Category Archives: Historical Fiction

All Historical Fiction Reviews

Ben Kane: Clash of Empires (Review)

Ben Kane

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Is a bestselling Roman author and former veterinarian. He was born in Kenya and grew up in Ireland (where his parents are from). He has traveled widely and is a lifelong student of military history in general, and Roman history in particular. He lives in North Somerset, England, with his family.

Clash of Empires  (2018)
(The first book in the Clash of Empires series)

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When a new empire rises, and old one must fall

After 16 years of bloody war against Rome, Hannibal Barca is on the verge of defeat. On the plains of Zama, Felix and his brother Antonius stand in the formidable Roman legions, ready to deliver the decisive blow. Victory will establish Rome as the pre-eminent power in the ancient world.

But in northern Greece, Philip V of Macedon is determined to restore Alexander the Great’s kingdom to its former glory. Charismatic leader, ruthless general, he will use the unforgiving might of his phalanx to unite Greece and to fend off Rome’s grasping fingers.

In Rome, young senator Flamininus is set on becoming one of the Republic’s greatest military commanders. With Hannibal on the verge of defeat, the as-yet-unconquered Macedon and Greece are ripe for conquest. Strategist and spymaster, politician and general, Flamininus will stop at nothing to bring Philip V to heel.

Demetrios slumps on the rowing bench of his Macedonian ship. Thirsty, hungry, burnt by the unforgiving Mediterranean sun, dreams are his only sustenance. Dreams of the perfect thrust of a 15-foot sarissa spear, of the unyielding phalanx wall, of the glory of Macedon.

The Roman wolf has tasted blood, and it wants more. But the sun of Macedon will not set without a final blaze of glory.


Series five begins for Ben Kane with Clash of Empires, two empires butting up against one another, one a shadow of its once greatness but still with sharp teeth, and the other an Empire on the rise, growing, determined and ravenous for conquest.

Ben Kane’s books are always an annual treat, his ability to tell a tale from each and every side in  such a personal fashion has always been the uniqueness that brings me back book after book. Clash of Empires is no different, no matter how low each of the major players can go at some point Ben Kane has you rooting for them, You find sympathy for Flamininus despite his rampant ambition, you find sympathy and root for Philip despite his ruthless streak as king. Ben also lifts the narrative up and down, showing us the heights of power and the machinations of the political climates of both worlds, and then in the next breath takes us down to the dirt where the soldiers abide, to what drives them, what makes them stand in line and die, to the camaraderie and the drive of men with nothing but each other.

Its always easy to say a book is better than the last, because its fresh, its new and both of those things drive that vision of it being better. But in the case of this book its more, its an immersive read, a total absorption into the worlds of both Greece and Rome driving you both one way then the next, splitting your loyalties, despite knowing the history it makes you hope for different outcomes, living with the soldiers of both armies and somehow wanting all to survive and both to walk away winners.

Ben Kane has tapped into a fantastic period of history, one with a rich vein of story, and he writes it so well, this will appeal to fans of both Greek and Roman history and once read they will be hooked for this series…. and his others.

A highly recommended book




Forgotten Legion Chronicles
1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
3. The Road to Rome (2010)
Forgotten Legion Chronicles Collection (omnibus) (2012)
1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
2. Fields of Blood (2013)
3. Clouds of War (2014)
The Patrol (2013)
1. The Gladiator (2012)
2. Rebellion (2012)
Pompeii (with Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter)
A Day of Fire (2014)
Eagles of Rome
The Shrine (2015)
1. Eagles at War (2015)
2. Hunting the Eagles (2016)
3. Eagles in the Storm (2017)
Clash of Empires
1. Clash of Empires (2018)
The Arena (2016)



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Filed under Ben Kane, Historical Fiction

Saul David: The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders (Review)

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 Saul David UK flag (1966 – )
Saul David was born in 1966 and educated at Ampleforth College and Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities. He is the author of several acclaimed history books, including Mutiny at Salerno: An Injustice Exposed (made into a BBC Timewatch documentary), The Indian Mutiny: 1857 (shortlisted for the Westminster Medal for Military Literature) and Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879 (a Waterstone’s Military History Book of the Year). He has presented and appeared in history programmes for all the major channels, including BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five. He lives in Somerset with his wife and three children.

