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Mark Lawrence: The Girl and The Mountain (review)

book cover of The Girl and the Mountain

On Abeth there is only the ice. And the Black Rock.

For generations the priests of the Black Rock have reached out from their mountain to steer the ice tribes’ fate. With their Hidden God, their magic and their iron, the priests’ rule has never been challenged.
But nobody has ever escaped the Pit of the Missing before.

Yaz has lost her friends and found her enemies. She has a mountain to climb and even if she can break the Hidden God’s power her dream of a green world lies impossibly far to the south across a vast emptiness of ice. Before the journey can even start she has to find out what happened to the ones she loves and save those that can be saved.

Abeth holds its secrets close, but the stars shine brighter for Yaz and she means to unlock the truth.

To touch the sky, be prepared to climb

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Review

This is one of the books out this year that i sent begging emails to review, i mean its Mark Lawrence, if you review fantasy you would have to be nuts not to be begging for a copy. Thankfully for me Mark himself took pity on me  and sent me an advance copy…. and just wow, its everything i expected and anted and more…

Yaz and her friends return, we left them ascending back to the ice after their exploits under it, what lay ahead ware the priests of the black rock, the wind, the cold and their new weakness to the cold brought on by the flourishing of their powers. This book see’s old friends perish, new friends appear, battles with old enemies and a better understanding of who and what they are, we finally get inside the blackrock and see what the priests have been up to as our team can even try to start the endless trudge across the ice in search of the green which is their hope.

As always Mark Lawrence blends his stunning world building with his real heartfelt characters, how an author can bring miles and miles of white ice bound scenery to life so well just astonishes me, but the secret is in the people he has crossing it and the very real dangers they face, as a reader you feel spell bound and on the edge of the seat for the whole journey… a journey that ends in (while not unexpected) such a way to really warm the heart and melts the last of that ice that grips you tight during the book…. what comes next, honestly I have no idea! Mark Lawrence has such a fantastic ability to blend magic and science into a plot that i’m never not amazed with the plot twists and turns, and that is the mark of a true great of the genre.

A MUST read for the year… in fact i guarantee that you will read and reread, its just so good.

(Parm)

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Christopher Buehlman The Blacktongue Thief (review)

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Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

Review

Christopher Buehlman is not a newbie writer, he is known and respected for his horror writing.

   Those Across the River (2011)
   Between Two Fires (2012)
   The Necromancer’s House (2013)
   The Lesser Dead (2014)
   The Suicide Motor Club (2016)

But The Blacktongue Thief is a new foray into Fantasy, and blimey what a way to make a debut into the genre.  Its a book that has seen a lot of chatter online both from other authors and fans, it was that hype that brought it to my attention and thanks to Gollancz I was lucky enough to score an advance copy.

The author has created a fantastic world to base his story, full of magic, danger, adventure and of course death. The plot centers around Kinch Na Shannack a thief (yes with a black tongue) he is a member of the Takers guild (basically the Mob… they have fingers in everything from stealing to magic to assassins and beyond), our unfortunate hero owes money to the Takers and that debt is inked on his face, its whist trying to raise money to pay this debt… (yes lying in wait to rob people) he becomes embroiled in a quest, full of danger and mystery and mischief…. 

The characters in this book are just excellent, Kinch is funny, irreverent and lives life on the edge of his mouth getting him killed. he has companions with martial prowess way beyond his own, magical skills and devices and a blind cat (again, read the book… im not spoiling it). There is a world strewn with left over war carnage, goblins, krakens, Giants and so much more… Not since i read my first John Gwynne have i been so excited by a new series.

I honestly don’t want to spoil a single moment of the book, suffice to day that Kinch will make you laugh out loud while he steals your heart. This is a huge contender for Fantasy Book of the year.

Very Highly recommended

(Parm)

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Conn Iggulden: Protector (Review)

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The Battle of Salamis: Persian King Xerxes stands over the smoking ruins of Athens, an army of slaves at his back. Come to destroy, once and for all, everything that the city stands for, he stares pitilessly at the hopelessly outnumbered Greeks.

