

book cover of 

The Serpent Sword 

book cover of 

The Cross and the Curse 

book cover of 

Blood and Blade

 

The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse and Blood and Blade are available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and all good online bookstores.

Killer of Kings and Kin of Cain are available for pre-order on Amazon and all good online bookstores.

 book cover of 

Killer of Kings 

book cover of 

Kin of Cain

Contact links:

Website: www.matthewharffy.com

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: MatthewHarffyAuthor

aria_harffy_blood-and-blade_e

Blurb:

635AD. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and third instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Oswald is now King of Northumbria. However, his plans for further alliances and conquests are quickly thrown into disarray when his wedding to a princess of Wessex is interrupted by news of a Pictish uprising.

Rushing north, Oswald leaves Beobrand to escort the young queen to her new home. Their path is fraught with danger and uncertainty, Beobrand must try to unravel secrets and lies if they are to survive.

Meanwhile, old enemies are closing in, seeking brutal revenge. Beobrand will give his blood and blade in service to his king, but will that be enough to avert disaster and save his kith and kin from the evil forces that surround them?

 

Extract

Chapter 2

“This mead is good,” roared the huge warrior who had arrived that dawn. He slammed down the horn he had just emptied, pushing the bench back and standing up. He staggered towards the door, almost losing his balance.

“Good and strong,” said Beobrand, smiling. “Watch yourself, Bassus. I wouldn’t want you tripping and hurting yourself, old man.”

“Who are you calling old?” bellowed Bassus. He spun around to face the high table, arms lifted in mock fighting pose. Losing his balance, he reached out and grabbed hold of one of the hall’s wooden pillars. “I’m not old,” he said, shaking his head to clear it. “Drunk, yes, but not old!” He pushed himself away from the beam and walked unsteadily out of the hall.

The men gathered there, most as drunk as Bassus, filled the warm, smoke-filled space with laughter. Bassus, erstwhile hearth-warrior and champion to King Edwin, was known to them. He and Beobrand had fought shoulder-to-shoulder in the battle of Elmet. The older warrior was their lord’s friend and had stood with them against the Picts in the darkness, and so they welcomed him.

Reaghan started at the raucous noise of the men in the great hall. They were full of cheer. Glad to be alive. Flushed with the morning’s victory over the Picts. The air of celebration was clear in the expressions of men and women alike. They all felt it. Revelled in it. It was a warm day and the food and drink was plentiful.

And yet, the happiness did not reach Reaghan. She had been so afraid in the black stillness of the night, cowering with the other women and the bairns. Waiting for the sound of battle. For the flash of fire in the darkness.

Beobrand, sitting at the head of the room, waved to her, beckoning her to his side. She lowered her head and made her way past the men who lined the boards. She felt their eyes upon her as she approached her lord. She knew what they wanted. What all men wanted.

“More mead, my lord?” she asked in a soft tone.

He grinned and raised his cup.

It was the first time she had seen him smile since before lady Sunniva’s death. Even when he looked upon Octa, his infant son, he displayed no emotion, save perhaps a brooding anxiety.

Reaghan poured amber liquid for him and stepped back, away from Beobrand. The fear of the previous night clung to her like a rain-soaked fleece. She shuddered.

The screams of the fighting, the clash of sword on shield and the crackle of fires had brought back to her the night she had been taken by Torran and his brother. She had not been as afraid since she was a child, when the Angelfolc had come on that autumn day, killing her family. But that was many years past and the memories had lost their edges, stones rubbed smooth in the stream of time. Her capture by the sons of Nathair had been recent, the wounds still fresh.

They had treated her hard. She was no stranger to the ways of warriors. She was a thrall. The property of Lord Ubba until his death, along with his two sons, the year before. All three of them had lain with her. Panting and pushing, grunting into her long auburn hair. Yet she had never feared they would truly hurt her. She had pitied them. Despised them. But she never believed they wished her harm.

The Picts were different. They had beaten her, slapping and punching her tiny frame. She had been powerless to prevent it, so had done the only thing she knew. Before they could knock her senseless, she had lifted up her dress, opening her legs, offering herself to them. They had stopped hitting her then.

