Tag Archives: Warriors

Anthony Riches: Eagles Vengeance (Review + Q&A)

About the Author

tony

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.

Visit the authors web site

Buy a signed copy of Eagles Vengeance

Anthony Riches Q&A

 Tony congratulations on the release of Eagles Vengeance (book 6 of the Empire series)

The series with some of the most real soldiers in it I have read in Historical Fiction.

 Thanks Robin!

Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions:

                                                                                                                   

1) Where did the inspiration for the main characters come from? Marcus, Dubnus etc (are they all imagination or do they contain some real people?)

 Marcus is based on the son of a family that was liquidated by Commodus, the Quintili. These two famous brothers of the senatorial class were rich and cultured men who had done their bit for the empire, both serving with distinction as consuls in the 150s, and who ended being murdered for their considerable wealth and property (in particular the Villa Quintilii which was coveted by the new emperor.  They provided the perfect exemplar for my protagonist’s back story, although an attempt to name him Quintili foundered on the need for something a little sexier – hence the switch to Aquila.

As to the rest, they are indeed sometimes people I’ve met. Dubnus is in reality the brother of a friend of mine, a senior NCO in the TA who once started a sentence towards an abusive supervisor ‘If you speak to me again in that tone I’ll put you on your arse…’ and ended it ‘…and that’s why you’re on your arse.’ A sentence I think I may have used in my turn, albeit on the page. I usually ask permission – unless the individual is unpleasant enough to merit an appearance without their knowledge!

 

2) This is book six in the series, do you have an end in sight? (or are there too many tales to tell?)

 I have my sights set on about 25 books. Any more might be excessive. We’re heading for York, in AD211 and the death of the emperor Septimius Severus. Perhaps Marcus will take the Long Walk (if you know your Dredd) after that…and perhaps he won’t!

 3) Who is your favourite character? and why?

 I’m not telling you, because you’ll make the mistake of thinking that person is safe from being killed off. Which they are most certainly not. No-one is safe…

 4) Do you have a writing process? plot it out? story board?

 Yes, my process is finely honed, albeit very simple – I sit down and write whatever comes into my head, once I know where the boys are going next. It means I have to do a good number of re-writes and edits to make it all seamless, but on the upside I don’t get much editing post version one. I wish I could plot it all out before hand, but either I can’t or (ask my work colleagues) I’m too lazy and prefer just to wing it (reader: even I it’s the latter!).

 5) Of the six books which is your favourite  (mine is still book one, Wounds of Honour)?

 Good question. And the answer is…book seven, The Emperor’s Knives! Once you’ve read book six (The Eagle’s Vengeance) you’ll know that the next one’s going to be very different. And terrific fun…well it terrific fun was to write, at any rate.

 6) What are your top 5 favourite reads?

 Bugger me Robin, that’s a tough one. I’ll tell you my five favourite writers – in no order at all:

Richard Morgan, for his fantastic Takashi Kovacs series. Altered Carbon is an absolute cracker of a sci-fi debut. I’m not quite so hot for his fantasy output, but it’s still good.

Lee Child – who apparently writes with a spliff on the go, I read the other day, and genuinely does seem to have a drug dealer on speed dial which I for one never saw coming – for the indestructible Jack Reacher. I suspect the old guy’s probably running towards the end of his fictional lifespan, but what great escapist fiction!

Iain M Banks – please note the M! The moment I discovered his Culture novels was a moment of revelation, and I mourn his passing every time I look at my bookshelves. Sci-fi of the very highest order.

Christian Cameron – if I wrote that well I’d be insufferably smug. The Long War series has to be the best sustained historical fiction series I’ve ever read.

And…turns to scan shelves…Patrick O’Brian, for his fabulous characterisation in the Aubrey/Maturin series.

I’ve missed out the man who wrote possibly the best military historical fiction story ever. Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire pips Cameron’s Killer of Men to that honour (in my opinion) by a short head, quite the most riveting tale of ancient warfare I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading (time after time) – but I’ve never had quite the same buzz from his stuff again, which is a shame.