The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders  (2018)
(The third book in the Zulu Hart series)

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London 1888: George ‘Zulu’ Hart is the mixed-race illegitimate son of a Dublin actress and (he suspects) the Duke of Cambridge, commander-in-chief of the army. George has fought his way through wars in Africa and Afghanistan, won the VC and married his sweetheart, but he’s also a gambler, short of money and in no position to turn down the job of ‘minder’ to Prince Albert Victor, second in line to the throne.
George is to befriend the charming young cavalry officer and keep him out of trouble – no easy task, given that the Prince is a known target for Irish nationalist assassins, while his secret sexual orientation leaves him open to blackmail and scandal.
To make matters worse, the Prince is also in the habit of heading out late at night to sample the dubious pleasures of the East End.
Both outsiders in their different ways, perhaps the two men have more in common than they know, but when a series of horrible murders begins in Whitechapel, on just the nights the Prince has been there, George is drawn into an investigation which forces him to confront the unthinkable…
A brilliant standalone adventure based on detailed research, this is a thrilling novel of suspense and a fascinating new twist on the Jack the Ripper story.


I cannot believe its been 10 years since Zulu Hart was released, a book that i highly enjoyed along with its follow up Hart of Empire, Saul David brought alive the character of George Hart, the history of the time and the depth of history in each of those books, as an author he truly brought those books to life.

The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders was a wonderful surprise after a 6 year break from George Harts adventurous life, a long awaited next on the series. Its has been sometime since the last fictional novel from Saul David and i felt it in the start of this book, unlike the previous two books this one didn’t capture me immediately, or at least it wasn’t George who did, as with other books the realism of the authors portrayal of the period did, it was my previous attachment to the character that kept me totally involved and interested in him. However it didn’t take long for the author to bring George back to life, particularly with the intrigue around his past.

What follows next is a well crafted crime novel full of intrigue and misdirection, set in a period where great squalor and hardship exists, an environment where the weak can be preyed upon, an environment where Jack the Ripper roams. While George is tasked with protecting Prince Albert Victor from Fenian terrorists, he also gets drawn into the investigation for one of the most notorious killers in British history. Saul David doesn’t just then take the reader on a fanciful ride, we are treated to an accurate and plausible account of the investigation of who the ripper may have been. In doing so i defy anyone to not be hooked by the plot and enamored with the characters.

During the book the author also drops many little Easter eggs from Georges past, the gap in time that exists between Hart of Empire and this book, all of which could be potential stand alone novels or novellas, i hope this means we will see much much more of Georges past and his future, and i also hope that we don’t have to wait another six years for it because Saul David has a talent for creating the most fantastic scenery for his characters to grow into.



Zulu Hart
1. Zulu Hart (2008)
2. Hart of Empire (2010)
3. The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders (2016)
Non fiction series
First World War
1. 1914: The Outbreak of War to the Christmas Truce(2014)
2. 1915: The Battle of Dogger Bank to Gallipoli (2014)
3. 1916: Verdun to the Somme (2015)
4. 1917: Vimy Ridge to Ypres (2016)
Non fiction
Churchill’s Sacrifice of the Highland Division (1994)
Mutiny At Salerno (1995)
The Homicidal Earl (1997)
Military Blunders (1997)
Prince of Pleasure (1998)
The Indian Mutiny (2002)
Zulu (2004)
Victoria’s Wars (2006)
Great Battles (2011)
All The King’s Men (2012)
Mud and Bodies (2013)
100 Days to Victory (2013)
Fighting Times (2013) (with David Boyle, Joseph Conrad, Stephen Cooper, Richard Foreman, Richard Freeman, Rachel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, Matt Lynn, Roger Moorhouse, Marc Morris and Stuart Tootal)
The Devil’s Wind (2013)
Great Military Commanders (2013)
Operation Thunderbolt (2015)
After Dunkirk (2017)
Entebbe (2018)