What followed had been little better. The memories of that dark night threatened to engulf her with their black wings. She had passed out before they had finished with her.

She had awoken, battered and aching as the night erupted in flames and terror. The hall had filled with thick smoke and all about her men shouted. She recalled her own village all those years before, and the acrid smoke as her home was consumed. Her mother’s screams. The Angelfolc, descended from warriors who had come from across the Whale Road, had murdered her family and enslaved her. And yet, these Picts, people who had long shared this island of Albion with her folk, had forced themselves upon her. They had kicked and hit her. For years she had dreamt of running away from Ubbanford. Escaping her life of thralldom. To leave the accursed Angelfolc behind and return to her people in the west.

 

 

 

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Parmenion Books: My Best of 2016

As is usual for this time of year, i feel its time for me to try and pull apart all the books i have read this year and say which for me was the best… or rather the most impacting.

This is actually something i hate, you know when you get asked whats your favorite movie of all time, or favorite book of all time… i’m the annoying person who prevaricates and says “which genre”… etc. because there is no one answer.

And yet….. i will try. This is an utterly personal choice, every book i have reviewed on Parmenion Books Blog this year has been excellent, anyone who reads my blog knows i only write reviews for the books that i think truly deserve it.

So….There will be a winner per Genre…. and i will take the plunge and choose my fav book this year…. might need a coin toss…(so keep going to the end)

So my main passion Historical Fiction….. these are the 10 most deserving titles (and believe me the ones i don’t mention, are also stunningly good… and for those i have not mentioned it was such a hard cut off)

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In no order:

Ben Kane: Hunting the Eagles

Ben Kane Web site

Buy Hunting the Eagles

Giles Kristian: Wings of the Storm

Giles Kristian Web site

Buy Wings of the Storm

Robert Fabbri: The Furies of Rome

Robert Fabbri Web site

Buy Furies of Rome

Christian Cameron: Rage of Ares

Christian Cameron Web site

Buy Rage of Ares

Buy Rage of Ares (Signed Limited edition)

Justin Hill: Viking Fire

Justin Hill Web site

Buy Viking Fire

Douglas Jackson: Saviour of Rome

Douglas Jackson Web site

Buy Saviour of Rome

Toby Clements: Kingmaker Divided Souls

Toby Clements Web site

Buy Divided Souls

Paul Fraser Collard: The Last Legionnaire

Paul Fraser Collard Web site

Buy The Last legionnaire

Giles Kristian: Winters Fire

G Kristian Web site

Buy Winters Fire

Anthony Riches: Altar of Blood

Anthony Riches Web site

Buy Altar of Blood

And the winner is…….(drum roll)……..

Viking Fire by Justin Hill

justin-hill-2

There were so many books that could have won this year, the standard of writing just gets higher every year. Robert Fabbri weaves a tale that gets more intense every year, Toby Clements takes you from the palaces into the muck and mire and reality of the times, Tony Riches still manages to surprise and make me laugh out loud in every book, Douglas Jackson has me on the edge of the page for every chapter. Ben Kane writes the most indepth exciting plots, Giles Krsitian has you in the moment every stroke of the oar every clash of the blade, Paul Collard takes you to the heart of danger and balances you on the precipice with his very real Jack Lark. The simply incredible Christian Cameron who can wring every emotion from you across the chapter, leaving you worn out, spent, at the end of the book, and most of all every one of these authors leaves you entertained and educated. The most amazing thing about each and every one on this list and beyond this list is just how kind and giving they are with their time, knowledge and talent, go visit their worlds on the page, and their virtual worlds on FB and Twitter and in some cases their web sites.

Justin won because of all of the above, and because he picked a character that just astounded me, added his undoubted skill as a writer and had me spell bound for every page.

Fantasy

THE LION OF MACEDON Signed Print by Geoff Taylor

So this category is where i started many moons ago, The writer who took me down the road to serious reading was the great David Gemmell (art work above by Geoff Taylor, for the cover of Lion of Macedon) It was Lion of Macedon that placed the seeds for my love of Historical fiction (read Christian / Miles Camerons Blog on the convergence of the two genres and writing them ). 2017 will see a return to the other world that really hooked me to fantasy and that’s Tad Williams and Osten Ard with The Heart of what was Lost

So again in no particular order….

