Tag Archives: archery

Steven A McKay: The Wolf and the Raven (Review)

Author

P1100851x

Biography

My second book, The Wolf and the Raven will be released on April 7th, get your pre-order in now and come meet me at the London Book Fair between April 8-10!I was born in 1977, near Glasgow in Scotland. I live in Old Kilpatrick with my wife and two young children. After obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree I decided to follow my life-long ambition and write a novel.Historical fiction is my favourite genre, but I also enjoy old science-fiction and some fantasy.

Bernard Cornwell’s King Arthur series was my biggest influence in writing “Wolf’s Head”, but I’ve also really enjoyed recent books by guys like Ben Kane, Glyn Iliffe, Douglas Jackson and Simon Scarrow.

I play lead/acoustic guitars (and occasional bass) in a heavy metal band when we can find the time to meet up.

Wolf-and-Raven-Banner_Facebookbanner

Book Description

In the aftermath of a violent rebellion Robin Hood and his men must fight for survival with an enemy deadlier than any they’ve faced before…

1322. England is in disarray and Sir Guy of Gisbourne, the king’s own bounty hunter, stalks the greenwood, bringing bloody justice to the outlaws and rebels who hide there.
When things begin to go horribly wrong self-pity, grief and despair threaten to overwhelm the young wolf’s head who will need the support of his friends and family now more than ever. But Robin’s friends have troubles of their own and, this time, not all of them will escape with their lives…

Violence, betrayal, brutality and death come to vivid life in The Wolf and the Raven, the brilliant sequel to Amazon’s “War” chart number 1, Wolf’s Head.

w and r cover

Buy the eBook

Review

I’m always intrigued by a series starring Robin Hood, there haven’t been too many worth while series in recent years, but then along came Angus Donald with his brilliant series with the style godfather meets robin hood, i was hooked again. Out of the blue another new name appeared, admittedly self published but for me that’s never an impediment, in fact with some of the latest awesome writers, SJA Turney, Gorden Doherty and now Steven A McKay can really write, easily as well as those historical fiction authors being represented and published by the big mainstream publishing houses.

Steven was kind enough to ask me to beta read this book, which for a frustrated writer like myself is a wonderful insight into the writing process. It also meant much less of a wait between books. Book one saw the building of a new world, a different Robin Hood, a Robin Hood those in Nottinghamshire (where i live) would point and shout thief! As he moves Robin Hood away from the boundaries of his fabled home, north into Yorkshire. He manages to pull this off with some considerable style and makes it believable, which is key to this type of book.

Book two The Wolf and the Raven takes Robin Hoods band of men to the next stage, they are still on the wrong side of the law, but now worse they are on the wrong side of a rebellion, and there is a new name hunting Robin and his men. Guy of Gisbourne, and Guy is not the blonde clumsy wally from the TV series of the 80’s this Guy is a black clad killing machine with a devious scheming mind.

I’m not going to say that this is the complete novel, but it is a great fun read, Its well researched, well thought out and has a really fun interesting plot that carry’s you from first page to last with a fairly rapid pace its well worth paltry £2.26 that is the cover price.

So if you’re looking for something to whisk you back to medieval times for a journey around the woodlands dodging soldiers, living off the land, robbing the rich to live and giving back what you can, some classic Robin Hood mixed with some realistic wolf’s head exploits, then this is a series you need to read.

I feel there is a lot more to come from this series and this writer.

recommended

(Parm)

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Historical Fiction, Steven A McKay

Toby Clements: Kingmaker

Kingmaker: Toby Clements

Hardcover: 560 pages

Publisher: Century (10 April 2014)

Language: Unknown

Product Dimensions: 24 x 15.6 x 5.1 cm

KIngmaker

February, 1460: in the bitter dawn of a winter’s morning a young nun is caught outside her priory walls by a corrupt knight and his vicious retinue.

In the fight that follows, she is rescued by a young monk and the knight is defeated. But the consequences are far-reaching, and Thomas and Katherine are expelled from their religious Orders and forced to flee across a land caught in the throes of one of the most savage and bloody civil wars in history: the Wars of the Roses.

Their flight will take them across the NarrowSea to Calais where Thomas picks up his warbow, and trains alongside the Yorkist forces. Katherine, now dressed as a man, hones her talents for observation and healing both on and off the fields of battle. And all around them, friends and enemies fight and die as the future Yorkist monarch, Edward, Earl of March, and his adviser the Earl of Warwick, later to become known as the Kingmaker, prepare to do bloody battle.

