David Wragg: Black Hawks (Review)

David Wragg's picture

Dave Wragg really got into writing stories just as he finished English GCSE, then took about twenty years to get back to it. In the meantime, he studied software engineering, worked in global shipping and technical consultancy, and once spent a year in the Foreign Office ‘hiding in the basement’.

He currently does Software Odd Jobs around central London. In his vanishingly rare free time (when not working, writing, or enjoying the fruits of parenthood), he tries to consume as much digital entertainment as possible, as well as reading genre fiction and enjoying the odd board game. Some of them are very odd indeed.

Dave lives in Hertfordshire with his wife, two small daughters and two smaller cats.

book cover of The Black Hawks

Life as a knight is not what Vedren Chel imagined. Bound by oath to a dead-end job in the service of a lazy step-uncle, Chel no longer dreams of glory – he dreams of going home.

When invaders throw the kingdom into turmoil, Chel finds opportunity in the chaos: if he escorts a stranded prince to safety, Chel will be released from his oath.

All he has to do is drag the brat from one side of the country to the other, through war and wilderness, chased all the way by ruthless assassins.

With killers on your trail, you need killers watching your back. You need the Black Hawk Company – mercenaries, fighters without equal, a squabbling, scrapping pack of rogues.

Prepare to join the Black Hawks.

(Review)

I was sold on this book as soon as i saw the cover, because you certainly do tell a book by the cover, why else do you pick it up in the first place!!? The art work on this one is just brilliant.

When i started to read it i had a wobble, it felt a little slow, but i think may have been more my issue getting my head around the society and the hierarchy, because the story starts with a punch and keeps on going until you’re either a fan or a bloody pulp.

The main character has a hint of Mark Lawrence and the reluctant Jal, but when doing the right thing is needed Chel goes forward not in the opposite direction, there is certainly a hint of Nicholas Eames bloody rose, with Chel like Tam learning new skills from the highly trained mercenaries, with dark humour, fast violence and a cynical view of their world. These guys fight dirty, fight hard and fast and run away when they need to, this is a business not a quest.

I loved the characters, no matter how dark and devious they got there was always something new about them, the story brought something new to the table which i think gets harder every year. When you add in cannibals, assassins, back stabbings, lies and misdirection… you end up with an awesome mix.

Highly recommend this book, its great fun and really fast….

(Parm)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under David Wragg, Fantasy

Paul Fraser Collard: The Lost Outlaw (2019) (The eighth book in the Jack Lark series) Review.

book cover of The Lost Outlaw

In the midst of civil war, America stands divided. Jack Lark has faced both armies first hand, but will no longer fight for a cause that isn’t his.

1863, Louisiana. Jack may have left the battlefield behind, but his gun is never far from reach, especially on the long and lonely road to nowhere. Soon, his skill lands him a job, and a new purpose.

Navy Colt in hand, Jack embarks on the dangerous task of escorting a valuable wagon train of cotton down through Texas to Mexico. Working for another man, let alone a man like the volatile Brannigan, isn’t going to be easy. With the cargo under constant attack, and the Deep South’s most infamous outlaws hot on their trail, Jack knows he is living on borrowed time.

And, as they cross the border, Jack soon discovers that the usual rules of war don’t apply. He will have to fight to survive, and this time the battle might prove one he could lose.

Review

Im an admitted big fan of this series, Jack Lark the “New Sharpe”, is a review line i have used before, only Jack has long outgrown Sharpe. He is deeper, darker and more introspective, the stories stepping into more modern and bloody warfare, with death and destruction on a whole new scale. Plot wise this isn’t’ the darkest of the Jack lark tales, but from a personal level for Jack it feel darker, a man at war with himself, lost and alone, isolating himself, essentially a man depressed, lost , with a death wish, a man with nothing to live for and no where to go.