Veteran soldier Themistocles cannot push the Persians back by force on land, and so he so does so by stealth, at sea. Over three long days, the greatest naval battle of the ancient world will unfold, a bloody war between the democracy of Athens and the tyranny of Persia.

The Battle of Plataea: Less than a year later, the Persians return to reconquer the Greeks. Tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides ready themselves for war. For the Spartans, Plataea is chance to avenge their defeat at Thermopylae.

For the people of Athens, threatened on all sides, nothing less than the survival of democracy is at stake. And once again Themistocles, the hero of Salamis, will risk everything—his honor, his friendships, even his life—to protect his country.

(Review)

I Still can’t believe that last year I mildly criticized Conn and the Gates of Athens (book one in this series), but I’m very happy to say that this book puts (for me) that blip well in the rear view mirror, maybe its because I became more invested in the characters than I previously thought…. what ever the reason, Protector is brilliant, its a time period I know well and love through the writing of Christian Cameron, so much so I kept waiting for Arimnestos of Plataea to appear.

Protector takes the the story to the battle of Salamis and ultimately the Battle of Plataea, possible the most important Land and sea battles in the history of Europe, if the Persians had won, there would more than likely have been no Roman empire, changing the whole future landscape of Europe and beyond. At this turning point of history our main characters really do come to life Themistocles the wily old veteran and schemer, Xanthippus another veteran and strategos of Marathon whom was recalled from exile and Aristides “the Just” the ideal of Athenian integrity. Its these three strategos who must save Athens, who must devise a plan for victory, and its for them to keep the Spartans involved, because without the Spartan Army all is lost. In Sparta all is a little opaque, the death of Leonidas the battle king at Thermopylae has hit them hard, coupled with their insular society and no love lost between them and athens, a combined greek force is not a forgone conclusion.

Conn  Iggulden teases out the story in a hugely entertaining way, condensing time periods as needed, pulling in obscure facts and providing a story that no matter how many times i hear it, never fails to astound me how close to tragedy they became, and how heroic those men, women and children were to have endured and ultimately won against huge odds.

This is a stunning story told brilliantly, and we still have more to come when Cimon and Pericles come to the fore in book 3.

Highly reccomended

(Parm)

 

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Adam Simcox: The Dying Squad (review)

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book cover of The Dying Squad
When Detective Inspector Joe Lazarus storms a Lincolnshire farmhouse, he expects to bring down a notorious drug gang; instead, he discovers his own dead body and a spirit guide called Daisy-May.

She’s there to enlist him to the Dying Squad, a spectral police force made up of the recently deceased. Joe soon realises there are fates far worse than death. To escape being stuck in purgatory, he must solve his own murder. A task made all the more impossible when his memories start to fade.

Reluctantly partnering with Daisy-May, Joe faces dangers from both the living and the dead in the quest to find his killer – before they kill again.

Review:
As 2021 sees me continue down the path of “books i would not normally read”, … I review The Dying Squad a debut supernatural thriller (i love a debut).
The book begins at the end… sort of!
Joe Lazarus is dead and he soon finds out that death is not the end, Up , down or Purgatory… and Purgatory needs some policing…. perfect for a Star detective from Lincolnshire police, things are going wrong and its getting a bit odd on the death side of things!
Once Daisy-May his new (dead) partner explains that he is dead and convinces him of it, and then next the rules of being dead, EG: the fact that the more time he spends “Soil Side” ie on this plane of existence, the faster a persons memory rots and goes.. with the risk of being left a mindless shell. As it is neither Joe or Daisy know how they died, and solving those riddles is their mission and could help them pass on upwards… 
The imagination behind this story is brilliant, although when I read the blurb about the book being set in Lincolnshire (next county over from me) I had hoped to see lots of places I would recognize (the lack for me was a bit disappointing) , but the plot was dark, twisted and yet heart warming and funny. Daisy- May is a wonderful character and hopefully we will get to see more of her and Joe in future books about the dying squad…. I cant say too much more about the plot except, its not what I expected, it was so much more in the end. telling you anything else would risk spoilers. Just know that in the same way that Rivers of London was the start of something wonderful, this is too.
Well Recommended
(Parm)

