Tag Archives: death

Matthew Harffy The Serpent Sword (Bernicia Chronicles Book 1) Review

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Matthew Harffy is currently writing a series of novels set in seventh century Northumbria. The first book isThe Serpent Sword. The sequel is The Cross and The Curse.

In his day job he is a manager of fifteen technical writers, so spends all day writing and editing, just not the words he’s most interested in! Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. He has co-authored seven published academic articles, ranging in topic from the ecological impact of mining to the construction of a marble pipe organ.

Matthew is outnumbered at home by his wife and their two daughters.

When not writing, or spending time with his family, Matthew sings in a band called Rock Dog.

The Serpent Sword (Bernicia Chronicles Book 1)

Author Web site

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BRITAIN 633 A.D.

Certain that his brother’s death is murder, young farmhand Beobrand embarks on a quest for revenge in war-torn Northumbria. When he witnesses barbaric acts at the hands of warriors he considers his friends, Beobrand questions his chosen path and vows to bring the men to justice.

Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, Beobrand faces challenges that change him irrevocably. Just as a great sword is forged by beating together rods of iron, so his adversities transform him from a farm boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall.

As he closes in on his kin’s slayer and the bodies begin to pile up, can Beobrand mete out the vengeance he craves without sacrificing his own honour … or even his soul?

Buy the book

Review

Once again its been one of those occasions where i feel privileged to be asked to read and review a book by a debut author, anytime someone trusts you with something which has been their passion and that has consumed hours, days weeks and months of their life is something you should and i do cherish. At the same time it does not earn you a free pass to a good review.

What does earn you praise is something new, something set in a period where many others have not gone before, when you can couple together plot, great characters, scene setting and action packed fight scenes. This is just what you get with Serpent Sword.

Beobrand is a well thought out totally rounded character, the author builds his personality slowly and carefully and provides lots of depth and emotion to really tie the reader to his fate. He then couples this with something many authors fail at, which is bringing the supporting cast to life, spending as much time bringing to life the characters who are destined to die. Its this level of commitment to characters that pays off with a powerful rich story that sucks you in and drives you to turn the next page and the next until you suddenly notice its 2am.

The antagonist in the plot Hengist is the perfect foil for our protagonist Beobrand, someone who impacts multiple aspects of his life, someone truly nasty that the reader can dislike and wish to see destroyed. The author plays out that inevitable conclusion with care and precision, taking you to the edge and back more than once, until you are champing at the bit to see him gutted on the end of Beobrand’s sword.

The time period being Dark Ages allows the author a large amount of scope to round his plot using history as a guide and not a restriction. As someone who reads a lot of Roman fiction its fun seeing the Romans viewed as giants of the past, people of myth almost. with an incredulity towards the structures they left behind. At the same time there is a rich culture of sights sounds smells and society that the author draws you into and makes you a part of.

this is an excellent debut… and i can promise an better follow up (I’ve been fortunate enough to see that also) so add this to the list of an excellent new voice who will be a fast riser.

(Parm)

 

 

 

 

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Anthony Riches Thunder of the Gods (2015) Review

Author website

Anthony_Riches

About the author

Buy a signed copy from Goldsboro Books

Buy a signed Limited edition

Buy from Waterstones

Description:

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The eighth book in the Empire sequence takes Centurion Marcus Aquila and his Tungrian legion on a dangerous mission to the heart of the Parthian empire

With Rome no longer safe Marcus and the Tungrians are ordered east, to the desolate border lands where Rome and Parthia have vied for supremacy for centuries.

Ordered to relieve the siege of an isolated fortress, their task is doomed to bloody failure unless they can turn the disaffected Third Legion into a fighting force capable of resisting the terrifying Parthian cataphracts.

And Marcus must travel to the enemy capital Ctesiphon on a desperate mission, the only man who can persuade the King of Kings to halt a war that threatens the humiliation of the empire and the slaughter of his friends

Review

Whenever there is a new Anthony Riches book in the offing it always create an air of anticipation in my reading schedule, Its very easy for me to say Tony is a fun read but really he is so much more than that. His early books were just that, great fun, but I always felt that this squad of Tungrians could be from any time period, they were/ are the epitome of what I expect squaddies to be, they are just the same as many soldiers I have known…. Only tougher and more dangerous, purely by dint of the time period they live in, where life is cheap, Tony captures the essence of the men on the front line so well and the fatalistic approach to much of their everyday life. What is so easy to miss in the early books is the subtle web that Tony weaves to draw the reader in, to create the Roman world and the politics that surround the people in the book, its so fun and the language so irreverent that its easy to miss the subtlety, but its there, and he orchestrates ii in what appears an effortless fashion, to build a world and a group of men that capture the imagination, and hold on for grim death.

Then comes Tony’s real talent as a writer, again something quite subtle, but when I find myself talking books and using him as an example to all and sundry on the right way to do something then surely that means he must be one of the best? (at least for me). Its his characters, its very easy I think for a writer to spend time on his key characters, his hero(es), to build them up so we worry about them, so we are invested in them, but many writers do this at the expense of the supporting cast. Tony treats all the characters as the main character, there is no supporting cast, you become invested in everyone. He does this I think with a malicious glee, because then he becomes the Atropos, holding the abhorred shears over the thread of each characters life, leaving you to worry over the fate of everyone, adding a heightened sense of anticipation to each and every scene. This delivers so much more than the average book for the reader, because you do not know who will survive the book, I honestly don’t think a single character is safe, he will kill anyone if the story calls for it, unlike many writers who protect their heroes. I have read more than one book of Anthony’s that has left me shouting “no F—ing way” at the fate of a character, he is the only author who does that to me.

