Tag Archives: Soldiers

Anthony Riches : Betrayal (The Centurions 1) Review

Anthony Riches UK flag

Anthony Riches's picture

Anthony Riches began his lifelong interest in war and soldiers when he first heard his father’s stories about World War II. This led to a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. He began writing the story that would become Wounds of Honour after a visit to Housesteads in 1996. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children.

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Betrayal  (2017)
(The first book in the Centurions series)

book cover of Betrayal

Rome, AD 68. Nero has committed suicide. One hundred years of imperial rule by the descendants of Julius Caesar has ended, and chaos rules. His successor, Galba, dismisses the incorruptible Germans of the Imperial Bodyguard for the crime of loyalty to the dead emperor. Ordering them back to their homeland, he releases a Batavi officer from a Roman prison to be their prefect. But Julius Civilis is not the loyal servant of empire that he seems.

Four centurions, two Batavi and two Roman, will be caught up in the intrigues and the battles that follow – as friends, as victims, as leaders and as enemies. Hramn is First Spear of the Bodyguard. Fiercely proud of his men’s honour and furious at their disgrace, he leads them back to the Batavi homeland to face an uncertain future. Alcaeus is a centurion with the tribe’s cohorts serving Rome on the northern frontier – men whose fighting skills prove crucial as Roman vies with Roman for the throne. A wolf-priest of Hercules, he wields the authority of his god and his own fighting prowess. Marius is a Roman, first spear of the Fifth Legion: a self-made man who hates politics but cannot avoid them in a year of murderous intrigue. Aquillius, former first spear of the Eighth Augustan, like Hramn, is in disgrace for refusing to dishonour his oath of loyalty. But their paths will lead them to opposite sides of an unforgiving war.

And Civilis, Kivilaz to his countrymen, heroic leader, Roman citizen and patriotic Batavi, will change both the course of the empire’s destiny and that of the centurions.

Review

Anthony Riches Books are one of those rare treats i look forward to every year, his writing stands out from the crowd with a style that engages you as part of the story not a voyeur. His, unlike the majority of Historical Fiction is told from the common view, the everyday grunt and how he is impacted by the decisions and machinations of power.

Betrayal is different, in that by its nature it has to have some level of focus on those pulling the strings of political power, but also while the arc of this story must keep us close to those movers and shakers the author keeps us close to what matters, the men of the legion, the Centurions and most of all the action.

In this book and new series Anthony Riches takes on not only one of the most action packed and climactic years in Roman history, but also focuses on a people who gain many mentions in historical books, and also in films when they need to pull out a person of exceptional fighting ability. The Batavi, a people who were for many years Romes shock troops used to break the line, or operate behind the line. This first book in the series starts with the expulsion of the Batavi Imperial bodyguard, an honour they had held for a century, Galba has taken power and changes are afoot, not all is right and happy with the empire. before long Vitellius has been acclaimed Emperor by the Legions of the Rhine and Otho has deposed Galba. Among all of this are the seething animosities of the legions and the distrust and they hold for the Batavi and sins of the past, and the Centurions are determined to right what they deem to be the wrongs of Rome, while the Batavi will look to ensure the future of their people and align themselves with another potential Emperor rising in Judea… all this leading eventually to the Batavian Revolt.

Anthony Riches while adopting a slightly different style in this series manages to make this book a deeper plot whilst retaining the true soul of his style, that action packed true storyteller, in with the muck, spears and swords. Always writing where the action is thickest and the intrigue is dirtiest, coupled with impeccable research and attention to detail.

I loved this book, I loved the brilliant graphic novel snippet that the author produced pre release and know that this series has so much more to give, for those who have not read anything by this author start now, he is one of the best in the genre and you will find it very hard to get more bang for your buck elsewhere.

(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)
9. Altar of Blood (2016)
The Empire Collection Books I-3 (omnibus) (2017)
The Empire Collection Books 4-6 (omnibus) (2017)
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Centurions
1. Betrayal (2017)
2. Onslaught (2017)
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Filed under Anthony Riches, Historical Fiction

C C Humphreys: Plague (Review)

C C Humphreys

CC H

aka Chris Humphreys

Author Bio (and web site)

Book Description

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Buy from WH Smiths

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Plague

London, 1665. A serial killer stalks his prey, scalpel in his hand and God’s vengeance in his heart.

Five years after his restoration to the throne, Charles II leads his citizens by example, enjoying every excess. Londoners have slipped the shackles of puritanism and now flock to the cockpits, brothels and, especially, the theatres, where for the first time women are allowed to perform alongside the men.
But not everyone is swept up in the excitement. Some see this liberated age as the new Babylon, and murder victims pile up in the streets, making no distinction in class between a royalist member of parliament and a Cheapside whore. But they have a few things in common: the victims are found with gemstones in their mouths. And they have not just been murdered; they’ve been . . . sacrificed.
Now, with the plague is returning to the city with full force, attacking indiscriminately . . . and murder has found a new friend.

