Dark Eagle (Legionary #8) by Gordon Doherty

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What hope has one forgotten soldier of bringing an emperor to justice?

Winter, 382 AD. The Gothic War is over. After years of bloodshed, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Goths have struck a deal for peace. Imperial heralds crow about the treaty as if it were a triumph. Feasts and celebrations take place across the Eastern provinces. Every hero of the war is honoured and acclaimed… except one.

Tribunus Pavo languishes in exile, haunted by a dark truth: that it was Gratian, Emperor of the West – the most powerful man alive – who caused the war and manipulated its every turn. Tormented by memories of loved ones lost during the great conflict, one word tolls endlessly through Pavo’s mind: Justice!

But in this great game of empire, justice rarely comes without a grave cost

REVIEW

With all of the strife the XI Claudia has faced in the previous episodes of the Legionary series, one might think that they could use a break. After all, there is now peace with The Goths, The Huns are being contained; a time to recoup and recover from their travails. However, that would be a rather dull story. Thankfully, the author feels the same way, though I did question him as to what the XI Claudia, and Pavo in particular, ever do to him as Dark Eagle sends them through hell and then some. What transpires is a page turning tale of courage, loyalty, and most of all, survival. A plot line that is rarely straight, is full of surprises, and beckons the reader to feel the pains, the agonies, and even the joys of this resilient group of dedicated legionaries. Indeed, my fellow readers, there were times I had to stop and wonder, “How are they gonna get out of this one?” An excellent addition to the Legionary series awaits you.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

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In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

REVIEW

I am once again in awe. I have waxed enthusiastic praise on each of the five books I have previously read by this author. River of Stars now makes six. It is a masterpiece of compelling fiction; a narrative that grabs hold and propels the reader along the meandering path of the multi-faceted plot. It is breathtaking in it’s scope; the world created by the author; the characters who fit perfectly into it; the endless tale of court (political) intrigue, a tale worthy to be called a classic.

I read a lot of historical fiction books, a good portion of them are by request as it seems my humble blog of reviews has garnered some interest among authors. I have a backlog of books to read and review, but I also like to read just for the pure pleasure of it. The backlog be damned – there are more Guy Gavriel Kay books yet to be read.

5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Primitive Passions (The Boschloper Saga #1) by John M. Cahill

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When Sean O’Cathail deserted in New York Harbor in 1681, it was not to become a boschloper. He jumped ship to save his own skin. Getting into the fur trading business was just where he landed. As an Irish refuge hiding out in a Dutch colony now controlled by the English, Sean found he had a knack for diplomacy as he negotiated between the colonists and their Iroquois neighbors. This skill also helped with his love life, torn between courting a servant in town, while sleeping with an Indian lass when in the wilderness.

As the French and their Indian allies encroach ever farther into their territory. Sean’s diplomatric skills will be put to the test. Then, he learns more than a few pelts are at stake!

REVIEW

As an author who writes historical fiction of early America, I was fascinated with this truly enjoyable tale. Leading my interest is the author’s descriptions of the lives of the Iroquois tribes that made up The Five Nations. It is evident that Mr. Cahill has done his homework regarding the ‘savages’, but also in the telling of the nature of the fur trade and its impact on the colonies as well as England and France. A strong mix of history and historical characters with a plot line with surprises and believable fictional characters make Primitive Passions a definite pleasure to read. So, dear readers, take a journey to America’s beginnings, to a time when the beaver pelt trade made or broke men, and drove nations to war. 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Cold Hearth (The Atheling Chronicles #3) by Garth Pettersen

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“The sons of Cnute are dead men.” The dying words of his brother’s assailant travel across the North Sea to the English Midlands.

Harald, the king’s second son, receives the warning while rebuilding a hall where he hopes to farm and lead a peaceful life with Selia, his Frisian wife. But as the hall nears completion, they learn the family who lived there before them all perished in a single night of bloodshed. Could the grounds be cursed?

Now the threat of unknown enemies casts a long shadow. Should they distrust the brooding Saxon neighbor or the two weapon-bearers they hired for protection? Should they suspect either of the two women they have taken on with the other hirelings? Only their Jewish warrior friend, Ravya ben Naaman, seems to be the only one above suspicion.

REVIEW

It’s not easy being the son of the King. While you might have started a new peaceful existence, and are the sort who gets along with the common folk, your family is another matter. Ever present in just about any monarchy is the issue of succession, and Harald Harefoot and his brothers aren’t the only contenders. The Cold Hearth is an engaging tale of an unsettled period in English history….the House of Wessex seeks to regain the throne from the House of Cnute, and one way to make that happen is to eliminate the Danish contenders to the throne. Wonderfully crafted characters fill the pages of this multi-threaded story; plot lines with twists and turns that leave the reader gasping at the turn of events. I was drawn into the emotional turmoil and stress resulting not only of the planned removal of Harald, but also from a brutal event in the past that threatens the tranquility of Harald’s friends and family. So, while Harald may have wanted a peaceful existence away from the turmoil, that isn’t what he gets in this rousing tale. Now I’m only guessing, but methinks that the turmoil will continue in the next episode of The Atheling Chronicles.   5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Giles Kristian: Camelot (Review)

Terrific review…methinks Camelot just jumped to the head of my TBR 😊

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Britain is a land riven by anarchy, slaughter, famine, filth and darkness. Its armies are destroyed, its heroes dead, or missing. Arthur and Lancelot fell in the last great battle and Merlin has not been seen these past ten years. Now, the Saxons are gathering again, their warbands stalk the land, their king seeks dominion. As for the lords and kings of Britain, they look only to their own survival and will not unite as they once did under Arthur and his legendary sword Excalibur.