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Filed under Historical Fiction, Saul David

SJA Turney Caligula (review)

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Simon lives with his wife, children and dogs in rural North Yorkshire. Having spent much of his childhood visiting historic sites with his grandfather, a local photographer, Simon fell in love with the Roman heritage of the region, beginning with the world famous Hadrian’s Wall. His fascination with the ancient world snowballed from there with great interest in Egypt, Greece and Byzantium, though his focus has always been Rome. A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of country, history and architecture, Simon spends most of his rare free time travelling the world visiting historic sites, writing, researching the ancient world and reading voraciously.

Simon’s early career meandered along an arcane and eclectic path of everything from the Ministry of Agriculture to computer network management before finally settling back into the ancient world. During those varied years, Simon returned to university study to complete an honours degree in classical history through the Open University. With what spare time he had available and a rekindled love of all things Roman, he set off on an epic journey to turn Caesar’s Gallic War diaries into a novel accessible to all. The first volume of Marius’ Mules was completed in 2003 and has garnered international success, bestseller status and rave reviews, spawning numerous sequels. Marius’ Mules is still one of Simon’s core series and although Roman fiction features highly he now has Byzantine, Fantasy and Medieval series, too, as well as several collaborations and short stories in other genres.

Now, with in excess of 25 novels available and 5 awaiting release, Simon is a prolific writer, spanning genres and eras and releasing novels both independently and through renowned publishers including Canelo and Orion. Simon writes full time and is represented by MMB Creative literary agents.

Look out for Roman military novels featuring Caesar’s Gallic Wars in the form of the bestselling Marius’ Mules series, Roman thrillers in the Praetorian series, set during the troubled reign of Commodus, adventures around the 15th century Mediterranean world in the Ottoman Cycle, and a series of Historical Fantasy novels with a Roman flavour called the Tales of the Empire.


Author Web site

Caligula (The Damned Emperors)

book cover of Caligula

Everyone knows his name. Everyone thinks they know his story.

Rome 37AD. The emperor is dying. No-one knows how long he has left. The power struggle has begun.

When the ailing Tiberius thrusts Caligula’s family into the imperial succession in a bid to restore order, he will change the fate of the empire and create one of history’s most infamous tyrants, Caligula.

But was Caligula really a monster?

Forget everything you think you know. Let Livilla, Caligula’s youngest sister and confidante, tell you what really happened. How her quiet, caring brother became the most powerful man on earth.

And how, with lies, murder and betrayal, Rome was changed for ever . . .


As always full honest disclosure, Simon is an author i have known and reviewed for many years, and is someone i class as a very good friend, that said he knows if he turns out a stinker i’m going to tell him.

In Caligula i hoped for not another take on the madness and depravity of an emperor, and you know what Simon delivered, this is a very new and unique look at this emperor. Take everything you have thought and heard and read about the mad youthful emperor and sit it on a shelf, sit back and listen as Simon Turney delivers a new and highly plausible view of who and what Caligula really was and all from the view point of his younger sister.

The book starts with the innocence of youth and to some degree retains this with Livia for most of the book, a girl then woman who can see no wrong in her brother, and who is devoted to her family. Despite all the perils thrown at her, all the dangers and misfortunes, the deaths and murders in her youth her belief in her brother is unwavering, when she eventually see’s the parallels in her brother she may waver slightly in her conviction but never in her love and its this that will be her eventual downfall…. and the eventual downfall of the man himself.

Simon Turney delivers the entire story with a level of intriguing plausibility and  leaves you wondering if he isn’t just a bit more on the nose than the history books have always portrayed this emperor so loved by the people and the Legions. His writing style as always is highly engaging and draws you slowly and surely into the story until you find that the clock says 3am and you want to curse him for how you will feel at work the next day, but this is a mark of his talent as a writer, something that ranks him right up there in the pantheon of current great Historical fiction writers.

