Tag Archives: battle

Anthony Riches: Emperors Knives (Review and Q&A)

Anthony Riches

Tony R

Author Bio (pinched from his own web site)

Following a childhood which featured a deep interest in the military rooted in my father and grandfather’s service in the two world wars, I took a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. Working for a succession of blue chip companies over the next twenty five years, I gravitated into business systems and change project management, and I’ve worked as a freelance project manager in the UK and Europe, the USA, the Middle and Far East over the last decade.

Over the same period I’ve gradually refined my ability to write fiction, initially for my own entertainment but more recently with the serious aim of achieving my debut publication. The manuscript of Wounds of Honour eked out a precarious ten year existence on a succession of computer hard drives and memory sticks until a life changing encounter in Belfast energised me to rewrite the manuscript and seek publication. Thanks Gerry!

I’ve been married to Helen, our family’s only true adult for 25 years now, and we live in Hertfordshire with our three children. I’m a confirmed petrol head, and I spend my spare time listening to music, reading (mainly on planes going to and coming back from work) and surfing internet car reviews with a purposeful glint in my eye.

Author Web site

Buy the book Signed

Book Description

emperors Knives

The seventh novel in Anthony Riches’ acclaimed Empire sequence brings Marcus Aquila back to Rome, hunting the men who destroyed his family.
But the revenge he craves may cost him and those around him dearly.

The young centurion’s urge to exact his own brutal justice upon the shadowy cabal of assassins who butchered his family means that he must face them on their own ground, risking his own death at their hands.
A senator, a gang boss, a praetorian officer and, deadliest of all, champion gladiator Mortiferum – the Death Bringer – lie in wait.

The knives are unsheathed, and ready for blood . . .

Review

When i first picked up Wounds of Honour in 2009 i had no idea i would be starting a journey of so much danger, excitement and action. Also when starting with a debut writer i had no idea i would be enjoying these books more and more every year, watching the skill of the writer grow and the depth of the plot increase with every tome.

Book 7 the Emperors Knives  goes so much further than its predecessors, it truly is a book crammed with Machiavellian schemes, plots within plots, as our group of heroes try to help Marcus survive his honour and the machinations of the various schemers set against him within the walls of Rome. As with any Anthony Riches book the reader is left with that ever present feeling of the norns / fates, sat there spinning away the destinies of those in the book, Tony Riches joining them at the loom of life ready to snip an unsuspecting characters life thread at a moments notice either in a spectacular or blasé fashion. I shall not spoil the book by saying if anyone interesting dies…. but blood will be spilled and as writers go Tony is a bit of a swine to his men.

This book comes with a warning to readers, it is one that sucks away your time, you will sit down to read and find that the day has passed while you are marching with legions and uncovering plots. As ever i doff my cap to Tony Riches as he exceeds the plot and power of the previous book, something very very hard to keep doing, but the constant hard work and effort, the striving for more, the digging for detail in dusty research books, and the re-enactment that gives first hand experience, really pays off in the pages of this wonderful book.

I highly recommend this book, and if you have not read any of the Empire series (Why?) then please do start it now, you will not be disappointed. Seven books in and its just getting better and better.

(Parm)

Q&A

Q: When and why did you begin writing?

A: Fiction? In the 90s. I had a great idea for a thriller (still do, it keeps getting updated in my head) but I couldn’t write it well enough to get accepted by an agent and there it lay, putting me off doing anything with Wounds of Honour from 1996 when I wrote the book to 2007 when I finally mustered the courage to send it out to agents.

Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A:From the moment I started writing seriously, aged 22. It was all non-fiction then, mainly about the VietNam War and the best ways to kill tanks… I didn’t consider myself to be much of an author though!
 
Q: How much of the character behavior in books is based on people you know?
A: A fair bit. Mannerisms, language, sometimes a face that has character… My favourite is the brother of a friend of mine who is, shall we say, uncompromising. When threatened with the sack if he refused to take on a further journey (he was lorry driving at the time) he said ‘look at your tracker screen – see that I’ve turned round (with his load still on board) and I’m coming to beat the crap outta you, you ****’ Which, for the record, he did. He’s the source of my favourite line in any of the books… ‘and that’s why you’re sitting on your arse with a broken nose…’. Old fashioned manliness that you don’t see all that much these days.
 
Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: Action, humour, proper history and the ability to keep me guessing until the end – something I strive for in my own books.
 
Q: What books and authors have most influenced your life as a writer?
A: I don’t know, in truth. I never consider the work of others in terms of what I can take and use,  and I very simply just like to read what I like to read. Whether any of it creeps in to my work I have no idea. I’m not the type to get analytical about my writing style, and I certainly couldn’t change it even if I had to! No degree in creative writing here, just whatever skill I was gifted by upbringing and whatever’s rubbed off on me since then. Favourite authors down the years? Adam Hall (Quiller), Iain M Banks (the Culture), Richard Morgan (Takashi Kovacs), Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey and Maturin) and Christian Cameron (Killer of Men) would probably be my top five. Although I have a huge soft spot for Len Deighton…
 
*WARNING SPOILER ALERT IN NEXT ANSWER*
Q: As a man known for killing his characters, who is your favorite character across the series so far?
A: No you don’t, Carter, you tried that old trick last time I interviewed for you. Let’s find out who’s safe, eh? Nobody’s safe. Nobody was more surprised than me when Rufius got his head cut off (I had no idea until the moment it was raised above the warband on a spear). Read my lips…Nobody’s. Safe. Helen (my wife) thinks she’s got Dubnus under her wing by means of forbidding me to kill him off, but when his time comes…
*WARNING SPOILER ALERT OVER *
 
Q: What is you favorite scene in the series?
A: That I can tell you about without spoilers? The palace scene at the end of The Eagle’s Vengeance. What a way to get your revenge!
 
Q: Now that the many actions of book 7 have played out in Rome, is there a new far reaching plot?
A: Yes, we’re still going all the way to AD211. There will be thirty or so books in the series, unless something happens to stop me writing them. A huge three sided civil war, the biggest battle of the second century, and a military strongman who roams the empire looking for enemies to subdue…what a canvas! And vengeance remains to be taken…
 
Q: If you had to busk your book on the street corner to a new audience, how would you hook those buyers in?
A: Dress in my centurion’s armour with you wearing a loin cloth as my slave! And seriously? I’d tell them that they were about to meet what I modestly consider the most entertaining collection of characters in Roman military fiction, and travel with them to every corner of the empire over thirty years of history. That alright?
 
Q: With the Impending Romani walk 2 would you like to tell people why they should support you and the great charities you Ben and Russ work so hard for? 
A: I support Combat Stress because of the hidden psychological damage done to men like my father who volunteer to be stripped of a portion of their sanity in order that we can maintain our way of life (three generations of my family all having collected medals and mental problems in equal portions in the Boer War and World Wars 1 & 2) – and Medicins Sans Frontieres for the amazing good that they do in countries where all other agencies have either left or are unwilling to enter. Hats off to both causes. 
Many thanks Tony, great interview as ever, and an excellent book.

Other books by this author

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)
Wounds of HonourArrows of FuryFortress of SpearsThe Leopard SwordThe Wolf's GoldThe Eagle's VengeanceThe Emperor's Knives

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Filed under Anthony Riches, Historical Fiction

Christian Cameron: Great King review

Christian Cameron

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Christian Cameron was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa, and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age seven. He attends the University of Toronto when the gods move him and may eventually have a Masters in Classics, but right now he’s a full time historical novelist, and it is the best job in the world.

Christian is a dedicated reenactor and you can follow some of his recreated projects on the Agora. He’s always recruiting, so if you’d like to try the ancient world, the medieval world, or the late 18th century, follow the link to contact us.

Author Web site

Author Forum

Also Christian Cameron is Miles Cameron: read about the reveal

Review

great king

I find it more and more difficult to write a review of Christians books, it’s so expected to write how wonderful they are.

This book is no exception. The characters as ever are some of the most rounded and real that you will read in any historical fiction novel, the action is probably the most realistic and authentic (all driven by his passion for Re-enactment and trying to live the parts, to write about them). What sets these tales apart is that while i get the cut and thrust of battle that i love in these ancient tales, i also get so much more.

