Tag Archives: battle

Miles Cameron: Fell Sword (review)

563435_530846180293552_1267469454_n

Author:

Miles Cameron….AKA… Christian Cameron

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 him.

Fell Sword

Fell Sword

 

THE RED KNIGHT was one of the most acclaimed fantasy debuts of 2012 – and now he rides again. Prepare for one epic battle . . .

Loyalty costs money.

Betrayal, on the other hand, is free

When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand – and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But The Red Knight has a plan.

The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time – especially when intends to be victorious on them all?

Review

This is a book that has taken me longer than any other to read this year so far, not because its a bad book, very much the opposite. This book contains some of the most involved, imaginative and impressive world building i have seen, right up there with the depth and passion of lords of the rings.

This is book two in the series following on directly from the fabulous debut that was the Red Knight, once again following the mercenary band headed by the Red Knight, the Captain. A man who is both a fighting Knight at the peak of his prowess, but also a magister (a sorcerer) very powerful and growing in skill all the time. Unlike many books we don’t just live the story from the point of view of the hero (the Red Knight) we get a Multi POV, we see the opinion and perspective of all, and as such get to see what the individual see’s, themselves a hero, or in the right. This multi POV is very encompassing, so  much so that there are times it becomes hard to keep all the threads and all the names straight, hence the length of time needed to read the book.

The world of the Red Knight is HUGE, made more so by the depth of detail, history and politics. This world encompasses much of the real world just with a twist. Outwallers that are native Americans for example, countries that resemble Canada, Great Britain, France, an empire that bears a striking resemblance to a decaying Byzantine empire, the fantastic Nordikans, who more than resemble the Varangian guard. All of these people and places imbued with the authors rich depth of historical knowledge. Miles Cameron being the highly renowned Historical Author Christian Cameron, a writer who imbues all of his work with not just literary research, but with physical research, hours spent in armour and training with weapons. Walking the wilds of Canada wearing the garb of a true knight, all of this detail is powered into his books to stunning effect.

Does Fell sword bring a better book with more satisfaction than Red Knight? yes and no, i found the ending more satisfying than Red Knight, but i think that may be because Red Knight had so much hard work to do with regard to world building, it was only the latter quarter of book one that truly showed the excellence of his writing talent. Fell Sword was a much more immersive encompassing tale, one that carries the reader into the depth of the wilds to learn more of the creatures who dwell there, more of Thorn and what drives him, or more importantly who. Most important of all it takes the reader into the depths of the politics of the world, a truly dark murky, back stabbing politics, politics fueled by ambition and magic. Most interesting is that Fell Sword reveals the true darkness from the wild, we now know what is coming, we just don’t really know why. Its exactly what a middle book should be, if not more, many middle books are a pause, this is anything but. Next year 2015 will see the third book in the series The Tournament of Fools, i highly recommend getting a Pre-Order in, i feel its going to sell fast.

Its a book i highly recommend you read in large bites, not small. But most of all its a book i Highly recommend to all readers, not just fantasy of Historical fiction.

(Parm)

Other books by this author

Traitor Son Cycle
1. The Red Knight (2012)
2. The Fell Sword (2014)
3. The Dread Wyrm (2015)
The Red KnightThe Fell Sword
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 CitiesForce of Kings
Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon: Freedom or Death (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2014)
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)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarThe Ill-Made KnightThe Long Sword

2 Comments

Filed under Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Miles Cameron

Nick Brown: (Author of Agent of Rome Series) Q&A

Author

Nick B

Bio

Nick was born in Norwich in 1974. A keen reader from a young age, he graduated from Enid Blyton to Douglas Hill and JRR Tolkien, and from there to Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. After three years studying in Brighton, he travelled to Nepal where he worked at an orphanage and trekked to Mount Everest. After qualifying as a history teacher in 2000, he worked for five years in England before taking up a post at an international school in Warsaw.

Nick had completed a few screenplays and a futuristic thriller before being inspired to try historical fiction after reading C.J. Sansom’s Dissolution: “Researching the Roman army and life in the third century was a fascinating but time-consuming project and the book went through many drafts before arriving at its final form. I had always intended Cassius to be a somewhat atypical protagonist and when I came across the research about the Roman ‘secret service’, I knew I’d found an ideal vocation  for my reluctant hero.”

Recently, most of Nick’s spare time has been spent on the fourth Agent of Rome novel, but if he’s not writing he might be found at the cinema, in a pub or playing football.