Encompassing the battles of Northampton, Mortimer’s Cross and finally the great slaughter of Towton, this is war as experienced not by the highborn nobles of the land but by ordinary men and women who do their best just to stay alive. Filled with strong, sympathetic characters, this is a must-read series for all who like their fiction action-packed, heroic and utterly believable.

Review:

I have Ben Kane to thank for this fantastic read, When an author of his calibre posts about a book “‘Magnificent. An historical tour de force, revealing Clements to be a novelist every bit as good as Cornwell, Gregory or Iggulden. Kingmaker is the best book I’ve read this year ? by some margin.’ Ben Kane” You have to sit up and take notice.

What I didn’t expect was the scope and style of the book. Having just read excellent Stormbird by Conn Iggulden, set in roughly the same period, i had some expectations set for how a War of the Roses book should play out. Toby Clements took those expectations and stood them on their head. Instead of a book driven by the power houses of history, a book lit and led by the great and the powerful, Toby starts in a humble monastery/ nunnery,  and from their takes the reader on one of the most down to earth profound journeys I have been privileged to read in this genre. Thomas is a man living the life of a monk, a man with skills and education, but a man who finds out he has depths he had not explored, skills he didn’t expect to have or use, and that life is more than just the walls of a Monastery, and a people are more than they seem, life isn’t black and white, its many shades of grey.

Katherine, living in a nunnery, but slightly apart, a young woman with a missing past, and an uncertain future, one that isn’t helped by the continual abuse from her superiors.

One day, one event, one action changes both their lives, and slingshots them on a journey of exploration, self examination and adventure. But none of it is glorified, it is set at the coal face of life, and battle and history. Surrounded by the blood and butchery of every class of man, buffeted by the changing politics of the times and changed by the havoc of war, killing and death surrounding them. At 560 pages its not a small read, but I could have read 2060 pages and not been bored, is series has so much to offer and so much promise of more. As its a 2014 title it will not feature in my books of 2013, otherwise it would be winner of the top spot. The established order will need to work very hard to beat this in 2014.

Very highly recommended

(Parm)

Toby, thank you for a wonderful read and for allowing me to review it. Thank you also for agreeing to answer these questions

1: So who is Toby Clements? I am a journalist, I suppose, since that is the job I’ve held the longest – on the books pages of the Daily Telegraph – but it is only one of many that I have given up on because I’ve never really grasped the point of being good – by which I mean the best I can be – at anything other than writing. So I’ve never wanted to become a manager, or get on the board of a company, or become a partner, or run my own business, even if I had the talent to do so, which I probably don’t, since the only thing my heart has ever really been in, is writing. For most areas of my life my motto is “it’ll do” but for some reason I have always tried to write as well as I possibly can.

2: With the whole of recorded history at your disposal, why the War of the Roses?

Three things: the first was this book

vintage-ladybird-book-warwick-the-kingmaker-adventures-from-history-series-561-matt-hardback-1969-4902-p

I read it when I was about ten until it fell apart.

The second was this door:

tewkesburysacristy (1)

It is the Sacristy door at Tewkesbury Abbey, reinforced by strips of armour taken from remnants left after the battle there fought in 1471. After the battle the Lancastrian claimants to the throne were killed in the nave of the abbey, despite having claimed sanctuary, and the place had to be reconsecrated afterwards. I do not think you are allowed to touch the door now, but I was taken there on a school trip when I was about 12 and have never forgotten a sort of electric jolt I imagined I got when I touched it.

The third thing was – were? –  two great teachers – Colin Stoupe (English) and Hugh Fairey (History) – who knew what made boys tick, and could fire up weird and wild enthusiasms. It was they who took me to Tewksbury. Perhaps this Great Teacher thing is a bit of cliché, but it remains true, and I owe them a real debt of gratitude.