I had thought he could not surpass his ottoman series in my eyes, but he managed it with this book, a true masterpiece that leaves you questioning your opinions and views, and heading off to do some research yourself, and there is no greater accolade i think for a writer in this genre than to know he has educated and then sent you off to learn more.

I highly recommend this book


Marius’ Mules
1. The Conquest of Gaul (2009)
aka The Invasion of Gaul
2. The Belgae (2010)
3. Gallia Invicta (2011)
4. Conspiracy of Eagles (2012)
5. Hades’ Gate (2013)
6. Caesar’s Vow (2014)
7. The Great Revolt (2014)
8. Sons of Taranis (2015)
9. Pax Gallica (2016)
10. Fields of Mars (2017)
Prelude to War (2014)
Marius’ Mules Books 1-3 (omnibus) (2017)
Tales of the Empire
1. Interregnum (2009)
2. Ironroot (2010)
3. Dark Empress (2011)
4. Insurgency (2016)
5. Invasion (2017)
6. Jade Empire (2017)
Emperor’s Bane (2016)
Tales of the Empire Books 1-6 (omnibus) (2018)
Ottoman Cycle
1. The Thief’s Tale (2013)
2. The Priest’s Tale (2013)
3. The Assassin’s Tale (2014)
4. The Pasha’s Tale (2015)
1. The Great Game (2015)
2. The Price of Treason (2015)
3. Eagles of Dacia (2017)
Roman Adventure
1. Crocodile Legion (2016)
2. Pirate Legion (2017)
A Year of Ravens (2015) (with Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter and Russell Whitfield)
A Song of War (2016) (with Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton and Russell Whitfield)
Caligula (2018)
Tales of Ancient Rome (2011)
Deva Tales (2017)
Bear and the Wolf (2017) (with Ruth Downie)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, S J A Turney

John Owen Theobald: A Kingdom Falls (Extract and Giveaway)

A Kingdom Falls  (2017)
(The third book in the Ravenmaster Trilogy series)

London, 1944. Britain’s capital is back in the firing line. It has been several years since the Blitz ended, but now death is dropping from the skies once more. Has the tide of war turned again?

Anna Cooper survived the Blitz but she lost her mother and the people closest to her. Amid the flames and rubble, she discovered that everything she thought she knew about her family was a lie. She learned that nobody was prepared to take an orphaned girl seriously and she decided to fight back.

Now, Anna flies warplanes for the Air Transport Auxiliary but she knows it is not enough. Hitler is ready to unleash one final terrifying secret weapon, against which there is no defence. But Anna won’t let that happen. If there is no defence, there is only one option: attack.

book cover of A Kingdom Falls


6 June 1944 

We float in silence through the night. It is the silence of the abyss.

Twenty men sit facing each other across the narrow fuselage. I turn my head away to the porthole. At first it’s an enormous wall of black, but I can just make out shapes in the light of the moon: other gliders headed to other targets, also crowded with soldiers and vehicles.

I look back at the men inside – decent blokes, most of them. D-Company, first boots on the ground. The thought hits me like a brick: Timothy Squire, one of the first soldiers in the greatest invasion ever attempted. Only a year ago, I was working as a builder down at the docks.

A voice rises up, as Bishop, one of the younger soldiers, tries a Cockney tune to mask the fear.

I don’t want to be a soldier, 

I don’t want to go to war; 

I’d rather hang around 

Piccadilly underground 

Some of the lads join in, but swiftly fall silent, and again we are soundless men, stuffed in a glider with a jeep and two anti-tank guns.

I rest my boots lightly on the plywood floor, trying not to think of what would happen if we were shot from beneath – how the whole thing would cave in and crack into pieces. I try not to think of what might happen if the tow rope snaps, and we ditch into the North Sea. I try not to think at all.

