The True Soldier by Paul Fraser Collard

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I have followed Jack Lark to many places and events about which I knew very little; The Crimean War, trouble in Persia, revolt in India, Solferino, Italy, and the stews and gin palaces of London.  Now, because of a promise made to a dying man, Jack is in my neck of the woods; Boston, Massachusetts and just in time for a war I do know about; The Civil War.  Through the influence of the father of the dying man, Jack becomes not only a sergeant in the army, but also the protector of the dying man’s brother. You could say that Jack is less than under whelmed by the readiness and experience of this newly formed unit, and in his own lovable brusque manner attempts to make that point. You could say that his new comrades are less than enthused by his doom and gloom attitude. The author has crafted an engaging tale focusing on the early days of the war with all the pomp and ceremony as the crowds cheer their sons, husbands, fathers, and sweethearts onto what they all believe will be a short, victorious campaign. He has also presented those early days in a well researched manner; I especially enjoyed the riot in Baltimore. It’s not one of those familiar bits of the era and the author portrays it in admirable fashion. Along with that and the 1st Battle of Bull Run the reader is brought into the action in all it’s sound and fury. Jack, at times not knowing what to do with his life, rediscovers the plain facts; he can lead men into that maw of death and destruction, and he can still become a perpetrator of that death and destruction. A marvelous tale indeed with well rounded characters, entertaining plots, and the promise of more Jack to come.

5 stars

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A Sacred Storm by Theodore Brun

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8th Century Sweden: Erlan Aurvandil, a Viking outlander, has pledged his sword to Sviggar Ivarsson, King of the Sveärs, and sworn enemy of the Danish king Harald Wartooth. But Wartooth, hungry for power, is stirring violence in the borderlands. As the fires of this ancient feud are reignited Erlan is bound by honour and oath to stand with King Sviggar.

But, unbeknownst to the old King his daughter, Princess Lilla, has fallen under Erlan’s spell. As the armies gather Erlan and Lilla must choose between their duty to Sviggar and their love for each other.

Blooded young, betrayed often, Erlan is no stranger to battle. And hidden in the shadows, there are always those determined to bring about the maelstrom of war…

MY REVIEW

Erlan is an outsider with a mysterious past (hint- I hadn’t read A Mighty Dawn, the first book in the series, before reading A Sacred Storm, but will certainly rectify that soon) who becomes a favorite warrior and adviser to the Svear King Sviggar.  To say that Erlan is a complex, and tormented character is an understatement. He is a fierce warrior with a crippled ankle, a troubled past, conflicted by oaths, doubt filled thoughts about the gods, and is in love with a woman he cannot have. The story centers around a blood feud between two kings; Sviggar and Harald Wartooth, the Danish King, but is also replete with subplots that ripple throughout the tale providing not only excitement and drama, but also provides impetus to the exhilarating climatic chapters. Indeed, the last quarter of A Sacred Storm is a pure, page turning, emotional ride of battle lust, revenge seeking and sorcery. The author has created a thoroughly enjoyable tale complete with an interesting cast of characters; the irrepressible Kai, the jovial Einar Fat Belly, the beautiful but haunted Lilla, and especially the masterfully evil Saldas. I am looking forward to catching up with Erlan’s past and with his future.  5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theodore Brun

Theodore Brun studied Dark Age archaeology at Cambridge, where he graduated with a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MPhil in History. Professionally, Theodore qualified and worked as an arbitration lawyer, in London, Moscow, Paris and finally Hong Kong. In 2010, he quit his job in Hong Kong and cycled 10,000 miles across Asia and Europe (crossing 20 countries) to his home in Norfolk. Theodore is a third generation Viking immigrant – his Danish grandfather having settled in England in 1932. He is married and lives in London.

Lancelot by Giles Kristian

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A stunning retelling of the Arthurian legend of
Lancelot, a warrior’s story full of battles and bloodshed,
friendship, betrayal and doomed love.