This Jack, beaten down and lost, wandering aimlessly across the USA soon finds himself in fates path again, desperation and loneliness pushing him into a job he has little choice but to take, he finds himself in the company of hard remorseless men, men with their own agendas, and little morality. Swept along by a new found desire/ need for company and for meaning Jack is employed as a wagon guard taking goods to Mexico. It’s a hard life but feels an honest one, except for the plans of his new boss Brannigan, and Jacks desire for the lady who pulled him into that world.

As with all of Paul Collards stories, he writes you right into the forefront of the story, its happening to you, you become Jack Lark, you feel and experience all the emotions and the blood sweat and tears that Jack does. This is the key i think to why people are drawn to the Jack Lark books.

With such a rich setting it was great to see the author take us on a little tour of the Alamo, and i felt also in the tale he gave us our own Alamo and also a touch of Butch and Sundance. The skirmishes are desperate, they are dirty, they are bloody and they have no rules, this story will take Jack deeper into the mire of human depravity for violence, but could it also show him who he is and what his mission is? for a man as lost as he is “Sometimes the only way through hell is to keep going” (Winston Churchill), can Jack survive the journey?

As i have with every book in this series, i highly recommend this one, i devoured it in a single sitting.

(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)
Recruit (2015)
Redcoat (2015)
The Jack Lark Library (omnibus) (2017)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumbthumbthumb

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Fiction, Paul Fraser Collard

Simon Turney: Commodus (The second book in the Damned Emperors series)

Commodus  (2019)
(The second book in the Damned Emperors series)

Rome is enjoying a period of stability and prosperity. The Empire’s borders are growing, and there are two sons in the imperial succession for the first time in Rome’s history. But all is not as it appears. Cracks are beginning to show. Two decades of war have taken their toll, and there are whispers of a sickness in the East. The Empire stands on the brink of true disaster, an age of gold giving way to one of iron and rust, a time of reason and strength sliding into hunger and pain.

The decline may yet be halted, though. One man tries to hold the fracturing empire together. To Rome, he is their emperor, their Hercules, their Commodus.

But Commodus is breaking up himself, and when the darkness grips, only one woman can hold him together. To Rome she was nothing. The plaything of the emperor. To Commodus, she was everything. She was Marcia.

book cover of Commodus

Review

I think this is book 40 for Simon, not a bad tally for 10 years work…. and to date not a single bad book. This latest book “Commodus” shows just how far he has developed in his craft as an author.

Set once again against the turbulent backdrop of Imperial Rome Simon Turney opts to tell the story from a unique perspective, a young free woman with unfettered access to the imperial family and the emperor to be, giving the reader a very individual and personal insight into how the young life and psyche of an emperor was formed and the damage that emotional and physical trauma can do to a person.

What Simon Turney has produced is a very personal story woven from so many perspectives, the love of family, the tragedy of life in ancient Rome, the perspectives of Slave through to emperor, the emotion and loss that can hit any family no matter their station or their wealth, yet always slanted through the perspective of a young girl and then young woman.  As with Caligula where once we may have perceived this emperor as “mad” or “despotic” or what ever your own view from the history books, these accounts bring a human element to them and would take a very hard hearted person to not sympathize with Caligula or Commodus, and that is a real testament to the writing ability of the author, to weave us into the story emotionally as well as physically. I’ve always known Simon had the ability to be one of the best in the genre, these latest two books prove that and more.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

 

Series
Damned Emperors
1. Caligula (2018)
2. Commodus (2019)
thumbthumb
Series (as SJA Turney)
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)
11. Tides of War (2018)
Prelude to War (2014)
Marius’ Mules Books 1-3 (omnibus) (2017)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumb
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)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumbthumbthumb
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)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
Praetorian
1. The Great Game (2015)
2. The Price of Treason (2015)
3. Eagles of Dacia (2017)
4. Lions of Rome (2019)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
Roman Adventure
1. Crocodile Legion (2016)
2. Pirate Legion (2017)
thumbthumb
Knights Templar
1. Daughter of War (2018)
2. The Last Emir (2018)
3. City of God (2019)
thumbthumbthumb
Novels
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)
thumbthumb
Omnibus
Forged in Fire (2017) (with Prue Batten and Gordon Doherty)
thumb
Collections
Tales of Ancient Rome (2011)
Deva Tales (2017)
thumbthumb
Novellas
Bear and the Wolf (2017) (with Ruth Downie)
thumb