Thunder of the Gods reproduces all this fantastic skill and does it against the dangerous backdrop of the Parthian empire, a part of the world in the forefront of everyone’s minds at present with ISIS and the destruction of historic sites that someday may only be left in the wonderful descriptive and imagination of writers like Tony. This book takes us on a tour of the edges of this territory, into the heart of the empires deadly politics.  Having been a fan of Tony’s since book one I have no qualms in saying that this is his best work to date. It may not have had me swearing at him like the last book, but it is wonderfully descriptive, highly emotive and just a sheer pleasure to read. As ever he will without doubt appear in the fight for my end of year top 10.

Highly recommended, (this book and this series, so prev reviews below)

(Parm)

Series

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)
8. Thunder of the Gods (2015)

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Filed under Anthony Riches, Historical Fiction

SJA Turney : Praetorian: The Great Game (Review / Blog Tour)

Author Bio in his own words

Find me on Twitter @SJATurney

I live with my wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire, where my wife and I both grew up, surrounded by friends and family. A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of the country, I cannot envisage spending my life anywhere else, though my anchor is sometimes tested as the wanderlust hits and we travel wherever I can find the breathtaking remains of the classical world. I have a love of travel and history, architecture and writing and those four interact well enough to keep me almost permanently busy.

Since leaving school and University, I have tried a great number of careers, including car sales, insurance, software engineering, computer network management, civil service and even paint ing and decorating sales. I have lived in four counties and travelled as widely as time and budget allowed and find myself finally back where I began and finally doing something I love.

Having written a number of unpublished short stories in my early days, I decided back in 2003 to try and write a full length novel. That was the start of Marius’ Mules. Being a lover of Roman history, I decided to combine my love of writing and my love of classical history. Marius’ Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum, my attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome. Since then, the success and popularity of both have inflated my head so that I can no longer comfortably fit through doors, and has spawned sequels to each work, with the fantasy trilogy complete, six volumes in the Marius’ Mules series, and two books of the Ottoman Cycle quadrilogy now out.

I maintain another website detailing the Roman sites I visit and photograph, and write a blog about books. I am an almost terminally chatty person. That’s just a due warning if you feel like contacting me (see above.) I am always happy to speak to people and have put together an FAQ gathered together from things I have been asked previously.

Praetorian Blog Tour

(in case you can’t read the image)

Thursday 12th:    SJAT’s blog (https://sjat.wordpress.com) – Extract of the book, Competition, Background to the story and other bits and pieces
Friday 13th:        I and I (https://bantonbhuttu.blogspot.co.uk/) – Review
Saturday 14th:    For Winter Nights (https://forwinternights.wordpress.com/) – Guest post on writing about historical locations
Sunday 15th:      Parmenion Books (https://parmenionbooks.wordpress.com/) – Review
Monday 16th:     Hoover Book Reviews (https://hooverbookreviews.wordpress.com/) – Review and Q&A
Tuesday 17th:     Reading Gives Me Wings (https://readinggivesmewings.wordpress.com/) – Review & interview

Praetorian Front Cover (1) - Copy

Buy the book….A Bargain at £1.99 (uk)

Buy the book….A Bargain at $3.01 (usa)

Promoted to the elite Praetorian Guard in the thick of battle, a young legionary is thrust into a seedy world of imperial politics and corruption. Tasked with uncovering a plot against the newly-crowned emperor Commodus, his mission takes him from the cold Danubian border all the way to the heart of Rome, the villa of the emperor’s scheming sister, and the great Colosseum. 

What seems a straightforward, if terrifying, assignment soon descends into Machiavellian treachery and peril as everything in which young Rufinus trusts and believes is called into question and he faces warring commanders, Sarmatian cannibals, vicious dogs, mercenary killers and even a clandestine Imperial agent. In a race against time to save the Emperor, Rufinus will be introduced, willing or not, to the great game. 

“Entertaining, exciting and beautifully researched” – Douglas Jackson 

“From the Legion to the Guard, from battles to the deep intrigue of court, Praetorian: The Great Game is packed with great characters, wonderfully researched locations and a powerful plot.” – Robin Carter

Review

When Simon said he was writing a new Roman series i worried that it would be Fronto by another name, something so easy to do when you have a series as successful as Marius Mules. Simon very generously involved me in his writing process, sending me the book in very early stages for comment and feedback (he knows i love that sort of thing, and pretends i add value). This allowed me to See Rufinus evolve, and soon dispelled any concerns about a carbon copy of Marius Mules, this was something new, something sharp and intelligent, full of intrigue, but still laden with Simon’s sharp wit and mischievous humour.

Rufinus takes the reader from the Legion to the Guard, from battles to the deep intrigue of court, Praetorian: The Great Game is packed with great characters, wonderfully researched locations and a powerful plot that fans have come to associate with Simon Turney.