And one more – this one a guilty pleasure – I love the Black Library’s Warhammer 40k inspired novels, especially Dan Abnett’s work. In space, no-one can hear the screaming roar of your assault cannon…

 7) What next for (the remaining) Roman warriors? (and yes that is a dig… character killer)

 Pain, blood, misery, death, blood, more blood and the occasional death of characters when I decide their time has come. Although now you’re moaning about it – again – I might speed up the process. Are there any characters with whom you feel especially connected? Dubnus, perhaps…?

 8) Have you thought about writing in another time period? if so when?

 Are you and Kate collaborating on these questions? The short answer is ‘not yet’ – I think. I think the secret of series writing is to keep the episodes flowing, and I don’t want to  risk falling between two stools at a time when Empire is gathering readers rather than losing them (fingers crossed for book six!). There is another series in me, but now, while I never say ‘never’ unless the proposal is the consumption of rice pudding, is probably not the time.

9) If you could have written any book in history which one and why?

 Now that’s a good one. Ignoring contemporaries whose work makes me envious, I’d like to have written the complete history of the Roman legions in the early 5th century, before the sources we know existed but do not have today were lost. What a story that would have made…

thank you for taking the time with these questions….now crack on with book seven and eight.

cheers

(Parm)

Book Description 

eagles 6

The Tungrian auxiliary cohorts return to Hadrian’s Wall after their successful Dacian campaign, only to find Britannia in chaos. The legions are overstretched, struggling to man the forts of the northern frontier in the face of increasing barbarian resistance.

The Tungrians are the only soldiers who can be sent into the northern wastes, far beyond the long abandoned wall built by Antoninus, where a lost symbol of imperial power of the Sixth Victorious Legion is reputed to await them. Protected by an impassable swamp and hidden in a fortress atop a high mountain, the eagle of the Sixth legion must be recovered if the legion is to survive.

Marcus and his men must penetrate the heart of the enemy’s strength, ghosting through a deadly wilderness patrolled by vicious huntresses before breaching the walls of the Fang, an all-but-impregnable fort, if they are to rescue the legion’s venerated standard. If successful their escape will be twice as perilous, with the might of a barbarian tribe at their heels.

 Eagles Vengeance Review

Our heroically dangerous Tungrians are back in Britain. Returning from their exploits in Dacia, triumphant, but with the knowledge of loss. (Tony does love to bump off a character or two).

Eagles vengeance is no different, In this latest book, Book six in the Empire series, Tony Riches send the reader on a thrill ride of dangerous exploits, daring action, Violent barbarian encounters and political manoeuvring, that will see the deaths of so many men and women we meet for the first time and some we have known for a while.

Tony’s writing is for me subtly different from many others in the genre. Take for example  Douglas Jackson (insert review ink) who writes with such passion and detail, while retaining a narrow cast. Tony Riches gives us the broad canvas of the Tungrian Cohorts, delving into the lives of so many of his men, and exploring who the Centurions and Chosen men of this group are. He brings the camaraderie of the squaddie to life in the ancient world. Many authors bring life to their characters, but miss this feeling of the group, the passion of the legion or men. Tony always hits this square on, and it’s not just his unique colourful turn of phrase, it’s something of the man himself, someone who comes alive in a group, a man built to entertain and be larger than life. That’s the passion he brings to people like Marcus and Dubnus and the men of the Tungrian Cohorts.

I enjoyed this book, but I don’t think I can say too much about itnot without giving away what happens to whom and why and where, and those are spoilers I would not want. I can say that while it’s not my favourite book in the series, (that’s still reserved for Wounds of Honour), it’s an excellent read that can stand alone and provide hours of entertainment. But my personal advice would be go buy all the books if you have never read the series, follow the life and exploits, the ups and downs of the hardest b@stards in the Roman Legion.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

 Other books

Empire 
1. Wounds of Honour (2009)
2. Arrows of Fury (2010)
3. Fortress of Spears (2011)
4. The Leopard Sword (2012)
5. The Wolf’s Gold (2012)
6. The Eagle’s Vengeance (2013)
7. The Emperor’s Knives (2014)
Wounds of HonourArrows of FuryFortress of SpearsThe Leopard SwordThe Wolf's GoldThe Eagle's Vengeance
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Noble Smith: Sons of Zeus (Review)

Author

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.