Miles Cameron/ Christian Cameron

Plague of Swords

Buy Plague of Swords

Mark De Jager

Image result for infernal de jagerInfernal

Buy Infernal

James Barclay

Heart of Granite

Buy Heart of Granite

Mark Lawrence

The Wheel of Osheim

Buy The Wheel of Osheim

Sebastian De Castell

Saints Blood

Buy Saints Blood

Aaaaannnnnnd… the Winner is……………………. (Drum Roll)

cameron

Miles Cameron/ Christian Cameron

c

Plague of Swords

Buy Plague of Swords

Again the standard of books in this genre has been amazing, choosing a winner was hard because there were four stand out books for me in Saints Blood, Plague of Swords and Heart of Granite and Wheel of Oshiem. Plague of Swords won it because im a cheap book whore… and There is a character in the book called Capt Parmenio…. All three stories are truly stunning, Saints blood and Plague of Swords part of simply amazing series and Heart of Granite the first in what will i know be another winning series from the fantastic James Barclay, Mark Lawrence… do i need to say more… the culmination of an awesome series. It at the end of the day came down to how selfish i am…sorry.

SCIFI

Pierce Brown

Morningstar

Buy Morningstar

And the winner is…

Pierce Brown's picture

Pierce Brown

Buy Morningstar

Ok it was a give away with only one name entered, but if you know me you will be suprised to see the category, i really do not get SCIFI, but this series i just love. Since book one it has had me hooked, i cannot get enough, its page to page action, drama, twists, turns and thrills. Love it, if you put 20 other books in the genre it would still win it.

Urban Fantasy/ Horror

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Ben Aronovitch

The Hanging Tree

Buy The Hanging Tree

Angela Slatter

Vigil

Buy Vigil

Ezekiel Boone

The Hatching

Buy The Hatching

Alex Scarrow

Re-Made

Buy Re-Made

Joe Hill

The Fireman

Buy The Fireman

Aaaand the winner is……(Drum roll)…..

Ezekiel Boone

The Hatching

Buy The Hatching

Ok, so (sorry ezekiel) This isn’t the best written of the books above (although it is still excellently written… he says backtracking fast)… The Fireman would wins hands down on that count, its a wonderful and deep story with many many layers, and i enjoyed, devoured every page. BUT… The Hatching was the book equivalent of seeing die hard for the first time, its just action packed massive fun, well for a story about everyone being eaten by spiders. Weeks after reading the book i still get that crawly feeling thinking about it. I’ve just finished the sequel “Skitter” and it was even better… it has all the hallmarks of a classic disaster movie, and really really needs to be made into a movie, and it was that fast pace and all out action that won me over.

Thrillers / Action Adventure

YOJIMBO martial arts action drama thriller (15)

James Rollins

Seventh Plague

Buy Seventh Plague

David Gibbins

Testament

Buy Testament

And the winner is……. (Drum roll)

In this head to head of the titans it was a difficult choice, it almost came down to the coin toss…. but…

The winner 

David Gibbins's picture

David Gibbins

Testament

Buy Testament

This is a man who lives his character, and it shows in the books, its this that brings me back to read about Jack Howard year after year.

Compilation

mountain-books

I have read a few books this year that collect together short stories of a similar theme or subject, but there was one clear winner and that was

Song of War

A novel by Christian Cameron, Libby Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, S J A Turney and Russell Whitfield

This wasn’t so much a collection of stories, but more a blending of talent, one novel told with with many talented voices. It worked so exceptionally well.

 

Special Mention: (Historical Fiction)

Article Image

Bernard Cornwell: The Flame Bearer ** SPOILER**  don’t read below if you have not read the book


This is awarded because finally… finally Uhtred takes bebbanburg…

 

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The Winner of the Parmenion Book of the Year award

For cover art

Paul Fraser Collard: The Last Legionnaire

Paul Fraser Collard Web site

Buy The Last legionnaire

I went back and forth over this decision a few times. So many of the covers i have seen are fantastic, and this choice came down to Paul Collard and Sebastian De Castell, With Paul Collard winning because of the continuity of the soldier, the tease that we may see the face of Jack lark, with every book showing a little more. Something in that spoke to me, that extra effort on the slow tease of the character.