Review

Plague for me was always going to be a difficult book by this exceptional author. His last title Shakespear’s Rebel was just so amazingly well written, researched and composed, it became my book of the year last year, a book that had more than just writing passion, but I felt a little of the authors soul poured onto the pages. How can you follow that? Can you follow that?

Plague isn’t in the same league as Shakespear’s Rebel, but once again C C Humphreys has served up a real reading treat. The book very patiently paints a vivid and real London of 1665 (the dirt and squalor, but also the families who live there), adding in the authors usual realistic and dramatic main characters, developing the plot introducing each character carefully and fully. Moving carefully from a Highwayman, to a dangerous killer who is every bit as nasty as Jack the ripper, to a thief catcher of one of the boroughs of London. It doesn’t end there, some big great players walk upon this stage, including the King, I really enjoyed seeing the king portrayed in the book, his love of theater giving the impression of a frivolous king, but clearly hidden under that a sharp and keen mind. As ever I enjoyed the introduction of one of the Absolute Clan, the link that ties the authors books together.

Writing a book about the Plague is also a tough ask, its a seriously dark period of time, and a dark subject matter. Chris manages to imbue it with something different, the plague is happening, but it isn’t the key driver for the plot. There is instead a Psychotic and dangerous killer loose in London, a dangerous plot brewing,  families struggling to survive the danger that is daily life, let alone the plague. All of this we see though the eyes of Captain Coke and Pitman the thief and the thief catcher. So while this isn’t a new Shakespeare Rebel, it is a plot with many many levels with characters real, but for me having a hint of the stage about them, not that i mind that, in fact i enjoy it in this author books because its coupled with such vivid portrayal of the time, place and circumstances (the many sub plots).

So as ever I highly recommend this book, this time to fans of Historical Fiction, Crime, and books that are just brilliantly written.

(Parm)

Other Books

Series
French Executioner
1. The French Executioner (2002)
2. Blood Ties (2002)
The French ExecutionerBlood Ties
Jack Absolute
1. Jack Absolute: The 007 of the 1770s (2003)
2. The Blooding of Jack Absolute (2004)
3. Absolute Honour (2006)
Jack Absolute: The 007 of the 1770sThe Blooding of Jack AbsoluteAbsolute Honour
Novels
Vlad: The Last Confession (2008)
The Hunt of the Unicorn (2011)
A Place Called Armageddon (2011)
Shakespeare’s Rebel (2013)
Plague (2014)
Vlad: The Last ConfessionThe Hunt of the UnicornA Place Called ArmageddonShakespeare's RebelPlague

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Filed under C C Humphreys, Crime, Historical Fiction, Thrillers

Noble Smith: Spartans at the Gates (review)

Author Bio (Noble Smith)

Noble-Smith_homepage

Noble Smith is an award-winning playwright and documentary film executive producer as well as a 16-year veteran of the interactive entertainment industry as a narrative designer. He is the author of The Wisdom of the Shire, a guide to life for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien (translated into 8 languages), praised by Kirkus Reviews as a “must-have” for fans of Middle-earth. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and children.

Book Description (Spartan at the gates)

Spartans_NSmith_cover-197x300

The Peloponnesian War has begun. An army of merciless Spartan invaders have arrived at the gates of Plataea, bent on obliterating the city and its inhabitants. Plataea’s oldest allies, the Athenians, are spread too thin in their own campaigns to send help. Cut off and alone, the Plataeans dig in behind their high walls for the coming siege, while the ruthless Spartans gather outside.

On a rugged mountain road a young Plataean warrior named Nikias rides to Athens on an urgent quest. He carries with him a bag of ill-gotten gold, hoping to raise an army of mercenaries to help defend his city from the coming Spartan assault. But in the sprawling stronghold of Athens, Nikias encounters perils that prove to be more dangerous than those he has faced on the battlefield.
Noble Smith’s Spartans at the Gates is a thrilling action-adventure novel set during the war between the great powers of Ancient Greece.