But in an isolated monastery in the marshes of Avalon, a novice of the order is preparing to take his vows when the life he has known is suddenly turned upside down in a welter of blood. Two strangers – the wild-spirited, Saxon-killing Iselle and the ageing warrior Gawain – will pluck the young man from the wreckage of his simple existence. Together, they will…

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Praetorian: The Cleansing Fire (Praetorian #5) by S.J.A. Turney

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The villain Cleander has fallen, his wickedness gone from the imperial court, but his influence lives on. Amongst the Praetorians, a network of spies, killers and thieves remain, clawing on to the power they have enjoyed. Rufinus, returned to the Guard at the hands of the devious Frumentarii, Rome’s imperial secret service, is intent on bringing the entire web of villainy to justice.But Commodus’s reign falters, and Rome is in peril. Wolves are at the door and every man with power prepares to make a bid for the purple. In a world of chaos, Rufinus is about to learn that Rome does not harbour corruption. Rome IS corruption.

REVIEW

By my count, I have read 33 novels by Mr. Turney most of which are spread out over many different series… Tales of the Empire, Marius Mules, The Ottoman Cycle, Knights Templar, and Praetorian.  One of the things I have noticed, and am indeed marveled by, is that he sustains my interest and keeps me coming back for more. In the case of The Cleansing Fire, Rufinus has progressed as his character gets older, more confident in his abilities, more circumspect about the sundry quandaries he faces as a Frumentarii agent, which by the way are definite highlights in this twist filled plot. An enjoyable foray into one of Rome’s more unsettled times, reminiscent of Nero’s fall and aftermath, a sort of “Who is the Emperor today?”, a sure fire heart pounding, page turning narrative full of intrigue and excitement awaits you, my fellow readers.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Emperor’s Knives (Empire #7) by Anthony Riches

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The seventh novel in Anthony Riches’ acclaimed Empire sequence brings Marcus Aquila back to Rome, hunting the men who destroyed his family.

But the revenge he craves may cost him and those around him dearly.

The young centurion’s urge to exact his own brutal justice upon the shadowy cabal of assassins who butchered his family means that he must face them on their own ground, risking his own death at their hands.

A senator, a gang boss, a praetorian officer and, deadliest of all, champion gladiator Mortiferum – the Death Bringer – lie in wait.

The knives are unsheathed, and ready for blood.

REVIEW

Once again I have fallen behind in a series that I really, really like. Once again I was drawn into the world of Marcus Aquila and his search for vengeance, and marveled at the story telling ability of the author. To keep a series fresh and exciting takes some talent, and Mr. Riches is up to the task. Indeed, I have already ordered the next book in the tale. 5 stars

Prairie Grass by Joan Soggie

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Gabby Mackenzie knows little and cares less about prairie people or their history. She sees her assignment to interview a hundred-year-old settler as nothing more than a bump in her hazy career path.

But as she gets to know old Mr. Tollerud and the land that has been his home, she finds herself drawn into the interwoven stories of the settlers, the Metis, and the First Nations who came before them. And her own life changes.

Review: Residential school survivor and life-long educator Dr. Cecil King says of Prairie Grass “a dynamic piece of work … Yes, it is a good read.”

REVIEW

I read a lot of historical fiction most of which I seek out from a favorite cadre of authors. Sometimes, however, I get requests out of the blue from authors who have somehow stumbled upon my humble review blog. Joan Soggie is one of those, and her book Prairie Grass was a stunning surprise. It’s one of those books that not only entertained and educated me, it also touched my heart. I was intrigued by the subject matter – a look at the vast western prairies and how they have changed over the thousands of years they’ve been inhabited by a variety of flora, fauna, and men. It coincides to a good degree with my own writing about America’s past in terms of the treatment of the native tribes affected by an expanding nation. I particularly enjoyed the development of the protagonist, Gabby, as she is introduced to subject matter that reaches far beyond the mandate of her research project. The going back and forth between the stories of Eric and of Jean-Jacques captures the readers imagination; draws them into the ever changing landscape, the ever changing values. This was indeed time well spent – I will end with a quote from Gabby (one that mirrors my own thoughts) “I was angry. Angry at an educational system that taught us while maintaining our comfortable ignorance. Angry at my country that touted itself as being fair, open-minded and welcoming while denying most of us its true history. ”  I highly recommend Prairie Grass. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Joan has lived in rural Saskatchewan most of her life. Politics and noisy machines and interruptions annoy her. And although her intentions are good, she gets sidetracked easily. She spends hours just watching swallows swoop or the clouds billow.
The prairie and all its creatures are her inspiration. Her family is her joy.
She and her husband Dennis enjoy travelling and treasure days with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Prairie Grass is her second full length book. The first, Looking for Aiktow, tells stories of life along the Saskatchewan River over the past hundreds of years. Non-fiction or fiction, history and the land are recurring themes in her writing.

