This, the debut novel of John Salter, is the story of the legendary Briton Caratacus and his quest to protect his homeland from the Claudian invasion of Britain. Most of the book focuses on the 2nd Augusta Legion under it’s Legate Vespasian as he strives to convince the various tribes to acquiesce to Roman rule and order. The author brings to life some very interesting characters both Roman and Briton in this well researched tale. The Britons Caratacus, Adminius and Brenna bring to life the differences of opinion as to whether submission to Rome or the destruction of the invader is the better choice for their home and people. Their motives and emotions are vastly different from each other(I won’t say who is of which opinion so as to not reveal a spoiler, though Caratacus’ choice is probably well known) and are the heart and soul of the conflict.
As in any good story there are plenty of plot twists especially one towards the end that is very nice yet very nasty and I was taken completely by surprise. The battle scenes are well done, the gore is not overly excessive yet enough so that you get the feel of what it would have been like to be a Roman legionnaire facing a menacing group of frenzied, woad covered warriors. You also get to know what it was like to be an advance scouting party of Roman cavalry from the intense fear to the comradeship of the men involved. I am looking forward to the next volume in this saga as the battle for Britain is far from over and Caractacus is as determined as ever to throw the Romans back into the sea. My rating for this is 3.8 stars.
By far most of the historical fiction that I read is full of the twang of many bowstrings and ballista, the thrust of gladius and spear, the tromping of hobnailed caligae, however at the behest of my Twitterverse friend SJA Turney and after reading her blog posts I finally succumbed and decided to read Gisborne Book of Pawns by Prue Batten. A wise choice as it turned out.
The author has given us a wonderful re-telling of the story of Sir Guy Gisborne and the Lady Ysabel of Moncrief. The story is set during the beginning of Richard the Lionheart’s reign. It begins with the arrival of Gisborne in Aquitaine to escort Ysabel back to her home at Moncrief as her mother has died and her father is in dire straits. This sets up one of the main story lines; the tension between Sir Guy and Lady Ysabel. Other plots and sub plots are also evident bringing to the reader a sublime set of surprises and twists. The two main characters are beset with emotions, Gisborne’s arising from his past and his desire for his future and Ysabel’s awakening to reality.
The turmoil of Ysabel’s soul and the conflicts in her heart and mind are presented in such a way as to make it seem like Ysabel’s thoughts seep through the pages and enters the hearts and minds of the readers. This exquisitely compelling style of prose is what kept me entranced through the entire book. As an example I include this excerpt(no spoiler):
I dared him – so help me as I gazed at that severe face, I dared him. And it seemed as though we clashed close in our duel, our hilts jamming, our breath dragging in and out. He shook off my weapon and felled me with one blow. ‘Yes,’ he said.
The supporting cast of characters are also fascinating from the redoubtable Lady Cecilia, the various nuns and priests to the main antagonists, Halsham and de Courcey. I am now a fan of Prue Batten and heartily agree with another fan who once told me that she could write a phone book and make it compelling. I look forward with great anticipation to the rest of this saga. 5 stars indeed.
Come and join Sigurd, Raven and the rest on the Sword-Norse cruise line as they journey to new lands and exciting adventures. Go a viking and see the world.
And what a journey it is! At the end of book two, Sons of Thunder, Sigurd and his flotilla of four ships have escaped the wrath of the Franks and Karolus. They head southwest skirting the coast of northern Frankia, around the Iberian Peninsula, with a short stop for a raid, and into the Mediterranean. One more profitable raid, a layover for the winter and then they’re sailing up the Tiber for a visit to Rome. At this point I am going to have to be careful…don’t want to spoil anything. Suffice to stay that their stay in Rome is full of adventure and surprises; not only in what they do but in who they meet. Eventually they arrive at Miklagard(Constantinople) where the action really heats up. The climatic scenes that brings their quest to fruition are tense filled page turners. But wait, there’s more after that. The ending chapters tie up a loose end that has been with us since book 1 and the author does not disappoint in the telling.
As in the first two books of the Raven series, I was mightily impressed with the authors descriptive powers and I’m not just talking about the battle scenes which are well done indeed. One example: “White sails were everywhere, and it was a hard thing not to wriggle into brynjas, put men and axes at the prows, and see what we could pilfer. Bothvar said it was like laying a slab of meat before a hound and telling it not to lick its lips, and he was right, for patience in a raiding man is as rare as a happy marriage. Even if he tries to cling to it, it almost always proves as fleeting as a belch.” Over and over again the author draws word pictures that kindle the readers imagination and breathes life into the many tales this story has to tell. I was impressed with book 1, enthralled with book 2 and mesmerized by book 3. So as Raven tells his listeners in the prologue, ” Take the whale’s road and see something of the world. Stand at the prow and feel the salt spray on your faces. I am telling you, it is the best feeling you will ever have.” 5 of 5 stars for this wonderful end to an amazing series.
The further I go into this wonderfully written series the more I want to know about William the Bastard and the Norman conquest of England, a subject that doesn’t receive due justice or scrutiny on my side of The Pond in my humble opinion. All I ever learned was the date 1066, nothing about the reality of the time. English resistance and rebellion during this period is the focus of the author’s work and I couldn’t help but wonder how things would be different if the Normans had been thrown back to Normandy.
The main character is Edgar, the rightful King of England as proclaimed by The Witan after the disastrous defeat at Hastings. In book 2 he has raised an army and allied himself with a large Danish force with the intent of recovering his crown. There is little that goes right for Edgar as he is faced time and time again with adverse results in battle and with treachery and betrayal. The author has given the reader a steady glimpse into the mind of Edgar as he deals with these defeats and betrayals and how he subjects his doubts and fears to an indomitable spirit to survive and to succeed.
I heartily recommend this very readable and enjoyable journey into the England’s history and look forward with great anticipation to the next volume in the series. 4 stars and a thank you for kindling my desire to know more.