The Bear and the Wolf by Ruth Downie & S.J.A. Turney

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Life north of Hadrian’s Wall was tough enough for the tribes who lived there without having to deal with the cruelties of the Emperor’s son and his equally cruel Numidian cavalry.  In this short, what if tale, a Roman auxiliary, from a tribe that is loyal to Rome and his wife, whose tribe is on the brink of rebellion come face to face with Caracalla and his prized cavalry unit.  It is an exciting story of divided loyalties stretched to their limits in the pursuit of peace with Rome.  The duo of Downie and Turney combine their talents and their expertise in things Briton and Roman and give us a glimpse of life on that tumultuous frontier and though the story is fictional, it is one that is totally believable, and that is testament to the authors’ creative abilities.  4.2 stars

The Reaper’s Breath by Robert Southworth

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Stepping outside my usual reading habits I decided to take on a mystery-thriller story.  I was pretty confident that the author would have penned an entertaining piece as I have read his Spartacus series and enjoyed that.  Not only a different genre, but also a quite different subject awaited me as I read The Reaper’s Breath, as I know next to nothing about the nightmarish exploits of Jack the Ripper.  What I found was a nerve-wrangling, page turning tale that was not only entertaining but a delight to read.  The author shows his creative side as he takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through the teeming underbelly of London.  Wonderfully crafted with great characters, plot twists, and descriptive enough to have the sights and smells of an industrial city come oozing out of the pages.  I enjoyed the way the author took a well known tale and was able to concoct a different telling; one that kept me guessing throughout.  4.7 stars

 

I was able to sit down and with and interview the author – well sort of as he’s on one side of The Pond and I’m on  the other.  Thanks Robert for taking the time for a few questions.

Interview with Robert Southworth

  1. Reaper’s Breath is a bit of a departure from your series on Spartacus. Was it difficult to make such a drastic switch in time and place?

Answer =Not really I have always had an interest in the Ripper murders, and the impact the crimes had on the populace of London.  I am fortunate that when it comes to things historical I am not restricted to one or two eras. The important thing for me was to be able to take the story in another direction. I didn’t want to produce another standard Ripper novel.

  1. What drew you to write about “The Ripper”?

Answer = I love to find subjects that are well known but actual facts are scarce. I believe it allows the author to be wonderfully creative and gives the readers something a little different.

  1. How is book two of The Ripper Legacies coming along?

Answer = The first draft is complete and is currently with the editor, after that I will make changes and it will go for its final edit.

  1. What does Robert Southworth do when he’s not writing?

Answer = I have a young family and I also care for a disabled parent. That aside, I market my books where possible but that is a part of the business that I do not enjoy. It is also very expensive in terms of money and time.

  1. Who does Robert Southworth enjoy reading?

Answer = Traditional authors such as Terry Pratchett, Simon Scarrow and James McGee but recently my tastes buds have feasted on delicious indy authors such as Paula Lofting, Robert Bayliss, Jeanette Taylor Ford, Kevin Ashman and many more…

  1. We’ve heard rumors of an exciting new project…care to let us in on it?

Answer = In keeping with taking legend, myth or factual personalities clouded in mist, from the past. I am going to be taking the Homeric poems and giving them a gritty update. I will attempt to show the politics of the time and offer differing reasons for war and the consequences of the fall of Troy. Im hoping that this book will show a different side to my writing…but I suppose only the reader will testify to my success.

 

 

The Blood Crows by Simon Scarrow

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The duo of Cato and Macro once again are in the middle of a mess; this time in Britannia fighting against the formidable leader, Caratacus.  Of course, that isn’t enough for the author as there is also the challenge presented by a rogue centurion and his fellow Thracian auxiliary cohort.  A robust, heart pounding tale of bravery and steadfast loyalty awaits the reader in this 12th episode in the series.   Life was hard at these frontier outposts and the author excels at bringing those hardships to life.  It is also a continued strengthening of the bond between Cato and Macro despite that Cato now outranks his friend and mentor.  4.3 stars

Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

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With the deposing of Edward II, the ruler over England is now Edward III, though he is ruled by his mother Queen Isabella and her lover, the formidable Lord Mortimer.  Adam now serves the young King, his loyalty is resolute even though he still harbors great affection for Mortimer.  In this, the third tale of Adam and his wife Kit, the author brings to life the increasing tension in the royal court as Edward III comes of an age where he longs to shed his keepers and take up the mantle of kingship on his own.  It is a story filled with twists and turns; the emotional frailties of the human spirit; the battle for control of the crown; the longing for home and loved ones.  It is also a story of love and romance; Isabella and Mortimer, Edward and his young wife Phillipa, and most especially between Adam and Kit.  The author is on her game when it comes to the foibles and joys of the bonds of love.  An eloquent, page turning drama awaits the reader, though I must admit to having to stop turning pages when Kit and Adam are – well you’ll see for yourself.  🙂  I’ve come to appreciate the amazing talent Anna Belfrage has exhibited in drawing me into the stories she writes, and Under the Approaching Dark is another fine example of that talent.  5 stars

The Spider and the Stone by Glen Craney

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A tantalizing look at the life of James Douglas, or The Black Douglas as he was called by those who feared him.  My only real venture into this part of history was Braveheart, but that centers on William Wallace, not the man who rose to become the right hand of Robert the Bruce in the long standing war with Edward Longshanks and his son Edward Caernarvon.  I was drawn into this epic tale right from the start; the intensity of the narrative grabbed and never let go.  The characters are beautifully written, from the morose, melancholic Bruce, the savage brutality of Longshanks, the effervescent monk Ned Sweeney, the redoubtable Belle, the scheming Isabella, and of course, the continually torn Jamie Douglas.  The author presents the events and the time such that one can feel the thunderous approach of  Longshank’s heavy horse, or the bitter Scottish weather confronting the fleeing Bruce and Douglas.  An entertaining book to be sure; one that demands your attention to the detriment of sleep or other obligations.  4.8 stars

Gods of War – King’s Bane II by C.R. May

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It’s a tough gig to move an entire nation to a new home.  It’s even tougher when you have enemies everywhere bent on destroying you before you leave.  Gods of War continues the story of the Engeln people migrating to Britannia and the exploits of Eofer; a.k.a. King’s Bane.  A gritty tale of courage, drama and a fierce determination to succeed, the author paints a vivid picture of the times while drawing on the somewhat meager historical record, doing with it what all good historical-fiction authors do – make the story believable.  A wonderful cast of characters bolstered by the author’s ability to describe the terra-firma, the action, and the emotions of this intrepid band of warriors.  I am looking forward to the continuation of this tale, a tale of how Britain came to be.

4.3 stars

The Escape by Steven A. McKay

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A delightful short featuring John Little or Little John as he is more famously known as. A night out with friends, lots of ale and food, and a group of mean looking mercenaries bent on mayhem. A pleasant night goes awry but have the mercenaries taken on more than they can handle? An imaginative bit of writing at the end had me thinking, “clever, Mr. McKay, very clever indeed.”

4.3 stars