Blood of the Wolf – Forest Lord 4 by Steven A. McKay

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Robin has been pardoned, he is no longer an outlaw; indeed he is even working for the law now.  He is reunited with his wife and son.  Life is good, Robin should be a happy man.  But alas, conflicted feelings about his job and how harmful the enforcement of the law can be and increasing  tension at home rears over his job as well.  The finale of this engrossing set of tales brings together Robin and what’s left of his old gang to pursue and destroy an enemy who is out for revenge against them.  Plus there is another old score waiting to be settled by a most loathsome churchman.  Taut, tense and full of action and surprises, Mr. McKay gives the reader an entertaining and fitting end to his Robin Hood series.  My only, well, make that two complaints, is that the tension in some spots is such that I had to put the book down and take a breath or two (not that this is a bad thing)..and two –  that the series is done.  I commend the author on how he brings it to a close…that’s all I will say about that…you need to read it to find out.  🙂  5 stars and the highly sought after Hoover Book Reviews – “You Gotta Read This Series” award.

 

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Dayraven – Sword of Woden 4 by C.R. May

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The finale of this most entertaining series about Beowulf concerns not only him but the Geatish King, Hygelac and his raid on the Frisians.  It is an exciting romp filled with insights into the culture of the Dark Age warrior; the bond between sword brothers, the need to die well in battle with your sword in hand so to feast at Woden’s table in Valhal ( the scene from the movie The Vikings springs to mind where Tony Curtis gets Ernest Borgnine a sword to face the wild dogs in the pit he is being thrown into).  Fast paced action is interspersed between some wonderful dialogue; especially between Hygelac and his vastly outnumbered raiding force as they prepare to face, not one, but two armies arrayed against them.  Meanwhile, Beowulf has been tasked by Woden to attend a religious festival; one where the author’s descriptive imagination brings the reader into the realm of Woden and Thunor.  Naturally, for Beowulf, this errand, while necessary, is somewhat of a distraction as he longs to be involved in the battle play with his King.  All in all, this is a page turning foray into an age that will soon be overtaken by Christianity and a most fitting end to the Sword of Woden series.   4.8 stars

I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith

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One of the reasons I have watched the BBC production of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius so many times is Sian Phillips portrayal of Livia, the powerfully wicked wife of Augustus and Mother of the Empire.  One of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed I Am Livia is the vastly different light Livia is portrayed by Phyllis T. Smith.  Instead of the scheming woman clearing a path to the throne for her son Tiberius, we find a woman longing to help her husband gain control of the Roman Empire; becoming not just a wife, but an adviser who manages to soften the harsher side of her Tavius.  The author has given the reader some excellent characters to embrace in a historical setting that determines the future of Rome and the world.  Emotions run high and are on display in this tale; a tale that is well known, Octavius and Antony and who will rule the world.  That backdrop to the story of Livia, and seen mostly through her eyes, provides a page turning delight.  I came upon this book kind of accidentally and am glad that I did.  5 stars  Highly recommended by the prestigious yet humble Hoover Book Reviews.

Pax Gallica – Marius Mules IX by SJA Turney

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Things are heating up between Caesar and the Senate.  The Senate calls for him to lay down his legions and return to Rome for prosecution while Caesar seeks to be made a Consul.  Marcus Falerius Fronto, ex-legate of the Tenth Legion has been declared an outlaw and takes his family to Massilia whereupon he decides that despite his differences with Caesar, the only way to regain what the Senate has taken from him is to rejoin Caesar.  Meanwhile there is an uprising in Aquitania led by an enigmatic man known as The Smiling King and Fronto is sent there with one legion made up of veterans ready to retire to put down the incursion and settle the veterans in that region.  Throughout this series, the author has created some very memorable characters, both Roman and barbarian.  In Pax Gallica, that honor belongs to The Smiling King; driven by vengeance, fueled by sacred vows, and totally ruthless in his pursuit to bring down Caesar.  Fronto needs all of the steadfast, professional demeanor of his ‘legion’ just to survive the opening salvos from this new enemy.  Fronto also needs all of his guile and experience to try to stay one step ahead of Smiley but is inexorably and with much loss led to where The Smiling King wants him.  Mr. Turney delivers yet again a muse inspired tale filled with drama, mystery, heroic deeds, loyalty, and most importantly a story of many twists and turns as he sets the stage for the inevitable showdown between Pompey and Caesar.  5 Stars and a Hoover Book Review query, Why haven’t you started this series yet?  🙂