Product Description

zeus

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In 431 B.C., Ancient Greece experienced its own “Pearl Harbor” – a treacherous sneak attack that would mark the start of the bloody war between the democracy of Athens and the tyranny of Sparta. Caught between these superpowers, the independent city-state of Plataea became the arena where their battle for control of all of Greece would begin.

In Plataea, the young Greek warrior Nikias dreams of glory in the Olympic games as he trains for the pankration – the no-holds-barred ultimate fighting of the era – until an act of violence in defense of his beloved threatens to send him into exile. But before his trial can take place, a traitor opens the city gates to a surprise attack force.

Suddenly trapped inside their own fortress, the Plataeans are fighting for their lives. As Nikias seeks to discover the identity of the man who betrayed the city, he makes a daring escape, gathers an army, and leads this ragtag band into a suicidal battle at the gates of the citadel – a battle that will decide the fates of his family, his friends, and the woman he loves.

In the vein of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, and Steven Pressfield, Sons of Zeus marks the beginning of a richly detailed new action-adventure series.

Sons of Zeus Review

It’s always a privilege to be considered as worthy to review a book, and even more so to be specifically asked to do so.

This book was one that had managed to slip past what I thought was a fairly good radar for new books and new authors. So to get the nod as someone who knows / likes good Historical Fiction especially that which is set in Ancient Greece was a bit of an ego boost.

To then, via some back and forth email banter discover that the author is also a total gent, really nice bloke and someone with a real passion for the period was all I needed to whole heartedly say yes please.

Yet somehow it then took me 6 or 7 weeks to crack the book open, this I can only put down to the pressures of one of the busiest years ever for fantastic books. It’s not like the book isn’t visually appealing, the book, a burnt orange colour depicting a Warrior in full panoply backed by a city in flames. The cover shouts that the story is bursting forth from the pages with tales of action, violence and history.

I was determined that this really nice bloke would get his review, so two nights ago I picked up the book. WOW what a journey, two nights of staying up until around 2am to finish the book left me tired, but the book left me exhausted. Both from the pace of the plot and the battles, but also from the emotion of the loss of life and loved ones. The brutality of war and life in ancient Plataean Greece, and the standards to which most of the men and women held themselves for honour, propriety and prowess.

Noble, uses and weaves his tale into the history really well, introducing characters, creating others, breathing life into every one of them. But he also manages to educate the reader on life at the time without making it feel like a history lesson. He works from a neutral standpoint not judging but allowing the reader to judge good from bad. Even hero’s commit evil acts, its just depends on time place and circumstance. War is an evil mistress, and demands a high price.

It takes a really strong book to keep me up late (I have a 2 year old, and a job, sleep is precious) It takes a great story to make me read and read until I fall asleep holding the book, or have to physically force myself to put the book down.

In the shape of Nikias the young warrior, his grandfather Menesarkus the old general, the household slave, the Skythian slave, the blacksmith and inventor Chusor  and many other great character inventions Noble Smith takes a passage from Thucydides “History of the Peloponnesian War” covering an attempt by the Thebans to take over their rivals the Plataeans city and adds meat to the bones to create this wonderful take, the first I hope in a long series.

The publisher blurb makes a comparison to Conwell and Pressfield. I would be more inclined to make a comparison to Christian Cameron, the tale gripped me with the same intensity that his books do.

Very highly recommended, one of my top 5 books for the year.

(Parm)

Coming in June 2014 Spartans at the Gates

Spartans_NSmith_cover-197x300

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A.J. Smith: The Black Guard (Long War Book 1) Review + Q&A

The Author

aj smith

AJ Smith has been writing stories set in the lands of The Long War since he was at university. Defining the world and adding detail became an excellent distraction from his degree (which was in psychology, philosophy and sociology) and has remained equally distracting ever since. Interestingly, the maps came first, and then the world and its characters began to take shape in the writing. Since graduating, Tony has been working with troubled children in a high school in Luton and has had various articles related to counselling and youth work published. Fantasy fiction has always been his own version of therapy and a place where he can make up what happens next rather than waiting for the real world to decide.