The Winner of the Parmenion 2016 Book of the Year award

 

Giles Kristian: Wings of the Storm & Winters Fire

Giles Kristian Web site

Buy Wings of the Storm & Buy Winters Fire

Ok so im cheating this is 2 books, but these books were both written and released this year, and both made the list of the top 10 for the year which gives you an idea of the quality. Wings of the Storm was close behind in the category for Hist Fic book of the year. The two tales combined have an amazing power and lyrical quality. The depth of immersion in the viking world is beyond compare… so many times the phrase has been used “Grab an Oar…” and thats how you feel, you want to, you need to, and when you are immersed in the book you do. as a series its one of the best out there.

Coming soon…. Anticipated Books of 2017

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Giles Kristian Wings of the Storm (2016) Blog Tour Review + Q&A

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Giles Kristian (1975 – )

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Family history (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 Odin’s Wolves. For his next series, he drew on a long-held fascination with the English Civil War. The Bleeding Land and Brother’s 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.

Wings of the Storm (2016)
(The third book in the Rise of Sigurd series)

book cover of Wings of the Storm

Fighting in Sweden for an ambitious warlord, Sigurd Haraldarson and his small but loyal band of oathsworn warriors are winning fame and reputation. But Sigurd knows that to take on his hated enemy, the oath-breaker King Gorm – the man who betrayed his father, a man Sigurd has vowed to kill – he must earn riches enough to build an army. Many believe Sigurd to be Odin-favored, but his exploits have drawn the eye of another god, too: Loki the Trickster, and when a daring assassination attempt goes wrong, Sigurd finds himself a prisoner of the powerful Jarl Guthrum. Bound like a slave, his luck having seemingly deserted him, Sigurd is taken to the sacred temple at Ubsola, a place where the blood of human sacrifice flows to appease the gods. It is at Ubsola that Sigurd will face the sacrificial knife. And it is here that he will find a powerful relic, the great spear that was said to have once belonged to Odin himself. With such a spear in his possession Sigurd might now assemble a host strong enough to challenge King Gorm and wreak the revenge he craves. For, like Odin, Sigurd will be the Wild Huntsman tearing through the sky on his fearsome steed, and the rage of his passing will be the sound of wings of the storm.

Wings of the Storm: (The Rise of Sigurd 3)

Review

Every year for seven years i have been fortunate enough to have been wowed by the talent that is Giles Kristian. He burst upon the Historical Fiction scene with Raven: Blood Eye and has not looked back or stumbled once since then. Each and every release has vied for the top spot in my chart for book of the year, winning it several times. He has brought a different dimension to my world of book reviewing, with his (and his Friend Phil Stevens) stunning book trailers, inviting me behind the camera to see the process and be involved. Both are not just talented individuals they are amazingly generous and giving with their time and knowledge of the whole process.

2016 saw the release of not one but the final 2 books in the Rise of Sigurd series, and the rush to the thrilling conclusion of Sigurds revenge. Given we know (if you have read the Raven) who lives to the next phase of the story there is an element of constraint on the author. But for me i have never felt it, and more than many authors Giles keeps you guessing with plot twists and turns, advances and set backs and barely avoided disasters, all within the bounds of what could be expected by real people, ie no super human figures dealing death at a whim.

For much of this series Giles writing has had almost a lyrical saga property to it, a quality that carry’s the reader along, makes you part of the crew and gives you a connection a bond with them. But Wings of the Storm is like the title suggests, the plot is the building tempest of destruction, gaining power and ferocity before it can be aimed at the man who destroyed Sigurd’s family. As such the book is much more explosive, each and every action makes you doubt your knowledge of who might live or die, weather Sigurd can actually realise his ambition to avenge his father, have the fates decided against him, how can a small band of men defeat a king. … Like me you need to read the book to find out, but i can say it is one hell of a dramatic thrilling conclusion, full of axe-wielding , spear throwing vikings, berserkers, sword Danes, Norse and Valkyries, where friends and enemies often find the lines blurring and they all rush headlong driven by Odin and the fates or just the desire for revenge of Sigurd, what ever you believe… the ending is powerful and worth waiting for.