The Hero Arimenestos isn’t perfect, he is very flawed, he can be vain, arrogant, passionate, impulsive, heroic. But more than that, he is a family man, his family being more than just relations, his ship mates, his friends, Plataea and his fellow hero’s. So often he finds himself on opposing sides to people he cares about while fighting with of for those he is indifferent to, but country wins over personal loyalty. The tug of war for his soul played out on the page. It’s this emotional tug of war that Christian Cameron excels at in his writing, drawing on what i can only assume is personal experience in the armed forces, and his own innate kindness as a human being.

I can’t go into the history behind the novel in anywhere close to the depth of the author or even JPS (review on here) what i can say is that i felt the history, it felt real. I felt i was there for every battle, for every race, for every tear and every heartbreak and betrayal. The ending and the inevitable death of the Spartan king is heart-breaking and crushing for the reader, portraying a fraction of what the men of the time must have felt. all again showing the skill of the writing.

This truly ranks up there as my all-time favourite series.

(Parm)

Other books by this author

Series
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)
TyrantStorm of ArrowsFuneral GamesKing of the BosporusDestroyer of Cities
Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon: Freedom or Death (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2013)
Killer of MenMarathon: Freedom or DeathPoseidon's SpearThe Great King
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)
CastillonVeniceConstantinopleRomeRhodesChios
Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
Alexander: God of War (2013)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarAlexander: God of WarThe Ill-Made Knight

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Filed under Christian Cameron, Historical Fiction

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)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Toby Clements

COLOSSUS by Alexander Cole

colossus vertical

Todays blog is courtesy of the debut author Alexander Cole to coincide with the release of his book Colossus:

Book Description:

colossus flat

Alexander the Great rests in Babylon as he decides which should be his next world to conquer. A war elephant, Colossus, disturbs the peace of the camp when he is provoked to a killing rampage. Only one young mahout has the courage to stop Colossus. And when Alexander notices his bravery, Gajendra begins a meteoric climb through the ranks of the Macedonian army. Gajendra is fiercely loyal to Alexander, the great General who plucked him from obscurity. But as he rises to become Captain of the Elephants, Gajendra sees how Alexander is being corrupted by luxury and power. Forced to choose between keeping faith with Alexander or with his comrades, Gajendra must find the strength to make the right decision as Alexander’s army approaches the gates of Rome. 

Guest Blog: 

THE PARMENION SOLUTION

 

ALEXANDER COLE

 

They called him Alexander the Great. But ‘the great’ what?

Greatness was not calculated in the distant past in the way we would judge it now. Alexander was considered ‘great’ by ancient history because he achieved conquest from the Mediterranean to the Ganges. It is true this made him a great general; but by today’s standards, this does not make him a great man.

Conquest on the scale of Alexander’s could not have been achieved without unrivalled ruthlessness.

Parmenion is testament to that.

Who was Parmenion? He was a Macedonian nobleman who rose to become second in command of Alexander’s army. He commanded Alexander’s left wing at both major battles in the Persian campaign, at Issus and Gaugamala. He was Alexander’s steadying influence, fiercely loyal but very conservative in his tactics.

After Issus the Persian king, Darius III, offered Alexander his daughter’s hand as well as all Minor Asia in exchange for an alliance. Parmenion’s advice? ‘If I were Alexander, I should accept it.’

To which Alexander famously replied: ‘So would I – if I were Parmenion.’

Soon afterwards, one of Parmenion’s sons, Philotas, was accused of plotting against Alexander’s life, a conspiracy to which he confessed under torture.

He was then stoned to death.

While this was happening, Parmenion was in Media, in command of one of Alexander’s armies and guarding his treasury and his supply lines. Alexander rightly supposed that once Parmenion discovered that his son had been tortured and executed he must certainly look to take revenge. Because of his experience, his tactical position and his popularity, he was in the ideal position to do it.

Alexander immediately sent two of his men, Cleandor and Sitalces, across the desert to Media on racing camels. Before news could reach Parmenion about his son’s fate, the two officers had arrived and stabbed him to death.