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Fiction, S J A Turney

Matthew Harffy: Storm of Steel (review)

Storm of Steel  (2019)
(The sixth book in the Bernicia Chronicles series)

 

book cover of Storm of Steel

AD 643. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the sixth instalment in the Bernicia Chronicles. Heading south to lands he once considered his home, Beobrand is plunged into a dark world of piracy and slavery when an old friend enlists his help to recover a kidnapped girl. Embarking onto the wind-tossed seas, Beobrand pursues his quarry with single-minded tenacity. But the Whale Road is never calm and his journey is beset with storms, betrayal and violence. As the winds of his wyrd blow him ever further from what he knows, will Beobrand find victory on his quest or has his luck finally abandoned him?

Review

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this author grow as a writer, i remember reading The Serpent Sword very early on and while the writing had some rough edges, i could see the huge potential behind the writing and also the Characters. Very early on i made the comparison to Cornwells Uhtred series, only Harffys Beobrand was much grittier, more real, he had all the sharp edges and lack of finesse that Uhtred should have had for a warrior of his period. That comparison has stuck with me throughout the series so far and this latest book does nothing to change that.

Storm of Steel takes Beobrand to the sea and on a new and potentially impossible mission, but Beobrand lives by the luck of the gods and helps to create the chaos that they love. The story was once again hugely engaging and exciting, the story given an edge of the seat feeling as the men battle nature, the gods and their enemies, over coming betrayal and intrigue and when it matters overcoming the enemy shieldwall.. Matts books never lack for blood and barely suppressed danger and violence, a violence that without warning explodes into direct action, much to the detriment of Beobrands enemies.

I only had one quibble with the book…. you may also find it in the surf, the same as Beobrand did, but it didn’t stop this being another cracking book in a truly excellent series.

(Parm)

 

Series
Bernicia Chronicles
1. The Serpent Sword (2015)
2. The Cross and the Curse (2016)
3. Blood and Blade (2016)
4. Killer of Kings (2017)
5. Warrior of Woden (2018)
6. Storm of Steel (2019)
Kin of Cain (2017)
The Bernicia Chronicles Boxset 1-3 (omnibus) (2018)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumbthumbthumb

 

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Fiction, Matthew Harffy

Chris Humphreys: Smoke in the Glass (review)

Smoke in the Glass: Immortals’ Blood Book One (Immortal’s Blood)

Smoke in the Glass: Immortals' Blood Book One (Immortal's Blood) by [Humphreys, Chris]

A thrilling new dark fantasy series about immortality, war and survival, from the bestselling historical author Chris (CC) Humphreys

Three lands, peopled by humans and immortals. In Corinthium a decadent endlessly-lived elite run the world for profit and power. But when a poor, honest solider dies, and is reborn, everything changes. In wintry Midgarth, where immortals are revered as deities, one of them has realized that something – or someone – is killing the gods. And in Ometepe there is only one immortal, for he has murdered every other. Until one woman gives birth to a very special baby.Yet there is a fourth, hidden land, where savage tribes have united under the prophecy of ‘the One’: a child who is neither boy nor girl. Now they plan to conquer the world. Unless a broken soldier, a desperate mother and a crippled god can stop them…

Review

Chris Humphreys is an excellent writer (under the name CC Humphreys), every book i have read has been a pleasure and added to the amazing group of authors from Canada. So when i heard about Smoke in the Glass and that it was his first Fantasy title i was somewhat excited…. But somehow with that excitement waning i found myself about 15 pages in thinking…”who is this? it doesn’t feel like the writing i’ve experienced before.

