A Year of Ravens

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A collaborative effort of seven authors, A Year of Ravens tells the tale of the Iceni Queen, Boudica and her rebellion against Rome.  While the cause and effects of the war are admirably presented, it is the characters that drive this emotion packed, soul searching, heartstring tugging story(or rather stories).  From the beginning the readers are treated to a seamless transition from author to author and the way each of them puts their own marks on the growth of each character.  Time and time again I was drawn into a character’s mindset and felt the pain, the remorse, the confusion, and even the occasional joy being experienced.  One, of the many examples I could choose, of a character’s journey through the book is the fictional wife of the Roman Procurator.  Valeria as introduced in the first chapter is a cold as ice Roman matron whose only ambition is to promote her rather timid husband’s career.  What she experiences in subsequent events is so beautifully written as to elicit some tearing up even to this old curmudgeon.  Also on display are the realities of war and the cruelties inflicted by men(and women) madly entrenched in the rightness of their cause.  Whether it’s shield wall action or the rampant, wanton destruction of a town or village, the battle scenes are bloodlust filled events punctuated with the sounds of sword on sword and the screams of the dying.

By way of summation, let me say, from the very beginning with the Intro by Ben Kane to the very, very end with an afterword from each author, this book is a testament to the creative genius of seven wordsmiths.  5 stars

 

Spartacus III The Pharoah’s Blade by Robert Southworth

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The third and final volume of Robert Southworth’s Spartacus series finds the gang involved in an adventure to retrieve an Egyptian artifact, a dagger that is reputed to grant victory to whoever has it and there are many who seek it.  Among the seekers are the power brokers of Rome and inveterate foes, Pompey and Crassus.  Spartacus is tabbed to lead a coalition army of Commagene, Spartan, Parthian and a smattering of Armenians under Tigranes the younger.  Arrayed against them is the might of Mithridates and Tigranes the elder.  The battle scenes are well done and are filled with imaginative tactics, heroic struggles and tragic deaths.  The plot takes many turns as the duplicitousness of certain characters plays out over the course of the book.  All in all The Pharaoh’s Blade is an interesting look at that period in history when Mithridates, Tigranes and The Parthians all vied for control of the region and had Rome’s attention; so much so that Crassus arrives in Parthia with intent to conquer but an ignominious end is what he finds.  Spartacus, Cassian, Plinius and the others in their search for a peaceful place to live must first survive the tumult.  4 stars

 

Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

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The son of Gaius Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, Caesarion, seems to get most of the press in fiction in relation to the three children borne by Cleopatra with Marcus Antonius, Selene, Helios and Philadelphus.  The fate of those three is the backdrop to Stephanie Dray’s series starting with Lily of the Nile.  I was captivated from the get go as the author begins with Cleopatra’s death and the arrival in Rome of the children as part of Octavian’s Triumph; a humiliating experience to say the least.  They are given over to Octavia’s care but it’s Octavian with help from Livia who are the true architects of the children’s future.  The interaction between Octavian and Selene progresses through the story and is one of the highlights of the book.  The author does a superb job in that relationship, one that changes/grows as the power of Isis is made manifest in Selene.  The erstwhile rulers of Egypt never give up their hope of being restored to their rightful place but there are many obstacles and lessons to be learned.  I really enjoyed this story, the portrayal of Caesar Augustus is especially well done as are the characters of the twins…indeed this is a hallmark of Stephanie Dray’s writing acumen…the way she draws the reader into a character’s state of mind.  Looking forward to the rest of this series… 5 stars.

Men of the Cross by Charlene Newcomb

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When I started this book I expected a story about the Third Crusade; one that would bring to the fore the majesty and the folly of the venture.  Those elements were certainly on display as the author leads the reader on an exciting, entertaining and surprisingly evocative tale.  From the mustering of Richard’s knights to the taking of Sicily and through all of the adventures they encountered before arriving at Acre.  The action is portrayed in nice detail, the political intrigue between Richard and Phillip gives the reader a taste of what that time was like and mimics a little I suppose what our time is like even now…that old adage that history repeats.  As to the characters, well I for one was drawn into their feelings, the ones of joy and the frequent bouts of sorrow and confusion.  The two main protagonists are fictional characters, Henry DeGray and Stephan l’Aigle, two knights in the retinue of King Richard.  Henry is on his first Crusade, indeed his first time going into harm’s way while Stephan is a seasoned veteran having fought by Richard’s side before.  Neither one of them comes out of this adventure the same way they went in.  So much angst, so much confusion, so much revilement, and yet so much love.  Among the co-stars of this tale are the very real King Richard Lionheart, Sir Robin(yes that Robin), Allan(yes that Allan), Little John(yes oh you get it by now)  🙂 However, Robin and his two mates are given here with a slightly different slant…there is no taint of an outlaw to Robin and his companions are younger in this story and play some interesting roles throughout.  Now as for Henry and Stephan, I cannot say enough about how well crafted these two are; kudos to Char.  I recommend this book highly and cannot wait for the sequel.  5 Stars