With shaking hands, I ease the buckles strapping me in. No matter what happens, I will not be belted in here to drown or burn.

I glance over at Arthur Lightwood, the other sapper and my best mate through all this, ready to make a joke, but his eyes are squeezed shut. It barely looks like him, under a camouflage helmet, his face black with stove soot. I must look the same. Not as ugly, of course.

I can’t worry about us being shot down. Just do my bit. We will land ahead of the armies, find the bridge, and disarm the bombs. I’m a sapper, I can disarm a bomb. That’s all. Then we hold the bridge until the reinforcements arrive.

A man couldn’t ask for better reinforcements. In a few hours a whole continent of British and American troops will be crossing the sea, tens of thousands of trained soldiers. The greatest bloody cavalry you could ask for.

I look back at the window. I’ve got to see something, otherwise this rolling will have me sicking up in my helmet. Clouds hide the stars, I can see only the haze of the full moon.

‘All right!’ Major Roland’s voice blasts into the stillness.

The glider is ready to be cut loose and there is no going back. A powerless glider falling to the earth. The well-defended earth.

I think again of ‘Rommel’s asparagus’ – great sharp poles erected against glider landings. Major Roland had no bright ideas about avoiding these. We’ll try not to land on them. My heart throbs in my chest.

My mind flees to happy, easy, warm thoughts. Anna Cooper on Tower Green, the ravens croaking on the battlements, Dad dusting off his beloved suits of armour. The earth unmoving under my feet.

With a great heave we are cut loose. I count – six heartbeats before gravity rushes in. Seconds have never passed so slowly. My stomach drops to my feet, but I keep my eyes on the porthole.

I can only see a broad shape, dark against the darkness, but I know what it is: the great bomber that towed us here is heading back. There goes Cecil Rafferty, swanning off back to England. Back home. His job is done, ours is about to begin.

Once Rafferty’s plane has vanished, my shoulders sag with relief.

I told him to watch out for Anna, to make sure she is safe from her father, that sneaky German who’s turned up in her life in the middle of a bleeding war. We shook hands on it, Cecil Rafferty and I. 

She’ll be safe, I know. Relief is followed by the suffocating thought that I will never see her again.

Forward motion jolts my head down. The pressure builds in my ears, pushing against my skull. We are falling, fast. No time to spare a thought for Anna or Cecil Rafferty. The dive builds, our speed growing, as we plummet into the howling darkness.

And the abyss swallows us whole.

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Filed under Historical Fiction, John Owen Theobald, Young Adult

Theodore Brun: A Mighty Dawn (Guest Post and Review)

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Theodore Brun studied Dark Age archaeology at Cambridge, where he graduated with a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MPhil in History. He also rowed in the Boat Race for the university. Professionally, Theodore qualified and worked as an arbitration lawyer, in London, Moscow, Paris and finally Hong Kong. In 2010, he quit his job in Hong Kong and cycled 10,000 miles across the whole of Asia and Europe (crossing 20 countries) to his home in Norfolk. Theodore is a third generation Viking immigrant – his Danish grandfather having settled in England in 1932. He is married and divides his time between London and Norfolk. A Mighty Dawn is his first novel.

 Mighty Dawn  (2017)
(The first book in the Viking Chronicles series)

book cover of A Mighty Dawn

Sworn to honour.Broken by betrayal.Hakan, son of Haldan, chosen son of the Lord of the Northern Jutes, swears loyalty to his father in fire, in iron, and in blood. But there are always shadows that roam. When a terrible tragedy befalls Hakan’s household he is forced to leave his world behind. He must seek to pledge his sword to a new king. Nameless and alone, he embarks on a journey to escape the bonds of his past and fulfil his destiny as a great warrior.Whispers of sinister forces in the north pull Hakan onwards to a kingdom plagued by mysterious and gruesome deaths. But does he have the strength to do battle with such dark foes? Or is death the only sane thing to seek in this world of blood and broken oaths?

