Tag Archives: war

SJ Deas: The Royalist (Review)

Stephen Deas's picture

Stephen Deas

UK (1968 – )

aka Gavin Deas, S J Deas, Nathan Hawke

Stephen Deas is an engineer in the aerospace industry, working on communications and imaging technology in the defence sector. He is married with two children and lives near Writtle in Essex.

 
The Royalist

(2014)
(The first book in the William Falkland series)
A novel by S J Deas

Buy the book

royalist

William Falkland is a dead man.

A Royalist dragoon who fought against Parliament, he is currently awaiting execution at Newgate prison. Yet when he is led away from Newgate with a sack over his head, it is not the gallows to which they take him, but to Oliver Cromwell himself.

Cromwell has heard of Falkland’s reputation as an investigator and now more than ever he needs a man of conscience. His New Model Army are wintering in Devon but mysterious deaths are sweeping the camp and, in return for his freedom, Falkland is despatched to uncover the truth.

With few friends and a slew of enemies, Falkland soon learns there is a dark demon at work, one who won’t go down without a fight. But how can he protect the troops from such a monster and, more importantly, will he be able to protect himself?

Review

The Royalist is a historical mystery, but for me that is almost incidental to the reading of the book, i’m sure for some it may be detrimental, but the real talent of this book is something that the author excels at, in his Guise as Stephen Deas and Nathan Hawke.

Just like the Gallow series the author takes us on a tour of the darker side of war, rather than the Fog of war we get the Grime of War, all the much and horror, the cold and disease that many leave out of a tale. The tale its self is told (narrated) by William Falkland, a Royalist in the enemy camp, recruited by non other than Cromwell himself, taken from the hangman’s noose, to investigate a spate of suicides in his newly formed and trained New Model army, the hope of the parliamentary cause. There are no rose-tinted glasses in this tale, and for me that’s its brilliance, war isn’t pretty it isn’t clean and it doesn’t have absolutes its all shades of dirty grey. Why would a royalist agree to do this? well why would any man want to live? In the winter of the Civil War just existing and surviving is damn hard, let alone in the midst of a nation riven by war.

I take my hat off to the author for his ability and desire to portray all of this horror and dirt, but i echo my friend Kate in my view that the scale of the detail took from the mystery, but i honestly don’t know how you can give that much detail and darkness without consuming the attention of the reader from other parts of the tale.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Other Series

 

Memory of Flames
1. The Adamantine Palace (2009)
2. The King of the Crags (2010)
3. The Order of the Scales (2011)
The Adamantine PalaceThe King of the CragsThe Order of the Scales

 

Thief-Taker’s Apprentice
1. The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (2010)
2. The Warlock’s Shadow (2011)
3. The King’s Assassin (2012)
The Thief-Taker's ApprenticeThe Warlock's ShadowThe King's Assassin

 

Silver Kings
1. The Black Mausoleum (2012)
2. Dragon Queen (2013)
3. The Splintered Gods (2014)
4. The Silver Kings (2015)
The Black MausoleumDragon QueenThe Splintered Gods
Series
Empires
Empires: Extraction (2014)
Empires: Infiltration (2014)
Empires: The First Battle (2014)
Empires: ExtractionEmpires: InfiltrationEmpires: The First Battle
 Series contributed to
Elite: Dangerous
1. Wanted (2014)
Wanted
Fateguard Trilogy
1. The Crimson Shield (2013)
2. Cold Redemption (2013)
3. The Last Bastion (2013)
Gallow (omnibus) (2014)
The Crimson ShieldCold RedemptionThe Last BastionGallow
Gallow
1. The Anvil (2015)
The Anvil

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Filed under Historical Fiction, SJ Deas

Conn Iggulden: Trinity (The second book in the Wars of the Roses series) Review

2014-07-19-ConnIggulden

Author web site

Bio (in the authors own words)

I was born in the normal way in 1971, and vaguely remember half-pennies and sixpences. I have written for as long as I can remember: poetry, short stories and novels. It’s what I always wanted to do and read English at London University with writing in mind. I taught English for seven years and was Head of English at St. Gregory’s RC High School in London by the end of that period. I have enormous respect for those who still labour at the chalk-face. In truth, I can’t find it in me to miss the grind of paperwork and initiatives. I do miss the camaraderie of the smokers’ room, as well as the lessons where their faces lit up as they understood what I was wittering on about.