This truly is the start of something new and special i highly recommend it

(Parm)

Series
Marius’ Mules
1. The Conquest of Gaul (2009)
aka The Invasion of Gaul
2. The Belgae (2010)
3. Gallia Invicta (2011)
4. Conspiracy of Eagles (2012)
5. Hades’ Gate (2013)
6. Caesar’s Vow (2014)
7. The Great Revolt (2014)
Prelude to War (2014)
The Conquest of GaulThe BelgaeGallia InvictaConspiracy of Eagles
Hades' GateCaesar's VowThe Great RevoltPrelude to War
Tales of the Empire
1. Interregnum (2009)
2. Ironroot (2010)
3. Dark Empress (2011)
InterregnumIronrootDark Empress
Ottoman Cycle
1. The Thief’s Tale (2013)
2. The Priest’s Tale (2013)
3. The Assassin’s Tale (2014)
The Thief's Tale The Priest's TaleThe Assassin's Tale
Novels
Praetorian: The Great Game (2015)
Praetorian: The Great Game
Collections
Tales of Ancient Rome (2011)
Tales of Ancient Rome

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Filed under Historical Fiction, S J A Turney, Uncategorized

Sebastien De Castell : Knight’s Shadow (Review)

Sebastien De Castell's picture

Sebastien De Castell

Sebastien de Castell had just finished a degree in Archaeology when he started work on his first dig. Four hours later he realized how much he actually hated archaeology and left to pursue a very focused career as a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist. His only defence against the charge of unbridled dilettantism is that he genuinely likes doing these things and that, in one way or another, each of these fields plays a role in his writing. He sternly resists the accusation of being a Renaissance Man in the hopes that more people will label him that way.

Sebastien lives in Vancouver, Canada with his lovely wife and two belligerent cats.

Knight’s Shadow (2015)

(The second book in the Greatcoats series)
A novel by Sebastien De Castell

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Buy the book from Goldsboro Books (signed Limited)

Falcio val Mond is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom and then began fighting among themselves.
The horrifying murder of a duke and his family sends Falcio in a deadly pursuit to capture the killer. But Falcio soon discovers his own life is in mortal danger from a poison administered as a final act of revenge by one of his deadliest enemies. As chaos and civil war begin to overtake the country, Falcio has precious little time left to stop those determined to destroy his homeland.

Greatcoat’s Lament is a dark swashbuckling tale of idealism and betrayal in a country crushed under the weight of its rulers’ corruption. It is the second book in the Greatcoat’s series that began with Traitor’s Blade.

Review

In 1844 Alexandre Dumas wrote the Three Musketeers, in 2014 / 2015 Sebastien de Castell wrote Traitors Blade and Knights Shadow. Never have I wanted to compare any book to The Three Musketeers, one of the stories I attribute to my love of history and my love of heroic fiction too, where I gained that love of seeing flawed heroes win over extreme odds.  I’m not sure even after all these years of reviewing I can adequately express how much I enjoy this series new series. But I will Start with something at the end of the book, the author acknowledges the boost provided to him from his publisher at a time when book two was holding all the terror a second book does, but I personally think also coupled with the success of book one, it must have been a daunting prospect.

I’m a firm believer in talent coming through no matter what it is your skill/ Talent is. In the case of Knights Shadow it comes through in spades, extra spades in the case of this second book, Traitors Blade (in my best of 2014 Blog) was a comfortable and splendid 384 pages, a tidy book for a debut, but book two Knights Shadow is an epic 624 pages, and it needs each and every one, by the end you are exhausted but still wanting more, and whatever Jo Fletcher said, well it worked a treat.

Our group of intrepid, very real and down to earth Greatcoats are once again in it up to their necks, book two continues directly from book one, the relentless pace is still there, but what comes to the fore in book two is the more of the soul of the great coats and what the Kings plan might have been. We have learned so much about Falcio, Kest and Brasti and we will learn more about the depths and drivers of the new arrivals but most of all we get to feel why our key characters are who they are.

Most especially Falcio, his journey in this book is chronicled covering every possible emotion. The author really puts this character to the test, yet as a reviewer who just hates spoilers I cannot give any insight except to say that coupled with the writers talent for writing dialogue, his situational and emotional awareness means that when reading this book you are right there experiencing all the pain , emotion and exhaustion that Falcio does. I was a wreck at the end of this book, and not just because I could not put the book down until the early hours. Sebastien De Castell manages to wring every heart wrenching moment and ounce of anticipation from every scene, his fight scenes contain dark humour, explosive action and a great awareness of the art of sword fighting, all of which has you hanging on the edge of every page. (there are also some truly laugh out loud moments in this book).

This really is an exceptional book and series, and I apologise for any additional pressure added to the author for book three and the very high expectation I have. This is going to be a very very hard book to topple from my number one spot for this year, whatever comes out this year this book is clearly going to be a stand out title.

 Buy the book, buy the series… you will not regret it.

 (Parm)

Series
Greatcoats
1. Traitor’s Blade (2014)
2. Knight’s Shadow (2015)
Traitor's BladeKnight's Shadow

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Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Sebastien De Castell

Robert Fabbri : Rome’s Lost Son (Review)

Author

About Robert Fabbri

Robert Fabbri was born in Geneva in 1961. He was educated at Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham and London University. He worked for twenty-five years as an assistant director in the film and television industries.

Having had his fair share of long, cold nights standing in the rain in muddy fields and unbearably hot days in deserts or stuffy sound stages he decided to start writing.

Being a life-long ancient war-gamer with a collection of over 3,500 hand-painted 25mm lead soldiers and a lover of Roman Historical Fiction the subject matter was obvious.

More Info: Author web site

ROME’S LOST SON

VESPASIAN VI

romes lost son

Rome, AD 51: Vespasian brings Rome’s greatest enemy before the Emperor. After eight years of resistance, the British warrior Caratacus has been caught. But even Vespasian’s victory cannot remove the newly-made consul from Roman politics: Agrippina, Emperor Claudius’s wife, pardons Caratacus.

Claudius is a drunken fool and Narcissus and Pallas, his freedmen, are battling for control of his throne. Separately, they decide to send Vespasian East to Armenia to defend Rome’s interests. But there is more at stake than protecting a client kingdom. Rumours abound that Agrippina is involved in a plot to destabilise the East. Vespasian must find a way to serve two masters – Narcissus is determined to ruin Agrippina, Pallas to save her.