 

 

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Sebastien De Castell: Way of the Argosi

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Ten year old Ferius Parfax has a simple plan: kill every last inhabitant of the spell-gifted nation that destroyed her people, starting with the man who murdered her parents. Killing mages is a difficult business, of course, so Ferius undertakes to study the ways of the Argosi: the loosely-knit tribe of tricksters known for getting the better of even the most powerful of spellcasters. But the Argosi have a price for their teachings, and by the time Ferius learns what it is, it may be too late.

Review:

When Sebastian hit my TBR pile in 2014 it was as one of the most anticipated books of the year, and the Greatcoats series became one of my all time favourite series. So its very bemusing for me (still) that somehow i became distracted by life in 2017 and 2018 and missed the start of the SpellSlinger series and so fell behind and decided to shelve the series (while still collecting it) until it was done… Sebastian went one better than that for me (im sure he did it just for me…. just didnt realise it at the time) and released a prequel this year with Way of the Argosi and now he has me hooked again and i have a justified TBR pile reason to read the whole series.

Whilst the characters felt different and the place had changed and the back and forth banter of the greatcoats was no longer there, the underlying writing style and voice of the author, that had some entranced me was all still there and it was less that ten pages before i was hooked for good. The book at 384 pages should have been a couple of days of fun reading , but as it turned out it was one long solid stint and uncounted cups of tea in an utterly engrossing read.

Its impossible not to become emotionally attached to the lead character Ferius, to root for her survival, she has been hunted from childhood across the continent, abused, attacked, starved and near death and certainly a little crazy, she wants and needs revenge, yet into her life comes Durrel Brown, and a new way of looking at the world and what has happened to her, the changing perspectives were brilliantly done, the little plot redirections subtle and surprising, and the characters engaging, even the ones you wanted to hate. If the prequel is a masterpiece i cannot now wait to dive into the rest of the Spellslinger series….i Just need to get cracking because my most anticipated book of the year comes out from this master writer in Sept in the form of Play of Shadows

Hugely recommended

(Parm)

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John Gwynne The Shadow of the Gods (review)

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THE GREATEST SAGAS ARE WRITTEN IN BLOOD.

A century has passed since the gods fought and drove themselves to extinction. Now only their bones remain, promising great power to those brave enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo across the land of Vigrið, fate follows in the footsteps of three warriors: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman pursuing battle fame, and a thrall seeking vengeance among the mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods.

 

Review

In a world where the gods have driven themselves to destruction, new societies emerge, built on the bones of the old with remnants of power used to forge kingdoms, Humans rule and enslave those with blood “tainted” by the old gods. The legends and infamy of those gods still wield power over the world and the people in it. John Gwynne introduces us to a Norse style world in post “Ragnarok” times. What would the world look like after the gods had died? Humanity comes back, with all the usual traits, those who want to rule come to the fore, bands of “Oathsworn” men and women live to create their own saga song, to find immortality. Under it all there are those who still revere the old ways and the old gods, even while the world hunts and enslaves those with any hint of god “tainted” blood. Are all the gods really dead if their blood lives on?

John Gwynne over the last 9 years has become one of my favorite fantasy reads, its no longer a will I like his new book its how much will I like it, how much will it live up to the anticipation and the hype? More so with this new book as we arrive in a new world, a new imagined land and people. It will be no surprise to many that he smashes it out of the park with an utterly immersive and blood soaked Norse world.