Review:

I first discovered Noble last year when i stumbled across Sons of Zeus, The concept was the bit that intrigued me despite the cover being another unfortunate US cover (sorry guys, but US publishers have an amazing skill for awful covers, Spartans at the Gates isn’t really an improvement…sorry Noble). In the last five years plus I have developed a real passion for books set in ancient Greece, something driven mainly by the awesome writing of Christian Cameron. Couple that with Nobles setting of Plataea again a location at the heart of Christians writing and I was hooked in to read book one and give it a go. What i didn’t expect was excellent pace and plotting of the book and its characters. My review of Sons of Zeus is Here

When I know Spartan at the Gates was ready in advance copy I was front and centre begging the author for a copy. I hadn’t enjoyed a book this much in this time period since Christian Cameron’s works first hooked me in. (and that really is my highest compliment). The worry of a great first book is “can the author repeat it?”

In the case of Spartan the answer is yes with a tiny quibble. The fantastic setting is there, the descriptive is there, the research is impeccable, the characters are once again sublime. Noble imbues Nikias and all his family and friends with a real passion, the protagonists are all complex bad guys, giving an amazing keep you guessing plot, who will pop up where, what are the real motives? Introduce the multitude of whisperers (spies) from all sides and factions and you don’t know what will happen next.  This book has Nikias thrown from one set of issues and adversity to another, testing his stamina and metal to the limit, We also fill in more of the blanks on Chusor the mysterious Smith and will Nikias young friend Kolax finally find his father, and how many people will this whirling devil of a Scythian boy kill on his journey to find him. The whole book flew by, it was over before I felt I had really got to the meat of it, and I think that was my only regret with the read, it felt like a bridging book, moving pieces on the chess board and shifting them into position for the final book in the series, its done so well that on the Amazon scale I would still give this 5/5 stars, but on a personal note I felt that bridging and plot building too keenly in its ending, that could just be a great compliment that i never wanted it to end? but in a world of hefty tomes, i felt this could have benefitted from another 100 pages of meat.

So once again from Noble Smith a truly excellent read, crammed with great characters and story telling , an engaging and fast paced writing skill and style to rival the best of them (Bernard Cornwell, , Conn Iggulden, Christian Cameron, Giles Kristian, Anthony Riches, Ben Kane, Paul Collard, Michael Arnold, Angus Donald (hope I didn’t miss anyone 😉 etc..) and well worth the cover price, a book I heartily recommend.

(Parm)

 

Novels
Stolen from Gypsies (2000)
Sons of Zeus (2013)
Spartans at the Gates (2014)
Stolen from GypsiesSons of ZeusSpartans at the Gates
Novellas
The One-Armed Warrior (2013)
The One-Armed Warrior
Non fiction
The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life (2012)
The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life

 

 

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Noble Smith

Parmenion Books 2013 in review

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

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

EG:

Phil Hogan A Pleasure and a Calling (review) 

a pleasure and a calling

Simon Beckett Stone Bruises (Review)

stone bruises

Sarah Pinborough The Language of Dying (Review)

language

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

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

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

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

Best Thrillers of 2013:

1: Terry Hayes: I am Pilgrim

pilgrim

2: David Gibbins: The Pharaoh

Pharoah

3: James Douglas: The Excalibur Codex

excalibur

4: Chris Kuzneski: The Hunters

the hunters

5: Hugh Howey: Dust

Dust

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

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

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

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

Best Fantasy / Supernatural books of 2013

1: Nathan Hawke: Crimson Shield

crimson shield

2: Nathan Hawke: Cold Redemption

cold redemption

3: Luke Scull: Grim Company

grimm

4: James Rollins & Rebecca Cantrell: Blood Gospel

gospel

5: Ben Aaronvitch: Broken Homes

Broken Homes

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

Best Historical Fiction of 2013

1: CC Humphreys: Shakespear’s Rebel

shakespeareicc81s-rebel-3b

2: Paul Collard: Maharajahs General

MG

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

Book 1

ts 1

Book 4

ts4

Book 5

TS 5

Book 6

TS6

4: Nobel Smith: Sons of Zeus

zeus

5: Robert Fabbri Romes Fallen Eagle

eagle fallen

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

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

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

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

Its a list you all deserve to be on.

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

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

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

Happy new year all.

(Parm)

 

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Christian Cameron: The Ill Made Knight (Review)

Christian Cameron

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

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

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

Author Web site

Author Forum

Product Description

Ill made Knight

William Gold comes into the world as his family slides down the social ladder. His head filled with tales of chivalry, instead he is branded a thief, and must make do with being squire to his childhood friend Sir Robert, a knight determined to make a name for himself as a man at arms in France. While William himself slowly acquires the skills of knightly combat, he remains an outsider – until the Battle of Poitiers when Sir Robert is cut down by the greatest knight of the age, Sir Geoffry de Charny, and William, his lowly squire, revenges him. But with his own knight dead, no honour acrrues to William for this feat of arms, and he is forced to become a mercenary. Scavenging a mis-matched set of armour from the knightly corpses, he joins one of the mercenary companies now set to pillage a defenceless France, and so begins a bloody career that sees William joining forces with the infamous Sir John Hawkwood and immersing himself in a treacherous clandestine war among the Italian city states. But paradoxically it is there, among the spies, assassins and hired killers serving their ruthless masters, that William finally discovers the true meaning of chivalry – and his destiny as a knight.