Book Description

Buy it on kindle for the bargain 99p

Buy a signed copy £20

Buy Hardback from Amazon £15.99

 

Black Guard

The city of Ro Canarn burns. The armies of the Red march upon the northern lords. And the children of a dead god are waking from their long slumber… The Duke of Canarn is dead, executed by the King’s decree. The city lies in chaos, its people starving, sickening, and tyrannized by the ongoing presence of the King’s mercenary army. But still hope remains: the Duke’s children, the Lord Bromvy and Lady Bronwyn, have escaped their father’s fate.

Separated by enemy territory, hunted by the warrior clerics of the One God, Bromvy undertakes to win back the city with the help of the secretive outcasts of the Darkwald forest, the Dokkalfar. The Lady Bronwyn makes for the sanctuary of the Grass Sea and the warriors of Ranen with the mass of the King’s forces at her heels. And in the mountainous region of Fjorlan, the High Thain Algenon Teardrop launches his Dragon Fleet against the Red Army. Brother wars against brother in this, the epic first volume of the long war.

Review

2013 seems to be a year for Début fantasy novels for me, and they have all been fantastic books so far (Luke Scull, Stella Gemmell, Nathan Hawke), so how does the Black Guard stand up against those other débuts?

Like The City by Stella Gemmell it took me a little while to get into this book, maybe its the risk of a début author landing such a hefty tome in my lap, at 640 pages its a serious expression of trust from the publisher Head of Zeus, and an announcement that they think they have a real winner on their hands, and for me a big time commitment with so many great books out there.

So how did it shape up? For me, I felt the style was on the epic fantasy scale, Brandon Sanderson, Tolkien style. Where my personal preference is more Gemmellesque. But at the same time the characters are very much to my liking, they are realistic, likeable and natural rather than the average OTT fantasy drone. So has AJ Smith hit his own niche part Gemmell part Sanderson? I’m not 100% sure, I don’t think I read enough fantasy these days to be totally sure, I need more maybe when I see book 2?

The story however is very clever even though it takes a bit of time to get there, but when it does get going it keeps you turning the pages at a rapid pace, so much so that you will hardly realise the size of the book, and when the book ends it leaves you slightly bereft, needing more and knowing while there will be, its not going to be for at least a year.

There are clear signs in the book and writing of a true fantasy geek (not an insult) a man who has spent time becoming passionate with his genre and then building a world in his mind. Its that passion and desire to get his world down on paper I think that slows down the first third of the book, but it really is called for, that description pays off, that world building is key and I feel we will reap more rewards from it as this series continues.
In Summary read this book, you will find a book of subtle writing skill, with deep, careful world building and colourful real characters, written in a style all of his own.
I for one recommend this book and look forward to the next book in the series.

(Parm)

Questions & Answers

1) Why Fantasy?

I’m always thinking “what happens next”. With contemporary stuff (and the real world) there are hundreds of things telling you what should or must happen next. With fantasy, there are admitted tropes and accepted rules, but on the whole you can do what you like. What happens next is entirely dictated by the world laws you’ve created.

2) Was this the first world, or are there some lost hidden gems that have not seen the light of day?

The world is massive. There are nations and empires – some pretty extreme – still to be discovered by men. I’ve got a truck-load of maps from roleplaying games and short stories that explore some weird-arse places to the east of Tor Funweir. Volkast to the north and Jekka to the east are at least as big as the lands of men.

3) Give us some background on your fantasy geekage (yes… go on admit it… it will make you feel better)?

I’m all about geek-chic, baby!

I’ve been roleplaying for years – Shadowrun, World of Darkness, Cthulhu, D&D – being a geek is just embracing a need for escapism. I say to you, my brothers and sisters, freak freely.

4) What led you into writing?