My mother is Irish and from an early age she told me history as an exciting series of stories – with dates. My great-grandfather was a Seannachie, so I suppose story-telling is in the genes somewhere. My father flew in Bomber Command in WWII, then taught maths and science. Perhaps crucially, he also loved poetry and cracking good tales. Though it seems a dated idea now, I began teaching when boys were told only girls were good at English, despite the great names that must spring to mind after that statement. My father loved working with wood and equations, but he also recited ‘Vitai Lampada’ with a gleam in his eye and that matters, frankly.

I’ve always loved historical fiction as a genre and cut my teeth on Hornblower and Tai-Pan, Flashman, Sharpe and Jack Aubrey. I still remember the sheer joy of reading my first Patrick O’Brian book and discovering there were nineteen more in the series. I love just about anything by David Gemmell, or Peter F. Hamilton or Wilbur Smith. I suppose the one thing that links all those is the love of a good tale.

That’s about it for the moment. If you’d like to get in touch with me leave a comment in the forum or you can tweet me @Conn_Iggulden. I’ll leave it there for the moment. If you’ve read my books, you know an awful lot about the way I think already. There’s no point overdoing it.

Conn Iggulden

Trinity

trinity

(2014)
(The second book in the Wars of the Roses series)
A novel by Conn Iggulden

The brilliant retelling of the Wars of the Roses continues with Trinity, the second gripping novel in the new series from historical fiction master, Conn Iggulden.

1454: King Henry VI has remained all but exiled in Windsor Castle, struck down by his illness for over a year, his eyes vacant, his mind a blank.

His fiercely loyal wife and Queen, Margaret of Anjou, safeguards her husband’s interests, hoping that her son Edward will one day know the love of his father.

Richard Duke of York, Protector of the Realm, extends his influence throughout the kingdom with each month that Henry slumbers. The Earls of Salisbury and Warwick make up a formidable trinity with Richard, and together they seek to break the support of those who would raise their colours in the name of Henry and his Queen.

But when the King unexpectedly recovers his senses and returns to London to reclaim his throne, the balance of power is once again thrown into turmoil.

The clash of the Houses of Lancaster and York will surely mean a war to tear England apart . . .

Following on from Stormbird, Trinity is the second epic instalment in master storyteller Conn Iggulden’s new Wars of the Roses series. Fans of Game of Thrones and The Tudors will be gripped from the word go.

Praise for Stormbird:

‘Pacey and juicy, and packed with action’ Sunday Times

‘Energetic, competent stuff; Iggulden knows his material and his audience’ Independent

‘A novel that seamlessly combines narrative, historical credence and great knowledge of the period’ Daily Express

‘A page-turning thriller’ Mail on Sunday

‘Superbly plotted and paced’ The Times

Conn Iggulden is one of the most successful authors of historical fiction writing today. Following on fromStormbird, the Sunday Times best-seller, Trinity is the second book in his superb new series set during the Wars of the Roses, a remarkable period of British history. His previous two series, on Julius Caesar and on the Mongol Khans of Central Asia, describe the founding of the greatest empires of their day and were number one bestsellers. Conn Iggulden lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and children.

Review

I often find that if you ask an Iggulden fan what their favorite book is, there is a clear divide between those who love the Emperor series and those who love the Conqueror series. You can be a fan of all the books, but that draw to preference usually goes to one series.  As a fan of his books since the very first, back in 2002, i have put some thought into this before and think its to do with the restriction of history.

Conn is a brilliantly natural story teller, of the type that if born before the modern age would have made his way in life travelling from town to town, city to city telling tales, or even as a master story teller in a royal palace. Anyone who has met him will have experienced the presence he brings to a room, one i find he brings to the fore in the conqueror series more than the emperor one. Why? Because he can let free reign to his imagination, and his experiences from travelling the Mongolian steppes. The emperor series, and now the War of the Roses constrains that imagination with the wealth of history that exists, the sheer volume of detail and information that the author has to be bound to or be crucified by the reading history buffs.