Meanwhile, the East is in turmoil. A new Jewish cult is flourishing and its adherents refuse to swear loyalty to the Emperor. In Armenia, Vespasian is captured. Immured in the oldest city on earth, how can he escape? And is a Rome ruled by a woman who despises Vespasian any safer than a prison cell?

Review

Somehow i missed reviewing and reading Vespasian 5 Masters of Rome, so when Rome’s Lost Son arrived i made the decision to re-read the entire series. I’m so glad i did, not only did it allow me to totally immerse myself in Robert Fabbri’s version of Vespasian s Rome, it also allowed me to watch the masterful and methodical way that Robert Fabbri grows his characters, melding the facts we have with the fiction that could have been. Giving a potential insight into the mid of the future emperor.

Master of Rome sees a huge leap in Vespasian’s thinking, where he learns to put his morality to one side in favour of finding preferment for his family, to put them in a safer position, to enrich them. He basically reaches the point of if you cant beat them join them… then plan to beat them. Each book bring the history of those that have gone before, the things that have been learned, in the same way a person would become the collective sum of their parts. Masters dispelled any thoughts Vespasian might have had about gods not impinging on his world and life. Making him take notice of the story of his auspicious birth. it brought Caratacus to Rome, someone i feel who will be important in book VII.

Rome’s Lost Son sees a change in power, political machinations on a massive scale, a new emperor and Vespasian taken to hell and back, The stage is laid further for the year of the four emperors, there is a lot of ground still to cover, and surviving Nero will be no mean feat, but this series has some splendid tales ahead..  I think both books V & VI are stunning stand out Historical and Political Thrillers, made more so by reading the series back to back.

Highly recommend reading both Masters of Rome and Rome’s Lost Son..and if you have not read the series, the books are listed below… read them, you will love them

(Parm)

Series

 

Vespasian
1. Tribune of Rome (2011)
2. Rome’s Executioner (2012)
3. False God of Rome (2013)
4. Rome’s Fallen Eagle (2013)
5. Masters of Rome (2014)
6. Rome’s Lost Son (2015)
Vespasian Vol 1-3 (omnibus) (2014)
Tribune of RomeRome's ExecutionerFalse God of RomeRome's Fallen Eagle
Masters of RomeRome's Lost SonVespasian Vol 1-3

 

Crossroads Brotherhood Trilogy
1.5. The Crossroads Brotherhood (2011)
2.5. The Racing Factions (2013)
3.5. The Dreams of Morpheus (2014)
The Crossroads Brotherhood Trilogy (omnibus) (2015)
The Crossroads BrotherhoodThe Racing FactionsThe Dreams of MorpheusThe Crossroads Brotherhood Trilogy

 

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Robert Fabbri

James Rollins / Rebecca Cantrell Blood Infernal (Review)

The Author’s

James Rollins

rollins

JAMES ROLLINS is the New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages.  His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People Magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets–and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight. James Rollins decided to become a writer as a boy immersed in the scientific adventures of Doc Savage, the wonders of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and pulps such as The Shadow, The Spider, and The Avenger. He honed his storytelling skills early, spinning elaborate tales that were often at the heart of pranks played on his brothers and sisters.

Although his talent emerged and grew, writing was not James’ original profession. Before he would set heroes and villains on harrowing adventures, he embarked on a career in veterinary medicine, graduating from the University of Missouri and establishing a successful veterinary. This hands-on knowledge of medicine and science helps shape the research and scientific speculation that set James Rollins books apart.

The exotic locales of James Rollins novels have emerged as a hybrid between imagination, research, and James’ extensive travels throughout the United States and Europe, as well as New Zealand, the South Pacific, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America. Recent travel includes book tours and stops across the country and several European nations to meet readers and give talks, seminars, and media interviews.

In recent years, much of James’ travel has involved meeting readers in small and large groups, at writing and fan conferences, and even aboard seagoing “seminars.” James’ mentoring temperament and coaching skills have made him a sought-out writing instructor and guest speaker for workshops, symposia, conventions, and other forums throughout the country. He is among the core faculty of the annual Maui Writer’s Conference and Retreat.

James Rollins is the author of seven thrillers in the bestselling Sigma Force series (Sandstorm, Map of Bones, Black Order, The Judas Strain, The Last Oracle, The Doomsday Key, and The Devil Colony); six individual adventure thrillers; the blockbuster movie novelization, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; and the Jake Ransom middle grade series (Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow, Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx, and more coming in 2013). The eighth Sigma Force adventure, Bloodline, is coming in Summer 2012.

In 2005, James joined other luminaries in the genre to create the International Thriller Writers, Inc. ITW recognizes and promotes the thriller genre, provides opportunities for mentoring, education, and collegiality among authors and industry professionals, and grants awards for excellence in thriller writing. James is currently the Co-President of ITW, serving alongside Steve Berry. (From Author’s Bio)

Rebecca Cantrell

Rebecca Cantrell

 Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel mystery/thriller novels have won the Bruce Alexander and Macavity awards and been nominated for the Barry and RT Reviewers Choice awards; her critically-acclaimed cell phone novel, iDrakula, was nominated for the APPY award and listed on Booklist’s Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth. She and her husband and son just left Hawaii’s sunny shores for adventures in Berlin. Find Rebecca Cantrell on Facebook, Twitter, and at Authors Website.

