Category Archives: Historical Fiction

All Historical Fiction Reviews

Simon Scarrow : Blackout (Review)

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Publication Date:18/03/2021

Berlin, December 1939

As Germany goes to war, the Nazis tighten their terrifying grip. Paranoia in the capital is intensified by a rigidly enforced blackout that plunges the city into oppressive darkness every night, as the bleak winter sun sets.

When a young woman is found brutally murdered, Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is under immense pressure to solve the case, swiftly. Treated with suspicion by his superiors for his failure to join the Nazi Party, Schenke walks a perilous line – for disloyalty is a death sentence.

The discovery of a second victim confirms Schenke’s worst fears. He must uncover the truth before evil strikes again.

As the investigation takes him closer to the sinister heart of the regime, Schenke realises there is danger everywhere – and the warring factions of the Reich can be as deadly as a killer stalking the streets . . .

Review

I’m not usually a big fan of thrillers set in the pre or early war, they always seem to be a little depressing and dark and i read for escapism. But its a Simon Scarrow book so how could i not be intrigued! Even if its a massive departure from his trademark ancient Rome, Simon has such an engaging writing style i hoped that it would remove that dark depressing element for me.

As usual with Simon Scarrows work its very character driven, which is perfect for me, you engage with the characters as much as the story and you become invested in them, their safety and they choices.

Blackout is in essence a crime thriller, that happens to be set in the winter of 1939 Berlin, yes its is dark, depressing and cold. Yet at the same time Simon makes it atmospheric, ethereal so full of danger and forbidding. His Lead character reminded me a little of the older Cato to begin with and Hauser (his second in command) a little of Macro, the initial interplay between them very reminiscent of the way they bounced off each other. But soon the new characters and story took flight and you get drawn into the dark dangers of Berlin, the power shifts between the different parts of the growing, expanding Nazi war machine, the political maneuvering that is beginning to underpin and control everything , even the facts of a murder case.

Our main character Schenke is a detective, driven by the love of the law and finding the truth, his approach sits at odds with the climate of follow the party line, and so he tries to walk the middle ground, stick to the facts have no political opinion…. and almost impossible task in this new Berlin.

I did find at times that the book freaked me out, you’re sat there reading about the political situation in the months before WW2 had begun, the control of the media, the fear of the masses, the dissemination of  the “new” facts that the Nazis want you to believe, the twisted view and approach to life, and you cant help but think of Brexit, Covid and the current UK regime, it really sent chills down my spine how close we really are to repeating old mistakes.

The plot of the book brings in all of the investigation, the hunt for a psychotic rapist and killer, a man who could be mixed in with the highest powers of the Nazi party, the scary view that the message of who and how even when the case is solved, that what becomes the facts depends on Muller, the Gestapo and even higher to the very top of the Nazi regime. We experience the irrational view towards Jews, and at the same time we see that much of the German view is controlled by fear, that many like Schenke just want life to be fair, just and normal for all, to carry on with family at Christmas and to fall in love.

As my first read of 2021 it was really excellent, you feel the cold, the fear and the sudden violence, and you pull together the facts as they are presented, who the murderer is keeps you guessing right to the very end. I’m really looking forward to more of Schenke and Liebwitz (The Gestapo agent assigned to watch over him)

Highly reccomended

(Parm)

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Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, Crime, Historical Fiction, Simon Scarrow, Thrillers, Uncategorized

Angus Donald: The Last Berserker (Review)

book cover of The Last Berserker

 

The Last Berserker

 (2021)
(The first book in the Fire Born series)

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The greatest warriors are forged in the flames

771AD, Northern Europe

Two pagan fighters

Bjarki Bloodhand and Tor Hildarsdottir are journeying south into Saxony. Their destination is the Irminsul, the One Tree that links the Nine Worlds of the Middle-Realm. In this most holy place, they hope to learn how to summon their animal spirits so they can enter the ranks of the legendary berserkir: the elite frenzied fighters of the North.

One Christian king

Karolus, newly crowned King of the Franks, has a thorn in his side: the warlike Saxon tribes on his northern borders who shun the teachings of Jesus Christ, blasphemously continuing to worship their pagan gods.