Parmenion had faithfully served both Alexander and his Alexander’s father; he was a hugely competent soldier with a brilliant career, and was immensely popular with the soldiers.

But Alexander did not hesitate, Loyalty counted for nothing and neither did friendship.

It was a pragmatic decision from a ruthless man.

Or was there more to it? What makes Parmenion’s death more intriguing is the suggestion that there actually was no plot against Alexander. Could it have been Alexander’s ploy to rid himself of a general whose popularity threatened to rival his own? 

If true, it was a strategy that he was never to change. He died himself just seven years later, without a clear heir or successor. He remained adept at keeping his generals at odds with each other.

His quest for greatness was for Alexander and Alexander alone.

After his death Macedonian unity disappeared and his generals squabbled over the empire like buzzards over a carcass.

COLOSSUS begins at which Alexander’s true history ends; it is the story of what might have happened if he lived to march an army out of Babylon, instead of succumbing to illness – or was it poison? – at the age of just 33.

His army was not only pre-eminent, it had been seemingly strengthened with the addition of ancient weapons of mass destruction; war elephants from India. He had recently created a unique post within his army – ‘elephantarch,’ the captain of the elephants.

By then his megalomania and paranoia was well advanced; he was also grief stricken over the loss of his soul’s companion, Hephaiston, and had survived wounds that would have killed ten men.

He had become monstrous.

Meanwhile every general within his army was positioning themselves for the coming game of thrones.

But as Parmenion could have told them, it was a battle they could not win.

This is the world to which Colossus, a monster of a different kind, is introduced. Soon after he survives the assassination attempt Alexander sets out to conquer again – to Carthage, to Sicily and then onto Rome.

Thank You: Alexander Cole, i know reading this has given me a different viewpoint for the story, i hope those reading this will take this view of Alexander the Great into their reading of the book.

My review will follow in a few days……..

(Parm)

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Filed under Alexander Cole, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Parmenion Books 2013 in review

2013: Has for me been a year of exceptional quality when it comes to books, books of many genres, types, skills and authors.

For my reading pleasure this year I had a few attempts at trying something different. (on that note, always listen to twitter, when enough people say a book is exceptional ….well it often is)

EG:

Phil Hogan A Pleasure and a Calling (review) 

a pleasure and a calling

Simon Beckett Stone Bruises (Review)

stone bruises

Sarah Pinborough The Language of Dying (Review)

language

Apart from the authors, the people who have helped make this year possible are the publishers, this year, more than any other they have been amazing, I balk at saying one might be better thank another, even at naming the individuals, if i missed just one i would kick myself, They are all so wonderful. This is a group of people who spend their time helping someone (the authors) succeed in their profession and passion, and to do it they help another group of people, like me explore a love of reading, at the same time many of them exploring their own deep passion for words, books, writing and being nice.

So a huge huge thank you one and all, to the great people, in PR, marketing, sales, editing etc at all the publisher. You know who you are, please know i appreciate everyone of you, and every book you send.

Special mention also to book shop of the year (IMHO) Goldsboro Books, who keep the fine art of book collecting alive and well.

I found it impossible to do a single top 5 or top 10 of books for 2013, so i did 3 genres instead (cop out) and even then i feel i cheated so many great writers and books out of a mention. These lists are books that just spoke to me directly this year.

Best Thrillers of 2013:

1: Terry Hayes: I am Pilgrim

pilgrim

2: David Gibbins: The Pharaoh

Pharoah

3: James Douglas: The Excalibur Codex

excalibur

4: Chris Kuzneski: The Hunters

the hunters

5: Hugh Howey: Dust

Dust

Terry Hayes book was a revelation in thriller terms, a book that was just simply superb, if you have not read it you really must.

David Gibbins, not only an amazing author who gets better with every book, but a truly nice person whom i have had the pleasure to get to know a little this year.

Chris Kuzneski, brilliant new series, and for me great to know there is a whole other series i have not read and has no joined my TBR pile.

Hugh Howey, probably one of the finest dystopian series out there at present.