Another year, another contender for the annual book of the year title

(Parm)

Whats next? …….. This master of writing is taking on one of the all time great stories…. Lancelot

Q&A

  • So Giles, now you have hit your ninth book and the end of the series that started it all (well, that world), can you take us back to how this all began for you as a writer (let’s face it you were a successful singer)?

So having been the first member of my family to go to university, I dropped out after only a few months to join a pop group. I was at the University of Central England doing a degree in English Language and Literature because I wanted to become a writer. But I found my brief time at uni difficult. I was an introvert and living off campus didn’t help me assimilate. I was an outsider and I was baffled by the linguistics side of the course. All I wanted to do was write. I wanted to create. Then the band thing happened and blew it all out the water. I went from being a shy, homesick, somewhat confused student to lead singer in a pop group, appearing on Top of the Pops, doing TV and radio every other day, performing in arenas and jetting off to exotic locations to film music videos. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end. This was 1995. Gods but the world was a different place back then!

Several hit records and countless incredible experiences later, we called it a day. I wasn’t the only one in the band for whom it had stopped being fun. In truth it was always going to be hard for me, a twenty-one-year-old man into rock and indie, to fully embrace the pop world and the image we were supposed to portray.

We split. I threw myself into song-writing and spent as much time in various recording studios as in my own home. I wrote an album’s worth of pop rock and started again, trying to get myself a record deal as a solo artist. It was a slog, but eventually I got signed and spent a couple of years touring on and off in Europe. It was great fun, but again I found myself confronted with a dilemma. The record company wanted me to record and perform music that my heart just wasn’t into. I had already been there and done that and I just don’t think you can make a success of something you don’t believe in.

Somewhat disenchanted with the music industry, I went back to my other love: writing. I read and enjoyed David Gemmell and Bernard Cornwell and told myself, ‘I can do that.’ (Oh the arrogance of the young). I wrote a 160,000 word novel about the second son of an earl who joins the First Crusade and fights his way to the Holy Land. I don’t think it was very good, which was why I couldn’t get an agent or a publisher to sign it. So…I started again. Again. This time writing a novel about an outcast who is taken from his village by a Viking warband. Having a Norwegian mother, you could say I went back to my roots. I began it in 2004. I got the publishing deal in 2007 when I was living in New York. RAVEN: Blood Eye was released in 2009 and was a bestseller.

It was, as the Beatles said, a long and winding road. But the journey is often what it’s all about. A shame we usually only realise that with hindsight. And funnily enough, my music career is probably what gave me the confidence to believe I could be a published author in the first place. Had I stayed in uni, shy and retiring, learning about language and literature, I may never have ended up writing for a living.

  • How much of a personal impact did it have to reach the end of this series? It has always felt like subject you are passionate about.

Wings of the Storm marks the end of a long and, for me at least, wonderfully exciting journey. When I wrote the RAVEN saga I just put the characters aboard and off we went. It was only in The Rise of Sigurd books that I learnt who these characters were, where they came from and what their motivations were. RAVEN: Blood Eye was my half-blood story; Vikings on tour in England, written by, well, a half-English, half-Norwegian man. But the Sigurd books are all Norse. Yes, they’re set in Scandinavia, but more than this I feel these books are soaked to their spines with the heroic warrior ethos and the storytelling culture that we associate with bands of Viking adventurers. I honestly don’t feel I could write a more Viking tale than this. I’ll miss my motley crew! But perhaps we will journey together again one day.

  • Given everything you have put into this series, including the amazing book trailers, who has been your favourite character across the two Viking series?

I do like writing Black Floki. He just doesn’t seem to have any moral compass, which makes him fun to write. Plus, he’s probably the most dangerous of all Sigurd’s warriors. I also like Olaf, particularly in the Sigurd books. Maybe being older myself now, I felt I was able to get right inside Olaf’s head. I loved how he reacted to Sigurd’s ‘hanging tree’ episode in God of Vengeance. He thought Sigurd was being an idiot, tying himself to a tree and starving, sacrificing himself to get Odin’s attention. Olaf is wise and slightly cynical and knows what’s what. He’s also hard as nails but doesn’t have to prove it every five minutes like some of the younger men.