An epic battle for the soul of the North

The West’s greatest warlord vows to stamp out his neighbours’ superstitions and bring the light of the True Faith to the Northmen – at the point of a sword. It will fall to Bjarki, Tor and the men and women of Saxony to resist him in a struggle for the fate of all Europe.

 

Review:

Vikings… The north, the cold… and blood soaked battles… what more could you want? … Angus Donalds new series does contain all those elements, but its also a lot more. This is a story about the growth and youth of Bjarki and Tor, and their submersion into the mysteries of the north.

The Story begins with a bloodsoaked madman single handedly destroying a village, before dropping back in time to Bjarki’s neck in the hangmans noose, saved at the last by a wandering trader, and taken to the heart of the northern world to learn the ways of the warrior, His companions on this Journey Valtyr far Wanderer and Tor Hildarsdottir teaching him weapons, fighting, but more than that, they teach him about family something he knows little about having been a foundling, his parents dead, raised by the villager who lost the lottery, he has been seen as a nuisance all his life. Now someone can see something else in him, the potential, even if that potential is death and destruction.

Angus Donald is best known for his stunning Robin Hood Series, so this is a departure to something new but retaining his wonderful character driven plots, his unique style and humour comes across in the tale, and the adventure he imbues into all his tales shines through.

I personally love a book filled with blood soaked battles, and this book has that, but it has so much more, it explores the root of the Northman’s religion, the blossoming of the Christian faith through that Northman’s eye and we see the growth of friendship and family when experienced by someone who has never know it. From the simplistic rustic life in a poor Northman’s village to the dazzling wealth of the Royal Frankish court, this story is both broad in scope and intimate in emotion, I devoured the book, and have been left wanting more and more.

highly recommended

(Parm)

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Anthony Riches: Nemesis (Review)

Nemesis by [Anthony Riches]They killed his sister. Now he’ll kill them all.

Mickey Bale is an elite close protection officer. That’s why the Met police has given him the toughest job of all: guarding the Minister of Defence at a moment when Chinese-British relations have hit a deadly boiling point.

And when Mickey’s life isn’t on the line for his work, he’s taking his chances waging war on a powerful London gang family. Their dealer supplied a lethal ecstasy pill to his sister, and Mickey is determined to take them down, one at a time.

But will he get away with it – or will his colleagues in the force realise that the man on an underworld killing spree is one of their own?

 

(Review)

Anthony Riches is one of my favourite authors, he is well known for his (Roman) Empire series and its band of soldiers who pull off impossible missions with humour, flair and bloody skill. So when I heard that he had branched out into thrillers I was desperate to read it, and emails flew off to the publisher begging for a copy, if anyone could inject something new and exciting into the genre its Anthony Riches.

Nemesis is set around the life of Mickey Bale an elite protection officer for the Met, this set off a small red flag for me because my girlfriend works for the police and gets very irate if there are “mistakes” in police procedure… she has dismissed many a good read based on basic errors, but reading the first few chapters you could soon see that the author had done plenty of research (not a surprise) and made sure that the authenticity shines through. Mickey Bale is at the top of his game as a protection officer, but he has a past that includes the loss of a family member, and he wants payback.

What I wanted from the book was something, that felt real and totally new, not a new Jack Reacher or Win Lockwood, and I’m glad to say that what we get is new enthralling and pure Anthony Riches, a dark gritty action  thriller with the authors own blend of sardonic irreverent  humour, which works so well in his books and his characters, for me better and more readable and relatable than Jack Reacher.

There are so many thrillers out there that have American / Hollywood action and humour, but this book is pure Brit, in style, humour and action, action that is exciting but in no way over the top, if I had to find any comparison it would be Guy Richie meets the bodyguard (that’s the Richard Madden one… not Kevin Costner), and this book has brilliant TV series written all over it. This is my favorite thriller of this year and the last few years. There is so much more to come from Mickey Bale, and I hope we get to see it soon.

Very Highly Recommended

(Parm)

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Jonathan Spencer : Lords of The Nile (review)

book cover of Lords of the Nile

 

Lords of the Nile

 (2020)
(The second book in the William John Hazzard series)

 

The battle for Empire rages across Egypt

The thrilling second novel in the William John Hazzard series, following Napoleon’s Run.