Best Fantasy / Supernatural books of 2013

1: Nathan Hawke: Crimson Shield

crimson shield

2: Nathan Hawke: Cold Redemption

cold redemption

3: Luke Scull: Grim Company

grimm

4: James Rollins & Rebecca Cantrell: Blood Gospel

gospel

5: Ben Aaronvitch: Broken Homes

Broken Homes

2 amazing debut authors arriving with a bang (Nathan Hawke and Luke Scull), and some stalwarts of the genre staying where they belong.

Best Historical Fiction of 2013

1: CC Humphreys: Shakespear’s Rebel

shakespeareicc81s-rebel-3b

2: Paul Collard: Maharajahs General

MG

3: Christian Cameron Tom Swan and the head of St George (Parts 1-6)

Book 1

ts 1

Book 4

ts4

Book 5

TS 5

Book 6

TS6

4: Nobel Smith: Sons of Zeus

zeus

5: Robert Fabbri Romes Fallen Eagle

eagle fallen

Historical fiction was the hardest list to write, so may others were deserving of a place, Ben Kane Fields of Blood, Michael Arnold and his Highwayman Ironside short story and his wonderful Assassins Reign, SJA Turney: Priests Tale, Conn Iggulden with Stormbird and the last in the Emperor series Blood of Gods, James Wilde Hereward End of Days, Nick Brown Far Shore,  David Gilman Master of War, the fabulous Anthony Riches and his Eagles Vengeance, James Benmore Dodger, Julian Stockwin and the amazing Kydd series , Steven Mckay and his new Robin Hood series Wolfs Head, the every fabulous Angus Donald and his unique Robin Hood series .

So many of these authors can be found at The HWA web site and forum

There are more than this list, so many more great books and authors. this last year has been so full of amazing books choosing 5 was amazingly hard.

My top 5’s are the books that stayed with me as well as offered enjoyment, books that immersed me so deeply I lost where and who I was. Its even harder to write a list like this when so many authors are friends and are wonderful people as well as writers, people who have given so many great books and keep doing so year in year out.

Its a list you all deserve to be on.

What continues to amaze me is that so many of the really great books are by new authors.

2014 holds the same promise, having just finished the fantastic Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements a debut title that could have taken top spot in 2013, I know there is an amazing year ahead.

I look forward to enjoying the journey with all the authors, publishers, readers, bloggers and those kind enough to read my blog.

Happy new year all.

(Parm)

 

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Paul Collard: Maharajah’s General (Review)

Author

collard

Paul’s love of military history started at an early age. A childhood spent watching films like Waterloo and Zulu whilst reading Sharpe, Flashman and the occasional Commando comic, gave him a desire to know more of the men who fought in the great wars of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. At school, Paul was determined to become an officer in the British army and he succeeded in wining an Army Scholarship. However, Paul chose to give up his boyhood ambition and instead went into the finance industry. Paul stills works in the City, and lives with his wife and three children in Kent.

Book Description

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MG

A riveting tale of battle and adventure in a brutal land, where loyalty and courage are constantly challenged and the enemy is never far away. Jack Lark barely survived the Battle of the Alma. As the brutal fight raged, he discovered the true duty that came with the officer’s commission he’d taken. In hospital, wounded, and with his stolen life left lying on the battlefield, he grasps a chance to prove himself a leader once more. Poor Captain Danbury is dead, but Jack will travel to his new regiment in India, under his name. Jack soon finds more enemies, but this time they’re on his own side. Exposed as a fraud, he’s rescued by the chaplain’s beautiful daughter, who has her own reasons to escape. They seek desperate refuge with the Maharajah of Sawadh, the charismatic leader whom the British Army must subdue. He sees Jack as a curiosity, but recognises a fellow military mind. In return for his safety, Jack must train the very army the British may soon have to fight…

Review

Maharajah’s General: Reading this book has been a pleasure, Since book one The Scarlet Thief i have been a fan of Paul Collards writing, he has an engaging style, he writes like able characters. One thing that hamstrung him slightly in book one was book brevity, as a debutante he had been limited to a low page count, and as such the book was edited down, removing, i feel some of the extra depth and flavour of the Crimea and the the books characters.