Despite that, I think Conn tackles the story in a brilliant fashion, while i enjoyed book one immensely, Trinity feels more mature, rounded. For a while i almost had to check that it was really was written by Conn Iggulden, the style felt different, older, more mature. The cast of players from history are expanded on, filling our idea of who they are and why, who the good guy is and who the bad guy is in the war of the roses, and then WHAM! in the very next chapter the preconceptions he has let you build, he tears down, and you mentally shift allegiance over and over again, until your head is spinning, and you realise the sheer complexity and scale of the conflict. That there were no simple bad guys, just people caught up in the events of history, their inadequacies, old feuds and building/ retaining family titles and lands.

I savored this book over a whole week, it wanted me to power through it in a couple of sittings, but i deliberately drew it out, teasing out the enjoyment, the pain, the betrayals, the reversal of fortune, the ecstasy of victory, the bitter pill of defeat, the horror of war, the stress of battle, the knowledge of defeat and the heroism of surrender rather than dogged resistance ending with the ultimate and futile death of thousands. This truly is an epic book in whats shaping up to be an epic series showing why Conn Iggulden holds the title as “one of the most successful authors of historical fiction writing today”.

I don’t know that this will replace my favorite book by Conn Iggulden, because Wolf of the Plains is a truly special story. What i do know is that its a very very close second, and an absolute must buy.

BUY A SIGNED COPY

Very Highly recommend this one

(Parm)

Series
Emperor
1. The Gates of Rome (2002)
2. The Death of Kings (2004)
3. The Field of Swords (2004)
4. The Gods of War (2006)
5. The Blood of Gods (2013)
Gates of Rome / Death of Kings (omnibus) (2009)
Emperor: The Gates of Rome / The Death of Kings / The Field of Swords / The Gods of War (omnibus) (2012)
The Emperor Series Books 1-5 (omnibus) (2013)
The Gates of RomeThe Death of KingsThe Field of SwordsThe Gods of WarThe Blood of GodsGates of Rome / Death of KingsEmperor: The Gates of Rome / The Death of Kings / The Field of Swords / The Gods of WarThe Emperor Series Books 1-5
Conqueror
1. Wolf of the Plains (2007)
aka Genghis: Birth of an Empire
2. Lords of the Bow (2008)
aka Genghis: Lords of the Bow
3. Bones of the Hills (2008)
4. Empire of Silver (2010)
aka Khan: Empire of Silver
5. Conqueror (2011)
Conqueror and Lords of the Bow (omnibus) (2009)
The Khan Series (omnibus) (2012)
Conqueror Series 5-Book Bundle (omnibus) (2013)
Wolf of the PlainsLords of the BowBones of the HillsEmpire of SilverConquerorThe Khan SeriesConqueror Series 5-Book Bundle
Tollins
1. Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children (2009)
2. Dynamite Tales (2011) (with Lizzy Duncan)
Tollins: Explosive Tales for ChildrenDynamite Tales
Wars of the Roses
1. Stormbird (2013)
2. Trinity (2014)
StormbirdTrinity
Novellas
Blackwater (2006)
Fig Tree (2014)
BlackwaterFig Tree
Series contributed to
Quick Reads 2012
Quantum of Tweed (2012)
Quantum of Tweed: The Man with the Nissan Micra
Non fiction
The Dangerous Book for Boys (2006) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Yearbook (2007) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to Do (2007)(with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: How to Get There(2008)
The Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: Nature Fun (2008)
The Dangerous Book for Boys: 2009 Day-to-Day Calendar (2008)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Facts, Figures and Fun (2008)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to Know(2008) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Wonders of the World (2008) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for Boys 2010 Day-to-Day Calendar (2009) (with Hal Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book of Heroes (2009) (with David Iggulden)
The Dangerous Book for BoysThe Dangerous Book for Boys YearbookThe Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to DoThe Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: How to Get ThereThe Dangerous Book for Boys Kit: Nature FunThe Dangerous Book for Boys: 2009 Day-to-Day CalendarThe Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Facts, Figures and FunThe Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to KnowThe Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Wonders of the WorldThe Dangerous Book for Boys 2010 Day-to-Day CalendarThe Dangerous Book of Heroes

