A delightful tale of a rather unusual monk and his attempts to get rich while avoiding the Danish horde that is running roughshod over Britain. Conrad is a schemer, always ready with a plan; which is a good thing as his plans have a way of not going according to plan. His companion, Brother Odo, a very devout monk, unwavering in his faith in God and in Conrad’s plan(s), provides much of the mirth while also provoking sympathy from the reader. The author has crafted an entertaining version of the Danes – the sons of Ragnar; Ivarr, Ubba, and Halfdan – and the eventual clash with Aethelred and Alfred. I particularly enjoy historical-fiction when the historical events are written in such a way that the fictional aspect; the interaction of the fictional characters with the historical, the way that the story is tweaked to allow the reader to think, “Yeah, it could have happened that way.” Conrad Monk and The Great Heathen Army did just that while also sparking periodic chuckles and chortles from this amused reader. 4 stars
The author has done it again. Tides of War had my attention fully riveted from the start. This is book eleven in one of the more fascinating, entertaining, educating and creative series I have come across, and it has not diminished one iota; indeed it just gets better. When I start reading the newest episode of Marius’ Mules, I feel as though I am getting together with old friends, though even after so many adventures together, they still find ways to surprise me. I guess that’s a testament to the author’s creative ability in that he continually tweaks his characters as they grow older, a little more bone weary, but still forces to be reckoned with. This part of the Caesarian saga is the great chase across the sea to Dyrrachium and beyond, as the Gaius Julius Caesar/Pompey Magnus battle for supremacy comes to a head (literally). 🙂 I know that I am repeating myself, after all this is the 8th Marius’ Mules I have reviewed, but I will say it anyway; to wit, Mr. Turney is a master in describing where the action is taking place, and writes a hell of a battle scene. The most impressive feat, I think, is no matter that the historical events portrayed in Tides of War are well known, the author presents them in a manner that is fresh, detailed, and integrated with his own creative touch. Yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, I will have to repeat another phrase I have used before: 5 stars
When I was contacted by the author to see if I’d like to read and review his new book, I took a quick look at the backlog of books I have waiting, then I took a quick look at the blurb about My Lady Zane. My backlog quickly grew by one. What intrigued me most was the 1780’s settlement on the Ohio River, Zanesville (modern day Wheeling, West Virginia). It is an era and locale that I am extremely interested in given that I have written a novel about The French & Indian War. 🙂 , but that’s only half of the story. Leah Sullivan is a Marine Sergeant stationed in Iraq. Her grandmother writes to her about their ancestor Elizabeth Zane (Betty), and her life in the hostile environment in the new settlements southwest of Fort Pitt along the Ohio River. So, what we have, dear readers, is a well crafted story that takes place in two different eras of American history; two different women caught up in dangerous combat situations against the revenge filled furor of their respective foes.
Strong characters, from the indomitable spirit of Betty to the tough exterior of Leah to the frontiersmen making the wilderness into a home, this tale is replete with them. In addition to the intriguing story lines, the author has put the reader right smack dab in the middle of the action. The sound and smell of the woodlands, the fury of fired muskets; the inescapable heat and barrenness of the Iraqi desert suddenly filled with the fury of battle. It is a cracking read, hard to put down, and certainly one to be enjoyed.
Heracles, the natal result of a Zeusian dalliance, is the subject of Mr. Iliffe’s new series. Son of Zeus is a wonderful telling of the first part of the Heracles myth; the enmity and hatred of Hera toward him is the focal point as Heracles struggles mightily not only with the first three challenging labors but with his own peace of mind as he tries to understand why he murdered his children. Heracles, while known for his strength, is shown to be a man totally driven to find the redemption he is promised, and it is this aspect that drives the narrative. The three labors in this tale are marvelously written; the rank bestiality and cunning of the Nemean Lion; the absolute innocence of a young girl in the Ceryneian Hind; the seeming unstoppable Hydra, take the reader into the heart of the action and drama. While Heracles is up against impossible tasks, his wife Megara is also trying to come to grips with the horror she had gone through. This story line, her search for the answer as to why he did what he did, is crafted in a heart rending fashion, and is another example of the author’s skill in presenting believable characters. I am certainly looking forward to book 2, the author ends book 1 with a lovely nugget for us to chew on.