Monthly Archives: March 2019

Angus Macallan: Gates of Stone (Review)

Angus Macallan's picture
Angus Macallan is a pseudonym for Angus Donald, a British fiction writer and former journalist who is now based just outside London. He was born in China and lived, worked, and studied in Asia for much of his early adult life. He was awarded a masters degree with honors in social anthropology by the University of Edinburgh, partly based on his fieldwork in Indonesia, which led to a dissertation: “Magic, Sorcery and Society.” He also worked as a journalist in Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

book cover of Gates of Stone


In a world of blood and magic, a powerful epic fantasy begins…

Just before her sixteenth birthday, Princess Katerina is refused her rightful place as heir to the Empire of the Ice-Bear – solely because of her sex. Determined to regain her inheritance, she murders the foreign lord she’s been ordered to marry and embarks on a perilous voyage to the lush, tropical islands of the Laut Besar in search of the vast wealth and power she needs to claim the Empire for herself.

On a small island kingdom, Prince Arjun’s idyllic life is shattered when a malignant sorcerer invades, slaughters his people and steals the sacred sword of Jun’s ancestors. With his royal father dead and his palace in ruins, Jun reluctantly tracks the sorcerer and the magical blade far across the pirate-infested waters of the Laut Besar.

Long ago the powerful relics known as the Seven Keys were used to safely lock away the terrifying evils of the Seven Hells. With Jun’s ancient sword in his grasp, the sorcerer Mangku has claimed the first Key, and begun his mission to unleash catastrophe upon the land.

As the destinies of these three entwine in the lawless islands of the Laut Besar, the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. For if the sorcerer cannot be stopped, the world itself will be unmade…


I’m a fan of Angus Donalds historical fiction books and have been since i got my hands on Outlaw (blimey 10 years ago),  i used to worry when writers jumped genres, but these days there are many authors who are making that Jump from historical Fiction into Fantasy, and it makes sense because for years i have thought that the two genres are very closely linked. History is so much guess work when it comes to motives, intent and fine detail, yes there are huge amounts of research in there, but as soon as you remove from the historical text, well its basically fantasy. Life isn’t any easier for the fantasy writer, much of what they do is still based on weapons facts and tactics etc… and then add in they have to invent, not research, invent magic systems, landscape, culture, people names, language and so much more…. i’m  not sure which is the harder discipline… anyway i digress.

Gates of Stone, epic in scale and epic in scope and utterly original. Angus has written a story that eases us away from the usual western world based style of fantasy, taking us east to a very Asian inspired set of societies. Gates of stone as a book one doesn’t suffer from book one world building speed/ info dumps, because the author eases us into the world, and spends his time on the characters, the landscape and the politics is woven into the individual characters from the multi POV writing. All meaning that we get a story that engages from the start and hooks you into the clearly defined good and bad for the ultimate story arc, within that the good and bad guys are more transitory, its politics and is there ever really a good guy/gal? or just ambition and blood.

I was totally entranced by the world and people created in this book, i slowed my reading to savour every chapter, to really engage with the characters, and it left me wanting to really recommend this book, both to all Fantasy fans, but also Historical fiction, because the roots of that writing is still evident in the book. I’m hugely impressed by this foray into fantasy and cannot wait for book 2.

Highly Recomended


Outlaw Chronicles
0.5. The Rise of Robin Hood (2013)
1. Outlaw (2009)
2. Holy Warrior (2010)
2.5. The Betrayal of Father Tuck (2013)
3. King’s Man (2011)
3.5. The Hostility of Hanno (2013)
4. Warlord (2012)
5. Grail Knight (2013)
6. The Iron Castle (2014)
7. The King’s Assassin (2015)
8. The Death of Robin Hood (2016)
Holcroft Blood
1. Blood’s Game (2017)
2. Blood’s Revolution (2018)
3. Blood’s Campaign (2019)

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Filed under Angus Macallan, Fantasy

