A Wounded Realm – The Blood of Kings 2 by K.M. Ashman

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An engaging sequel to A Land Divided, it continues the Welsh struggle to maintain or regain land and power from the English under King Henry 1st.  Replete with wonderful characters and interest grabbing plots and scenarios, the author has once again shown his creative abilities conjuring up some great fiction interspersed with his knowledge of the historical record. A fascinating look at a period of upheaval and change following the events of 1066.  Looking forward to book 3, Rebellion’s Forge. 4 stars.

 

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A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson

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An intriguing mystery awaits you, dear reader.  Time slipping to the 5th century, parallel lives, a Dark Age village in Britain.  The story drew me in as Viv, and her friends unravel the secrets of her strange experiences.  Well written, characters you can believe, twists and surprises, and a lovely descriptive touch make this two era tale an excellent choice whether you like mysteries, or a bit of post-Roman British historical fiction.  I highly recommend this.. 4 stars.

Swordland by Edward Ruadh Butler

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A gripping tale featuring Norman, Welsh, Irish, Ostmen and Flemish combatants and their duplicitous maneuvers to stake a claim or a kingdom in Ireland.  The main protagonist is Robert FitzStephen, a Norman warrior who falls upon hard times but is offered the chance to regain his honor leading the army of the deposed Irish King Diarmait Mac Murchada.  The author had my attention from page one.  Well researched and written in a manner that stays as true as possible to the known historical record, although, as is true of any good tale, some facts can be rearranged to make the fiction more compelling.  The battles are ferocious without being overly gory; the tension brought on by the many competing groups and goals permeate the story lines.  An admirable and enjoyable read of yet, to me anyway, another time and place of British history.  4 stars

The Queen’s Mary – In The Shadows of Power by Sarah Gristwood

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Once again I venture into what is a mostly unknown time and subject to me, but that is what I love about English history; there’s just so much of it that I doubt I’ll ever be bored by it.  This is a story about the Scottish Queen Mary but it is told through the eyes of one of her ladies in waiting, Mary Seton.  The fate and fortunes of those of noble birth is always fascinating and in the case of this particular Queen, fatal.  The author kept me on my toes throughout the story as the various intrigues of the Queen; a woman who appears to be out of her depth; especially so when the men she marries turn out to be at cross purposes with the Scottish nobility.  It is also a tale that is filled with the intricacies of court life; of the lives of those who were born and raised to serve the Queen’s Majesty. In Mary Seton, the last of the four Mary’s to still serve the Queen, we find a woman in constant turmoil as to her loyalties and a desire to be free of the demands of her position. The narrative flows at a nice pace as we follow the Queen and her Marys down the path to the inevitable clash with Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England.  4 stars

The Scathing – King’s Bane III by C.R. May

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The Engeln have now settled on the isle of Britannia and are intent on staying, and will fight to maintain and expand their territory and culture.  The people of Powys are not too happy with this and are intent on driving the invaders out as they expand their own reach.  A clash is inevitable and the author is on top of his game in this tale of that confrontation.  Great characters, wonderful verbal byplay, thrilling action and an insightful look into Dark Age Britain make this book hard to put down. A good tale needs to be able to surprise the reader on occasion and The Scathing certainly fulfills that requirement.  In fact, it is the surprise element that has me looking forward to the continuation of this series.  4.7 stars and The Hoover Book Review’s prestigious “You Just Blew Me Away” award.  🙂

 

A Land Divided by K.M. Ashman

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A compelling tale of the Welsh struggle to unify in the wake of William’s takeover of England.  Gruffydd ap Cynan having been defeated and in exile in Ireland, raises an army and returns to Wales; joins forces with another Welsh King, Rhys ap Tewdwr, and undertakes the simple task of defeating three newly allied Kings to reclaim their lands and thrones – newly allied and in cahoots with William the Bastard.  The story goes back and forth between the battling armies and the two Queens(of Gruffydd and Tewdwr) who are facing their own battles to survive, not only physical hardships, but the mental anguish of not knowing the fate of their husbands.

As in any well told tale, there are ample plot surprises, well developed characters, efficiently researched history and the ability to take the reader into the very land and actions described.  The ending is especially intriguing and the best part of that scenario is that it paves the way for a sequel; which I ordered within moments of finishing A Land Divided.  It took a while for me to get around to reading this book/author, but I’m glad I finally did.  4.3 stars

Blood Enemy (The Long War for England – book 2) by Martin Lake

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An uneasy peace exists between Alfred and the Danish warlord, Guthrum, but there are other Danes with designs on Wessex.  In the continuation of Alfred’s quest to rule England; all of it, the author has wrought a tale of tested loyalties, difficult loves and the emotional stability of a warrior caught in a frenzied blood lust.  The twins, Ulf and Inga are now part of Alfred’s retinue and this story finds them learning who and what they are.  As in the other works by Martin Lake, I was drawn into the mindsets of the protagonists, in this case English and Dane, as each group struggles to maintain and increase their hold on English soil.  The history between Saxons and Danes is long and bloody, making any semblance of peace, compromise or acceptance virtually non-existent especially since the divisions are multiplied by religious fervor – reminds me of today actually.  The author superbly brings those challenges to the fore and has produced another delightful page turning journey into the making of England.  4.3 stars