Author web site

3_books_clear_background

Hi Nick, how are you? Thank you for taking some time away from your busy schedule to answer some questions.

Tell us about your series, and its characters?

My pleasure, Robin!

 The Agent of Rome series is set in the 3rd century AD and follows the adventures of reluctant imperial agent Cassius Corbulo, his ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara and his Christian servant Simo. So far their travels have taken them to Syria, Cilicia, Rhodes and Africa.

Looking back at you as a writer, and why you became one… 

When and why did you begin writing?

I always liked creative writing as a child but my first real crack at it was after university. I was looking for a job and decided to try a screenplay. It was a contemporary thriller about two American assassins sent to kill each other. I got an agent in L.A. but unfortunately never sold it. Around the year 2000 I started a sci-fi project which again didn’t really get anywhere. I began the first Cassius book in 2005 and it took a long, long time to get right! As for why – I have always loved stories and it was probably inevitable that I would eventually try my hand.  

What inspired you to write your first book?

It’s hard to remember, to be honest. I think I just wanted to see if I could do it and I always have loads of ideas popping around in my head. Although the first two didn’t really get anywhere I learned a lot and proved to myself that I could get to the end of something. That’s the first hurdle really.

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

Not really, though I do try my best to capture something of the reality of the times. We can never really know of course but I research as much as I can to understand what life in the third century was like. My main goal is to create convincing, three-dimensional characters and place them in compelling, varied stories.

How much research is there involved in each book?

Quite a bit – I refer back to all the notes I’ve assembled over the past nine years and also get some new texts. Once I know the location I usually start with that – the geography, economy, political situation etc.; then I move on to what might have been going on there in the 270s. But it’s also the case that the books I’ve bought recently suggest story lines to me. For example, I read ‘Corruption and the Decline of Rome’ by Ramsey Macmullen in 2012 and it informed much of the plot of ‘The Far Shore.’

What books have most influenced your life?

I think anything I really rate probably affects my work in some way at some point. The writers who I’m very conscious of having influenced me include Ian Fleming, Tolkien, Tom Clancy and Michael Connelly. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is my favourite book and made me appreciate the importance of intriguing, compelling characters. Clancy I loved as a teenager and although he’s not everyone’s cup of tea I think the way he built his plots was fantastic. My dad introduced me to Bond at a young age and Fleming has ensured that I cannot write about a meal without describing exactly what was eaten!

Do you have any advice for budding writers?

I think the main thing is to enjoy the process because making a career out of it is not easy. I always say it’s important to have your story straight before you really commit because you can end up wasting a lot of time otherwise. I would also say try to read the type of thing you want to write and learn from it. What you really need is something you just cannot wait to write – without that type of commitment you’ll struggle to get anything done.  

Finally: Open forum, sell Far Shore to the readers…Why should they buy this book. (oh and what’s next?)

Well I hope it’s a novel that transports you back to the 3rd century and lands you in the middle of a mystery that then leads to a sea voyage and finally a confrontation between my heroes and an exceptionally nasty piece of work! It has been the most well-received of the books so far and there are certainly plenty of twists and turns.

 Next is ‘The Black Stone’ which finds Cassius and Indavara off to Arabia on the trail of a sacred rock. 

Agent of Rome

1. The Siege (2011)
2. The Imperial Banner (2012)
3. The Far Shore (2013)
4. The Black Stone of Emesa (2014)
The SiegeThe Imperial BannerThe Far Shore
Novellas
Death This Day (2012)
The Eleventh Hour (2013)
Death This DayThe Eleventh Hour

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Fiction, Nick Brown

Writing Historical Fiction and Fantasy By Miles and Christian Cameron

Writing Historical Fiction and Fantasy

By Miles and Christian Cameron

563435_530846180293552_1267469454_n

Miles Cameron Fell Sword web site

Christian Cameron Website

Writing Historical Fiction and Fantasy: It’s something I’m asked all the time since I admitted to being Miles and Christian too–which is harder?