This doesn’t happen in book 2, I devoured book 2 in a single day, and then broke my normal never return to a book rule and read it again the next day. This is the first book in years i have enjoyed that much that i had to go back and read it again immediately ,(i just have too many books to do this).  What we the reader have here is a new Sharpe, its not since i first picked up Sharpe’s Eagle that a single character captured my imagination so totally, this supported by a fast fluid pace of writing, and a vivid portrayal of the Indian country, people, time period, the east India company and as usual the brutal, uncompromising and occasionally morally bankrupt officer corp coupled with the efficiency of the ordinary men of the British army, all this condensed into 336 pages of explosive action, violent emotions, uncompromising unbending discipline and a man with the courage to do what is right.

The impressive thing about this book is that it hooks you in from the first page with realism, i have read in reviews that there is no way a man from the ranks could impersonate an officer, This isn’t as far as i can see a valid point, there are examples of officer impersonation in history, Jack Lark as an orderly was around officers enough to be able to copy their mannerisms etc, so that point for me is covered. His skills as a soldier..well we see him learn most of them on the battle field, and as most officers learned the same hard way, again this is not going to make him stand out. So to any naysayers, “sit back and enjoy the book, stop looking for fault where there is none, just enjoy a bloody good book.” Oh and a very nice fitting nod to the authors love of Zulu with the use of regiment and last ditch battle (loved it, as its one of my favorite films).

The spirit of Sharpe lives again in another time, in another war, in the guise of Jack Lark, buy the books and enjoy the adventures. I hope the publisher have the sense to get book 3 underway quick smart.

Very Highly recommended

(Parm)

Series
Jack Lark
1. The Scarlet Thief (2013)
2. The Maharajah’s General (2013)
The Scarlet ThiefThe Maharajah's General

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James Aitcheson Knights of the Hawk (Review)

The Author

james A

James Aitcheson was born in Wiltshire and studied History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where began his fascination with the medieval period and the Norman Conquest in particular. Sworn Sword is his first novel.

Author web site

Book Description

Knights

Buy a signed copy

AUTUMN, 1071. The struggle for England has been long and brutal. Now, however, five years after the fateful Battle of Hastings, only a desperate band of rebels in the Fens stand between King William and absolute mastery of his kingdom.
Tancred, a proud and ambitious knight, is among the Normans marching to crush them. Once lauded for his exploits, he is now all but destitute. Embittered by his dwindling fame and by the oath shackling him to his lord, he yearns for the chance to win back his reputation through spilling enemy blood.

But as the Normans’ attempts to assault the rebels’ island stronghold meet with failure, the king grows increasingly desperate. With morale in camp failing, and the prospect of victory seeming ever more distant, Tancred’s loyalty is put to the test as never before.

For his true path, he knows, lies in a different direction. He seeks his love, Oswynn, once presumed dead but now believed to be held captive by a powerful Danish warlord. His journey will take him from the marshes of East Anglia into the wild, storm-tossed seas of the north, as he ventures in pursuit not just of her, but also of vengeance.

Review

Review

Once again James Aitcheson well and truly knocks the ball out of the park, his latest book Knights of the Hawk is an action packed thriller. There are very few let up in the story for you to take a breath and pause, you literally find yourself flipping to the next page then the next, just one more page, just one more chapter, and then suddenly …its 3am… how did that happen. totally lost in the world of Tancred.

I cant say he is the most likeable character, and in this book possibly even less so, but he is well written , and allows the reader a rare first person view of what it must have been like for the Normans having conquered this wild and proud land of Britain.

As usual the mix of fact and fiction is so well done, so blurred i really don’t know where one start and the other ends. I always feel i have learned something important by the end of these books, even if its just how the British as they are today were formed into who they are. This period of our history is so wild, so varied, so violent, so action packed, so full of change. Never again would this land be conquered, so its so important to understand how it happened, and how we all formed together, how people like Tancred became British, something James Aitcheson does so well, with an obvious love of the towns and villages of old Britain, and what they must have seemed like so long ago.

Every time i read his books i feel transported back to that time, the sights sounds and smells sounds so clichéd in a review, but it really is a relevant comment for his writing, because he brings them all to life.