 

Blood Infernal

(2015)
(The third book in the Order of the Sanguines series)
A novel by Rebecca Cantrell and James Rollins

Blood infernal

As an escalating scourge of grisly murders sweeps the globe, archaeologist Erin Granger must decipher the truth behind an immortal prophecy foretold in the Blood Gospel, a tome written by Christ and lost for centuries: The shackles of Lucifer have been loosened, and his Chalice remains lost. It will take the light of all three to forge the Chalice anew and banish him again to his eternal darkness. With the Apocalypse looming, Erin must again join forces with Army Sergeant Jordan Stone and Father Rhun Korza to search for a treasure lost for millennia. But the prize has already fallen into the hands of their enemy, a demon named Legion, before whom even the walls of the Vatican will fall.

The search for the key to salvation will take Erin and the others across centuries and around the world, from the dusty shelves of the Vatican’s secret archives to lost medieval laboratories, where ancient alchemies were employed to horrific ends. All the while, they are hunted, besieged by creatures of uncanny skill and talent. As clues are dug free from ancient underground chapels and found frozen in icy mountain caverns, Erin will discover that the only hope for victory lies in an impossible act–one that will destroy not only her, but all she loves. To protect the world, Erin must walk through the very gates of Hell and face the darkest of enemies: Lucifer himself.

With The Blood Gospel, the first novel in the Order of the Sanguines series, James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell combined science, myth, and religion to introduce a breathtaking world where miracles hold new meaning and the fight for good over evil is far more complicated than we ever dreamed. And now, in this epic conclusion to the Sanguines trilogy, Blood Infernal, they take us to the very pit of Hell itself, making us peer into the abyss and face our greatest fears, to answer the ultimate question: what price will we pay for true salvation?

Review

When i first heard about this series i worried that it was just another vampire series, that it might be a bit of true blood band wagon jumping. But books 1&2 soon put paid to that. This book 3 is a bitter sweet experience, endings are always tough with a really good series, and this is one that has been a favorite for a couple of years, ending can however be complicated, can the author (s) get it right?

Yes is the answer, James Rollins is one of my favorite thriller writers, and having read Rebecca Cantrell’s Tesla books i can see the where and why the blending of talents has worked so well. Its not that one is better than the other, its similar to when Feist and Wurts got together and wrote the empire trilogy, a set of books that took both authors beyond their normal writing. This is what i feel has happened again here.

Each and every book in this series has been an original action packed supernatural thriller and Blood Infernal is no different. But more important its a fitting and sublime end to a wonderful series. In any thriller like this there is a risk of going OTT, of taking the action beyond the mildly plausible, even with the supernatural you need to avoid that risk. Both these authors avoid doing that with style and panache, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat through-out. So many teasing tit bits from biblical myth brought forth and used in this story, so much action and so much energy and emotion. The characters will make you laugh and cry out in surprise, gasp and sob in anguish. Its going to be up there with my favorite books at the end of this year.

Very highly recommended for this book and this splendid series.

(Parm)

Series
Sigma Force
1. Sandstorm (2004)
2. Map of Bones (2005)
3. Black Order (2006)
4. The Judas Strain (2007)
5. The Last Oracle (2008)
6. The Doomsday Key (2009)
6.5. The Skeleton Key (2011)
7. The Devil Colony (2010)
7.5. Tracker (2012)
8. Bloodline (2012)
9. The Eye of God (2013)
10. The Sixth Extinction (2014)
11. The Bone Labyrinth (2015)
The Doomsday Key / The Last Oracle (omnibus) (2011)
The Sigma Force Novels (omnibus) (2013)
Sigma Force Novels 1 (omnibus) (2014)
SandstormMap of BonesBlack OrderThe Judas Strain
The Last OracleThe Doomsday KeyThe Skeleton KeyThe Devil Colony
TrackerBloodlineThe Eye of GodThe Sixth Extinction
The Doomsday Key / The Last OracleThe Sigma Force NovelsSigma Force Novels 1
Jake Ransom
1. Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow (2009)
2. Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx (2010)
Jake Ransom Complete Collection (omnibus) (2014)
Jake Ransom and the Skull King's ShadowJake Ransom and the Howling SphinxJake Ransom Complete Collection
Order of the Sanguines (with Rebecca Cantrell)
0.5. City of Screams (2012)
1. The Blood Gospel (2013)
1.5. Blood Brothers (2013)
2. Innocent Blood (2013)
3. Blood Infernal (2015)
City of ScreamsThe Blood GospelBlood BrothersInnocent BloodBlood Infernal
Tucker Wayne (with Grant Blackwood)
1. The Kill Switch (2014)
2. War Hawk (2015)
The Kill Switch
Novels
Subterranean (1999)
Excavation (2000)
Deep Fathom (2001)
Amazonia (2002)
Ice Hunt (2003)
Altar of Eden (2009)
SubterraneanExcavationDeep FathomAmazoniaIce HuntAltar of Eden
Novellas
The Devil’s Bones: Cotton Malone vs. Gray Pierce (2014)(with Steve Berry)
The Devil's Bones: Cotton Malone vs. Gray Pierce
Series contributed to
Indiana Jones (Films)
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull(2008)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

 

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Christian Cameron: Long Sword (Review)

Chris 1Chris 2

*Photos courtesy of Ian LaSpina* (with much appreciation)

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.

Book Description

long sword

Pisa, May 1364. Sir William Gold – newly knighted on the battlefield outside the gates of Florence – can look forward to a lucrative career as a sword for hire in the endless warring between Italy’s wealthy city states. But when a message comes from Father Pierre de Thomas, Grand Master of the Order of St John – better known as the Hospitallers – Sir William knows he has no choice but to leave his dreams of fame and fortune behind him.