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Filed under Conn Iggulden, Historical Fiction

Douglas Jackson: Enemy of Rome (Review)

Doug

 

Biography of Douglas Jackson

Author web site

Douglas Jackson was born in Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders in the summer of 1956. Educated at Parkside Primary School and Jedburgh Grammar School, he left three weeks before his 16th birthday with six O levels and no idea what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

Fortunately, a friend worked in the local employment office and got him a place on a Youth Opportunities Scheme. It turned out to be restoring a Roman marching camp at Pennymuir in the Cheviot Hills and he had a wonderful summer turning turf and dreaming of Romans.

Obviously, he couldn’t do that for the rest of his life. He was good at English and had a voracious reading habit, and his dad pointed him towards an advert for a junior reporter with the local paper – and changed his life. The next 30-odd years were spent working in local and national newspapers before he sat down in 2005 to work on a ‘project’. After a year of writing on the train and whistling the theme to the Great Escape he finally reached The End, and the project became a book. That book was The Emperor’s Elephant, which, with a bit of help from Youwriteon.com, eventually became Caligula and Claudius. which were bought by Transworld for a ‘six figure sum’. When the publishers offered him a second deal to write three more books, he decided with the support of his family to try writing full time. He has now published five historical novels and two thrillers (as James Douglas), with a further five books in the pipeline

Doug now lives in Bridge of Allan, a lovely village on the doorstep of the Trossachs and is married to wife Alison. They have three children who never fail to make him terribly proud.

He enjoys watching rugby, and finds life at its most relaxing by the river with a fly fishing rod in my hand, although he seldom disturbs many fish.

Enemy of Rome (2014)

(The fifth book in the Gaius Valerius Verrens series)

enemy

Buy a Signed book

In the dry heat of an August morning Gaius Valerius Verrens wakes filthy and bearded and prepares for his last day on earth. Wrongly accused by enemies on his own side, Valerius is destined to die a coward’s death for deserting his legion on the field of Bedriacum. It is the summer of AD 89 and after a year of slaughter and turmoil the Empire remains trapped in the coils of a desperate, destructive civil war. Valerius’ old friend, Aulus Vitellius, victor in the decisive confrontation that left Otho’s armies shattered, sits uneasily on a golden throne in Rome, and his rival is dead by his own hand. But a new challenge arises in the East where Titus Flavius Vespasian has been declared Emperor by his legions. The only way Valerius can survive to reach Rome and be united with his lost love Domitia Longina Corbulo is to ally himself with Vitellius’ enemies. On the way he must battle through a maze of distrust, corruption, bloody conflict and betrayal, with as many perils behind as there are in front. A powerful enemy, a burning temple and divided loyalties all stand in his way, but the prize that awaits has never been more worthwhile.

Review

Doug Jackson, the quiet gentleman of historical fiction. With every book he takes his writing to a new level, the Gaius Valerius Verrens series being an interesting, clever and thrilling mix of story telling, blood and thunder battles, political intrigue and well thought out well written “real” characters.

The main character Verrens, with his almost stiff necked honesty and Roman honour that borders on the suicidal at times, needs a foil, someone to bounce off as a character in the plot, to keep him alive in the reality of the ancient Roman world and to keep the story honest. We get that with Serpentius, who im glad to say in this book is back to being a deadly (but mortal) ex-gladiator, those who read my review of Sword of Rome will remember i was worried that he was becoming a bit super human, but Doug has it perfect in this book, flawed, fallible, but highly skilled, emotional, but tightly wound and highly introspective, one of my favorite characters.

Others that i think Doug writes to perfection in this book; the brief glimpse of Pliny, Marcus Antonius Primus a man who could be an enemy, but is a bigger man. The brilliant emperor Vitellius, corpulent, cowardly, heroic, highly intelligent, and utterly doomed from the start. A character who steals chunks of the book. Given how well he has been written i long to see how Vespasian will grow into the next book.