‘What elevates Kristian above the many pretenders to Cornwell’s crown
is the style and swagger of the prose. He is a modern skald, borrowing the old rhythms to create a brutal, absorbing tale’ Antonia Senior, The Times
In his epic new novel, the acclaimed and bestselling author of Raven and God of Vengeance re-imagines and retells the story of one of the great figures of British myth and legends – the warrior who fought at King Arthur’s side: Lancelot.
The legions of Rome are a fading memory. Enemies stalk the fringes of Britain. And Uther Pendragon is dying. Into this fractured and uncertain world a boy is cast, a refugee from fire, murder and betrayal. An outsider whose only companions are a hateful hawk and memories of the lost. Yet he is gifted, and under the watchful eyes of Merlin and the Lady Nimue he will hone his talents and begin his journey to manhood. He will meet Guinevere, a wild, proud and beautiful girl, herself outcast because of her gift. And he will be dazzled by Arthur, a warrior who carries the hopes of a people like
fire in the dark. But these are times of struggle and blood, when even friendship and love seem doomed to fail. The gods are vanishing beyond the reach of dreams. Treachery and jealousy rule men’s hearts and the fate of Britain itself rests on a sword’s edge.
But the young renegade who left his home in Benoic with just a hunting bird and dreams of revenge is now a lord of war. He is a man loved and hated, admired and feared. A man forsaken but not forgotten. He is Lancelot.
Set in a 5th century Britain besieged by invading bands of Saxons and Franks, Irish and Picts, Giles Kristian’s epic new novel tells – through the warrior’s own words – the story of Lancelot, that most celebrated of all King Arthur’s knights. It is a story ready to be re-imagined for our times.

My review

Let me start this review with a resounding ‘Wow’. It has been a while since I have read any of the author’s previous books but am certainly glad I read Lancelot. It is a brilliant telling of that beautiful, and poignant tale. The man who betrayed Arthur is given a fresh start by Mr. Kristian as we follow Lancelot’s early life and, in this story, meets Guinevere  (in a most startling fashion, but I won’t say anything about that- spoilers, you know).  I will say this, the sheer agony, and turmoil that Lancelot experiences is exquisitely portrayed; the pain reaches through the pages and draws the reader in. In fact, the descriptive talent of the author is continually on display: examples –

‘Merlin remarked one day that from the flat land to the north, Camelot resembled a great dragon sleeping under the snow-veiled earth, its foul, smoky breath rising to the wintry sky as proof that it was alive and well and just waiting.’

‘Arthur would fight for Britain.  I would fight for Arthur. And Guinevere would always own my soul. The gods are cruel.’

In addition to his descriptive talent, the author has also crafted an amazing set of characters, from the mysterious Merlin, the indomitable Bors, the charismatic Arthur, and of course, the beautiful, beguiling Guinevere. I felt a part of all of them, even the enmity and hatred that exudes from Mordred (though I still wanted to kill the bastard.) 🙂

Of course, this is also a tale of war and as such there are many battles, skirmishes, one on one combat, and the like as Arthur seeks to send the Saxons packing. Again I was in awe of the author’s prowess in bringing me into the action. The sound of Arthur’s armored cavalry while charging an enemy force; the sound of the horsemen as they sing their battle songs can be heard and then replaced by the sounds of screaming, the crunch of bones, the clang of weapons.

I was entranced by the whole re-working of the legend and while we may never know the truth of the Arthur story, this telling is certainly one we can really enjoy.  5 Stars

GILES KRISTIAN’S bestselling trilogies ‘Raven’ and ‘The Rise of Sigurd’ have been acclaimed by his peers, reviewers and readers alike. The novels The Bleeding Land and Brothers’ Fury tell the story of a family torn apart by the English Civil War and he co-wrote Wilbur Smith’s No.1 bestseller, Golden Lion.
In his new novel, Lancelot, Giles plunges into the rich and swirling waters of our greatest island For more information please contact: Sophie Christopher
0208 231 6615 | schristopher@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk | @sophiechristoph

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Breaking the Foals by Maximilian Hawker

 

 

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Breaking The Foals by Maximilian Hawker

  • Paperback:272 pages
  • Publisher:Unbound Digital (26 April 2018)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1911586726
  • ISBN-13:978-1911586722 

Amazon UK : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Breaking-Foals-Maximilian-Hawker/dp/1911586726/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1523387592&sr=1-1  