3.What led you to use the slant of the common man rather than picking one of the great men of history to follow? I am not sure. Possibly I started out reading everything I could about the Great and the Good – witness the Ladybird Book above – and I may have reacted against those early enthusiasms?  And I have come to dislike romantic takes on the period, especially if they involve any misunderstood brooding hero called Dickon who is constantly patting his horse’s muscular neck, which is a Wars of the Roses trope. Or then again the more I looked into the 15th Century, into the facts behind the dates as it were, the more impressed I became with the way in which the common man and woman just got by, against steep odds, and just kept on going.  Or, possibly, it reflects my own taste in life? I like scruffy things and scruffy people without that sense of self entitlement you have to have if you are going to be a proper medieval earl. I genuinely don’t think I would have liked the earl of Warwick if I’d met him as a man, or even William Hastings, whom I paint in a good light in my novel.  

4: What inspired you to write your first book? I had an image of the battle of Towton and how bloody awful it must have been to fight all day in the snow. I wondered what could have brought so many Englishmen from so far afield to come try to kill each other in such horrible ways. And their fathers would have fought shoulder to shoulder in France, remember.

5: What books and authors have most influenced your life most? When the Lion Feeds by Wilbur Smith was the first “grown-up” book I read on my own and I remember thinking Woah! This is ace. Really salty. Few books have had such an impact since though I have at various times been an avid reader of Patrick O’Brian, Dorothy Dunnett, Elmore Leonard and Alan Furst. A mixed bag, as you see.

6: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? I like the element of compulsion here! Do you mean mentor as in who influenced me to write as I do? Or whom would I want help from in the future, like Louis on the X factor? If the first, then… Hmmm. I just don’t know. I am a magpie, like most writers I bet, and I know I have borrowed a bit from here and a bit from there, so I suppose it would have to be a very strange looking composite of Hilary Mantel and Bernard Cornwell, each rolling their eyes at the other. Bernard would be telling Hilary no one cares what he – Thomas – thinks and she would be telling him not to start another sentence with “and” or “because”. If you mean the latter, then I’d like my Louis to be Wilbur Smith, I think. Or Harold Robbins! Dead now of course, and a horrible man I’ve read, but he could tell a story, couldn’t he?  

7: What was the hardest part of writing your book? I find telling stories the most difficult thing. I am not a natural at it at all. Early drafts of this book were all “this happened and then that happened”, and though they all seemed plausible enough, I’d look at them and wonder why anyone would ever care if they had happened or not. Hence my call to Harold Robbins above. Though I am sure he would play very fast and loose with historical accuracy.

8: Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? I have many but at the moment I have to say it is Hilary Mantel. I love her sprawling yet meticulous characterisation, the way she gets around into different heads and makes their thoughts and actions totally compelling, totally plausible. Her use of research is fascinating, too. There is one paragraph in Wolf Hall when Thomas Cromwell wonders why Thomas Moore thinks he is evil, and he wonders if Moore thinks the Devil crept in to corrupt Cromwell with the hawthorn branches that were used to resuscitate the fire in the bread oven in the morning, or with the washing or something else I cannot now recall. In that short paragraph she gives you a brief, bright jewel like glimpse of what life must have been like for low status individuals nearly 500 years ago, but it is all about something else. What she does not do very well is huge battles though, involving men with long bows, and others smacking the crap out of one another with blunt instruments, so she still has some things to learn!

Many thanks and I hope the book is the utter success it deserves to be

(Parm)

4 Comments

Filed under Historical Fiction, Toby Clements

Steven A. McKay: Wolfs Head (Review)

About the Author

Steven

My name is Steven A. McKay and I’m a writer from Old Kilpatrick, near Glasgow in Scotland, heavily influenced by the likes of Bernard Cornwell, Doug Jackson, Anthony Riches, Robert Low et al.

My first book, Wolf’s Head, is set in medieval England and is a fast-paced, violent retelling of the Robin Hood legends. I think my take on the theme is quite different to anything that’s been done before. It is available worldwide NOW on Kindle, and paperback from Amazon.

The second book in the trilogy is coming along nicely and should – all being well – be available not too long after Wolf’s Head…

Product Description

wolfs head

“Well researched and enjoyably written, Wolf’s Head is a fast-paced and original re-casting of a familiar legend. McKay’s gift as a storyteller pulls the reader into a world of violence, passion, injustice and revenge and leaves us wanting more!”Glyn Iliffe, author, The Adventures of Odysseus series

When a frightened young outlaw joins a gang of violent criminals their names – against a backdrop of death, dishonour, brotherhood, and love – will become legend.