The Saxon Spears: an epic of the Dark Age (Song of Ash, #1) by James Calbraith

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Thirty years have passed since Britannia voted to throw off the Roman yoke. Now, the old world crumbles. 

Pirates roam the seas, bandits threaten the highways, and barbarian refugees land at Britannia’s shores, uninvited. The rich profit from the chaos, while the poor suffer. A new Dark Age is approaching – but all is not lost.

Ash is a Seaborn, a Saxon child found on the beach with nothing but a precious stone at his neck and a memory of a distant war from which his people have fled. Raised on the estate of a Briton nobleman, trained in warfare and ancient knowledge, he soon becomes embroiled in the machinations and intrigues at the court of Wortigern, the Dux of Londinium, a struggle that is about to determine the future of all Britannia.

A child of Saxon blood, an heir to Roman family, his is a destiny like no other: to join the two races and forge a new world from the ruins of the old.

The Saxon Spears is the first volume of the Song of Ash saga, perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell’s “The Last Kingdom” series, Simon Scarrow and Conn Iggulden.

REVIEW

A truly unsettled time with so many groups trying to establish themselves in Dark Age Britain, the author has created an intriguing tale of a young man’s struggle to find out who he is. Steeped in richly detailed descriptions of life in a post-Roman world, the story takes many twists and turns keeping the reader entertained, and in the way of all good historical-fiction, the reader may even learn a little about the trials, tribulations. innovations, and survival in a time and place shrouded in mystery.  A fine beginning indeed to what promises to be an exciting series.  4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

About the Author

James Calbraith is a Poland-born British writer, foodie and traveller.

Growing up in communist Poland on a diet of powdered milk, Lord of the Rings and soviet science-fiction, he had his first story published at the ripe age of eight. After years of bouncing around Polish universities, he moved to London in 2007 and started writing in English. His debut historical fantasy novel, “The Shadow of Black Wings”, has reached ABNA semi-finals. It was published in July 2012 and hit the Historical Fantasy and Alternate History bestseller lists on Amazon US & UK.

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The Virgin of the Wind Rose (Christopher Columbus) by Glen Craney

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While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane becomes obsessed with a magical word square found inside an underground church guarding the tomb of the biblical Adam.

Drawn into a web of esoteric intrigue, she and a roguish antiquities thief named Elymas must race an elusive and taunting mastermind to find the one relic needed to resurrect Solomon’s Temple. A trail of cabalistic clues leads them to the catacombs of Rome, the crypt below Chartres Cathedral, a Masonic shaft in Nova Scotia, a Portuguese shipwreck off Sumatra, and the caverns under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Intertwined with this modern mystery-thriller, a parallel duel is waged:

The year is 1452. One of the most secretive societies in history, Portugal’s Order of Christ, is led by a reclusive visionary, Prince Henry the Navigator. He and his medieval version of NASA merged with the CIA scheme to foil their archenemies, the Inquisitor Torquemada and Queen Isabella of Castile, who plan to bring back Christ for the Last Judgment by ridding the world of Jews, heretics, and unbelievers.

Separated by half a millennium, two conspiracies to usher in the Tribulations promised by the Book of Revelation dovetail in this fast-paced thriller to expose the world’s most explosive secret: The true identity of Christopher Columbus and the explorer’s connection to those now trying to spark the End of Days.

REVIEW

A sprawling tale spanning 500 years, The Virgin of the Wind Rose, is about as exciting as it gets. It is also a very erudite tome…the reader will inevitably have to think about what they just read…the word square, the navigational methods, the zealous religion aspect, etc. The story alternates between the late 15th century – the mysterious Portuguese sea going activities, and modern day where Jaq and Boz are pulled into a conspiracy to usher in The Last Days – The Rapture. Meticulously researched, the author creates a plausible scenario for the activities of the Portuguese sea going visionaries, and the cult like evangelicals. The characters are well written; their thoughts and emotions on full display. I enjoyed the inner debate of Jaq’s Christian beliefs versus her mounting doubts…but even she, a talented, well educated person can blurt out ,”Everyone knows Jesus was a Christian.”…cults will do that even to smart minds.

The Virgin of the Wind Rose is an unusual read. A page turner with a caveat – must slow down a bit to understand the arcane nature of the narrative, but once the pieces of this 500 year old puzzle fall into place, it is a good read..a very good read.   5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