Father Pierre is gathering men across Europe for a crusade, and as a donat of the order, Sir William is pledged to serve him. But before setting out for the Holy Land, Sir William and his companions face deadly adversaries closer to home. In the labyrinthine politics of Italy, not only would some cities rather side with the Saracen than their fellow Christians, but there are powerful princes of the church whose ambitions would be better served if the crusade failed – not to mention two of Sir William’s bitterest enemies – the maniacal Bourc le Camus, now in the pay of the ruthless Cardinal Robert of Geneva, and the Count D’Herblay, husband of the woman who still holds Sir William’s heart.

With assassins and conspirators on all sides, Sir William and his band of knights must overcome overwhelming odds – but if they survive, can the crusade be anything more than a suicide mission?

Long Sword: Review

I’m sure many of my regulars are expecting my usual litany of effusive comments about the remarkable writing that Christian produces. I do feel a bit like his English fan boy some days when I write the review, but I love the writing.

That said I struggled with the start of this one, be it my state of mind coming into my 10th book in January, or back to back to back historical fiction? I don’t know, but it felt a bit mired in detail, detail that Christian releases normally so effortlessly, it seemed to come out a little like a manual… I even think that I may have had a Tom Swan hangover, Tom Swan is one of the great unsung heroes of the Historical Fiction genre, an e-Book only serial, but so brilliant I miss it every day.

But William Gold didn’t/ couldn’t let me down, and neither did Christian, almost without noticing I went from the mire to brightness and solid ground.

As ever with Christians books this isn’t a light tome, its 448 pages long, but if you are like me, it will only be a 48 -72 hour read, after my initial struggle, which TBH was really only about a chapter when I checked back, I was fully caught up, I could not put it down. Christians research is amazing, he packs in such detail, but effortlessly, you feel the weight of armour, and you feel the maneuverability, and the exhaustion of wearing it, and I know this comes from the fact that he does wear it, and he does fight in it .

chris 3

Christian was also a warrior in his own right, and an intelligencer, so he knows how battles are fought, he knows the nuances, the thought process used by commanders, subordinates etc and dare I say by those who have to go and gather the intelligence in the most dangerous of circumstances.

What isn’t written down in history book (and even things that are) he checks. If how to swing a sword doesn’t sound right he will practice, if the clothing doesn’t sound authentic he will check with someone who knows, or even try to make it. I don’t think I have ever met someone so full of and yet still desperate for knowledge, and we the reader benefit from all of this.

Long sword isn’t Christians best book, but it is still an excellent book and I desperately want the next book in the series… as I seem to for every next book in every one of his series.

I highly recommend this, this isn’t just a book about fighting and the crusades, this is a book about chivalry, about love, and abstinence and its difficulty and temptations and about the glory of true friendship and a man striving to be better than he was yesterday.

(Parm)

 

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 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
Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade
1. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part One (2014)
2. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Two (2014)
3. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Three (2014)
Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part OneTom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part TwoTom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Three
Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Salamis (2015)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarThe Ill-Made KnightThe Long Sword

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Matthew Reilly : The Great Zoo Of China (Review)

Matthew Reilly's picture

Matthew Reilly

Australia (1974 – )

Matthew Reilly was born in Sydney in 1974 and studied Law at the University of New South Wales. He has written both screenplays and magazine articles, and recently optioned the film rights to Contest. His second and third novels, Ice Station and Temple, became No. 1 bestsellers in his native Australia, and went on to enjoy huge success internationally. The author still lives in Sydney, and keeps on writing.

zoo

Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (12 Feb. 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 1409134253
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409134251
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 4.7 x 24 cm

In the blockbuster and bestselling tradition of Jurassic Park comes the breakneck new adventure from the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author Matthew Reilly whose imaginative, cinematic thrillers “make you feel like a kid again; [they’re] a blast” (Booklist).

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons – a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed.

A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.

Of course it can’t..

Review (With Spoilers… not usual for me… but there you go)

I don’t normally write reviews for books that I score below a 4 star rating, but I felt compelled to write something about this one. I have always enjoyed the release of Matthew Reilly’s books, they are my escape from genre and reality. After spending so much time in the past sometimes I need something fantastical, something out there on the edge that tests your ability to suspend belief, where you are not wondering if a person could really have survived an encounter (we know that really they would have died in scene one).

What I think that readers of this genre do demand though is originality, and for the first time ever I think the author fails, there is no way anyone can do anything but compare this book to Jurassic park, only instead of Raptors and T-Rex chomping people to bits we have dragons. The author does add in a few nuances around intelligence (but we saw that with the raptors in Jurassic park) the Dragons desire to escape, again we saw that in Jurassic park. The hero (Geoff Goldblum) became a heroine (CJ Cameron), nice move, but she was just too much, she would have and should have died so many times, too many to swallow. Normally The authors weapon research is excellent, but this time they only worked to suit the author, eg: grenades that go off at the touch of a flame (nope) tanks and Apache helicopters destroyed in a blink, yet they (dragons) could not destroy a fire truck, and CJ… well charmed life with the odd scratch.

I know already that fans of the author will flame any review I add like this, if I put it on good reads or amazon I can ticker tape count the negative votes it will get. But I’m sorry that will be an emotive response… quick protect the poor fragile author. I’m pretty certain that he is expecting reviews like this, and maybe hoping to get away with out them. Reviews are a personal thing, so for me, personally this did not work, I’m sure it will for many other.