It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s the only thing I do that doesn’t make me feel like a should be doing something else. Weirdly, I only started writing fantasy a couple of years ago – although the world was already in place from roleplaying and my pathological love of drawing maps. Before that I tended toward surreal black comedy. I always wrote short stories and thought that, when I “worked out” how to write a book, I’d write loads. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to write more fantasy and non-fantasy.

5) Who is your fav author (to read)?

Big question. It’s largely mood dependent, but Douglas Adams, Michael Marshall Smith and H.P Lovecraft are probably my favourites.

6) Can you give us a some book two hints?

It’s called The Dark Blood. It was finished straight after The Black Guard and I’m nearly done with the third one – called The Red Prince. I write pretty quickly (much to my editor’s dismay).

As for hints: Rham Jas goes on a killing spree with an old friend. The battle for Ranen continues and we see more of the dark denizens of the world.

7) If you could have written any book in history which would it be?

Pretentious answer: Das Capital by Karl Marx.

Truthful answer: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

In a different life: Anything by Christopher Hitchens.

 8) In your own words sell The Black Guard…..

I have five children who are starving and I’m massively in debt… please give generously (None of this is true).

I want people to become immersed in the world. I hope that it grows and grows from page one, unveiling sections of the world and plot as it goes. It’s the first part of a (probably) four book series and they should all build from this, giving the world more depth and the reader more immersion.

If there’s not a kind of fantasy called “Immersive Fantasy”, I want to invent it.

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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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James Wilde: Hereward End of Days

Author Web site (go visit for full bio etc…)

Book Description (Published 4th July 2013)

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end of days

England, 1071. Five years have passed since the crushing Norman victory at the Battle of Hastings. The country reels under the savage rule of the new king, the one they call ‘the Bastard’. The North has been left a wasteland – villages razed, innocents put to the sword, land stolen. It seems no atrocity is too great to ensure William’s grip upon the crown. Rats feed upon fields of the dead
And now he turns his cold gaze east, towards the last stronghold of the English resistance. After years of struggle, he will brook no further challenge to his power: his vast army masses and his siege machines are readied.

In their fortress on the Isle of Ely, the English have put their faith in the only man who might defeat the murderous invaders. He is called Hereward. He is a warrior and a master tactician – as adept at slaughter as his enemy and plans have been been set in motion for a bloody uprising that will sweep the Norman king off the throne once and for all.

But Hereward is missing. With their hopes of victory dwindling, can the English rebels find the leader who seems to have abandoned them before William the Bastard begins his final, devastating assault that will truly be the end of days…

Here is a tale of heroism and treachery – and the bloodiest rebellion England has ever known.

Review

James Wilde once again brings to the fore his brilliant portrayal of Hereward. One of the darkest characters i have read in years, and yet a hero, a beacon for his people and a knife in the side of William the bastards army.
This book had me on the edge of my seat for every page, so many ups and downs. Even knowing the history you hope that somehow something will change, that Hereward will win the day and the Norman King William will be driven back across the wale road.
This can only be achieved with some excellent writing, with the skill and prose James Wilde has honed to an edge as fine as the one on Herewards axe.
Of all the books in the series this one has for me felt like the darkest of the series. A story full of intrigue, battles, skirmishes, battle skill and yet more, personal impacts, the cost of the loss of a family member and what it will drive an individual too. The tragedy of family, those people tied to you so deeply, so intimately and yet people we don’t choose and as such don’t have to like.
In End of days James Wilde plays the styles and character of Hereward and William off against each other, it’s this back and forth that helps give this book its darkness, but also its powerful narrative. The brooding intelligence and malevolence of William and the Cunning intelligence of Hereward, who is ultimately stronger because he fights his darkest desires, he uses the land that he knows so intimately and the people who love him so much to defeat the monster who uses money and destruction.
This book is a huge huge triumph for James Wilde, 2 parts of the English character, two parts that have not yet blended to become the empire building British, a personality at war with itself.