ENGLAND 1321 AD

After viciously assaulting a corrupt but powerful clergyman Robin Hood flees the only home he has ever known in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Becoming a member of a notorious band of outlaws, Hood and his new companions – including John Little and Will Scaflock – hide out in the great forests of Barnsdale, fighting for their very existence as the law hunts them down like animals.

When they are betrayed, and their harsh lives become even more unbearable, the band of friends seeks bloody vengeance.

Meanwhile, the country is in turmoil, as many of the powerful lords strive to undermine King Edward II’s rule until, inevitably, rebellion becomes a reality and the increasingly deadly yeoman outlaw from Wakefield finds his fate bound up with that of a Hospitaller Knight…

“Wolf’s Head” brings the brutality, injustice and intensity of life in medieval England vividly to life, and marks the beginning of a thrilling new historical fiction series in the style of Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow.

Review

Steven is a new member of the fraternity of self published Historical Fiction writers who can actually write. Its a surprising and welcome find when one of these authors pop up. Not only do they have to come up with an idea, write the idea well, but they also need to edit the book, proof it but they also need to do the PR for it. It often the PR they concentrate on and not the quality of the writing and the substance of the plot.

Steven has concentrated, he has picked a classic and added a twist, sticking to one of the original ballads, moving Robin to Yorkshire (which will get him shot where i live in Nottinghamshire) the King is Edward not Richard, there is no Prince John etc. Its a very well told tale, well thought out with characters he has clearly put a lot of time and thought into. They take on their own life as the book progresses, they grow in age and stature, they are not modern constructs in the past, they are true to their period.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t perfection, there are some issues, a few slips with equipment, equipment usage, character inconsistency, and the odd contrived plot change. But this is a début self published novel, and has not benefited from a professional editor, who would polish and pull this together.

All of that aside, this is a splendid novel and I am genuinely looking forward to book 2 in the series, and I recommend that you give this book a try.

(Parm)

2 Comments

Filed under Historical Fiction

Conn Iggulden: Stormbird Competition

Stormbird Review

Stormbird

Historical fiction master Conn Iggulden retells the gripping story of the English civil war in his new Wars of the Roses series.

King Henry V – the great Lion of England – is long dead.

In 1437, after years of regency, the pious and gentle Henry VI, the Lamb, comes of age and accedes to the English throne. His poor health and frailty of mind render him a weakling king – Henry depends on his closest men, Spymaster Derry Brewer and William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, to run his kingdom.

Yet there are those, such as the Plantagenet Richard, Duke of York, who believe England must be led by a strong king if she is to survive. With England’s territories in France under threat, and rumours of revolt at home, fears grow that Henry and his advisers will see the country slide into ruin. With a secret deal struck for Henry to marry a young French noblewoman, Margaret of Anjou, those fears become all too real.

As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who, or what, can save the kingdom before it is too late?

The Wars of the Roses series will be a benchmark for historical fiction, showcasing Conn Iggulden at his finest.

Question

In Stormbird one of the key characters is William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk 

What was his nickname?

All answers to be commented on this blog.

Competition will close on the release day of the book Oct 10th. (winner picked at random)

Prize:    1 Copy of Stormbird signed Limited stamped HB.  This is limited to 20 copies worldwide and have all sold out. (sold for £50 a copy, so a nice collectors book)

any questions leave a comment: and good luck

(Sorry UK only… Shipping costs are insane)

10 Comments

Filed under Historical Fiction

Conn Iggulden: War of the Roses: Stormbird (review)

Author

conn

Conn Iggulden taught English for seven years before becoming a full-time writer. He is married with four children and lives in Hertfordshire, England.

Book Description

Stormbird

Buy a signed copy

Buy an exclusive Limited edition

Historical fiction master Conn Iggulden retells the gripping story of the English civil war in his new Wars of the Roses series.

King Henry V – the great Lion of England – is long dead.

In 1437, after years of regency, the pious and gentle Henry VI, the Lamb, comes of age and accedes to the English throne. His poor health and frailty of mind render him a weakling king – Henry depends on his closest men, Spymaster Derry Brewer and William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, to run his kingdom.

Yet there are those, such as the Plantagenet Richard, Duke of York, who believe England must be led by a strong king if she is to survive. With England’s territories in France under threat, and rumours of revolt at home, fears grow that Henry and his advisers will see the country slide into ruin. With a secret deal struck for Henry to marry a young French noblewoman, Margaret of Anjou, those fears become all too real.