John Gwynne: A time of Blood (Review)

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John Gwynne was born in Singapore while his dad was stationed there in the RAF. Up until he retired that meant a lot of traveling around, generally a move every three years or so.
He lives with his wife and four wonderful (and demanding) children in East Sussex. Also three dogs, two of which will chew anything that stands still. He has had many strange and wonderful jobs, including packing soap in a soap factory, waitering in a french restaurant in Canada, playing double bass in a rock n roll band, and lecturing at Brighton University
“I stepped out of university work due to my daughter’s disability, so now I split my time caring for her and working from home – I work with my wife rejuvenating vintage furniture, which means fixing, lifting, carrying, painting and generally doing what my wife tells me to do…

And somehow during this time I started writing. I’ve always told my children stories at bed-time, and they pestered long and hard for me to write some of it down. At the same time I felt that my brain was switching off a little – vintage furniture is my wife’s passion, whereas my passions are geekier!”

book cover of A Time of Blood

Defy the darkness. Defend the light.

Drem and his friends flee the battle at Starstone Lake to warn the Order of the Bright Star. They’ve witnessed horrors they’ll never forget, such as magic warping men into beasts. But worst of all, they’ve seen a demon rise from the dead – making it even more powerful. Now Fritha, the demons’ high priestess, is hunting Drem’s party.

Concealed in Forn Forest, Riv struggles to understand her half-breed heritage. She represents the warrior angels’ biggest secret, one which could break their society. And when she’s found by the Ben-Elim’s high captain, he swoops in for the kill.

As demonic forces multiply, they send a mighty war-host to overthrow the angel’s stronghold. This could decimate the fractured Ben-Elim. And their allies in the Order may be too overwhelmed to send aid – with Fritha and her monstrous beasts closing in. Like heroes of old, Drem and the Bright Star’s warriors must battle to save their land. But can the light triumph when the dark is rising?

A Time of Blood is the spectacular follow-up to John Gwynne’s A Time of Dread.


A Time of Dread was an extraordinary read, something that was a step up even from the amazing and original Faithful and Fallen series, so i had high expectations for A time of Blood, also as many of you lovely people who read this know i had taken a sabbatical from reading and was struggling with books full stop, it needed special books to reignite my passion for reading, i can happily state that this is indeed a very special book.

There are many stories within the book, many key characters, but for me i’m hooked by the trials and troubles of Riv and Drem, Drem more than any other. I find i can really identify with the character, not just on a personal level but also because he reminds me so much of various David Gemmell characters, even the over all cadence of the books have a very Gemmell quality and tone to them.

I find that John deals with adversity and loss in such a humane and sensitive fashion in his writing, which although i have not met him face to face, seems to very much match the man i have come to know online (seriously one of the kindest and toughest (mentally) people i have had the pleasure of speaking with)… that personality comes across so much and so well in his books and his cast.

As ever im not going to try and rehash elements of the story, the synopsis lays out whats going to happen… well teases it lol. But to summarize,  This book will make you say WTF!, OMG, it will keep you on the edge of the page and turning that page long after you should have gone to sleep. It will have you in tears and it will fill you with hope and joy, such is the skill of the story and the writer, the book will end way way way before you want it to and leave you begging for the next… and there is no greater achievement or compliment than that…. serious contender for book of the year… do NOT miss this


Faithful and the Fallen
1. Malice (2012)
2. Valour (2014)
3. Ruin (2015)
4. Wrath (2016)
Faithful and the Fallen Collection 4 Books Set (omnibus)(2017)
Tales of the Apt (with Frances Hardinge, Joff Leader, Tom Lloyd, Juliet E McKenna, Keris McDonald, Peter Newman, Justina Robson, David Tallerman and Adrian Tchaikovsky)
The Scent of Tears (2018)
Blood & Bone
1. A Time of Dread (2018)
2. A Time of Blood (2019)


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Filed under Fantasy, John Gwynne