Malta, June 1798. Captured by the French after hurling himself into the enemy ranks, Hazzard is now a prisoner of Bonaparte and his nemesis, the spy-catcher Derrien. He has, however, uncovered the deadly purpose of Napoleon’s fleet: the conquest of Egypt.

Their bold plan is to cut open the ancient Suez Canal and then sail through the Red Sea to attack India, the jewel in England’s crown.

As Napoleon’s great armada prepares to sail, Nelson’s fleet, still scouring the Mediterranean in vain for the French, is nowhere to be seen. If Hazzard can’t find a way to stop this – no-one will.

But help comes from an unexpected quarter – the missing Admiralty agent…

From the shores of Malta to the truly epic encounter of the Battle of the Nile – this is the explosive beginning of the French invasion of Egypt. Never give up the boat.

 

Review

This is the second book in this stupendous new series and in some ways the harder book, Napoleon’s Run the first book in the series was such blockbusting start that repeating that impact is extremely difficult, beating it almost impossible… but he did!!

Lords of the Nile is a such breathtaking frenetic plot that it truly does exhaust the reader, I found myself getting faster and faster in my reading, tearing through the pages, only to realise that i was trying to match the pace of  the characters and the plot, it is so immersive you can’t help but be sucked into it, swept away by it, pushed to tears by it and utterly enthralled by it.

In the last few years I’ve picked up a few new authors that have stunned me with the impact of their books and dazzled me with the skill and pace of their stories… Jonathan Spencer is one of the best of these, in two books he now resides as one.. of my “Must read” authors, a drop what you’re doing, or what ever else you are reading and read it now writer.

Hazzard will give Sharpe a run for his money any day, and im sure Jack Lark would be happy to serve with him… my favourite book this year and i’ve read some great ones.

Highest recommendation

(Parm)

(Excuse the brevity of review…. i have a broken hand … this took ages… 😉

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Simon Turney / Gordon Doherty : Sons of Rome (Guest Post & review)

book cover of Sons of Rome

Sons of Rome  (2020)
(The first book in the Rise of Emperors series)
A novel by Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney

Four Emperors. Two Friends. One Destiny.

As twilight descends on the 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire is but a shadow of its former self. Decades of usurping emperors, splinter kingdoms and savage wars have left the people beleaguered, the armies weary and the future uncertain. And into this chaos Emperor Diocletian steps, reforming the succession to allow for not one emperor to rule the world, but four.

Meanwhile, two boys share a chance meeting in the great city of Treverorum as Diocletian’s dream is announced to the imperial court. Throughout the years that follow, they share heartbreak and glory as that dream sours and the empire endures an era of tyranny and dread. Their lives are inextricably linked, their destinies ever-converging as they rise through Rome’s savage stations, to the zenith of empire. For Constantine and Maxentius, the purple robes beckon…

Guest Post

A Choice of Emperors
by Gordon Doherty & Simon Turney

Between 305 and 312 AD, the Western Roman Empire was dominated by two figures. The conflict between Constantine and Maxentius – and in particular their seismic battle at the Milvian Bridge in 312 – has grown over the centuries to achieve mythic proportions, and like all myths we must look beyond the obvious if we wish to discern the truth. The rivalry between the two emperors was not a religious schism, nor a personal crisis, it was simply a conflict between two men who claimed rulership over one land. That Constantine has come down through history to become arguably one of the most famous of emperors, while Maxentius has been vilified and damned by the centuries and even then to become an almost forgotten figure, is largely the work of Christian writers colouring events with their inescapable bias.

Constantine’s history before his rise to the purple is scarcely covered, with a few events and anecdotes and little in the way of confirmed motivation. Maxentius’s life, even throughout the better-recorded period during which the two emperors came to blows, is barely detailed at all except insofar as it impacts upon Constantine. So what was the history of these two men who rose to become the two most powerful figures in the West, and was there more to their conflict than the simple inevitability of power-clashes?