Review:

In this book, this oh so wonderful book, Christian Cameron proves yet again no matter what era he writes in, he does it with style, skill and panache. For me he is the finest writer of historical fiction currently writing. As a writer he ticks every box, deep research, deep personal knowledge from his re-enactment, a deep abiding passion for the subject matter and for the world of writing, and a natural skill of the storyteller, a skald, a minstrel a chronicler a man who can lift his audience to another time and place, transporting them to sit at the shoulder of his characters through pain, happiness , passion, victory and defeat. Every single book gets better and is a bigger triumph than the last, and that astounds me, because every book just takes my breath away in its scope and skill.

Ill Made Knight is a whole new world for me, I know nothing about this period, 1356 England and France is a blank slate, and yet in every page I felt at home with William Gold, I felt every one of his losses and every one of his victories, his betrayals hurt me as much as William, his losses cut me to the core, his loves reminded me of the highs a person can reach just being in the presence of that special person in your life and his anger at the Bourc burned as hotly for me as it did for him. The book arouses all those passions in the reader and more.

As much as I was entertained, I feel I was also educated, knowing that the author, has invested so much time, patience, blood sweat and energy into understanding the period, the arms and armour, the clothing, the fighting (he took part in a tournament recently in full armour). All of this brings the story to life, it brings a reality a realism, add to that the authors military background and understanding of soldiers and war and you really do get a sense that you are experiencing a true accounting rather than fiction.

This will absolutely be one of the best books you read this year.

(Parm)

Other books by this author

Series
Tyrant
1. Tyrant (2008)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
TyrantStorm of ArrowsFuneral GamesKing of the BosporusDestroyer of Cities
Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon: Freedom or Death (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2013)
Killer of MenMarathon: Freedom or DeathPoseidon's SpearThe Great King
Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
CastillonVeniceConstantinopleRomeRhodesChios
Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
Alexander: God of War (2013)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarAlexander: God of WarThe Ill-Made Knight

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Nick Brown: The Far Shore (review)

Author

Nick Brown

Nick Brown grew up in Norfolk and has taught English and history in both the UK and abroad. He was inspired to try his hand at historical fiction after reading C.J. Sansom’s Dissolution.

Book Description

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Buy Signed Copy

far shore

When the deputy commander of Rome’s Imperial Security Service is assassinated on the island of Rhodes, Cassius Corbulo swiftly finds himself embroiled in the investigation. Assisted once more by ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara and servant Simo, his search for the truth is complicated by the involvement of the dead man’s headstrong daughter, Annia. Braving hostile seas, Cassius and his allies follow the assassin’s trail south aboard a ship captained by a roguish Carthaginian smuggler and manned by his disparate, dangerous crew. Their journey leads them to the farthest reaches of the empire; to a ruined city where the rules of Roman civilization have long been abandoned, and a deadly battle of wits with a brutal, relentless foe.

Review:

It becomes, after a while very easy to say a book is the best yet, his finest work etc. to be honest I think that this should be the case, a person should grow in their job, should strive for improvement, if they don’t do that they stagnate and come to see it as a wage not thing to be enjoyed and improved.
There are some fine authors who have fallen into this downward spiral (not always a neglect, sometimes just life getting in the way). The good news is that Nick is at the start of what is a very steep upward curve. Every book leaps and bounds above the last with improvements in style, prose, characterisation and intricacy to the plot.

When book one The Siege (Agent of Rome)came out I grabbed it because I love Roman Historical Fiction, it was during that first read that I had a momentary worry, I’m not normally a fan of Historical Crime fiction. (No idea why, I like crime thrillers , I love Hist Fic, should be a marriage made in heaven) It’s my failing, I suppose I’m looking for the CSI type resolution rather than the cerebral Holmes type resolution? I have tried some of the really great writers of this genre and been left feeling …Meh!
But not so with Nick Brown, Corbulo is not the average detective type, especially in this book, there is a total humanity to him, a depth that so many writers fail to get to. He is on the page warts and all, his innate snobbery, something he clearly doesn’t see because that’s the way he was raised. His view of women, and their status in the order of the roman world and his utter surprise when a strong woman gets peeved at him for being a chauvinist prig. His casual demeaning of Indavara (who is my favourite character in the book, not just your average thug, a man of depth and complexity, but also who provides great humour in the book, one of my fav sidekicks at the moment across many series.) these traits are all part of the make-up of a very complex man, driven, and brave, afraid of not doing his duty, striving to be better, but also built from the sum of his experiences, and as he is still a young man he has many more experiences and lessons to learn.
The other thing that keeps bringing me back to Nick Browns books is his USP (unique selling point), the fact that his character is set in his own career, he is and isn’t a soldier, he is a Grain Man , a spy, a fixer, a detective he is what ever the Roman secret service (the Frumentarii) require of him. This sets the whole series apart. And I think its this that gives the added extra for me personally and lifts it beyond a Hist Fic Crime novel. Its part crime, part detective, part spy, part hist fic. It basically is an absorbing tale set against the back drop of one of the greatest empires in the world, but exposed to its core of corruption.