Highly recommended
(Parm)

Also from this author

Hereward
1. Hereward (2011)
aka The Time of the Wolf
2. The Devil’s Army (2012)
3. End of Days (2013)
HerewardThe Devil's ArmyEnd of Days

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John Henry Clay: THE LION AND THE LAMB (Review)

John Henry Clay

JHC

Dr John Henry Clay is a Lecturer in History at the University of Durham, from where he has built up an international academic and research reputation in Anglo-Saxon and Frankish history and archaeology, particularly concerning themes of conversion and religious identity, landscape perception and the transition from the late-Roman to the early-medieval period both in Britain and on the Continent. He completed his PhD at the University of York in 2008 and spent time as a visiting researcher at the Institute for Medieval Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, before taking up his post in Durham in 2010.

THE LION AND THE LAMB is his first novel.

Buy Signed Hardback

lion lamb

Book Description

Condemned to a hovel, beaten by a merciless commander, crushed by the weather and forced to survive on starvation rations: no one looking at Paul would ever guess that he is heir to one of Roman Britain’s wealthiest families. But Paul had his reasons for joining the army and fleeing the family he loves.

But when rumours of a barbarian uprising from beyond the Wall begin to circulate, Paul realises that his family is in grave danger.

With only the former slave-girl Eachna for company, Paul deserts the army, for which the penalty is death, and undertakes a hazardous journey across Britain where danger lurks round every corner.

Epic in scope, rich with historical detail, THE LION AND THE LAMB is a novel of Roman Britain on the cusp of the Dark Ages, when all that stands between her citizens and oblivion is one family.

Review

On the surface this book has a nice looking cover, intriguing title and interesting blurb. The book is well written and i’m not even going to pretend to know if the history is right or wrong. Given that John Henry Clay is a highly respected Lecturer in History at the University of Durham particularly on this period, I feel he might be streets ahead of me there.

I know by now you are all sat waiting for the BUT!

…..But!
The book has its own style, a good thing for some and not for others, and to be honest I’m not sure where i fall even now. I’m struggling to articulate all of my perceptions of the book. So I came up with a comparison for you. If Anthony Riches is Die Hard then John Henry Clay is EastEnders. The story is more family intimate, and so tragic, its like several Christmas episodes rolled into one. I’m not an EastEnders fan, but at the same time I was compelled to finish this book.

Every night i read the book until gone midnight, I finished it and at no time got bored, felt bogged down by the style or the language.
The author writes in a clear sparse engaging style, if he could provide the battles and the anticipation, and couple that with a bit more life to his characters then i think he would have an all around winner. It was the lack of anything but normality and everyday personality or lack at times lack of depth to the characters that hindered my all around enjoyment. Up until the last 80 pages I wasn’t bothered if Paul died, but still at the same time felt compelled to watch the whole plot unravel towards its conclusion. It’s at the conclusion that it delivers, where it seems that a progressive build up culminates in life for all the characters especially Paul, Paul’s father and Rufus, who feel more real at the end.

Would I Recommend?

Yes oddly i would, its a book I think you should read and make up your own mind, I think there is a lot of potential for the future, as débuts go the man can write, it just for me needs more action , more personality, inject some humour, even if its dark to back up the emotion and atmospherics he is clearly capable of writing.

(Parm)

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Nathan Hawke: Gallow Crimson Shield (Review)

So who is Nathan Hawke?

Nathan Hawke is a British writer of fantasy fiction. He has worked variously in the City, as a consultant to the police and to the services. He has travelled in the far east, worked for a time in Las Vegas, was briefly involved in video game design, and once skied off a mountain under a parachute for a bet. His current ambitions include rafting the Colerado River and walking the Milford Track. The Gallow series are his first novels.

Below is the original announcement:

And there is also good news for British fantasy writer Nathan Hawke, who has signed a new three-book deal. The new series will features a hero that will appeal to fans of David Gemmell. The lead characters, Gallow, finds himself on the wrong side of wars, through his belief in honour.  As the series progresses, he must deal with the consequences of his actions and the truth of his relationships with others whose sense of honour is more tarnished than his own.