That said I still passed some fun hours, even if I scoffed at much of the action… but it really is a 3/5. The characters are fun as ever, the writing is splendidly paced as usual, but the plot was the let down… and that’s the first time I have ever said that for a Matthew Reilly book.

as with any book that isn’t to my taste… read it yourself, make up your own mind (just maybe save it for the pool on holiday when you have left the brain back at home.)

(Parm)

Scarecrow

1. Ice Station (1998)
2. Area 7 (2001)
3. Scarecrow (2003)
4. Hell Island (2006)
5. Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves (2011)
aka Scarecrow Returns
Ice Station / Hell Island (omnibus) (2007)
Ice StationArea 7ScarecrowHell IslandScarecrow and the Army of Thieves
Hover Car Racer
1. Crash Course (2005)
2. Full Throttle (2006)
3. Photo Finish (2007)
Hover Car Racer (2004)
Crash CourseFull ThrottlePhoto FinishHover Car Racer
Jack West Junior
1. The Seven Ancient Wonders (2005)
aka Seven Deadly Wonders
2. The Six Sacred Stones (2007)
3. The Five Greatest Warriors (2009)
The Seven Ancient WondersThe Six Sacred StonesThe Five Greatest Warriors
Tournament
Roger Ascham and the King’s Lost Girl (2013)
The Tournament (2013)
Roger Ascham and the King's Lost GirlThe Tournament
Troll Mountain Serial Novel
1. Troll Mountain: Episode I (2014)
2. Troll Mountain: Episode II (2014)
3. Troll Mountain: Episode III (2014)
Troll Mountain: The Complete Novel (2014)
Troll Mountain: Episode ITroll Mountain: Episode IITroll Mountain: Episode IIITroll Mountain: The Complete Novel
Novels
Temple (1999)
Contest (2000)
The Great Zoo of China (2014)
TempleContestThe Great Zoo of China
Series contributed to
Quick Reads 2006
Hell Island (2006)
Hell Island

 

 

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Paul Fraser Collard: Devil’s Assassin (Review)

Paul Fraser Collard's picture

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.

Devil’s Assassin

The bold hero of THE SCARLET THIEF and THE MAHARAJAH’S GENERAL returns in an exhilarating and dangerous new adventure.

Bombay, 1857. Jack Lark is living precariously as an officer when his heroic but fraudulent past is discovered by the Devil – Major Ballard, the army’s intelligence officer. Ballard is gathering a web of information to defend the British Empire, and he needs a man like Jack on his side. Not far away, in Persia, the Shah is moving against British territory and, with the Russians whispering in his ear, seeks to conquer the crucial city of Herat. The Empire’s strength is under threat and the army must fight back.

As the British march to war, Jack learns that secrets crucial to the campaign’s success are leaking into their enemies’ hands. Ballard has brought him to the battlefield to end a spy’s deceit. But who is the traitor?

THE DEVIL’S ASSASSIN sweeps Jack Lark through a thrilling tale of explosive action as the British face the Persian army in the inky darkness of the desert night

Review

 DA PfC

Buy a Signed Exclusive Limited Edition

The book starts out with a splendid and evocative title, I have been speculating for some time as to the plot of this next Jack Lark book. Fortunately due to the vagaries of ordering some copies from the publisher im luck and they arrived so nice and early, my wait was finally over. Paul Collard has rapidly become mush read material, since the first book burst onto the market in 2013 (it seems so long ago) Scarlet Thief Review

Since that first book I have seen Paul Collards work get better and better ( Maharajah’s General Review ), more detailed, the plot tighter and tighter, the character growth sharp, to the point that you wonder if Jack will survive the book. There are the inevitable comparisons to Bernard Conwell’s Sharpe, Jack is a man from the ranks, brought up in the gutter. But that’s where in the main the similarities end. Sharpe never tried or pretended to the gentry, where Jack is living the lie, always looking over his shoulder, not to be stabbed in the back by some posh boy, but to be caught out, denounced. Will he get something wrong, will he bump into someone who knew the man he has assumed the identity of? That anticipation and fear oozes from the pages but only as the underlying heartbeat to each storyline, to each character that Jack dons and each dramatic situation he becomes embroiled in.

In devils assassin we are introduced to our usual cast of side characters, those who form the plot for Jack, the players in his elaborate scheme, those who really are the gentry of the regiment, the men who might find him out, the men he wants to prove he can be as good as , better than, to prove it’s the man not the lineage that defines.

Right from the start this book felt different, someone knows Jacks secret, and uses it to recruit Jack as a Spy Catcher, for once the fear of being discovered is reduced, and it has meant that the author is required to dial this back in the writing, it also means that that fear can be channelled into something else, and that’s the battles, the wild indiscriminate danger of war. No matter his orders Jack cannot restrain himself from being in the thick of the fight, a born leader, always at the front, going where many would fear to go, Jack has lost that fear, or at least lost the need to be controlled by it, because dead he has no more to worry about, and alive he must keep proving he is the better man and he can only do that from the front. Paul Collard has captured all of this perfectly.

I feel that many reader like me with be sat smugly from early in the book, saying “I know who the spy is”… I caution you now… beware that smugness, there is a twist in this tale, I had that smugness wiped off my face. Despite my protestations earlier in the review about the Lark/ Sharpe comparison, I have to admit to thinking that Devils Assassin could well have been a Sharpe tale, and that said fully as a compliment, I loved Sharpe. I think its because there was less fear at being caught as a pretender in his own life and more that he was an honest down to earth soldier thrust among the dandies and crazy gentry, trying to add some professional soldiers quality to the story, with a proper mission rather than just hiding in plain sight.