The Plot… well read the book description,
“When the deputy commander of Rome’s Imperial Security Service is assassinated on the island of Rhodes, Cassius Corbulo swiftly finds himself embroiled in the investigation. Assisted once more by ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara and servant Simo, his search for the truth is complicated by the involvement of the dead man’s headstrong daughter, Annia.

Braving hostile seas, Cassius and his allies follow the assassin’s trail south aboard a ship captained by a roguish Carthaginian smuggler and manned by his disparate, dangerous crew. Their journey leads them to the farthest reaches of the empire; to a ruined city where the rules of Roman civilization have long been abandoned, and a deadly battle of wits with a brutal, relentless foe.”

That was written by an expert, you don’t need me to add to that… and I miss spoilers by avoiding it…. I will say Corbulo has my sympathy on the sea voyage, I felt green just reading about it.

Reading geek points also to anyone who spots the Star Wars reference in the book (I’m not spoiling it…. Sorry, meant I didn’t see it because I’m not a geek…honest)

Highly Recommended
(Parm)

Series
Agent of Rome
1. The Siege (2011)
2. The Imperial Banner (2012)
3. The Far Shore (2013)
The SiegeThe Imperial BannerThe Far Shore
Novellas
Death This Day (2012)
The Eleventh Hour (2013)
Death This DayThe Eleventh Hour

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Iain Gale: Keanes Company (2013) Review

gale

Born in London , Iain Gale began writing historical fiction in 2005 after a successful career as an art critic and journalist.
He has experience as a judge in prestigious art and literary prizes and served for a number of years on the visual art committee of the Scottish Arts Council. He was also instrumental in the foundation of the Edinburgh Art Festival. Iain is currently an active member of the Scottish Committee of the Society of Authors, the Friends of the Waterloo Committee and the Waterloo 200 Committee.
In 1997 Iain was commended as Art Critic of the Year in the Bank of Scotland Press Awards.He has also made numerous appearances on national radio, including the BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4, LBC radio and Radio Scotland.Iain is married to an Edinburgh GP and between them they have six children aged between 17 and 7 and two impossible Labradors. They divide their time between Edinburgh and Fife.

keane

Publication Date: 25 April 2013 | Series: Keane 1

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James Keane, officer in the 27th Foot, card sharp, ladies’ man and one of the finest but most rebellious soldiers in the British army, is under threat of court martial for disobeying Wellesley’s strict rules. But his special, even ungentlemanly, skills have caught his general’s eye, so he is selected to form a unique unit which will work behind enemy lines.

Keane’s next task is to hand-pick his band of men, some from prison for their aptitude at lock-picking and forgery as well as fighting skills, and form them into an effective unit before being sent on their first intelligence-gathering special mission, this time to link up with a lethal Spanish guerrilla leader.

Stealing into Oporto, Keane’s men have to hold a vital post over the river a crossing against overwhelming forces, before being detached once more into the high mountains on another mission where the strains of the diverse characters of the unit test Keane’s leadership skills to the uttermost.

Review:

Author Iain Gale begins a new series with his protagonist James Keane, and oh what a series it is. I will not pretend to know the history of this type of Soldier in this period. But Keane commands the first example of Special forces for the British Army. A company of men with exceptional skills, and like most highly skilled and tuned men, men with their own flaws and issues. These men are the top of their field, but don’t think SAS, imagine the time period and the pool being pulled from. Heroic, but flawed. Keane must shape this group, a group with access to the best materials and also privy to information the enemy would kill to get their hands on, into the best of the best. Viewed with suspicion, envy and potentially awe by their comrades in other units, the regular troops, cannon fodder.

This is a must for those who love Sharpe and or the peninsular war. It takes the sort of story a Sharpe fan would love and takes it to the next level. Anyone who knows Iain Gales work will already be aware that he is an exceptional writer, skilled in bringing the sights sounds smells and brutality of war out on the page and alive in the imagination.