When Gordon and Simon first conjured up the idea of writing the tale of these two larger-than life figures, the first challenge was deciding where to begin. Well, what better place to begin than at the beginning? The child is the father of the man, after all. Thus, Simon and Gordon instigated their tale during the early years of Maxentius and Constantine, in better times, prizing open their little-known childhoods and trying to understand the humans behind the history.

What history does not tell us is whether their paths crossed in those earlier days. This was a welcome challenge for Gordon and Simon, the opportunity to debate and speculate over how the two characters might plausibly have possibly known one another in childhood and adolescence. Both were children of Rome’s leading men, so it seemed likely that they could have met at the many imperial court gatherings across the empire. The starting point seized, the story planned, Gordon and Simon were all set to begin writing. All that remained now was to each settle upon which protagonist each author would write.

Simon’s literary career thus far had been solidly built upon tales of the Roman military. As such, the action-packed life of Constantine, with his war-hero record and empire-spanning military career which propelled him to power, might seem the obvious choice. However, Simon has always had a soft spot for history’s underdogs, and the idea that Maxentius, perhaps Rome’s quintessential underdog, might be more than simply a black-and-white villain was too much to refuse. With little confirmed information about Maxentius in sources, and much of that clearly apocryphal and biased, the opportunity to create a vision of this man as he might have been was a great pull. And so Simon turned away from his usual military fare and began to explore the world of a man who was more politician and patriot than warrior and hero.

Gordon’s writing career has largely centred on the late Roman Empire and the period that led to the collapse of the West and the continuation of the ‘Byzantine’ Empire in the East. Many point to Constantine’s day as the definitive starting point for that period. But in his reading, Gordon has long been unsatisfied by the polarised opinion surrounding Constantine: he was either a saint, the thirteenth apostle who bestowed Christianity upon the world of Late Antiquity… or he was a political monster, bloodthirsty, manipulative, ambitious and determined to make the world his own. But no man is all good or all evil. This was the proverbial gauntlet for Gordon – to explore the fog in between these two extremes, to mine the scant anecdotes and scraps of evidence we have for Constantine the person and to truly understand his motivations.

Armed with their story plan, their burning enthusiasm to tell the tale of these two giants of history, Gordon and Simon set to work. The story of Constantine and Maxentius begins with ‘Sons of Rome’.

Review

What happens when two very talented and prolific authors get their heads together and come up with an idea…. The result can be pure genius.

Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty with over 56 novels between them have really become among the best individual writers in their genre, but combining their talents… that was something new and would need a huge amount of cooperation and discussion. Thankfully these two friends have meshed together their talents and voices seamlessly.

Sons of Rome is a story that grabs you from the first page, it follows both Maxentius and Constantine from childhood , through their growth to power and how they survive the perilous intrigue and back stabbing that forms the daily life in the courts of Emperors, how their personalities and Psyche were formed, how they developed into such powerful figures of history.

Both of these authors are characters writers and creators, in their various series they have a skill that breathes life into dusty history, adding flesh to these famous names is not enough, they want you to love their creations, to root for them, to become invested in them, but with diverging agendas you find yourself invested in two people who are destined to become at odds with one another, its a strange feeling. The style of one author writing Constantine and the other Maxentius and then having them staggered through the books adds a frenetic pace to the reading of this book, you cant put it down because you want to find out what Constantine did next, then how did Maxtenius react to that…. and on and on until…. suddenly the book is over and you’re left desperate to have more.

I honestly put this book as a really contender for book of the year, its a brilliant achievement, and one i encourage you all to read.

(Parm)

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Theodore Brun: A Burning Sea (review)

book cover of A Burning Sea

A Burning Sea  (2020)
(The third book in the Wanderer Chronicles series)

Erlan Aurvandil has turned his back on the past and his native Northern lands, taking a perilous journey to the greatest city in the world, Constantinople. But as his voyage ends, Erlan is brutally betrayed, captured and enslaved by a powerful Byzantine general. Meanwhile, Lilla Sviggarsdottir, Queen of Svealand, has lost her husband and with him, her father’s kingdom. Her life in danger, Lilla escapes to find Erlan, the one man who can save her, following his trail to the very gates of Constantinople. But corruption infests the city, and a dark tide is rising against the Emperor from within his own court. As the shadows darken and whispers of war begin to strengthen, Erlan’s fate becomes intertwined with that of the city. Are they both doomed to fall, or can freedom be won in the blood of battle?