Vita Brevis by Ruth Downie

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When I was asked if I would read – review Vita Brevis, the latest in Ruth Downie’s Medicus series, I was more than happy to comply.  When it was mentioned that I would be part of a Blog Tour to promote Vita Brevis, I thought, great, more exposure for this humble but enlightening book review blog.  When I found out who was also on this tour, I almost fainted.  I am in the company of the elite.  To use baseball terminology, it’s like I’m a September call-up to a team of the Major League’s heaviest hitters.  Well, no matter, I’ll put on my big boy pants and do my best….perhaps I’ll offer sacrifices to my Muse for extra guidance.  🙂

I’ve read my share of Roman whodunit books; Lindsey Davis (Falco) -Steven Saylor (Gordianus) – David Wishart (Corvinus) – JM Roberts (Decius) and of course Ruth Downie and her medical sleuth, Ruso.  What I like about these various characters is that while there are many similarities among them, foremost is the fact that they are doing detective work, there are enough differences in time, place and social station for the authors to compose unique mystery situations.  Thus we find Ruso and Tilla in Rome.  What’s so unique about that you may ask?  Well, having spent the last few years in Britannia as a Medical Officer in the 20th Legion and used to managing hospitals, clinics and dealing with the aftermath of battles, Ruso now faces a private practice that is anything but manageable.  A missing doctor, an unlooked for delivery, nosy and mean neighbors, overbearing landlords, an outlaw religious sect holding prayer meetings in the apartment above you and the general hustle and bustle that is Rome; these are just some of the things that Ruso and Tilla have to deal with.  Setting up a new practice is hard enough without being tasked with locating the missing doctor, nor does the mysterious death of an important person make it any easier. In a thoroughly entertaining way the author spreads clues and subtle hints and leads the reader down many trails to the truth.  Witty, poignant, charming, hopeful and riddled with doubt are some of the traits that permeate the narrative.  Through it all, the city of Rome is in the background; street corner charlatans, irritable crowds, bakery smells, slave auctions; all providing the perfect touches to a page turning delight.    5 stars and the highly sought after Hoover Book Reviews highest recommendation.  🙂

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Vita-Brevis-Crime-Empire-Medicus/dp/1620409585/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr

 