All of this fantastic characterisation is portrayed in Douglas Jackson uniquely detailed yet fast paced style that lifts the reader from the first page, thrusts a Sword in one hand, a Shield in the other and slams you into the shield wall of Battle. But more than just swords and sandals it has you creeping and spying, exploring the motives and streets of Rome, there is simply no let up in this tale (or the entire series), Book 1 Hero of Rome still holds the best written scene in any book, with Verrens battling Boudicca, that writing skill and talent just grown and grows and will keep me coming back for more.

Highly Recommended (in the do not miss category)

(Parm)

Rufus
1. Caligula: The Tyranny of Rome (2008)
2. Claudius (2009)
Caligula: The Tyranny of RomeClaudius
 Gaius Valerius Verrens
1. Hero of Rome (2010)
2. Defender of Rome (2011)
3. Avenger of Rome (2012)
4. Sword of Rome (2013)
5. Enemy of Rome (2014)
Hero of RomeDefender of RomeAvenger of RomeSword of RomeEnemy of Rome
 Glen Savage mystery
War Games (2014)
War Games

As James Douglas

Jamie Saintclaire
1. The Doomsday Testament (2011)
2. The Isis Covenant (2012)
3. The Excalibur Codex (2013)
4. The Samurai Inheritance (2014)
The Doomsday TestamentThe Isis CovenantThe Excalibur CodexThe Samurai Inheritance

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Filed under Douglas Jackson, Historical Fiction

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

I.D Roberts : Kingdom Lock (Review)

Author

roberts-ian-4-wb

I.D. Roberts was born in Australia in 1970 and moved to England when he was three. From a young age he developed an obsession with war comics, movies, Tintin and James Bond. For the past decade he has been the film writer for a national listings magazine. After living all over the country and buying a farmhouse by mistake in Ireland, he finally settled in the South West and currently lives in rural Somerset with his wife Di and their chocolate Labrador, Steed.

Follow him on Twitter: @KingdomLock

Author’s Website: www.idroberts.com

Buy a signed copy

9780749016302-kingdom-lock-wb-1768

It is 1914 and while battles rage across Europe, three empires – the Ottoman, the German and the British – fight for dominance in the Middle East. The merciless landscape of Persia and Mesopotamia are prizes to be claimed by the most ruthless opponent.

In the midst of the chaos is Kingdom Lock. Working for the British Intelligence Service known as the White Tabs, Lock is sent to Persia on a commission from the Australian Infantry Force. His mission: to prevent a German spy from inciting jihad and rebellion among the Muslim tribes and from seizing control of the precious oilfields. But before then, having recently rescued Amy Townshend, the daughter of a top ranking British officer, from Turkey, he now finds that he must save her from the clutches of death once more. It’s a task that seems destined to fail with bloodthirsty, relentless Turks at every turn . . .

To complete his mission, Lock must stay one step ahead of the war raging around him. And to make matters worse, Amy’s fiancé, an aristocratic young officer, is none too pleased about Lock’s developing relationship with his future wife. In this super-charged  adventure, can Kingdom Lock survive the dangers that threaten him?

Review:

I love a debut, well… I love a debut when it turns out to be one that’s something new and exciting, a bit different, and then ultimately turns out to be wonderfully written. Despite my passion for Historical Fiction, i have never really had a love of the first world war. Its always felt too dark, too emotional, to personal to the near past of everyone in the UK and Europe. This is the second book in a number of weeks that has managed to prove that great books do exist in this period (well apart from Charlies war obviously…that’s just part of my childhood reading).  The first of those read was The Shadow of War which was an eye opener, Kingdom Lock by I.D Roberts was something else.

If i was to make any comparison i suppose it would be to John Wilcox and his Simon Fonthill series, only this book is slightly more stark and gritty. Instead of the witty 352 Jenkins we have the angry, dangerous Underhill, and instead of the slightly dippy reserved Fonthill we have Kingdom Lock, a highly competent soldier / spy. A man who has his flaws yet lives with them, through them, a human among elitist snobs of the officer class. For me he was exactly the soldier i would want to have been.