Review

This is a series that has intrigued me since book one, its in the main an Historical Fiction novel, but dances around some fantasy and supernatural, which is to say that in its historical period anything that cannot be explained has a supernatural/ fantasy edge, especially with the introduction of Azazel (from the book of Enoch, the demon/ fallen angel that corrupted man). Its the inclusion of this element/ character at first that made me skeptical of the book, but came for me to make the book. It added a darker hidden element to the original plot, and now in book 3 has become a driving force in Erlan’s travels and life. It is to excise this influence that he leaves and travels to Constantinople and becomes embroiled in the politics and war of a much larger world, truly a wanderer, a man haunted by so much of his past that he must keep moving, a man who is driven to be more than he is, but weighted down by so much regret for what has gone awry with his life and his perceived destiny.

To offset Erlans POV we also have Lilla’s, who herself has gone through so much to and given up so much to save her fathers kingdom, only for it to be cruelly snatched away from her again. She must chase Erlan footsteps into the unknown, following his trail to the greatest city on earth, and attempt to bring him and hopefully an army back and win her kingdom again.

This for me is easily the best book of the series, while i have enjoyed the Azazel edge to the tales, book 3 brings about its climax (or does it… never assume and author is done)… Erlans internal fight against the taint of this demon and its baresark rage sets him apart, but his fight for more, to prove he is more, that he can fight and live without the demon really makes his character stand out in book 3, we start i think to see who Hakan is and can be. The inclusion of Einar in the book is IMHO genius, he brings the needed humour to the tale that could otherwise be too dark at times, a character with indomitable courage and will, a man with an iron word who will be there to the end and beyond, and most especially with something sarcastic or funny to add.

In among all the fighting and scheming is also a love story and a story of personal discovery, Erlan has loved and lost, and in that loss he lost his identity, he lost his home, his life and how to be himself, in part he has run from so he is so he can try and escape the pain of that loss, both family and his childhood love. Nothing in his life prepared him for the pain he would feel and the desolation it would bring to his world, i think this allowed him to throw himself into what ever came next, he had tried to numb himself to mental emotion and pain, and accept the physical pain in its stead, this helped shape the warrior he has become, his fatalistic approach to all, yet some part of Hakan is always there because he still craves that friendship, and then the sunrise of Lila has slowly made him doubt Erlans existence….its this underlying plot that really gives the story its power.

All of this is against the backdrop of Constantinople on the verge of destruction, the Muslim army is at the door, traitors abound, and a new emperor must walk the tightrope of politics and war, both internally and externally. I normally shy from byzantine books, but every now and again someone manages to show me the majesty and the machinations of the time and its location and so hooks me (it helps that it includes vikings).

I find these days the speed that i read is a very good indication of my enjoyment, this is a 512 page book, a decent door stop, as all in the series have been. But i read it in the same amount of time i read my last 200 page book, its a book that engages from the first page, and throws you into the plot, i felt at times like i’d been kidnapped, stuck in the bowels of the ship or the corner of a cell to cower and endure the journey/ confinement, to feel all the trials of Erlan and just when finally we are saved from servitude and punishment i was thrust with him into the tale of backstabbing and war. its a book that thrills and exhausts at the same time (i was up until the early hours reading this, i couldn’t put it away). I’m now left lamenting the end, but rejoicing that there will be more, and i shall be prodding Mr Brun for book 4…. because i cant wait.

This book is easily going to be top 10 for the year, i highly suspect top 5.

Very highly recommended

(Parm)

 

 

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Series
Wanderer Chronicles
   1. A Mighty Dawn (2017)
   2. A Sacred Storm (2018)
   3. A Burning Sea (2020)
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Novellas
   A Winter’s Night (2018)
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Filed under Historical Fiction, Theodore Brun

Steven A Mckay: The Northern Throne (Review)

book cover of The Northern Throne

(The third book in the Warrior Druid of Britain series)