I hope I won’t appall you by saying that they are basically the same.  Heretical, I know.  I’ve been very interested in a conversation among my friends and some other authors online–I’ve discovered that most HisFic readers don’t read Fantasy, and most Fantasy readers don’t read HIsFic. Interesting.  I’d like to suggest to both groups that you try dabbling in the other, and I’ve tossed out the names of some of my favorites in this blog to give each group a place to start. Er–after you read all my books…

Anyway, I read both.  I love them both.  If I didn’t have to spend my waking hours reading history (right now its essays on the education of boys and girls in the early Renaissance) I’d read Ben Kane and SJA Turney and Anthony Riches–AND CJ Cherryh and Michael Scott Rohan and Scott Lynch.  I’d read them all, all day.  In between bouts of fighting in armour.

Anyway, here’s my point.  Historical fiction is, in a way, all fantasy.  The past is another country.  We cannot go there in the real world, and when we visit it in literature, we acknowledge a suspension of disbelief.  It is virtually impossible for us to understand Greek worship of the gods–or Roman.  It’s too far away.  Ancient Greek clothes?  I honestly think I know as much as anyone on the planet, and I’d kill for one bog-corpse in a 6th c. BCE chiton.  Want to start a fight at an academic party among people who study Classics?  Ask someone either 1) how a phalanx worked, or 2) what Socrates meant when he said almost anything.  So when I write that period (which I hear I do with some authority) I’m, in fact, creating a whole world.  It’s informed by hundreds of hours of serious research–but I won’t pretend I know.  NO ONE KNOWS.  Hell, we don’t even know if Alexander was a great general.  The first serious description of him was written down hundreds of years after he died.  And 50 BCE is as far removed from 300 BCE as 2015 AD is from 1765 AD…

But even more entertaining–all Fantasy is history.  (Out there somewhere, one of my friends is throwing my comments across the room).  But–it is.  No one–really–can write about anything but what they have experienced.  History–the written record of human experience–is just that, the sum total of all our stories.  I have never read a fantasy novel that didn’t owe virtually all its culture to history.  Tolkien?  Slam dunk.  Guy Gavriel Kay?  Obvious.  But even when you get to ‘original’ worlds–if they bother to ‘create’ economics or religion or weapons or armour…  One of my favorite fantasy series is ‘Wizard of Earthsea’ by Ursila LeGuin.  No part of her work is based on one simple history.  It’s not ‘Rome, disguised’ or ‘Greece’ or ‘Egypt.’  And yet every page is, in fact, informed by all those cultures, and the books would be very different if they were written in China…  My university D+D group (yes, friends, I am and was a D+D nerd) used to say we could type a borrowed culture in one weapon.  Curved swords or straight?  Dirk or dagger?  Bronze or iron?

When a fantasy novelist wants to truly understand the culture she’s creating–where can any of us possibly go for data but history?

By the way, I’ve read some awesome books that were purely speculative, about alternative cultures that bear little or no relation to history–on the surface.  Perdido Street Station by the superb China Mieville comes to mind–and yet, virtually every cultural allusion will return you to Victorian London; the whole novel is (to me) grounded in history. (The architecture, for example).

Of course, I’m a fanatical historian.  So I see everything through the lens of history.  But its not a bad lens, and it is the tool I use to focus my writing.  My Red Knight and Fell Sword are NOT set in Arthurian England. They are not set on Earth–even an alternate Earth.  In fact, they have a cosmology and everything–they are set in a multiverse not unlike Michael Morcock’s, because Mr. Morcock (whose work I also admire) was also a fan of medieval hermeticism.  In the Red Knight’s world, there is a Jesus and a Mohamed (at least, people believe in them) for reasons that may or may not be explained–but I know why.

That said, the real reason that many of my characters are Christian is because I wanted to write my skewed re-telling of the Arthurian tales in the same mythos from which they REALLY sprang–the Christian mythos.  It’s a fantastic set of beliefs that are arguably deeper, stranger, and better developed than anything any fantasy writer could invent…
That’s history.  Basically, the best stories ever told.  Our story.
Good reading!

Miles and Christian Cameron

Books by Miles/ Christian Cameron

Traitor Son Cycle
1. The Red Knight (2012)
2. The Fell Sword (2014)
3. The Dread Wyrm (2015)
The Red KnightThe Fell Sword
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 (2014)
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)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarThe Ill-Made Knight

4 Comments

Filed under Christian Cameron, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Miles Cameron, Uncategorized

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

2 Comments

Filed under Anthony Riches, Historical Fiction

Christian Cameron: Great King review

Christian Cameron

563435_530846180293552_1267469454_n

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

1 Comment

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)

4 Comments

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)

Leave a comment

Filed under Alexander Cole, Fantasy, Historical Fiction