As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who, or what, can save the kingdom before it is too late?

The Wars of the Roses series will be a benchmark for historical fiction, showcasing Conn Iggulden at his finest.

Review

I have come to have some very high expectations for any book that Conn Iggulden produces, he is as I have described in the past a “natural story teller”. I’m lucky to have met the man many times, he is one of those people who commands a room with his presence. Not with arrogance or volume, just with his natural ability with a story, to make you feel like the only one in the room being spoken to. His books have that same effect, they talk to you and you alone, written for you and you alone.

Unlike the boisterous, violent affairs that are the emperor series or the Genghis series, Stormbird is a more of a story of families, of alliances made and broken, of subtle politics and deadly schemes of rebellion and action. There are some brilliant scenes of war that would be expected in any Iggulden novel, and some archer friends of mine I think will be very happy with his portrayal of the deadly English archer.

The War of the Roses is something that many of my generation touched upon at school, but like many it was butchered by poor syllabus and a teacher who didn’t love his subject. Give a classroom of kids a teacher like Conn (who was a teacher) and an education brought to life in the same way as this book brings the early stages of the War of the Roses to life, and you will have a country immersed in a passion for its own past. I had to deliberately slow my reading to savour every page, every paragraph, to experience the intrigue of the spymaster, the fear and exhilaration of a new young queen, the confusion of a sick king, the plotting of an ambitious Duke, the rebellion and fury of a public owed so much more by its king and nobility. This book is packed with so much passion, so much information and so many great characters that it inundates the mind and wraps you in another time.

very highly recommended, one of my favourite books this year.

(Parm)

More great Iggulden magic

Emperor
1. The Gates of Rome (2003)
2. The Death of Kings (2004)
3. The Field of Swords (2004)
4. The Gods of War (2006)
5. The Blood of Gods (2013)
Gates of Rome / Death of Kings (omnibus) (2009)
Emperor: The Gates of Rome / The Death of Kings / The Field of Swords / The Gods of War (omnibus) (2012)
The Emperor Series Books 1-5 (omnibus) (2013)
The Gates of RomeThe Death of KingsThe Field of SwordsThe Gods of WarThe Blood of GodsGates of Rome / Death of KingsEmperor: The Gates of Rome / The Death of Kings / The Field of Swords / The Gods of War
Conqueror 
1. Wolf of the Plains (2007)
aka Genghis: Birth of an Empire
2. Lords of the Bow (2008)
aka Genghis: Lords of the Bow
3. Bones of the Hills (2008)
4. Empire of Silver (2010)
aka Khan: Empire of Silver
5. Conqueror (2011)
Conqueror and Lords of the Bow (omnibus) (2009)
The Khan Series (omnibus) (2012)
Conqueror Series 5-Book Bundle (omnibus) (2013)
Wolf of the PlainsLords of the BowBones of the HillsEmpire of SilverConquerorThe Khan SeriesConqueror Series 5-Book Bundle
Tollins
1. Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children (2009)
2. Dynamite Tales (2011) (with Lizzy Duncan)
Tollins: Explosive Tales for ChildrenDynamite Tales
Quick Reads 2012
Quantum of Tweed: The Man with the Nissan Micra (2012)
Quantum of Tweed: The Man with the Nissan Micra
Wars of the Roses
1. Stormbird (2013)
Stormbird
Novellas
Blackwater (2006)
Blackwater
Non fiction
The Dangerous Book for Boys (2006) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to Do (2007) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Yearbook (2007) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: How to Get There (2008)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: Nature Fun (2008)
The Dangerous Book for Boys: 2009 Day-to-Day Calendar(2008)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Facts, Figures and Fun(2008)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to Know (2008)(with Hal Iggulden)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Wonders of the World(2008) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys 2010 Day-to-Day Calendar (2009)(with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book of Heroes (2009) (with David Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for BoysThe Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to DoThe Dangerous Book for Boys YearbookThe Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: How to Get ThereThe Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: Nature FunThe Dangerous Book for Boys: 2009 Day-to-Day CalendarThe Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Facts, Figures and FunThe Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to KnowThe Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Wonders of the WorldThe Dangerous Book for Boys 2010 Day-to-Day CalendarThe Dangerous Book of Heroes

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Fiction