Another fantastic novel, i look forward to the next. Very highly recommended

(Parm)

Sworn Sword (2011)
The Splintered Kingdom (2012)
Knights of the Hawk (2013)
Sworn SwordThe Splintered KingdomKnights of the Hawk

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Stewart Binns: Lionheart (Review)

Author

binns

Stewart has spent most of his professional life in television. Initially trained as an academic, he was variously a teacher, soldier and copy-writer before joining the BBC, where he worked in documentary features and current affairs, including stints on Panorama and QED.He was Director of Special Projects at TWI and later Head of Production at Octagon CSI. He produced a wide range of innovative programmes from sports magazines like Trans World Sport, Futbol Mundial and Golazo to historical documentaries like Britain at War, Century and Indochine.He has won over thirty international television awards including a BAFTA, Grierson and Peabody, was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and is Visiting Professor at the University of Bedfordshire.The author of several non-fiction books connected to his work in television, his first work of historical fiction, Conquest, set around the pivotal events of 1066 and the life of legendary hero Hereward of Bourne, was published by Penguin in February 2011. Stewart now lives in Somerset with his wife, Lucy and their twin boys, Charlie and Jack. Their home is also the base for Big Ape Media International, the independent media company run by Stewart and Lucy.

Book Description

Lionheart

1176 – England

King Henry II reigns over a vast empire that stretches the length of Britain and reaches the foothills of the Pyrenees. But he is aging, and his powerful and ambitious sons are restless.

Henry’s third son, Richard of Aquitaine, is developing a fearsome reputation for being a ruthless warrior. Arrogant and conceited he earns the name Richard Lionheart for his bravery and brutality on the battlefield.

After the death of his brothers, Richard’s impatience to take the throne, and gain the immense power that being King over a vast empire would bring him, leads him to form an alliance with France.

And so, Richard begins his bloody quest to return the Holy Land to Christian rule.

Stewart Binns’ Making of England series features Conquest, CrusadeAnarchy and his latest historical page-turner, Lionheart.

Review:

I have had to do some thinking about this review, i feel a need to explain my feelings without them being misinterpreted, So:

Im not a member of the BNP, im not a fan of UKIP (who are BNP but without the courage to sign up fr them…IMHO) what i am proud of is being English,  im not a raving flag waving, bulldog tattoo’d bloke. I have come to love my country despite the national need to feel embarrassed about it, to feel if you celebrate St Georges day you are a racist. My love of history has not hindered that love of nation, in fact it has deepened it, to read and understand what this tiny nation has achieved is quite simply astounding.

So its always been great to read each and every book in this series by Stewart Binns, a series that from the start pulls together the different races/ nations that have attacked, conquered/ invaded and interbred with this mongrel nation that calls itself Great Britain. Anyone who reads this series should take heart, seeing how our national identity has been formed, forged in battle, mixed nations providing different temperaments and skills and behaviours. (The Saxons the, normals, the celts, the pics, the romans, the Danes etc..) . We are now adding the dogged hard working poles / eastern block nations, the history, passion and mystery of asia, the African nations etc.. This will all for me make Britain a greater nation in the long run.

I apologise for going all nationalistic in a review, but that the joy of this series, this is how it makes me feel, proud. The story of Richard is im sure told with some poetic licence, regarding his alleged family history, and the talisman. But he plot, the characters, the emotion of the story, that is classy writing. That is something that makes it a must read. The story of the Priest Alun and the Princesses is one that will leave many a damp eye. The pride of a friend like Ranulph is something everyone should enjoy, reading about his pride in his king and his friendship is a joy. Its just great to read a story with such a deep feeling of pride clear in the plot voice, and clearly shown by the author.

The only negative I have with this book is that its the end of the series. I shall miss it, but also i look forward to what comes next from this author. This book should appeal to so many readers, and don’t be put off by my ravings about England, that’s just how I feel reading this series, how Stewart Binns brings to the fore each element that makes up the core psyche of the Brit, where that spirit of adventure and action may have been developed in the cauldron of history.