This story (as his is style) being seen from multiple POV’s as we follow our main cast members Orka, a warrior woman who literally soaks the pages of this book in blood and gore in the search for her son. Varg, who has been enslaved all his life and now he is finally free seeks the answers to the death of his sister, joining “The Bloodsworn” a band of brothers who would die for each other shows him what family is, while he wars with himself to fulfil his oath to the only family he had before, the bloodsworn are the glue in the book for me, full of unique characters and great dialogue and humor. Then there is Elvar, she is a member of the “Battle-Grim” and while their and her introduction is slower than the other POVS you can feel the weave of fate bringing the threads together, you know that while its a slower steadier POV that it and her importance will soon come to the fore and explode across the plot. John Gwynne is the master of pulling threads together, making you invested in each character and killing any of them at a whim, you know that nothing and no one is safe, but that he will pull the whole thing together in breathtaking fashion.

While Johns world of the faithful and the fallen is stunning, this new world surpasses it, I can only feel that its his love of all things Norse, his intimate knowledge with the battle gear and his skill as a skald is what has allowed him to create something so utterly immersive. I know that there are readers out there that can be put off by the phrase “blood-soaked”… but honestly every single act and action is in keeping with the plot, this isn’t gratuitous violence, its the world they inhabit and what’s needed to stay alive and keep honour and oaths intact.

I seem to have spent the whole of 2021 reading better and better books. I think I have now reached the pinnacle of skill and story telling with this book and Miles Camerons Atrifact Space.

It doesn’t get a higher recommend than this, this is the start of something truly special, a book with a remorseless pace, cliff hangers aplenty, stunning world building and characters. You will find your own favorites in the book, for me its Varg and the Bloodsworn. And i cannot wait to wade through the blood and mayhem of book 2.

Im now off for a well earned book hangover….

(Parm)

 

 

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Miles Cameron: Artifact Space

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Out in the darkness of space, something is targeting the Greatships.

With their vast cargo holds and a crew that could fill a city, the Greatships are the lifeblood of human occupied space, transporting an unimaginable volume – and value – of goods from City, the greatest human orbital, all the way to Tradepoint at the other, to trade for xenoglas with an unknowable alien species.

It has always been Marca Nbaro’s dream to achieve the near-impossible: escape her upbringing and venture into space.

All it took, to make her way onto the crew of the Greatship Athens was thousands of hours in simulators, dedication, and pawning or selling every scrap of her old life in order to forge a new one. But though she’s made her way onboard with faked papers, leaving her old life – and scandals – behind isn’t so easy.

She may have just combined all the dangers of her former life, with all the perils of the new . . .

(review)

Anyone who reads my reviews will im sure have heard me mention more than once…. i do NOT read SCI-FI !!

But this is Miles / Christian Cameron…. so i had to give it a chance. Going into the book i was fully prepared for a bit of a slog to get me through this mighty 576 page book, But in true Cameron style he proved me wrong. I went from thinking i had a couple of weeks to wade through and smile and say it was ok to 3 days of being embedded in the story, tv off, no going out, taking my time and enjoying every single word and page of this amazing book.

The story introduces Marca Nbaro sneaking onto the Great ship Athens, having escaped from the man she tried to expose as an evil influence at the orphanage, to leave behind her past mistakes and to start her dream to serve on a greatship. A natural outcast due to the way she grew up, he lack of trust etc is very real as is the slowly making friends, slipping into a new family on board ship, allowing her natural skills to flourish both as a pilot but also as a survivor and a thinker, its these skills and her past that puts her on the radar of the Ships AI and the Master of ship…. because ahead of them is a 4 year journey and new perils for the whole ship and the society she comes from.

The story has a fantastic flow to it, Christians / Miles natural story telling style coming across right from the start, he has a wonderful way of blending the info drops into the plot so that you don’t feel them, they are a natural education to the reader of the people , the places and the action. Into this you can feel the influence of his time as a Navy Intelligence officer, one who flew backseat to the pilot. He blends the real world experience and skills of a newbie on a ship, learning the craft and the flow of life on board, i think its that experience that makes the story feel like its being naturally told rather than forced, lifting that experience of life into fiction, the future imagined, the mind-bending locations and the technology show the true skills of imagination added to that experience. Blended into a story where the technology and the time always feels real, well researched and thought out and not there to dazzle you, it just is, a matter of fact in how it works and functions, and yet even with that far future technology his characters explore ideas for technology even beyond that, i found myself going back over parts to try and see holes in ideas but its just perfectly imagined.