  • There is a fantastic depth to the books, an intimate knowledge of the time and land; how much research and travel did you need to do?

I spent a few days on the island of Karmøy, where Sigurd is from, and I was lucky enough to row the largest replica Viking ship ever built, Draken Harald Hårfagre. Other than that, it’s a lot of time on Google Maps and Google Earth looking at coastlines. (What incredible resources they are!) But most of it, nearly all of it, comes from life experience and imagination. I’ve spent enough time on little boats in the Norwegian fjords for the landscape to have seeped into my soul. The trick is, of course, selling that experience to a reader who may never have been anywhere quite like that. But then again, readers have powerful imaginations. If they didn’t, books like mine just wouldn’t work; the ideas – hacking off limbs in the shieldwall, standing at the prow of a longship, listening to a saga being told by a skald around a blazing hearth – would be too alien. A novel is a collaboration between writer and reader and, when it works well, it’s magic. These are the books that stay with us long after the final page.

  • Will we ever see a return to the Viking world? Are there more tales of Sigurd to come?

There seems to be a growing clamour of calls for another RAVEN story. I must admit the idea is very tempting. Those who’ve read the RAVEN saga know I can’t in all good conscience leave the last survivors of the Fellowship getting corrupt and lazy in Miklagard. It’s hard to talk about the end of a book or series without the risk of spoilers, so I will just say that the last line of Odin’s Wolves pretty much sums up how my crew feel about it, and also how I feel about it myself.

  • Many people ask if we will ever see the Rivers again; can/will that series be completed?

I really, really want to write another book in The Bleeding Land series. I have the first 40,000 words down but I can’t yet say when I’ll finish it or when it’ll be published. One way or another it will happen. Ideally it would be published in glorious style like The Bleeding Land and Brothers’ Fury, but that will be up to my publisher. They would need to be convinced it would sell enough copies and keep things moving the right way, and that’s another story, because the Viking books are quite popular and even the RAVEN books continue to sell well. Alternatively, I could perhaps release it as an e-book only. At least it would be out there and available and I’d satisfy many of those readers who email asking for another Rivers book. I’m really proud of the Civil War books and hope that more and more people discover them in their own time.

  • What comes next for Giles Kristian and the wonderful world of writing?

I’m currently writing LANCELOT: The Betrayal. This is my take on the Arthurian myth and is very different from anything I’ve written before. There have been countless stories of Arthur, set as both medieval romances and stories of Dark Ages Britain. But we haven’t heard much at all about Lancelot, a character central to the popular myth. Lancelot, the greatest of Arthur’s warriors. Lancelot, the lover. Lancelot, the man whose affair with Guinevere destroys his friend Arthur and presages the downfall of the kingdom. But who is Lancelot? Well, this will be his story. We meet him as a young boy and we grow up with him, seeing the world through his eyes. We experience his inner conflicts; the struggle in his soul between love and duty, friendship, honour, hatred and revenge. In many ways this will be my most personal book yet and it’s going to take time to write it. Already, I feel my own soul weaving itself into the tale. My father passed away recently and it broke my heart. This book will be dedicated to him.

  • Non-book question: Four people from any point in history can be invited for dinner – who would you invite and why?

Well then, let’s assume Stephen Fry is booked up all year being other people’s fantasy dinner party guest. The following list might change depending on what mood I’m in. I mean, it’s like choosing your favourite four songs or movies. Anyway…

Alexander the Great. By the age of thirty he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to north-western India. That he persuaded men to follow him on his extraordinary trail of conquest is testament to the force of his personality and his ability as a warrior and leader. He founded some twenty cities and his spreading of Greek culture resulted in a new Hellenistic civilisation. Few men who ever lived can have had such an influence on the world. I want to know what that sort of god-like charisma looks like in person (though I might not invite my wife to this particular dinner).