“Fantasy has been built on the exploits of those troubled, all too human men and women who have tried to make a difference, tried to do the right thing. Nathan’s conception of Gallow made it clear that here was a man who could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of them. It’s going to be great fun helping Nathan bring a new hero to a new generation of readers,” commented Simon Spanton, Deputy Publishing Director of Gollancz, who acquired world rights to the series from John Jarrold.

All three books will be published in quick succession in 2013.

Book Description (July 11th)

crimson shield

 I have been Truesword to my friends, Griefbringer to my enemies. To most of you I am just another Northlander bastard here to take your women and drink your mead, but to those who know me, my name is Gallow. I fought for my king for seven long years. I have served lords and held my shield beside common men. I have fled in defeat and I have tasted victory and I will tell you which is sweeter. Despise me then, for I have slain more of your kin than I can count, though I remember every single face.
For my king I will travel to the end of the world. I will find the fabled Crimson Shield so that his legions may carry it to battle, and when Sword and Shield must finally clash, there you will find me. I will not make pacts with devils or bargains with demons for I do not believe in such things, and yet I will see them all around me, in men and in their deeds. Remember me then, for I will not suffer such monsters to live.Even if they are the ones I serve.

Review
I literally begged to get my hands on this book, if you’re not sure why then look again at the cover art. Art in every sense of the word, so much so that Gollanzc have taken the brave and innovative step to not have the authors name or book title on the front cover. This truly is one of the finest book covers I have ever seen, I only wish this was a hardback, and I could buy the original art work.
So is this new book any good?
Oh yes! Its a fantastic blending of fantasy and historical fiction, and for once the announcement does not lead you astray “The new series will features a hero that will appeal to fans of David Gemmell” . Gallow is a character Gemmell would have been (I think) very pleased with. He is, as per Gemmells best, a flawed man, not a hero but heroic, a man with a code of his own. Someone who swims against the pack, struggling to appease the differing sides of his life and his past.
I was reminded so many times during the book of Gemmells Rigante, a mixture of Connavar and Bane the Bastard. As this is possibly Gemmells finest work, in my view that’s the biggest compliment I could give this book or any book. (Gemmell is my all time favourite author)
The world is very Norse, attacking the Saxon shore, Saxons settled and gone soft, become sheep. That is the Lhosir and the Maroc, I had not decided who to peg as the Vathan and look forward to the speculation of others, they are very Hun like, horse warriors with a dark god, tribal and warlike. The simple fact the book has me guessing and speculating rather than ploughing into the next read is again testament to its quality of plot and story telling.
I really do recommend this book, to fantasy or Historical Fiction fans
(Parm)
Future Books
Cold Redemption (8th August)
cold redemption
I fought against your people, and I have fought for them. I have killed, and I have murdered. I betrayed my kin and crippled my king. I led countless warriors to their deaths and fought to save one worthless life. I have stood against monsters and men and I cannot always tell the difference. Fate carried me away from your lands, from the woman and the family I love. Three hellish years but now, finally, I may return. I hope I will find them waiting for me. I hope they will remember me while all others forget. Let my own people believe me dead, lest they hunt me down. Let me return in the dark and in the shadows so no one will know. But hope is rare and fate is cruel. And if I have to, I will fight.
Last Bastion (Septmeber 12th )
last bastion
The last battle for the fate of your country is coming. My kin are out for blood and revenge. Another empire sees a chance to come in and pick up the pieces of our war. Most of your warriors are stuck hiding in the swamps, always aware that they do not have enough numbers to win a straight fight. And from over the seas, my people bring their most deadly weapons, the Fateguard. Living suits of armour, imbued with mystical and deadly power. The end times have come for your land. I have fought alongside you, I have bled for you, I have made myself a traitor to all I believe in for you. And yet you still do not trust me. But you have no option. This will be our last battle, and there is only one place that it can be fought. We must defend our stronghold, no matter how many lives it may cost, no matter how hard it is. For if we do not, there will be no mercy and no relief from the terrors to come. Good thing I’m on your side.

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Filed under Fantasy, Historical Fiction