Recommended

(Parm)

Previous title review (Anarchy)

Conquest (2011)
Crusade (2012)
Anarchy (2013)
Lionheart (2013)
ConquestCrusadeAnarchyLionheart

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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)

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Mark Lawrence: Emperor of Thorns (Review)

Author

lawrence

Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled.His day job is as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments.

Product Description

emperor

Lawrence brings his highly acclaimed epic fantasy series – The Broken Empire – to its devastating conclusion.

The path to the throne is broken – only the broken can walk it

The world is cracked and time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne no matter who stands against me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.

This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.

Follow me, and I will break your heart.

Review

“There are very few fantasy writers out there who can produce something this rounded, so complete, so powerful and action packed”

2013 is the year of fantastic books, i set myself the challenge of reading 100 books, thinking that i would have to cast around for some fillers titles to be able to read that many. How wrong i was, i think i have found over 250 books i want to read this year, which means i have had to be selective about who gets my time.

I have been a big fan of both Mark Lawrence the writer and Mark Lawrence the man, a person who gives so much in his writing and also as a charitable person. He has inspired me to do more and look for more ways to help others. (thank you Mark).

So this is the end: and that fact made me think of the Doors

This is the end 
Beautiful friend 
This is the end 
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end 
Of everything that stands, the end 
No safety or surprise, the end 
I’ll never look into your eyes…again

Can you picture what will be 
So limitless and free 
Desperately in need…of some…stranger’s hand 
In a…desperate land

Lost in a Roman…wilderness of pain 
And all the children are insane 
All the children are insane 
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah

There’s danger on the edge of town 
Ride the King’s highway, baby 
Weird scenes inside the gold mine 
Ride the highway west, baby

Ride the snake, ride the snake 
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby 
The snake is long, seven miles 
Ride the snake…he’s old, and his skin is cold

The west is the best 
The west is the best 
Get here, and we’ll do the rest

The blue bus is callin’ us 
The blue bus is callin’ us 
Driver, where you taken’ us

The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on 
He took a face from the ancient gallery 
And he walked on down the hall 
He went into the room where his sister lived, and…then he 
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he 
He walked on down the hall, and 
And he came to a door…and he looked inside 
Father, yes son, I want to kill you 
Mother…I want to…fuck you

C’mon baby, take a chance with us 
C’mon baby, take a chance with us 
C’mon baby, take a chance with us 
And meet me at the back of the blue bus 
Doin’ a blue rock 
On a blue bus 
Doin’ a blue rock 
C’mon, yeah

Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill

This is the end 
Beautiful friend 
This is the end 
My only friend, the end

It hurts to set you free 
But you’ll never follow me 
The end of laughter and soft lies 
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end

 In so many ways this made me think of Jorg and this final book. (and it was surreal that it kept coming on when I had the iPod on random song search)

The bitter-sweet conclusion that leads to no more.

And what and end, a series that has had a set path and an author brave enough to end a successful series and do it on a high. (Yes Mr Robert Jordan i am think of you as the total opposite). This series will take its place in amongst the all time greats of fantasy series.

Mark Lawrence has created a lead character that has had a meteoric growth across the series, but a series that was designed around that growth. A man who is … well a bloody nasty git, rather than a good guy or anti hero, just a total SOB. But he is not just that he is so much more on top, you need to read to see how inspired the writing is, how real it makes Jorg. When you mix it the breakneck speed of the story and the over all plot, all the side characters and a world so real you can see hear smell and touch it… well it makes for a true example of fantasy writing.

As should be expected each book has improved on the last, an author who doesn’t learn from the last book is stagnating (well i think so). The big boys of the genre need to watch their backs, because if Mark Lawrence has more ideas up his sleeve this good then he will not only become a man to be reckoned with, he will becomes the man to emulate. For any new writers in the genre you should be looking to emulate this guy, he is damn good. He writes the story without fear of audience, editor, market or competition, he just writes pure quality fantasy.

What ever comes next sign me up now as a reviewer, test reader, buyer, what ever. I just know i will be buying a signed hardback to go with every book in this series.

thank you Mark for a wonderful 3 years of Jorg.

Very Highly Recommended

(Parm)

Broken Empire

Prince of ThornsKing of ThornsEmperor of Thorns

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