There is a very good reason for that….. this is a whole new world, with some very complex lands and civilizations and on rereading i could see where the author had been trying to impart as much detail as he could without it being just an info dump, it was an unexpected style .. very quickly after that realization the story started to develop and i could see how the author was building its peoples and lands and magic, all with more than one underlying plot, who are the beings who bestowed immortality? why is it so random who becomes immortal? why does someone want to tear down the natural order? can the Elite be tumbled? and so much more.

like me many will assign similar (real) nations/ myths to the lands described. My Fav character so far is Luck, who has some of the Imp Tyrion about him, and who doesn’t love the imp.

After my initial jitters with the new style from this author i found myself quickly lost in the story’s rich tapestry, the characters as with all of this authors books are amazing, he has the ability to make them very real and very personable and before you know it you have become attached to them on a emotional level. wrapped around all of that comes a very new and original landscape, and a story-line that will certainly stand out from the rest, I’ve no idea what length the series arc will have but it has the potential to be an epic and long series if the author wanted it. Normally i would say a book from this author is very character led, and it is… but then its also plot driven and magic driven… it just has so many original ideas that what he has ended up with is a very exciting and interesting plot, great people and great lands… and what will be a hugely exciting series.

The hardest thing for this book will be fantasy readers taking the leap, trying a new author in their genre… and they really should, i’ve known a couple of other authors make this leap and their amazing books sink unknown… lets try and make sure this one doesn’t, id like to see how it pans out… and also if you have not picked up Gates of Stone add that to your list also… as readers we always want something new and exciting… these books both are, so pass the word.

(Parm)

Series

French Executioner
1. The French Executioner (2002)
2. Blood Ties (2003)
thumbthumb
Jack Absolute
1. Jack Absolute (2003)
2. The Blooding of Jack Absolute (2004)
3. Absolute Honour (2006)
thumbthumbthumb
Runestone Saga (as by Chris Humphreys)
1. The Fetch (2006)
2. Vendetta (2007)
3. Possession (2008)
thumbthumbthumb
Captain Coke
1. Plague (2014)
2. Fire (2016)
Plague / Fire (omnibus) (2018)
thumbthumbthumb
Roxy Loewen Mystery
1. Chasing the Wind (2018)
thumb
Novels
Vlad (2008)
The Hunt of the Unicorn (2011)
A Place Called Armageddon (2011)
Shakespeare’s Rebel (2013)
The Curse of Anne Boleyn (2015)
The Hunt of the Dragon (2016)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumb

Leave a comment

Filed under C C Humphreys, Fantasy

Christian Cameron: The New Achilles (review)

The New Achilles (2019)
(The first book in the Commander series)

book cover of The New Achilles

Alexanor is a man who has seen too much blood. He has left the sword behind him to become a healer in the greatest sanctuary in Greece, turning his back on war.

But war has followed him to his refuge at Epidauros, and now a battle to end the freedom of Greece is all around him. The Mediterranean superpowers of Rome, Egypt and Macedon are waging their proxy wars on Hellenic soil, turning Greek farmers into slaves and mercenaries.

When wounded soldier Philopoemen is carried into his temple, Alexanor believes the man’s wounds are mortal but that he is not destined to die. Because he knows Philopoemen will become Greece’s champion. Its last hero. The new Achilles.

Review

I love it when a new Christian Cameron is released, in my opinion he is the finest writer in Historical fiction and Fantasy Fiction.

The New Achilles is no different it is exceptional, while reading i had to stop so often the really appreciate and think through some of the points raised, the ethos and philosophy used for the differing sides is both enlightening and entertaining, the politics and the geography described with subtle information drops and breathtaking detail, rarely have i been challenged and entertained in equal measure, add to that Alexanors and Philopoemens love lives, which will just break your heart. This slower reading approach was my choice and was a challenge because in his usual style Christian and his characters will pull you into the ancient Greek world and hold you there, to feel the sweat blood and tears of the time as well as the everyday activities, its full life immersion, if you’re not careful you get swept along and the book will end before you know it, as it was it still ended far too soon for me, i wanted book 2 immediately.