 Fans of Bernard Cornwell: please do beware this covers the same ground trodden by the illustrious Sharpe, and as such there can be only one hero… But also remember, Sharpe is fictional, as is Keane, so don’t expect Sharpe to save the day in Gales book. There is an element of the Dirty Dozen style in the band, but for me that added to the enjoyment, in this style plenty may seen…how shall I say… Magnified, something that seems a little unbelievable, but remember these boys are the elite company.  This really is action adventure set with a historical back ground, something I suspect would have been published in Boys own once upon a time.

In summary…Loved it, bring on book 2.

 Highly recommend

(Parm)

Other titles

Jack Steel
1. Man of Honour (2007)
2. Rules of War (2008)
3. Brothers in Arms (2009)
Man of HonourRules of WarBrothers in Arms
Peter Lamb
1. Black Jackals (2011)
2. Jackals’ Revenge (2012)
Black JackalsJackals' Revenge
Novels
The Four Days in June (2006)
Alamein (2010)
Keanes Company (2013)
The Four Days in JuneAlameinKeanes Company

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Christian Cameron: Tom Swan and the Head of St. George Part Six: Chios

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

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice.

Book Description

Buy the Book

TS6
A young Englishman, Tom Swan, finds himself in the midst of the Turkish siege of one of the riches islands in the Genoese Empire. Swan’s biggest problem is that he hates the Genoese a good deal more than he hates the Turks. Despite which, he has to catch the spy, steal the ring, kill the traitor, and if possible rescue the princess. Or maybe just bed her.

All duty, of course. So he can get home to the Cardinal, his boss, and his wife, the most beautiful woman in Italy. Suddenly he’s a Knight, a man of action, a leader of men. And none of those are roles he asked for. From the Knights of Rhodes to the court of Mehmet II and Pope Pius II, Swan has to use his sword-and his wits-just to stay alive. And married.

Review

I have called each of these short stories an episode, i do this because this series feels like some of the best episodic short stories i have read. It would make an amazing TV series that would make programs like the Tudors, Spartacus or Borgias’ pale in comparison.
Christian has a clear love of Greece, history, weaponry, fighting skills, Italy…. and on and on. He is a true renaissance man, He is in my mind the inspiration for Tom Swan. If there was a time machine the author would have been off already, but lacking that he travels in the mind and fortunately takes us with him.
Tom Swan 6: you may expect battles and sword fighting, and there is some of that, but the fighting is intimate, and built around intrigue and elements of misdirection, planning to a degree that is unexpected, bringing together strands that began in each episode. There is also great humour, great compassion, camaraderie, humility and personal growth. Couple that with the PTSD that Tom Swan clearly still carries from the last episode and this is a stunning end to a brilliant series…. And Season 2 is on the horizon.

Highly Recommended
(Parm)

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. Artemesium (2013)
Killer of MenMarathon: Freedom or DeathPoseidon's Spear
Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
CastillonVeniceConstantinopleRomeRhodesChios
Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
Alexander: God of War (2013)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarAlexander: God of WarThe Ill-Made Knight

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Paul Fraser Collard: The Scarlet Thief

Who is Paul Fraser Collard

collard

My love of history started in my childhood. As a child of the seventies I was brought up on a diet of Warlord and Commando comics whilst watching films like A Bridge too FarThe Longest Day and Zulu. At that time it was natural to play soldiers, either running around with my friends using nothing more dangerous than an armed finger, or playing with hundreds of small plastic men who had been fixed into a thousand different martial poses, all to inspire me to recreate the battles that I watched on TV.

As I got older I discovered the novels by Bernard Cornwell and I still remember the delight of reading Sharpe’s Enemy for the very first time (it is still my favourite novel to this day). That Christmas my parents bought me the entire backlist of Sharpe novels and they still sit in pride of place on my bookshelves although their covers show the battering of being read and reread over the years.

At no time did I ever consider writing myself. At school my love of all things military led me to apply for an Army Sixth Form Scholarship, an award that would lead to a place at Sandhurst, and, with luck and a vast amount of hard work and determination, a commission as an officer in the British army.

But when I came to leave school my mind changed. I had met my future wife and suddenly the draw of being an officer paled against the attraction of making a life with the woman I loved. So I left my childhood dream behind and embarked on a career in the City of London, a choice of job, that back then, did not carry the same stigma that it has acquired over the last few years.

All went well and I still work in the City today. I have learnt much over the years and without a shred of doubt I have been lucky to survive so long. I have also been fortunate to work with the same wonderful team for the last fifteen years which has made the daily grind so much more enjoyable than it should be.