The other difference in this story is the setting, its WW1 but not France, its the oilfields of Persia, chasing the very real German spy Wilhelm Wassmuss, (known as “Wassmuss of Persia”. He attempts to foment trouble for the British in the Persian Gulf. This man is someone i had heard of before, but since reading the book i have done a little research. This guy was the German Lawrence of Arabia and I.D Roberts doesn’t just bring Kingdom Lock to life he also brings Wassmuss to life in a great chase across a war torn landscape, through a rich tapestry of ancient lands and culture.

(oh and there’s a love story in there….. well told too, its not in there just for the ladies, or because these stories should have one)

Its a wonderful debut and i look forward to book 2

Highly recommended

(Parm)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, I.D Roberts

Stewart Binns: The Shadow of War (Review)

binns

Author:

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

Product Description

 shadon shadow 1

Buy the book (amazon)

The Shadow of War is the first novel in Stewart Binns’s new series which will see a book release for each year of the First World War.

This title will be released on July 17, 2014.

June 1914: the beginning of another long, prosperous summer for Britain. But beneath the clear skies, all is not as it seems – the chill wind of social discontent swirls around this sceptred isle.

Shots ring out in a distant European land – the assassination of a foreign aristocrat. From that moment the entire world is propelled into a conflict unlike any seen before.

This is the story of five British communities, their circumstances very different, but who will all share in the tragedy that is to come. All that they have known will be changed forever by the catastrophic events of the Great War.

This is a story of love and comradeship, of hatred and tragedy – this is the story of the Great War.

Review

When I first started this book my initial reaction was “what the hell”, the books style seemed very bizarre, it was very much an outside view looking in on people and events. Then slowly as I read the chapters I was drawn into the lives of multiple different families and communities, before i knew it i was hooked. This book is still odd…different, it’s not like Stewarts previous series. It feels very much like a documentary mixed into a fictional drama, yet it works, it works so well. Anyone who reads my reviews and follows my blog knows I love Historical Fiction. But what they don’t know is that I’m really not a fan of WW1. I find the horror and darkness of that war too hard to read, too emotional to take in without feeling my own version of Churchill’s “black dog”. (read the book to understand that)

Stewart Binns has managed to portray the different strata of society without judging or demeaning any of them, and to cover in book one the lead up to and the early days of WW1 with passion and compassion, with energy and purpose, and to leave me feeling the emotion but not suffering from the horror. It’s all there contained in the pages, but delivered in such a way you can see and feel the passions of the different players, the struggles that sent individuals to war, the misconceptions of blame for the death toll and the passion to do all for family and country.

Stewarts books always leave me with a sense of pride for my country, and this book is no exception, but this is tempered by the individual courage and the individual loss. The personal tales that inspire and horrify in equal measure. By the time I finished the book I felt entertained and educated, which for me form the key pillars of a great Historical Fiction novel.

Once again Stewart Binns has managed to create something unique, entertaining and eye-opening, I’m very much looking forward to book 2.

Recommended

(Parm)

Other books

Making of England
1. Conquest (2011)
2. Crusade (2012)
3. Anarchy (2013)
4. Lionheart (2013)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Stewart Binns

Giles Kristian: God of Vengeance trailer film shoot (Behind the scenes)

God of Vengeance: Trailer shoot, Day 2

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Sunday morning 6am alarm clock wake up, not so bad…except when you got to sleep at 1am.

So with much yawning and sneaking around the house to avoid waking the wife and Granddaughter, I finally got my bad ready, weapons stacked, food and drink ready and filled the boot. Leaving the house to a now awake family…The Granddaughter doesn’t like to sleep much past dawn. (double yawn).

A quick easy ride to Lincoln, I approached the point where I’m thankful for a SatNav, coming up the ring road towards Lincoln, The Cathedral and Castle rose out of the morning mist in the early morning sun. I was so lost in the power of the scene and how, apart from the houses cluttering the foreground, that iconic misty scene had been seen by people for hundreds of years, that i missed the turning and then had a quick play in Lincoln’s one way system.

Finally back on track i followed the directions to their conclusion, pulled up at a farm house, and decided the damn thing had got me lost again.

So a quick potter back up the road, and a call the Phil Stevens director extraordinaire from Urban Apache Films .