Northern Britain, AD431, Spring.
Bellicus the Druid and his friend Duro, a former Roman centurion, have already suffered a great deal in recent years but, for them, things are about to get even worse.
Britain is changing. The Romans have gone and warriors from many different places seek to fill the void the legions left behind. In the south, the Saxons’ expansion seems unstoppable despite the efforts of the warlord Arthur, while north of Hadrian’s Wall various kings and chieftains are always looking to extend their borders.
In Dun Breatann, Bellicus believes the disparate northern tribes must put aside their differences, become allies, and face the Saxon threat together, under one High King. Or High Queen…
Small-minded men don’t always look at the bigger picture though, and, when Bellicus and Duro seek to form a pact with an old enemy, events take a shocking and terrible turn that will leave the companions changed forever.
This third volume in the Warrior Druid of Britain Chronicles is packed with adventure, battles, triumph, and tears, and at the end of it a new course will be set for Bellicus.
But at what cost?

Review

I’ve enjoyed watching the growth of Steven as a writer, i’ve been lucky enough to be involved in giving him feedback on some of the books, and most of all i’ve enjoyed this latest series “Warrior Druid of Britain” where he can grow his own main character, but also make it live on the edges of of one of the greatest tales of Britain, King Arthur and Merlin. Each book of this series sees the growth of Bellicus and the formation of his friendship with Duro a former Roman Centurion. There are shades of Macro and Cato (Simon Scarrow) in their relationship, but in these tales they are pure Mckay in their telling.

This latest book sees our duo put to the their greatest test, tortured , abused and betrayed, they must survive and they must save their queen and their home and as important they must find a way to get south and help Arthur and Merlin, to fight the great Saxon threat. There are some truly harrowing moments for both our heroes and neither will be the same by books end, but blimey its a hell of a ride for the reader, one i cant wait to continue.

Every book Steven has written has seen his skill as a writer evolve and grow to the point now that he is as good as anyone in his genre, if you haven’t read his work you are now spoiled for Legends with both Robin Hood and now Arthurian Britain… and both series are an excellent read.

(Parm)

 

Series
Forest Lord
   1. Wolf’s Head (2013)
   2. The Wolf and the Raven (2014)
   3. Rise of the Wolf (2015)
   4. Blood of the Wolf (2016)
   The Prisoner (2016)
   The Escape (2017)
Warrior Druid of Britain
   1. The Druid (2018)
   2. Song of the Centurion (2019)
   3. The Northern Throne (2020)
   Over the Wall (2020)
Collections
   The Rescue And Other Tales (2017)
Novellas
   Knight of the Cross (2014)
   Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil (2015)
   The Abbey of Death (2017)
   Faces of Darkness (2019)

 

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Anthony Riches : River of Gold (Review)

book cover of River of Gold

River of Gold (2020)
(Book 11 in the Empire series)

After saving the emperor’s life in Rome, Marcus and his comrades have been sent across the sea to the wealthy, corrupt Greek metropolis of Aegyptus, Alexandria.
An unknown enemy has slaughtered the garrison of the Empire’s last outpost before its border with the mysterious kingdom of Kush. Caravans can no longer reach the crucial Red Sea port of Berenike, from which the riches of the East flow towards Rome.
The Emperor’s most trusted and most devious adviser has ordered Marcus’s commander Scaurus and his trusted officers to the south. With orders that are tantamount to a suicide mission, and with only one slim hope of success.
Can a small force of highly trained legionaries restore the Empire’s power in this remote desert no-man’s-land, when faced by the fanatical army of Kush’s iron-fisted ruler?

Review

11 Books into this series and it still feels fresh new and exciting, which is a testament to the authors skill in writing a well researched and exciting story, but most of all a story full of real and alive characters, characters who make you feel the story. Anthony Riches main skill as a writer for me has always been his characters, and when he couples that with his utter disregard for their safety you get a book and series that is always going to thrill, always going to make you turn the next page and never let you put the book down until the last page is turned.

Anthony Riches is on my very short list of authors who are a one sit read, the book needs a whole day set aside to just sit back and enjoy, because the people and the plot wont allow for anything else, wont allow you to put it down for a moment. You spend the whole book wondering which main character he will murder next, and when you find it, when that moment hits you can imagine the evil little glint in his eye, because he knows you never saw it coming. He has developed so many characters to be the “Main character” that absolutely no one is safe, and this adds a truly unique element to his series. Mixing that with his truly impressive ability to thill and entertain has created on of the best series in the genre.