I also love how this series will dovetail with Ben Kanes excellent new series Clash of Empires (book one Clash of Empires and The Falling Sword)

A high contender for my book of the year

(Parm)

Series
Alan Craik (as by Gordon Kent)
1. Night Trap (1998)

aka Rules of Engagement
2. Peace Maker (2000)
3. Top Hook (2002)
4. Hostile Contact (2003)
5. Force Protection (2004)
6. Damage Control (2005)

7. The Spoils of War (2006)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumbthumb
Tyrant
1. Tyrant (2008)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumb
Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2014)
5. Salamis (2015)
6. Rage of Ares (2016)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumb
Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumb
Chivalry
1. The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
2. The Long Sword (2014)
3. The Green Count (2017)
4. Sword of Justice (2018)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade
1. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part One (2014)
2. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Two (2014)
3. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Three (2014)
4. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Four (2015)
5. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Five (2015)
6. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Six (2015)
7. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Seven (2015)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumbthumb
Tom Swan and the Last Spartans
1. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part One (2016)
2. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Two (2016)
3. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Three (2017)
4. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Four (2017)
5. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Five (2017)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumb
Commander
1. The New Achilles (2019)
2. The Last Greek (2020)
thumb
Novels
Cauldron of Violence (2000) (as by Gordon Kent)
Washington and Caesar (2001)
The Falconer’s Tale (2007) (as by Gordon Kent)
God of War (2012)
A Song of War (2016) (with Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, S J A Turneyand Russell Whitfield)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumb
Series
Traitor Son Cycle
1. The Red Knight (2012)
2. The Fell Sword (2012)
3. The Dread Wyrm (2012)
4. A Plague of Swords (2016)
5. The Fall of Dragons (2017)
Traitor son cycle series: Books 1-4 (omnibus) (2018)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumb
Masters & Mages
1. Cold Iron (2018)
2. Dark Forge (2019)
3. Light Bringer (2019)
3. Bright Steel (2019)
thumbthumbthumbthumb

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Cameron, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized

Harry Sidebottom: The Lost Ten

 

 

book cover of The Lost Ten

When Valens, a junior officer in the Roman Army, joins a crack squad of soldiers on a dangerous mission, little does he know what’s in store for him. Tasked with rescuing the young Prince Sasan, who has been imprisoned in the impenetrable Castle of Silence, the troops set out across Mesopotamia and into the mountains south of the Caspian Sea.

Deep in hostile territory, inexperienced Valens finds himself in charge. And as one by one his soldiers die or disappear, he begins to suspect that there is a traitor in their midst, and that the rescue is fast becoming a suicide mission.

Valens must marshal this disparate group of men and earn their respect, before it’s too late . . .

Review

Harry Sidebottom seems to have hit on a rich vein of fast paced action adventure Historical fiction ideas, his last book the Last Hour was a very 24 esque romp around Rome, a book that was almost impossible to out down as it bounded from one cliff hanger to the next.

The Lost 10 takes a much more “Eagle has landed” approach, with a small select group of Frumentarii sent on an impossible mission, with a traitor in the team, can they succeed, can they survive? and who is the thorn in their side?

Harry Sidebottom as always, gives us a very character driven story, introducing us to the more shadowy arm of the roman military machine, the spies, the murderers, the men capable of blending in and surviving again the odds. His plot has you hooked on the action and the adventure, while at the same time trying to work out who the traitor could be from the crumbs that he drops. Set in the east as we head into Persia, we see a different side of ancient life, a different set of rules and morality and religion and as always Harry Sidebottom educates as he entertains.

His last book was one of my fav books in 2018, The Lost Ten im sure will rank up there for 2019.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Series
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)(2016)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumbthumbthumb
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)
thumbthumbthumbthumb
thumbthumb
Novels
The Lost Ten (2019)
thumb
Non fiction
Ancient Warfare (2004)
The Encyclopedia of Ancient Battles (2017) (with Michael Whitby)
thumbthumb

Leave a comment

Filed under Harry Sidebottom, Historical Fiction