Change of meeting point, to the offices of Urban Apache in the center on Lincoln, and I’m a little pleased, who doesn’t want to see where some of the magic happens?

Another quick fight with the satnav, trying to make me drive through central reservations and up one way streets, and I’m there. Phil arrives soon after…looking….well, lets say worn around the edges. Most of the cast and crew only got to sleep after 3am, so coffee, McDonalds and what ever they can get to wake up is on the cards. All of this makes me shut up about my lack of sleep very fast.

The next hour is filled with some very tired people being made up by the happiest, nicest people of the day, makeup and wardrobe, the ladies organising and creating with quiet competence and humour despite their lack of sleep.

My first chance of the day to be useful came in the form of finding a hand dryer in the gents, The outfit for Floki (William Clayton) was still wet and muddy from the previous day, so to save Floki from a very damp arse and and uncomfortable morning on set, I spend the next 20 plus minutes blasting as much hot air as possible through the material (thank god for asbestos hands). (wonder if Phil will get told off for the state of the muddy toilet)?

Running about an hour behind the call sheet, which was pretty good going considering the walking dead that had arrived at 7.30am. A short 40 min drive, once again at the whim of the SatNav gods, who actually found the set, a quarry in the middle on who the hell knows where in Lincolnshire, I admit… I was impressed.

There must be something about Film shoots with Giles Kristian, this is the second one i have been lucky enough to go on, the last one Bleeding Land Shoot was also a beautiful sunny day. Even at 9am the sun was warm enough to ditch jumpers.

The first action of the day was a walk up to the film site, following a long winding path through the quarry and a decision for everyone, Do you want to drive your car around that winding path up to the site of the shoot?

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Immediately I heard the wife’s voice in the back of my head…NO… so that saved me worrying about that.

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Time to suit up…Not me, one day if there is a HUGE crown scene they might be daft enough to let me the wrong side of the lens, but for now I’m happy enough snapping away behind me little camera and pretending I know what I’m doing.

Time for the weapons to come out, cue Giles pulling out his huge chopper…. ok so I had to get that line in there…. His axe will feature in the filming.

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Having enjoyed this process before I was more prepared for the walk through, scene setting, practice and generally trying to get everything right before the camera rolls.

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One thing from the day that I wasn’t expecting was a second camera crew, a group of young lads doing a “making of” film for the God of Vengeance shoot. …. I think that meant i was doing the making of the making of GoV,,,well at least according to Giles.

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Another reason for not being in the shoot (aside from not being an actor, too old etc..)…. Look at the flipping size of these guys! (of course im way more toned that that…. Honest)

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The main thrust of Day 2’s filming, is the scene from the book where Floki is chained at the weeping stone, and must fight all comers.

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This is where the skill of the make up and wardrobe ladies really started to show, the amazing attention to detail that’s so easy to miss, the way the drape and texture of something is delivered to the camera if left at just the right angle. I even got roped into helping build a Viking bivouac/ lean to.

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That thing would still be there now we built it that well. (spot who was overly pleased to have contributed something that will be on film.)

Finally after several hours of prep work and camera set up its time to actually film something, and to some this may seem a bit tedious, but for me the time flew past. I’d have happily started building a cabin if we had needed too.

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Giles is everywhere now, making sure people are happy, included, that the scene matches his writing.

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This scene in God of Vengeance is one of the most iconic, a real blood and guts introduction to a key character, in the book its stunningly written so Phil has his  work well and truly cut out trying to reproduce this on camera.

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Each scene is walked through before the shot is actually taken, the below are shots of initial attack on Floki, where everyone learns…. well… read the book , watch the trailer, you’ll see.

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What you don’t often see in the final product are the down time moments, the mix of the modern and the ancient

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The demand for consistency in a film that’s minutes long but takes a day to shoot. The chasing of the light away from the quarry walls, the reflecting of light with a large piece of polystyrene. All filmed with the skill and technique that means none of that movement will ever been seen by others.

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The skill of many on set in stunning, with Phil and Lewis clearly standing out of the pack. Phil, while the director, is also one of the actors, and also clearly along with Giles the driving passion on the day, he not only understand the shots the angles, the drive and desires of the characters, but he also has a clear confidence in the filming and more importantly the weapons and their use in front of camera. Its no easy thing to swing a sword or axe at some one, or have it swing at you. The trust must be total.