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 Vita BREVIS
A Gaius Ruso Mystery
By Ruth Downie
22nd September 2016
hardback – £16.99
Bringing both the majesty and depravity of ancient Rome to life, Ruth Downie concocts
a delicious mix of crime novel, mystery, and history lesson in the latest novel in her
bestselling Medicus series, VITA BREVIS.
“Downie writes with her usual humor and depth . . . Perfect for fans
of the Falco novels by Lindsey Davis, this entertaining New York
Times best-selling series and its endearing characters deserve as
long a run” —Booklist
“A deftly crafted and consistently compelling read from beginning
to end, ‘Vita Brevis’ clearly establishes author Ruth Downie as a
consummate and accomplished master of historical crime fiction” —
Midwest Book Review
Ruso and Tilla’s excitement at arriving in Rome with their baby daughter is soon dulled by
their discovery that the grand facades of polished marble mask an underworld of corrupt
landlords and vermin-infested tenements.
Ruso finds that his predecessor Doctor Kleitos has fled, leaving a dead man in a barrel on
the doorstep with the warning, ‘Be careful who you trust’. Distracted, Ruso makes a grave
mistake, causing him to question his own competence and integrity.
With Ruso’s reputation under threat, he and Tilla must protect their small family by tracking
down the vanished doctor – and discovering the truth behind the man in the barrel.
VITA BREVIS is brimming with humor, clever plot twists, and evocative historical details, as
Ruth Downie follows her beloved characters in their next adventure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ruth Downie is the author of the New York Times bestselling Medicus, as well as Terra
Incognita, Persona Non Grata, Caveat Emptor, Semper Fidelis, and Tabula Rasa. She is
married with two sons and lives in Devon.
Follow her at ruthdownie.com and on Twitter @ruthsdownie.
Praise for VITA BREVIS
“Masterfully draws out its suspense, painting a vivid portrait of ancient Rome that
feels persuasive and authentic”
—Kirkus Reviews
“Downie’s plotting is as engaging as ever… much more than a mystery novel”
—Historical Novel Society
“Reading ‘Vita Brevis’ felt like catching up with old friends”
—Italophile Book Reviews
Praise for ruth downie and the medicus series
“Attention to day-in-the-life period details, judiciously doled-out twists, and dry
British humor . . . One hell of a toga party” —Entertainment Weekly
“Wonderfully entertaining” —Newsweek
“Places Downie alongside such established masters of the Roman historical as
Steven Saylor and Rosemary Rowe” —Publishers Weekly
“Ruso rocks. Let’s hear it for those Romans” —Kirkus Reviews
“Downie’s attention to detail—both historical detail and human detail—makes this
series a joy to read for the mystery lover, the classics fan, or anyone seeking more
character-driven genre fiction” — Historical Novel Society
Ruth Downie is available for interview and feature writing.
For more information please contact:
Joseph Thomas
joseph.thomas@bloomsbury.com – 020 7631 5863

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dance of Pride and Peril by Martin Lake

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One of the things that really draws me to historical-fiction is the vast array of times, places and subjects that can be written about.  My first love will always be set in ancient times; be it Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain; etc.  Then there are times and places that haven’t been as prevalent in hist-fic novels; A Dance of Pride and Peril is one of those.  Crete, 4000 years ago, was one of the earliest civilizations to crop up in the ancient world and Martin Lake has given us a wonderful tale about that island, the people and their beliefs.  I first encountered bull leaping/dancing in Mary Renault’s A King Must Die and have periodically wondered why more authors hadn’t given that period a go, as it was certainly a fascinating place.  Mr. Lake gives us the story of a young girl who is sold to a bull leaping school to learn to dance for the audiences who come to see the boys leap over bulls (and we’re not talking ordinary bulls; we’re talking aurochs; fierce, giant, temperamental beasts.  The main character, Talita, is a determined, willful girl and the story of her enslavement and the way she deals with the various problems and situations she finds herself in, is beautifully told.  The author also paints a vivid picture of that ancient civilization and also of Kemet (Egypt), bringing to life a time and place that would eventually be a great contributors to the future of that region.  4 stars

Monsters -Sword of Woden Book 3 by C.R.May

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I’m sure that somewhere during my school years I was subjected to the Beowulf poem; I think I even remember a comic book version, however, back in those days I wasn’t too interested in poetic writings, so my knowledge of the story is, or I should say was, limited basically to knowing it existed.  Then along comes this prose version of the story; a historical fiction/fantasy that has filled the Beowulf void in my literary adventures.  In this, the third volume of the series Beowulf continues his quest to be a well renowned and remembered Geatish warrior.  The author has done a fantastic job in taking the tale to a very entertaining level.  The fights with Grendel and then with the Mother are the focal points of this volume but certainly not the only ones.  Plenty of action, lots of warrior camaraderie, and a poignant look at the Dark Age civilizations of northern Europe.  One of the particulars that I really enjoyed is the influence and meddling of the gods, most especially Woden.  Incorporating the beliefs of the time into the telling of this tale is a definite plus and puts the reader into the mindset of Beowulf and his crew. The descriptive talent of the author is on display throughout whether it be on land or aboard ship.  All in all, another job well done by Mr. May and I look forward to the conclusion in book four, Dayraven.  4.3 stars.