Guest Post

The birth of A Mighty Dawn

My father once told me this story. When he was a young boy, a famous author of the day came to give a talk at his school. He told the pupils that a great story always has four elements: mystery, nobility, religion, and sex.

After assembly my father’s first class happened to be English. The teacher told the boys to write a story that incorporated these four things. The boys settled in to their task, but after only a minute, one hand shot up.

“Finished, sir!”

“Finished? You can’t possibly have finished. Now, shut up and get on with it,’ growled the teacher.

“Oh, but I have, sir,” insisted the boy. “Mystery, nobility, religion, and – ahem – sex. They’re all in there.”

‘Stupid child,” muttered the teacher. “Very well. Up here and read it out.”

Taking his place, clearing his throat, the boy read out the following: “My God, cried the Duchess. I’m pregnant!   And I don’t know whose it is.”

I can’t say that I believe this little vignette actually took place – at least not in my father’s class – but the punchline (and principle) have stuck in my mind. And I joke not when I say that this was the sole guideline that I had at my disposal when I began writing A Mighty Dawn over 5 years ago now.

Of course, structure and craft are one thing. Content, quite another. And the inspiration for the story came in two stages. First, the seedbed; then, the seed.

The seedbed consisted of every Old Norse saga and mythological poem I could lay my hands on after becoming captivated by the epic world of the Ring Cycle. (Yes, embarrassingly enough, it was Wagner’s interminable operas that blew a hole in my imagination so large that only writing my own series of epic historical novels was going to fill it!) So I became obsessed with the language, the poetry, the beauty, the drama, the landscapes of the Old North. The downright strangeness of it all. I had fallen under the spell of the “Northernness” – as C.S. Lewis calls it. Texts like the Saga of the Volsung, the Niebelunglied, the Prose and Poetic Eddas occupied my imagination, when I should have been concentrating on the hoops I need to jump through in order to qualify as a lawyer.

So much for the seedbed.

It was some years before the seed dropped into it. In 2009, during a lecture in Oxford about an obscure 8th century missionary called Saint Boniface, I first heard the story of his chopping down the sacred oak of the thunder god Donner (or Thor) in a dark German forest. As I listened, the fault-line between the paganism of Old Europe and the new faith of Christianity opened up before me like the crack of doom. Intrigued, I read more about this man and was surprised to discover that in this period of European history – the early 8th century – Islam was in the mix too. And the conflict – between Christianity and Islam at least – reached a sort of climax in the Battle of Tours (Poitiers) in 732AD. Surely, I thought, here was the denouement to some epic tale.

The cogs started turning, the world growing in my mind, and before long I had a protagonist. A man from the north. A heathen. A warrior who somehow finds himself embroiled in the events that would forge early Medieval Europe, arguably with echoes that still resound today. But why was this man there? Who was he? A Mighty Dawn is the beginning of the answer to these questions. His origin story, if you like.

So, yes – mystery, nobility, religion, sex – you’ll find them all in this book. And, hopefully, a whole lot more besides!


I will admit to at one point thinking i wouldn’t review this book, as i don’t review books i dislike. The first part of the book seemed like an adolescent love story rapidly doing a romeo and Juliet, and really didn’t float my boat, i suppose i’m too old for being concerned by teenage angst, no matter what era its set in. But then the book started taking a deeper, darker turn, and i suppose the darkness of Hakan appealed to the blue funk i found myself in pre Christmas. But its from the point that Hakan sheds his name and goes off alone that the book really takes flight. Bringing together the harsh reality and harsh climate of the land and time, with his personal journey through emotional hell and his fight to find some new meaning in his life, some new direction, a direction not handed to him by his father.

Finding a new lord to serve adds new elements new characters, new challenges and new dimensions, inc the addition of mythical beings from Norse culture, turning the tale from its darkness to a classic rescue story, the lone warrior aided by his best friend set off against suicidal odds with almost no chance of survival, and no real care if he doesn’t. He would forge his name or failure would mean he no longer cared.