Harald Hardrada. For the age, Hardrada was incredibly far-travelled and experienced. He lived a life filled with war, fighting on land and sea from Scandinavia eastward through Russia to Byzantium, where he rose to lead the Varangians, the Emperor’s elite bodyguard. For thirty-five years he slaughtered his enemies and yet he was a keen poet who was even composing on the battlefield at Stamford Bridge, where he finally fell in 1066. He was a giant of a man and his favourite possession was his raven banner, Landwaster. For me there’s something intriguing about a man who must have been more sophisticated and widely travelled than his countrymen, while also being the most feared warrior in Europe. Basically, he’s the ultimate Viking, so if he’s round for dinner it’s going to be a memorable night. Plus, I’d like to know what he made of The Last Viking, the film Philip Stevens and I made about him: http://bit.ly/LastViking

Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon is invited because, like Alexander, he was able to inspire thousands upon thousands of men to fight and die for him. A man of great intellect, vision and drive, Bonaparte was one of the greatest and most successful military commanders in history (Wellington said his presence on the battlefield was worth 40,000 soldiers). Bonaparte’s

ambition and drive was beyond extraordinary and I admire his belief in a meritocracy and hard work. Indeed, historians regularly praise the talent and vigour which took him from an obscure village to commander of most of Europe. There’s no doubt his influence on the modern world has been huge, but ultimately Bonaparte’s ambition proved his undoing, and there is something of the flawed genius about him which is intriguing. And standing at 5ft 6in tall, I’d very much like to see him standing next to Harald Hardrada, who was a mountain of a man and likely well over six feet. Although I am beginning to worry about the egos around this dinner table, and I’m not sure my next guest is going to tone that down any.

Elvis Presley. Just to lighten the mood slightly. Again, off-the-chart charisma, as well as an incredible voice and someone whose influence on popular music and performers can hardly be overstated. One of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, Elvis was a hero of my father and we grew up listening to his music. My dad, who sang in a rock ‘n’ roll revival band for many years, would sing an Elvis Presley song at any given opportunity. We even visited Graceland for my dad’s 60th, which was an amazing and strangely moving experience. But when all is said and done, despite very humble beginnings Elvis went on to become the biggest-selling solo recording artist in history. Just yesterday I listened to “If I Can Dream” on my dad’s original 1956-model Wurlitzer jukebox. You just don’t get that authentic sound from an MP3 or smartphone.

  • .. While I know you have either achieved book of the year or been top three every year (on Parmenion Books) since you started writing, in your own words (passes the soap box), why should people buy this and the other books in the series?

Time for the hard sell? OK, if you insist, Mr Carter. The Rise of Sigurd books were a joy to write. I perhaps shouldn’t admit this, but they are my favourite of the books I’ve done. I think as a writer I hit my stride with God of Vengeance. The writing felt so natural and comfortable and there’s perhaps an assuredness about the prose (Antonia Senior of The Times called it swagger – I rather liked that) which wasn’t present in the RAVEN saga. This ‘swagger’ seems to fit what is essentially a revenge story and the idea of a saga being woven by men out to make their reputations, to win themselves a hoard of fame. Also, I think there are several very strong characters in these books, male and female, so that readers might have their particular favourites, which is always fun. There’s a real sense of a crew here, of a brotherhood and sisterhood of adventurers and warriors whom you come to know. The most wonderful emails I receive are from readers who feel they are part of the crew. What more could I hope for than that? Over all though, I think God of Vengeance, Winter’s Fire and Wings of the Storm take us on a headlong and immersive journey into a pre-Christian Scandinavia of fickle gods, human sacrifice, blood feuds and petty kings. Indeed, on his final read-through of Wings of the Storm, my editor Simon Taylor said that during the last hundred or so pages he had to remind himself to breathe. I would have had them put that quote on the cover, even if he is my editor! But forget all of the above. These books are as Viking as it gets. The end. So what are you waiting for? Ready…steady…pillage!

Twitter: @gileskristian

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Series

Raven
1. Blood Eye (2009)
2. Sons of Thunder (2010)
3. Odin’s Wolves (2011)
Rise of Sigurd
1. God of Vengeance (2014)  God of Vengeance (Book Trailer) , God of Vengeance (Behind the filming)
2. Winter’s Fire (2016)
3. Wings of the Storm (2016)
Novels
Golden Lion (2015) (with Wilbur Smith)
Novellas
The Terror (2014)

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Filed under Giles Kristian, Historical Fiction