It was only as I turned thirty that I started to consider writing for the first time. By then I had been commuting into London for years and the long train journey had been spent reading everything from Flashman to legal thrillers from the likes of Mark Gimenez and John Grisham.

I never thought of training myself to write. I just did it, bashing out a book without a single iota of planning. Since then I have written pretty much every day, never once stopping to analyse what I am doing, or how I am doing it. I just go for it.

I write what I like, about a subject that I am passionate about and which still interests me no matter how much I read and research the period. It would be easy to read the brilliant stories already set in the period and be deterred from daring to tread on the same turf but at the end of the day I cannot be swayed from the period that interests me the most. I simply do the best I can.

Paul Fraser Collard  – Sunday 11th November 2012

The Scarlet Thief:

scarlet

BRIEF DESCRIPTION 1854: The banks of the Alma River, Crimean Peninsular. The Redcoats stagger to a bloody halt. The men of the King’s Royal Fusiliers are in terrible trouble, ducking and twisting as the storm of shot, shell and bullet tear through their ranks. Officer Jack Lark has to act immediately and decisively. His life and the success of the campaign depend on it. But does he have the mettle, the officer qualities that are the life blood of the British Army? From a poor background Lark has risen through the ranks by stealth and guile and now he faces the ultimate test… THE SCARLET THIEF introduces us to a formidable and compelling hero – brutally courageous, roguish, ambitious – in a historical novel as robust as it is thrillingly authentic by an author who brings history and battle vividly alive.

 

Review

Paul Collard in the form of Jack Lark provide the reader with a new man, not a hero, but a man flawed and heroic, a product of his environment, but with a desire to pull himself away from the squalor that is the lot of the poor man in the 1850’s.

His story has flashes of the writing that gave Bernard Cornwell his man Sharpe, but it is also more, There is no pretence to the man which is funny given that his entire career as a Captain is a pretence. He is who he is, even hiding as a Captain the man will out, his colourful language, his ability to think for himself, to act, to think of the men under him and the way they are treated, so many things that would and do set him as a Captain apart. There is a different camaraderie in the book coupled with a small level of romance that were flashes of John Wilcox and his Simon Fonthill series, the interplay between batman and officer.

I’m no expert on the period so cannot say if the history is accurately depicted, but it felt accurate, it felt real, it felt alive.

The story its self contains some of the most riveting battle scenes I have read ever, every line every paragraph and page of the battles had me hooked, riveted to the page, there were times when I was almost as breathless as the exhausted soldiers. Paul Collard put the reader through the mill (almost as much as the soldiers). Death is on a huge scale, but not gratuitous, it merely shows the reader the hell of the battles in the Crimea, and the worthlessness of having a command built on privilege rather than skill, and even the skilled can break in the teeth of the utter horror that is war. It also shows that the writer is not afraid to kill off what would be key characters for other authors.

I really like reading debut books, to see who are the starts of the future, and Paul Collard is most certainly one. Book two cannot come soon enough for me

Hardback (9th May 2013)   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Scarlet-Thief-Jack-Lark/dp/1472200233/ref=sr_1_2_title_1_har?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365002655&sr=1-2

Paper Back (21st Nov 2013) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Scarlet-Thief-Paul-Fraser-Collard/dp/1472200268/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1365002655&sr=1-2

Kindle: (9th May 2013) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Scarlet-Thief-Jack-Lark-ebook/dp/B00ABLJ5LS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365002742&sr=1-1

Book 2 The Maharajah’s General is due 21st November 2013 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Maharajahs-General-Paul-Fraser-Collard/dp/1472200276/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365002863&sr=1-1

Jack Lark barely survived the Battle of the Alma in Crimea, and his future seemed bleak. But now he’s found a way to get back to war, masquerading as a captain who died of his wounds. Arriving in India, Jack finds new enemies to fight, but this time they’re on his own side. Unmasked as a fraud, he escapes with the chaplain’s daughter, and in desperation, they seek refuge with the Maharajah the British Army is trying to defeat. The Maharajah sees Jack as a curiosity, but recognises a fellow military mind. In return for his safety, Jack must train the very army he came to India to fight. And one day soon, the two sides must meet in battle…

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Twelve Children of Paris by Tim Willocks

About Tim Willocks

Tim Willocks

Writer Tim Willocks is a successful novelist and screenwriter. A qualified doctor and psychiatrist, he published his first novel, Bad City Blues, in 1991, followed by Green River Rising in 1994 and Bloodstained Kings in 1995. He co-wrote Sweet Angel Mine, adapted Bad City Blues for the screen in 1999, wrote the Steven Spielberg documentary The Unfinished Journey, and currently has a script in production called Sin.