BLURB: The Troy of myth was a real city and it was called Wilusa. This is its story… Hektor’s life of privilege is forever changed when a man, allegedly possessed by the sun god, inspires revolution among the oppressed people of Wilusa. For Hektor, son of the city’s despotic ruler, social equality contradicts every principle he has been taught. And his obsession with duty is alienating him from his own young son, Hapi, with whom he has a fractured relationship. But when Hapi’s life is threatened, Hektor is compelled to question his every belief as he rebuilds his relationship with his child through the breaking of a foal. As Wilusa collapses into political violence and the commoners rise up, Hektor must finally decide whether to defend the people and lose his identity, or remain loyal to his irrational, dangerous father.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maximilian Hawker is a 30-year-old writer who lives in Croydon, South London, with his wife and two daughters. He is author of the novel Breaking the Foals, due to be published with Unbound in March 2018. An alumnus of Kingston University, he has a postgraduate degree in English Literature and has worked in education, editorial and design. Currently, he works in frontline children’s social care for Croydon Council, providing a service for care leavers and also runs a YouTube channel for looked after children and care leavers called formeR Relevant, which he aims to eventually promote at a national level. He has had poetry and short stories – occasionally nominated for awards – appear in publications run by Dog Horn Publishing, Kingston University Press, Arachne Press and Rebel Poetry, among others. He also aims to see the word ‘asparagi’ added to the English Dictionary, as its absence troubles him

 

Twitter @MaxHawker

Website:  http://www.maximilianhawker.com/

Facebook Author Page

My Review:

I don’t remember exactly what triggered my interest as a teenager about Troy, but I do remember checking Schliemann’s book on his Trojan excavations out of the Monteith Branch of the Detroit Public Library.  Thus began my lifelong affair with ancient times. When I entered Wayne State University a few years later, I chose Classical Civilization as my area of study and immersed myself in the mythologies and histories of ancient Greece and Rome, including Homer’s Iliad. Since then I’ve read more than a few historical fiction tales of The Trojan War, e.g. Hand of Fire by Judith Starkson, the Odysseus series by Glyn Iliffe, the Ilium and Olympos duo by Dan Simmons. The one common factor in all of them is that they all see the tale from different perspectives; a trait they share with Breaking the Foals.  This tale brings to life a Troy that existed prior to the city of Homer. Indeed it is one school of thought that Homer’s Iliad was based on a series of events that happened in this corner of Asia. Wilusa was a Bronze Age vassal to the Hittite Empire at the time of this Priam and Hektor; albeit the more powerful of the various cities in the region. The author has pieced together a marvelous tale integrating the time and tenor of Bronze Age Asia Minor with elements of Homer; elements that are presented in a manner to make them less mythological and more historical.  The plot develops around Hektor, the dutiful son and right hand man of Priam, the representative of the Sun God on Earth, and the growing discontent of the populace of the lower town with the “deserving” in the upper town.  Hektor finds himself torn about his duties especially as his son, Hapi, is not one of the “deserving” being born to a prostitute mother. The tense atmosphere with the lower town subjects, plus a rather unfortunate set of events; earthquake, a rather unhappy neighboring city, and the general feeling that Priam has lost the favor of the gods lead to an exciting climatic conclusion.  The reader is presented with believable characters, wonderful descriptions, and an entertaining telling of a story that is at once familiar yet different enough to rouse the historically curious.

5 stars.

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Owen – Book 1 Tudor Trilogy by Tony Riches

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Blurb

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, OWEN is the epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience as he changes the course of English history.

England 1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector.

They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors?

This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told.

Owen – Book One of the Tudor Trilogy is a new addition to story of the Tudors in the historical fiction tradition of C J Sansom, Conn Iggulden, Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel.

Review

Over the last few years I have read many historical-fiction novels that deal with the various monarchies throughout Britain’s long history. It’s stunning the amount of turmoil that surrounds whoever occupies the throne. Even such redoubtable rulers like Richard Lionheart, and Henry VIII had to deal with treacherous nobles asserting their claim to the crown. In this tale, the first in The Tudor Trilogy, Owain ap Tudur, a Welsh servant known to the English as Owen Tudor, in an emotionally charged, and fateful twist of fate begets the royal Tudor line.  Now the manner in which that happens is a bit of a spoiler, so, I will not divulge that particular bit of plot. However, that plot line is a good example of how resilient, and resourceful Owen becomes; necessary because of the enmity he causes by his actions.  Owen is a survivor and the author provides ample opportunities for him to succumb to failure or depression.

It is a well researched book with the author gleaning from sparse historical records enough to bring Owen to life in an entertaining and enjoyable fashion. The characters are well rounded, the settings evoke the feeling that the reader is there, and the story is a captivating glimpse at the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. I am certainly going to continue to follow up with Jasper, and Henry; the other books in the series.  4 stars

 

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