I’m sure i could wax lyrical about this book all year, but i really do not want to spoil a single moment for anyone else with a stray spoiler. suffice to say, for someone who doesn’t like Sci-fi, this book has made me feel i need to try more, and most definitely the follow up to this book. A book that for me that is head and shoulders above all other books ive read in the last few years… i loved it that much.

my highest every recommendation

(Parm)

 

 

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Ben Kane: Crusader

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1189. Richard the Lionheart’s long-awaited goal comes true as he is crowned King of England. Setting his own kingdom in order, he prepares to embark on a gruelling crusade to reclaim Jerusalem.

With him on every step of the journey is Ferdia, his loyal Irish follower. Together they travel from southern France to Italy, to the kingdom of Sicily and beyond.

Finally poised to sail to the Holy Land, Richard finds a bitter two-year-long siege awaiting him. And with it, the iconic Saracen leader responsible for the loss of Jerusalem, Saladin.

No one can agree who should fill the empty throne of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Saladin’s huge army shadows Richard’s every move. Conditions are brutal, the temperatures boiling, and on the dusty field of Arsuf, the Lionheart and his soldiers face their ultimate test…

Review

Book one of this series was one of my favorite books last year, so it was a given that Crusader would be high up on my TBR list, one i would start the min it landed. As always with me i have the feeling before it arrives that the second book in a series that has started with such a bang may disappoint, but i think i’m starting to lose that old concern, because Ben like lots of the other regular authors i read are now smashing it out of the park with every book, never resting on the praise already received they strive for bigger and better things.  Crusader is another absolute triumph, in many ways better than Lionheart, where Lionheart was introducing us to characters , those characters in Crusader are now much loved and well known, every action and danger is keenly felt with the authors brilliant writing style.

Crusader now takes our main character (Rufus) and the royal court on crusade, but mixed in before they leave is the politics and back stabbing of nobility, Richard must leave things well cared for and he must block as many potential moves by his devious brother and the French King. The Journey to Acre is also fraught with danger, battles and love as the royal court makes it way to the holy Land… that Journey and the eventual battles against Saladin may have the reader shaking their head and saying…. No Way…. that’s too far fetched…. Its not !! Ben Kane is meticulous in his research and the more far fetched sounding the battle or the outcome, the more real it actually is…. Wait until the battle outside Joppa… its just astounding, and no wonder he was called Richard the Lionheart, the man was an amazing leader… and often bonkers in his bravery!

All of this is written in a brilliant character driven style that anyone who has read Ben Kane will know well… and if you are new to his work… you will love.

Ben has taken the crown of Best book in 2021 (so far)…. and it will take something amazing to knock him off that top spot…. especially as Rufus is now one of my all time fav Historical Fiction Characters.

Very Very highly recommended

(Parm)

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Mike Brooks: Black Coast

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Mike Brooks was born in Ipswich, England, and moved to Nottingham, England to study at Nottingham Trent University and never left. He started to write stories and novels in childhood, has worked for a homelessness charity since 2004 and when not working or writing he goes walking in the Peak District, sings and plays guitar in a punk band, and DJs wherever anyone will tolerate him. He is married, and has two cats and a snake.

The Black Coast

 (2021)
(The first book in the God-King Chronicles series)

book cover of The Black Coast

 

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WAR DRAGONS.
FEARSOME RAIDERS.
A DAEMONIC WARLORD ON THE RISE.

When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .

Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the crossfire – if only its new mismatched society can survive.

(Review)

Dragons , Raiders, Warlords… reading this book was always a given. He’s also a new author for me and so an unknown, but Petrik Leo has a bad habit of shoving new books under my nose and adding to my already massive TBR. (cheers Leo).