The Twelve Children of Paris (2013)
(The second book in the Tannhauser Trilogy series)

Product details
Hardcover: 768 pages
Publisher: Jonathan Cape (23 May 2013)
ISBN-10: 0224097458
ISBN-13: 978-0224097451

12 children

Paris, August 23rd, 1572.

What do you do when your wife disappears.

In the middle of the bloodiest massacre in European history.

And you know she is about to give birth to your only child?

Three wars of religion have turned Paris into a foetid cauldron of hatred, intrigue and corruption. The Royal Wedding, intended to heal the wounds, has served only to further poison the fanatics of either creed. But Carla could not have known that when she accepted an invitation to the ceremony.

When Mattias Tannhauser rides into town, on Saint Bartholomew’s Eve, his only intention is to find her and take her home. But as the massacre of tens of thousands of Huguenots begins, and the city plunges into anarchy, Carla is abducted by Grymonde, the grotesque gang leader of the Yards, and Tannhauser finds himself imprisoned in the Louvre, at the centre of a vicious conspiracy.

Wanted by the law, the assassins’ guild, and a militant army who call themselves the Pilgrims of Saint-Jacques, Tannhauser must rise to pitiless extremes even he has never known before. With no one to help him but a stable boy, he wades a river of blood without knowing what lies on the other side.

As he harrows Hell in search of his beloved

His destiny is changed forever by

The Twelve Children Of Paris.

Review

When I first heard about this book, the first thing I did was email and ask for a review copy, by ask I mean beg. Apparently after taking pity on me for my pitiful email or just to stop me emailing any-more Tim’s publicist sent me a copy.
There are two reasons I wanted to read this book so badly.
1) This book while in my favourite genre, takes me well outside my comfort zone. It is so much more visually detailed that my usual read.
2) Tim Willocks last book Religion was so good and so long ago (7 years)

To say that reading this book gives the reader the sights sounds smells and feel of the time period would be far to demeaning, it really is so much more, Its a time machine back to 1572. To the real Paris, full of opulence and coated in shit.
What is so unexpected is the lead man of the book (I say lead, not Hero, there is no real Hero in this book). The story follows the exploits of one Mattias Tannhauser, a Saxon-born ex-Janissary who travels to Paris to find his wife. A long journey that should have ended with a happy reunion in the palaces of Paris, is disrupted by a violent plot to wipe out The Huguenots (members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France)…and something more personal!
The story has more than the single POV, while Mattias Tannhauser’s journey through Paris is one of the bloodiest swathes I have ever read, Carla Tannhauser’s is at first similar, but as the victim, and then turns more towards the emotive and spiritual. The spiritual exploring everything from Catholic thinking through to Tarot and Gia the earth mother, the sisterhood of women.

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The above is the promo cover, and for me its a big buy in. I love something as blunt as that.

What I would disagree with is the headcount, Mattias kills ….so many more people that the cover suggests and in probably more varied ways than suggested. Its not that he is a psycho killer. Its that he is a lion among sheep, he has been trained in war, he has survived the biggest battle of his age (the siege of Malta, a bloody turning point in the fabric of Europe that halted the march of Islam), in fighting terms he is a man among children. There are a few points when it seems a bit beyond the pale, but when you compare his skills to the political and Militia appointed soldiers of Paris, you can clearly see this man achieving everything he set out to, bathing in blood and gore from one side of Paris to the other (and back again)
But this journey of Mattias is not just a bloody trip through 1572 Paris, its also a journey to further self enlightenment, and to finding and building a new family. Carla his wife is not just in danger, she is Pregnant and both she and Mattias will journey through hell and wade through rivers of blood to ensure the child’s safety.
Along the way 11 other children touch their lives, and save their souls. But even with all of this neither of them are my favourite character, that was Grymonde “The Infant”, a hugely simple yet complex character. A man warped by life, by Paris and by disease. Willing to commit all and win or lose all on the single throw of a dice. His cry “No tomorrow” sums up his view that the poor of Paris cannot plan a life, because they don’t know where their next meal will come from, they have no clean water, the streets are filled with shit and the price of life is less than a loaf of bread. Grymonde is death on legs, with no conscience, until he meets Carla. The author could so easily have taken the easy way out and set Grymonde and Mattias against each other, but he plays them so much better than that, or rather Carla does.

Twelve Children of Paris is a power House of thrilling historical fiction. Jam packed with the most realistic fighting this side of a Christian Cameron book. I’m not sure I can recommend this book highly enough, go buy it…now!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Twelve-Children-Paris-Tim-Willocks/dp/0224097458/ref=la_B000AQ8QVY_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364227011&sr=1-1

and before you ask…no you don’t have to have read Religion, but what ever order you read them in read both amazing tomes.

(Parm)

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