Personally I think Paul Collard has become one of the most readable figures in Historical Fiction, it helps that he is in a time period that is covered a lot more lightly than, eg, Rome, but I think he could pick out any period and his writing style would shine through. This truly is edge of the seat writing.

So once again I end a Jack Lark review with … HOW LONG …until the next one… a Year…. Sob??

Enjoy everyone, because if I get reading time I will do so again.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Series
Jack Lark
1. The Scarlet Thief (2013)
2. The Maharajah’s General (2013)
3. The Devil’s Assassin (2015)
Rogue (2014) (Short story)
Recruit (2015) (Short story)
The Scarlet ThiefThe Maharajah's GeneralThe Devil's AssassinRogue

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Joe Abercrombie: Half the World (Review)

About the Author

Author Web site

Joe Abercrombie was born in Lancaster, England, on the last day of 1974. He was educated at the stiflingly all-boy Lancaster Royal Grammar School, where he spent much of his time playing computer games, rolling dice, and drawing maps of places that don’t exist. He went on to Manchester University to study Psychology. The dice and the maps stopped, but the computer games continued. Having long dreamed of single-handedly redefining the fantasy genre, he started to write an epic trilogy based around the misadventures of thinking man’s barbarian Logen Ninefingers. The result was pompous toss, and swiftly abandoned.

The Author, Joe AbercrombieJoe then moved to London, lived in a stinking slum with two men on the borders of madness, and found work making tea for minimum wage at a TV Post-Production company. Two years later he left to become a freelance film editor, and has worked since on a dazzling selection of documentaries, awards shows, music videos, and concerts for artists ranging from Barry White to Coldplay.

This job gave him a great deal of time off, however, and gradually realising that he needed something more useful to do than playing computer games, in 2002 he sat down once again to write an epic fantasy trilogy based around the misadventures of thinking man’s barbarian Logen Ninefingers. This time, having learned not to take himself too seriously in the six years since the first effort, the results were a great deal more interesting.

With heroic help and support from his family the first volume, The Blade Itself, was completed in 2004. Following a heart-breaking trail of rejection at the hands of several of Britain’s foremost literary agencies, The First Lawtrilogy was snatched up by Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz in 2005 in a seven-figure deal (if you count the pence columns). A year later The Blade Itself was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. It now has publishers in thirteen countries.  The sequels, Before They are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings were published in 2007 and 2008, when Joe was a finalist for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer.  Best Served Cold, a standalone book set in the same world, was published in June 2009, and a second standalone, The Heroes, came in January 2011 and made no. 3 on the Sunday Times Hardcover Bestseller List.  A third standalone, Red Country, was both a Sunday Times and New York Times Hardcover Bestseller in October 2012.

The first part of his Shattered Sea series, Half a King, came out in July 2014, with the other two, Half the World, and Half a War, due to be published January and July 2015.

Joe now lives in Bath with his wife, Lou, his daughters Grace and Eve, and his son Teddy.  He spends most of his time writing edgy yet humorous fantasy novels…

Half the World (2015) (The second book in the Half a King series)

Buy a signed copy

Half the world UK Half the World US

Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.
Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.
Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.
She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.
Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.
Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.
And weapons are made for one purpose.
Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Review

Book Two in Joe Abercrombie’s Half a World series, set not long after book one, Yarvi is Minister and is trying to work his deep cunning to keep the kingdom of Gettland safe. Yarvi isn’t the main focus of this book. Book two follows the plight of Thorn a female warrior, derided by her peers, daughter of a dead hero and determined to follow in his footsteps, that determination see’s her fall foul of her training master and pulled by oath into the orbit of Minister Yarvi and his cunning plots.

Hard as it seems i think Joe has out done Half a King with this latest book, book two is a similar story type, coming of age, the sudden growth from youth to adulthood, thrust into the forefront of politics and battle. The similarity is even there with the ship voyage providing the ever-changing backdrop for the growth. But it comes into its own with the growth of Thorn as a fighter, with Brand and his struggle with the morality of war. and all of it mixed up in the deep cunning shenanigans of Yarvi. Because of the authors skillful handling of author growth and creativity the similarities are all blended into something unique and mind-blowing. There is always the thought that you know where the plot is leading but not always why, and that there is so much more tantalizing at the edge of the plot, particularly regarding the elves and who they might have been wand what they left behind.

The book leads us half way across the world and back again, it leads to the High kings and his minister trying to destroy Gettland, and it leads to old enemies meeting on the battle field.

Once again its a surprise this is a young adult novel, but when you think back you can see that it is toned done , not overt in the death and violence, but the implication more than enough to make this a tense and dramatic tale, the characterisation and world building realistic enough to suck you in from page one and have you rowing at the oars with every page.

I highly recommend this series, and cannot wait for book three

(Parm)

Series

 

First Law
1. The Blade Itself (2006)
2. Before They Are Hanged (2007)
3. Last Argument Of Kings (2008)
The First Law Trilogy Boxed Set: The Blade Itself / Before They Are Hanged / Last Argument of Kings(omnibus) (2012)
The First Law Trilogy (omnibus) (2015)
The Blade ItselfBefore They Are HangedLast Argument Of KingsThe First Law Trilogy Boxed Set: The Blade Itself / Before They Are Hanged / Last Argument of Kings

 

First Law World
1. Best Served Cold (2009)
2. The Heroes (2011)
3. Red Country (2012)
The Great Leveller: Best Served Cold, The Heroes and Red Country, together in one omnibus volume (omnibus)(2015)
Best Served ColdThe HeroesRed Country

 

Half a King
1. Half a King (2014)
2. Half a World (2015)
3. Half a War (2015)
Half a KingHalf a World

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