By the end of the book the author had hooked me in, i very much want to read the next step in the saga and see what happens to our Stranger and his friend. To find out what the fall out of their actions may be and how the every changing political landscape will impact them, and i suspect eventually lead them back to his homeland, maybe as a foe or ally?

The book is well worth a read, and i suspect there will be more to come in terms of growth in A Sacred Storm in 2018


Viking Chronicles
1. A Mighty Dawn (2017)
2. A Sacred Storm (2018)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Theodore Brun, Uncategorized

Harry Sidebottom : The Last Hour (2018) Review

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Harry Sidebottom is 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.

The Last Hour (2018)
(The seventh book in the Warrior of Rome series)

book cover of The Last Hour

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A lone figure stands silhouetted atop the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Behind him, the sun is setting over the centre of the known world. Far below, the river is in full flood. The City of Rome lies spread out before him on the far bank. Footsteps pound up the stairs. He’s been set up. An enemy is closing in; he is cornered. He jumps.

Bruised and battered, he crawls out of the raging river. He is alone and unarmed, without money or friends, trapped in a deadly conspiracy at the heart of the Empire. The City Watch has orders to take him alive; other, more sinister, forces want him dead. As the day dies, he realises he has only 24 hours to expose the conspirators, and save the leader of the world. If the Emperor dies, chaos and violence will ensue. If the Emperor dies, every single person he loves will die.

He must run, bluff, hide and fight his way across the Seven Hills.
He must reach the Colosseum, and the Emperor.
He must make it to The Last Hour.


Harry Sidebottom continues the saga of Ballista a romanised barbarian, a man of two worlds, forced to live as a Roman hostage and accept that his life is that of a Warrior of Rome (see what i did there). Ballista has formed the core character that launched Harry as a major Historical Fiction writer, a writer with an uncompromising accuracy of the Roman world (well he does teach at Oxford).

Book 7 The Last Hour is however something new, not just for Harry, but in general for the Historical Fiction genre. The Last Hour is a Historical Fiction / Action Thriller cross over, a new section in the book shop: Historical Action Thriller. Its Ballista in Rome in a 24 Jack Bauer style, a novel that pits Ballista against the Praetorian Guard, the City watch and the dreaded Frumentarii in a chase at break neck speed around the Roman Capital, unraveling a political consspiracy, a chase encapsulating some of the greatest iconic buildings of the time brought to glorious life by Harry’s blisteringly fast paced writing.

Who will survive, who can help Ballista, can he succeed in making it to the emperor or at least getting a message to him, and thus save his life.

Harry Sidebottom manages to keep you the reader perched on the very edge of the page throughout the book, with regular chapter ending cliffhangers that make  a book that you cannot put down and will lose sleep over (i did… well i have insomnia and it made a good companion at 3am, but i couldn’t have slept if i tried).

I very Highly recommend this book, hands down the best in the series so far.


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)
7. The Last Hour (2018)
Warrior of Rome Series 6 Books Collection (omnibus)(2017)
Throne of the Caesars
1. Iron & Rust (2014)
2. Blood & Steel (2015)
3. Fire & Sword (2016)
Silence & Lies (2015)
Shadow & Dust (2016)
Smoke & Mirrors (2017)


Filed under Harry Sidebottom, Historical Fiction, Thrillers

Simon Scarrow: The Day of the Caesars (review)

Simon Scarrow

Simon Scarrow is a Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author. After a childhood spent travelling the world, he pursued his great love of history as a teacher, before becoming a full-time writer. His Roman soldier heroes Cato and Macro made their debut in 2000 in UNDER THE EAGLE, and have subsequently appeared in many bestsellers in the Eagles of the Empire series, including CENTURION, THE GLADIATOR and most recently INVICTUS.