About Char

me1sCharlene Newcomb. Char. That’s me.

Librarian.
Navy vet.
Mom to 3 grown, amazing children.
I live in Kansas. Yes, Toto. Kansas.

Born & raised in South Carolina, I wanted a life of adventure and travel. I realized that dreams of hitting the big time with my all-girl rock band Liberation were just that – dreams. And becoming an astronaut wasn’t in the cards. So I joined the Navy to see the world and spent six years as a communications technician/voice language analyst. I fit college into my life (BA in History, and many years later an MA in Library Science). That desire to travel in space translated into writing science fiction: I published 10 short stories in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, many featuring a Rebel underground freedom fighter named Alex Winger. I have published 2 novels, one a contemporary drama, Keeping the Family Peace; the other,Men of the Cross (book 1 of Battle Scars), which allows me to share my love of history with readers. Book 2 of the series will be published in 2015.

Welcome to my worlds.

Contact me at charlenenewcomb at gmail dot com.

Follow me on Facebook or  on Twitter. I’m also on Goodreads though I don’t keep up with that site as much as I should!

The Maharajah’s General by Paul Fraser Collard

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Jack is back.  He survived the Alma River battle on The Crimean Peninsula and being the enterprising and resourceful person he is, assumes the name and rank of an unfortunate Captain who perished before reaching his post in India.  The British colonization of India is not a subject I have read much of, in fact my knowledge of the period can be attributed to Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Rudyard Kipling in the movie The Man Who Would be King, so it was with eager anticipation that I read the second volume of this splendid series; not only because of the location but I wanted to find out how our hero fared in his new disguise.  He emerged from book one knowing that he could indeed lead men in battle and that he is an accomplished killer, both attributes are put to good use in The Maharajah’s General.  Mr. Collard has written a tale that is an easy flowing, riveting one that is hard to put down once you pick it up.  The character of Jack Lark continues to develop into one of my favorite historical-fiction protagonists, one who becomes more sure of himself as he continues the path of deception he has chosen, though it does play a little havoc on any long term relationships.  🙂  5 stars with a Hoover Book Review admonition – read this series, I for one will be continuing with it in book 3, The Devil’s Assassin.

Wilderness of Sin – An Uncivil War 3 by MJ Logue

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Let me start out this review by stating that I absolutely loved the first two books in the series and wondered if the author would continue to elicit my love in book number 3.  It is the opinion of this humble, yet somewhat revered scribbler of reviews, that M.J. Logue has risen above the rather high expectations I had for Wilderness of Sin.  This is a war story that, while it does provide excellent accounts of the battles and sieges, is more in the way of a delving into what makes people tick kind of a story.  The author has given us wonderfully drawn characters, Hollie and the others who have been around from the beginning of the war are changing.  Some are maturing, such as Thankful and Luce, some are more hardened, Fairfax, and some are relinquishing their irascible exterior, Hollie.  Regardless of the changes, the character development is what makes this book sing.  I think the best chapter in the book has nothing to do with the war, in fact it takes place in Het’s garden as Thankful or Hapless or Apple, as he is called by a precocious toddler, and the self same toddler engage in eating bugs.  It is a chapter I would loved to have written myself.   🙂    5 stars without a doubt.

Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil by Steven A. McKay

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Friar Tuck is hiding under an assumed name having run afoul of a powerful member of the church hierarchy and finds himself living in a small village that is being plagued by visits from demons and devils.  The author has given us and Tuck a mystery to solve; one that has the good Friar utilizing all of his skills, both mental and physical to rid the village of the cloven-hoofed, horned devil.  The tale is well told with a steady pace, action aplenty, and a deeper look into the character of Tuck.  Couple that with a fine Christmas feast and you have a 5 star winner.