Sailing to Sarantium – The Sarantine Mosaic Book 1 by Guy Gavriel Kay


I read a lot of fiction, mostly historical-fiction, but also some fantasy/historical-fiction; fiction that takes on the feel of history, events that could have happened, cultures and people that could have existed.  Such is Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay; a work that has the look and feel of a Roman/Byzantine world, but that also carries a look at contemporary issues such as religion and it’s hold on humanity through the ages.  An excellent example of this can be found in a discussion between an architect and the Patriarch concerning the proposed ideas for the dome of a new sanctuary, “Deference becomes you,” said Artibasos, mildly enough. “It might be worth cultivating.  It is customary – except perhaps among clerics – to have opinions preceded by knowledge.” I don’t know about you, my peeps and fellow travelers, but that speaks volumes to current affairs in 2018 America, if not the world.

I read a lot of different authors; a lot of different writing styles and strengths, some who move me with their descriptive abilities, others with the depth of their characters, or their grasp of fine dialogue.  What I have found in my reading of Mr. Kay is an author who moves me with all of those things, but especially the beauty of his narrative; his “way with words”.  I cannot begin to count the number of times I would read a passage, pause, reread, and then pause again to allow the flow of words to both fill me with wonder, and with just a smidgen of jealousy (I too, fancy myself as an author).

Sailing to Sarantium is a complex tale, filled with surprises; with the full range of human emotion, and human experiences – emotions and experiences that can be carried over to modern times – a time of wonder, but also a time of uncertainty. I can hardly wait to read the sequel.  5 Stars  – BTW the chariot race chapter is worth the price of admission.  🙂


Lucia’s Renaissance by C.L.R. Peterson


A most interesting subject, locale, and time, to say the least. I cannot imagine having to deal with a theocratic rule; a believe what we tell you or suffer the consequences. The protagonist, an inquisitive young girl, finds herself enmeshed in a quandary regarding her faith after reading a book by Luther.  Lucia’s naivete about the Lutheran heresy; her words and actions, brings danger to her and her family, and that makes for a tension filled story line. I enjoyed the portrayal of 16th century Italy, especially Venezia; the sights and sounds, the market, the churches, the canals. The author highlights the fierce determination of the Church to maintain it’s supremacy and it’s stranglehold on the populace.   My only real problem with the tale is a too simplistic approach to dialogue.  Other than that, I can recommend it as a book worth your while.  3.2 stars


Eagles of Dacia – Praetorian 3 by S.J.A. Turney


A most enjoyable journey is this, the third book in the Praetorian series.  Rufinus has been dispatched on a mission to a remote corner of the Empire; a mission that demands success from the odious chancellor Cleander, who has Rufinus’ brother held hostage to ensure this success.  What follows is a roller coaster of a ride as Rufinus, Senova, and Acheron the wonder dog traverse the Danubian world seeking to find evidence of treason among the area’s governors. Once again, the author transported me to a region of the globe I am not too familiar with, but which he has trod, and the result is a dazzling display of descriptive narrative. This combined with a flair for fascinating characters, wonderful dialogue, and a truly believable tale make Eagles of Dacia an entertaining read. The only question I have for Mr. Turney is this: why do you dislike Rufinus so much?  After all the torment and pain he endured in the first two books, he could have used a bit of a breather.  Just kidding, after all, that’s one of the traits that makes Rufinus so interesting; his resilience under extreme duress.  4.8 stars – maybe he’ll catch a break in book 4.  🙂


An Argument of Blood by J.A. Ironside & Matthew Willis



It is my privilege to be part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for An Argument of Blood. First, a brief summary of the story:

William, the nineteen-year-old duke of Normandy, is enjoying the full fruits of his station. Life is a succession of hunts, feasts, and revels, with little attention paid to the welfare of his vassals. Tired of the young duke’s dissolute behaviour and ashamed of his illegitimate birth, a group of traitorous barons force their way into his castle. While William survives their assassination attempt, his days of leisure are over. He’ll need help from the king of France to secure his dukedom from the rebels.

On the other side of the English Channel lives ten-year-old Ælfgifa, the malformed and unwanted youngest sister to the Anglo-Saxon Jarl, Harold Godwinson. Ælfgifa discovers powerful rivalries in the heart of the state when her sister Ealdgyth is given in a political marriage to King Edward, and she finds herself caught up in intrigues and political manoeuvring as powerful men vie for influence. Her path will collide with William’s, and both must fight to shape the future.

An Argument of Blood is the first of two sweeping historical novels on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

And the review:

An entertaining tale of William the Conqueror (or Bastard, depending on who’s talking), as a young man shaken out of his young man’s revelry and into the harsh reality of life as a Duke.  It is also a tale of Godwin’s youngest daughter, Aelfgifa, the unlovely, yet extremely intelligent girl who finds herself a player in the game for the English throne of the heir less Edward.  The authors have combined to deliver an intriguing look at how these early years led to the eventual history making/changing year of 1066.  The characters come alive, the youthful exuberance of William turning into a fierce determination, the misjudging and dismissal of Aelfgifa are perfect examples, and by no means the only ones.  It was a strange time and everyone who has the slightest link to the throne gets involved, and while this is all historical fact, it takes a good fiction writer, or in this case fiction writers, to take that history and piece together a tale that falls into the realm of believable possibility.  We all know the outcome awaiting William, but it is still an intriguing take on the path leading to his destiny, and an intriguing look at the easy to overlook woman who played an important part in that destiny.  4.3 stars and am looking forward to the sequel.

About the Authors

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

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Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

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During the Book Blast we will be giving away a signed copy of An Argument of Blood

To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

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– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter the giveaway here

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Sheriff & Priest by Nicky Moxey


It’s been nigh on 90 years since the Normans came to stay and to rule, and it was a tough time to grow up a Saxon.  Wimer, though is made of stern stuff and survives the second class treatment meted out by the Norman elite.  His intelligence and adaptability such that he can rub shoulders with and become friends with the future Henry II.

Once again, I found myself immersed in a period of time that I’m not that familiar with.  A time of Sheriffs and the fiduciary demands of the King and the Church.  Ahh, the Church, a subject that at once fascinates and infuriates me.  Wimer is caught up in the fervor of reaching heaven, not only for himself as a priest but for those he cares for in that capacity.  An unfortunate set of circumstances and a bitter feud between Henry and his Archbishop Thomas a’Becket has dire results for Wimer and culminates in a decades long search for peace of mind and soul.

The author has crafted an intriguing tale based on the scant historical evidence of Wimer’s life, and has with meticulous care provided a believable picture of 12th century England.  Well researched and shot through with creative story telling, the reader can feel the weight of emotions and the pulse of the countryside; the absolute hold of the church on every facet of life and the cruel backlash of falling afoul of either secular or spiritual rulers. I am certainly looking forward to the sequel.  4.3 stars


Carina by Alison Morton


Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the entire Roma Nova series, I eagerly opened up the new installment, Carina.  This installment takes place between the first two books of the series and finds Carina tasked to apprehend an alleged traitor in Quebec and return her to Roma Nova.  A straightforward task for a member of the elite Praetorian officer corps.  However, things turn out to be a bit more complicated and she is  plunged into a web of deception and intrigue.  The author has given the reader another gem of a tale with her usual fast paced style, believable scenarios and the real sensation that Roma Nova could exist in the modern world.  When I started reading Carina, it was with the thought that I would take my time with this novella, as I was also reading a couple of other books that had review deadlines looming.  Hah! I was so engrossed and taken in by Alison’s skillful creative abilities, that I finished Carina in two sittings.  So, dear readers, help yourself to another 5 Star entry to the Roma Novan catalog.