I loved River of Gold because i knew nothing of Kush, and as always with this authors books he left me just enough information and education to want to go and find more about this fascinating empire and its culture. I met new characters that i feel will be back in book 12, and after an utterly thrilling roller-coaster ride full of misdirection, action, humour, sudden violence and intricate problem solving, i was left totally satisfied with the story because there is that perfect mix of completion and desire for more.

Anthony Riches remains one of my all time favourite writers, because i can read anything he writes again and again, and never lose a moments enjoyment.

I highly recommend this book and the entire series.

(Parm)

Series
Empire
   1. Wounds of Honour (2009)
   2. Arrows of Fury (2010)
   3. Fortress of Spears (2011)
   4. The Leopard Sword (2012)
   5. The Wolf’s Gold (2012)
   6. The Eagle’s Vengeance (2013)
   7. The Emperor’s Knives (2014)
   8. Thunder of the Gods (2015)
   9. Altar of Blood (2016)
   10. The Scorpion’s Strike (2019)
   11. River of Gold (2020)
Centurions
   1. Betrayal (2017)
   2. Onslaught (2017)
   3. Retribution (2018)
   Betrayal: The Raid (2017)
   Centurions: Codex Batavi (2018)

 

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Paul Fraser Collard : Fugitive (Review)

book cover of Fugitive

Roguish hero Jack Lark – soldier, leader, imposter – crosses borders once more as he pursues a brand-new adventure in Africa.

London, 1868. Jack has traded the battlefield for business, running a thriving club in the backstreets of Whitechapel. But this underworld has rules and when Jack refuses to comply, he finds himself up against the East End’s most formidable criminal – with devastating consequences.

A wanted man, Jack turns to his friend Macgregor, an ex-officer, treasure hunter and his ticket out of England. Together they join the British army on campaign across the tablelands of Abyssinia to the fortress of Magdala, a high-stakes mission to free British prisoners captured by the notorious Emperor Tewodros.

But life on the run can turn dangerous, especially in a land ravaged by war . . .

 

Review

In 2013 i was asked to review a new title called “The Scarlet Thief”, and so was born one of my new favorite characters. Jack Lark was and is a newer grittier, tougher version of Sharpe, a more fallible and broken character, and at the same time one that felt so much more real and filled with adventure.

Jack Lark has had a rough time of it under Paul Collards pen, but every story is realistic and plausible and high octane fun. More than anything Jack Larks growth as a character has been a pleasure to experience, even the toughest, darkest days, because those are the ones where you the reader dig deep to urge him on, to hope for his survival and success, and experience every nuance of the story along side him.

Fugitive in the beginning sees a more peaceful Jack, a man enjoying the fruits of his labour, but at the same time you can sense the hidden darkness, like a caged tiger placidly walking the boundaries of his cage, looking for that moment when his true nature can explode and he can once again let loose his true nature, a killer of men.

Very soon life decides once again that Jack Lark isn’t destined to enjoy a peaceful retirement. He falls foul of a local gangster and needs to leave London fast, so adventure beckons in the form of an expedition to Abyssinia and to the fortress of Magdala. His friend Macgregor, an ex-officer and treasure hunter had asked for him to join him in making a name and making themselves rich, what hadn’t appealed to Jack before has suddenly become a lifeline, and so Jack joins a group of 4 headed into the unknown . As always with Jack, danger and death will be their companions and only Jack truly has the experience to help them survive whats ahead.

After some truly dark times for Jack that started in the devils assassin, i think this book helps Jack truly come to terms with who he is, his true nature and his place in the world, where he had fought against the darkness he accepts it now, a darkness he can control, unlike the evil men of the world Jack can turn to his darkness to survive and to save others but when peace reigns again then jack can settle back again to enjoy life, or to seek out more adventure. Abyssinia see’s jack come closer to death than ever before and to come alive in a way he hasn’t for a long time.