Simon is also the author of the novels YOUNG BLOODS, THE GENERALS, FIRE AND SWORD and THE FIELDS OF DEATH, chronicling the lives of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte, and of SWORD & SCIMITAR, the epic tale of the 1565 Siege of Malta, and HEARTS OF STONE, set in Greece during the Second World War.

Simon has also co-written two bestselling novel with T.J. Andrews, ARENA and INVADER.

He lives in the historic city of Norwich.

Author Web Site

AD 54. Claudius is dead. Rome is in turmoil. And two brave heroes of the Roman army face the challenge of their lives.

Simon Scarrow’s DAY OF THE CAESARS is not to be missed by readers of Conn Iggulden and Bernard Cornwell. ‘A new book in Simon Scarrow’s series about the Roman army is always a joy’ The Times

The Emperor Claudius is dead. Nero rules. His half-brother Britannicus has also laid claim to the throne. A bloody power struggle is underway.

All Prefect Cato and Centurion Macro want is a simple army life, fighting with their brave and loyal men. But Cato has caught the eye of rival factions determined to get him on their side. To survive, Cato must play a cunning game, and enlist the help of the one man in the Empire he can trust: Macro.

As the rebel force grows, legionaries and Praetorian Guards are moved like chess pieces by powerful and shadowy figures. A political game has created the ultimate military challenge. Can civil war be averted? The future of the empire is in Cato’s hands…


Macro and Cato return again, 16 books in and the boys have grown, matured and changed. The new relationship with Cato as superior is well embedded and Macro is starting to take on the mantle of the soldier coming to end of his career, jaded (well as much as Macro ever could be), and sick of the politics and BS that defines how his life may end. Cato with his rank is more mired in the the politics, yet as a man from the ranks likes it no more than his rough and ready colleague.

In this book Simon Scarrow weaves a tale that’s more intrigue and thriller than the action and battles that have come to define this series, that’s not to say that macro and Cato don’t get the stabby parts of their blades wet and gory, because they most certainly do.  But this book is more subtle, its the interplay of republicans and a dynastic squabble over the next emperor, and how despite everything our duo try to avoid it, yet they still get sucked into the storm of change.

Old enemies reappear, new enemies are made, this is another major turning point in the life of Macro and Cato, its a book not to be missed in this epic series that has helped shape the Historical Fiction genre.

Highly Recommended


Eagles of the Empire
1. Under the Eagle (2000)
2. The Eagle’s Conquest (2001)
3. When the Eagle Hunts (2002)
4. The Eagle and the Wolves (2003)
5. The Eagle’s Prey (2004)
6. The Eagle’s Prophecy (2005)
7. The Eagle in the Sand (2006)
aka The Zealot
8. Centurion (2007)
9. The Gladiator (2009)
10. The Legion (2010)
11. Praetorian (2011)
12. The Blood Crows (2013)
13. Brothers in Blood (2014)
14. Britannia (2015)
15. Invictus (2016)
16. Day of the Caesars (2017)
Eagles of the Empire Series Book 1-5 (omnibus) (2017)
Wellington and Napoleon
1. Young Bloods (2006)
2. The Generals (2007)
3. Fire and Sword (2009)
4. The Fields of Death (2010)
The Wellington and Napoleon Quartet (omnibus) (2015)
1. Fight for Freedom (2011)
2. Street Fighter (2012)
3. Son of Spartacus (2013)
4. Vengeance (2014)
Roman Arena (with T J Andrews)
1. Barbarian (2012)
2. Challenger (2012)
3. First Sword (2013)
4. Revenge (2013)
5. Champion (2013)
Arena (omnibus) (2013)
Invader (with T J Andrews)
1. Death Beach (2014)
2. Blood Enemy (2014)
3. Dark Blade (2014)
4. Imperial Agent (2015)
5. Sacrifice (2015)
The Sword and the Scimitar (2012)
Hearts of Stone (2015)
Invader (2016) (with T J Andrews)
Playing With Death (2017) (with Lee Francis)
Red Christmas (2014)



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Filed under Historical Fiction, Simon Scarrow