As a read i started with that new author trepidation and also some reticence about the very original approach to non gender specific pronouns and their use depending on culture, it took a little getting used to. That  approach mixed with a raider culture that was very Norse and a mainland culture that’s very Japanese, with the Sars taking the role of Samurai, it was a veritable hodgepodge of a cast and culture.

But it was a cast and culture set that became more and more interesting, with lots of other questions raised, raised well and covered brilliantly esp sexuality. I’ve found in fantasy there are quick reads, the action adventure fun with a fairly prescriptive cast just set in a different landscape, and there are books that while they entertain they make you think, and i’m a fan of both in their right time (thats my reading mood). This book is certainly in the latter, make you think category, one that immerses you in a new brilliantly imagined culture and land, where the throwing away of societal norms is easier, allowing an author to shine a light on prejudices without offending people who might normally instantly put up walls about a subject, and through that process the author educates the reader as well as entertains.   I may be wrong, but that’s my view of the book and the coming series, and its all wrapped up in an amazing story, one i hugely enjoyed and really want to dive into again.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

 

 

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Alex Rutherford Fortune’s Soldier (Review)

Alex Rutherford is the pen name of Diana Preston and her husband Michael. Both studied at Oxford University reading History and English respectively. They are keen travellers and have now clocked up visits to over 140 of the world’s countries.

book cover of Fortune\'s Soldier

A new type of empire is rising

It is 1744, and Nicholas Ballantyne, a young Scotsman dreaming of a life as laird of his ancestral estate finds himself quite unexpectedly on the Winchester, a ship bound for Hindustan, seeking to begin a new life as a ‘writer’ on the rolls of the British East India Company. On board, he meets the spirited and mercurial Robert Clive, determined – at whatever cost – to make a fortune in a land of opportunity.

Over the years, their friendship sees many twists and turns as Clive’s restless hunger for wealth and power takes him from being a clerk to a commander in the Company forces, masterminding plans to snuff out rival French interests in Hindustan, and eventually leading his men to victory at Plassey – the prelude to nearly two centuries of foreign rule in Hindustan.

Review:

The last 2 months have seen me read 4 books from Canelo Books, and each time they have been some of the best reading of 2020. So when I was sent Fortune’s Soldier it went to the top of the reading pile.

Soldiers Fortune in some respects allows me to correct a failing going back 11 years, if I miss a publication date i tend to not have time to go back and read a book, so it gets consigned to my “One day hopefully, TBR pile”… this was the case with the whole Empire of the Moghul series, so This new book finally allows me to experience a book from Alex Rutherford, and i was not let down.

The book is linked by family to the Empire of the Moghul series, but stands on its own. We start in the now with the discovery of papers showing fragments of the life and history of Nicholas Ballantyne, his adventures in Hindustan with Robert Clive and their rise through the ranks of the East India Company. While Nicholas is fictional and used to show the times and action of the (Infamous??) Robert Clive, he is also used to show what may have been if a less corrupt regime/company had flourished, the culture seen from without, but by a person very much in tune and integrating with it, wanting to embrace it and be part of it, not riven by the greed of the average company man aloof from what they deemed a barbarian culture.

The story takes the reader through many battles, many courts and shows the perilous nature of the land and the time and how easily India could have become part of a French empire, also the fragility of life from disease and political maneuvers . I absolutely loved the book, the main characters are fantastically and sympathetically  portrayed especially my favorite character Tuchin Singh, Nicholas’s guide and friend through his time in Hiundustan. While this pair pull off some heroic feats the writer never strains the bounds of realism, setting the peril and the sounds smell and atmosphere beautifully and providing an action packed beautifully written adventure.

Highly recommended (i’m off to fit the previous series into my reading pile)

(Parm)

Where to Buy

Previous Books

Empire of the Moghul
   1. Raiders from the North (2009)
   2. Brothers at War (2010)
aka A Kingdom Divided
   3. Ruler of the World (2011)
   4. The Tainted Throne (2012)
   5. The Serpent’s Tooth (2013)
   6. Traitors in the Shadows (2015)

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