As always Paul Collard has written a truly wonderful story, one that pulled me into Jack Larks life again from page one and didn’t let me go until i turned the last page. He is one of the very few authors that i have to set aside a whole day for, because i simply cannot put the book down. Its a day i look forward to every year, drinking some beers, and sitting back in my comfy chair so i can devour the book in a single uninterrupted sitting.

Very Highly recommended, as is the whole series.

(Parm)

Series
Jack Lark
   0.5. Rogue (2014)
   1. The Scarlet Thief (2013)
   2. The Maharajah’s General (2013)
   3. The Devil’s Assassin (2015)
   4. The Lone Warrior (2015)
   5. The Last Legionnaire (2016)
aka The Forgotten Son
   6. The True Soldier (2017)
   7. The Rebel Killer (2018)
   8. The Lost Outlaw (2019)
   9. Fugitive (2020)
   Recruit (2015)
   Redcoat (2015)

 

 

 

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Paul Fraser Collard, Uncategorized

Ben Kane (Lionheart) Review.

book cover of Lionheart

 

Lionheart  (2020)
(The first book in the Richard the Lionheart series)

 

1179. Henry II is King of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine. The House of Plantagenet reigns supreme.

But there is unrest in Henry’s house. Not for the first time, his family talks of rebellion.

Ferdia – an Irish nobleman taken captive during the conquest of his homeland – saves the life of Richard, the king’s son. In reward for his bravery, he is made squire to Richard, who is already a renowned warrior.

Crossing the English Channel, the two are plunged into a campaign to crush rebels in Aquitaine. The bloody battles and gruelling sieges which followed would earn Richard the legendary name of Lionheart.

But Richard’s older brother, Henry, is infuriated by his sibling’s newfound fame. Soon it becomes clear that the biggest threat to Richard’s life may not be rebel or French armies, but his own family…

(Review)

I will have to admit that when i heard Ben Kane was writing about Richard the Lionheart i groaned a little, im always going to read a book by him because he is simply an excellent writer, But…. I hate the crusades, or at least i usually find that i do, there is usually just a bit to much pious religion, knights flogging themselves and dodgy priests galore, so i tend to steer clear of them, in the same way i tend to with anything plague related, because they are just dark and grim.

With Lionheart though Ben has taken me back to his writing style of 12 years ago, taking a character from youth and growing the story around them, in this case Rufus (Ferdia), and then he lets the story resolve its-self around this character, its a style i love and always makes me very invested in a character.

The story of Rufus takes us from his time as a hostage to his families good behaviour, through the harsh times and brutality of his captivity, to his steady rise as a squire and beyond. We get to see life in a border castle, through to royal courts of europe and the battles for the provinces of Duke Richards lands and those of France and Normandy. Ben has a style and ability to remove the grandeur that can be distracting to the story and concentrate on the intimate life of his character, the world is how Rufus perceives it and gives a different lens to the times. Mixed in with his view comes that of Sir William Marshall, who allows us to see a different view, that of a Knight in the employ of the Royal Heir Henry, and thus the pair provide opposing views of the machinations of the big stage and its players.

I devoured this book in a couple of days, and at 400 pages its no small read. But the whole concept and the characters had me from the first chapter and didn’t let go, it left me desperate for the next installment of what i think will be Ben Kanes best work to date, this is easily going to sit in the top 5 for the year for me.

Very Very Highly recommend this book

(Parm)

Buy The book

Buy a signed copy

Forgotten Legion Chronicles
   1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
   2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
   3. The Road to Rome (2010)
   The March (2018)
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Hannibal
   1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
   2. Fields of Blood (2013)
   3. Clouds of War (2014)
   The Patrol (2013)
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Spartacus
   1. The Gladiator (2012)
   2. Rebellion (2012)
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Pompeii (with Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter)
   A Day of Fire (2014)
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Eagles of Rome
   0.5. The Shrine (2015)
   1. Eagles at War (2015)
   1.5. The Arena (2016)
   2. Hunting the Eagles (2016)
   3. Eagles in the Storm (2017)
   Eagles in the Wilderness (2019)
   Eagles in the East (2020)
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Clash of Empires
   1. Clash of Empires (2018)
   2. The Falling Sword (2019)
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Richard the Lionheart
   1. Lionheart (2020)
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Filed under Ben Kane, Historical Fiction