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More shots of that pesky fella with the small musculature (cough ….what a wimp)…just for the ladies.

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The Star of the day though had to be Floki, not only facing off against all the big fellas, having to kill the boss, but also being the main focus nearly all day, and that chain, i didn’t know until the end of the day just how heavy that thing was. Not once did he complain about it.

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The close up fighting was where the skill and ingenuity of Lewis came to the fore, every problem that cropped up he could over come with a little idea, always delivered in such a way that it was a group decision to use it. How to fall, how to look like he had received an axe to the guts for the camera. Blood made from (if I remember) corn syrup, and mashed banana for that gory consistency.

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The light is really starting to chase us across the quarry now, its gone 4pm, we have been here since about 9am.

One of the really amazing parts of the day was being allowed behind camera to watch the playback, to see what it would look like when finally shown. I did this once and having just watched it being shot, the buzz of seeing it on screen still gives me a little thrill.

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More gratuitous shots of topless Viking holding Giles chopper… (yup there’s that pun again…) Sorry, there are quite a few ladies who read this blog…. target audience.

This is also the scene i got to watch back on camera.

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Sun is now gone from the early shoot site…our camera man and Phil have a “discussion” about this and the need to more again..Phil wins as usual.

Its late in the day, but we are only a couple of scenes from the end of the day now, Floki is now liberally covered in blood. Its time to gets some still of the little bad ass.

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Now for one of my favorite parts of the day, the death of the big Viking (yes ladies more photos) , the problem is how to get arterial spray, how to project it, and how to time it just right.

It might sound simple, but the more you watch the complexities, the more difficult it gets. The timing being the hardest. Floki pulling the Ax, Phil hidden behind spraying the blood at just the right time.

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Final Scene of the day….Catwalk Viking….Check out the camera poses!

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When Floki finally gets his hands on him, well… its how to choke a Viking.

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…… So sorry if this was all a bit of a tour through my holiday snaps, but the only way to do justice to this amazing day is with pictures.

The amazing people i met, and learned new things from (Thank you)

Phil Stevens… you sir are an inspiration, and i honestly enjoy every minute you allow me to experience on set so thank you.

and Giles… one of the most disgustingly talented individuals i know, but he tempers it with being one of the nicest people i know. Thank you for being kind enough to let me come along again.

The reason for all of this… The upcoming God of Vengeance published on the 10th April 2014

Norway 785 AD. It began with the betrayal of a lord by a king . . .

But when King Gorm puts Jarl Harald’s family to the sword, he makes one terrible mistake – he fails to kill Harald’s youngest son, Sigurd.

On the run, unsure who to trust and hunted by powerful men, Sigurd wonders if the gods have forsaken him: his kin are slain or prisoners, his village attacked, its people taken as slaves. Honour is lost.

And yet he has a small band of loyal men at his side and with them he plans his revenge. All know that Ódin – whose name means frenzy – is drawn to chaos and bloodshed, just as a raven is to slaughter. In the hope of catching the All-Father’s eye, the young Viking endures a ritual ordeal and is shown a vision. Wolf, bear, serpent and eagle come to him. Sigurd will need their help if he is to make a king pay in blood for his treachery.

Using cunning and war-craft, he gathers together a band of warriors – including Olaf, his father’s right hand man, Bram who men call Bear, Black Floki who wields death with a blade, and the shield maiden Valgerd, who fears no man – and convinces them to follow him.

For, whether Ódin is with him or not, Sigurd will have his vengeance. And neither men nor gods had best stand in his way . . .

Buy a Signed copy from Goldsboro Books

Is it any good?

Well my review will be up a bit closer to release… but lets just say : This is the book where the bloody legend of Sigurd is born, given voice not just in swathes of blood and violence, but also in the living breathing Norse world that comes to life on every page, as Giles weaves his tale like a master skald from the past. (so yes that means its going to be one of my top 5 reads for 2014 without fail)

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Filed under Giles Kristian, Historical Fiction