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

Half Sick of Shadows by Richard Abbott

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First, a confession; my only exposure to the famous ballad, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson, is the musical adaptation by Loreena McKennitt.  Perhaps I once had to read it for a class in school, but since my reading preference has always been prose, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that I have simply forgotten.  Anyroad, this adaptation takes the Arthurian legend and adds the author’s own personal touch; an adaptation that, while remaining true to the original’s basic story line, is reminiscent of the science fiction episodes I used to watch on Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.  The progression of The Lady through the various stages of her existence, and the descriptions of the eras in which she awakes are masterfully told by the author.  The inner turmoil of The Lady, as she struggles with the Mirror to gain access to the people she comes in contact with, drives the tale as the Mirror cautions her time and again about the dangers involved.  The conclusion of the tale, though a heart rending scene, is also one of hope as The Lady finally finds out who she is.  Kudos to the author for a most interesting slant on this well known ballad.  4.7 stars

Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy

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Beobrand, mighty warrior, lord of his own hall, leader of his own war band but still tormented by events in the past.  Sent by King Oswald on a seemingly innocent mission finds himself embroiled in war and conflict.  He also finds that the main tormentor, the man he has pledged to kill, is among the foes arrayed against him.  In this latest installment of The Bernicia Chronicles, the author has taken this rash, headstrong, Dark Age warrior, and as he has done throughout this series has turned up the angst, turned up the rash/reckless responses, and turned up the brooding melancholy. A short quote, “It seemed it was his wyrd to become that which he most despised.”

The author also exhibits his same flair for bringing the reader into the scene he is describing, whether it is Reaghan placating/pleading her goddess or Beobrand in the midst of sword-song.  Killer of Kings is a multi-layered, page turner; an excellent addition to what has become one of my favorite series.  4.6 stars

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Blurb:

AD 636. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the fourth instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Beobrand has land, men and riches. He should be content. And yet he cannot find peace until his enemies are food for the ravens. But before Beobrand can embark on his bloodfeud, King Oswald orders him southward, to escort holy men bearing sacred relics.

When Penda of Mercia marches a warhost into the southern kingdoms, Beobrand and his men are thrown into the midst of the conflict. Beobrand soon finds himself fighting for his life and his honour.

In the chaos that grips the south, dark secrets are exposed, bringing into question much that Beobrand had believed true. Can he unearth the answers and exact the vengeance he craves? Or will the blood-price prove too high, even for a warrior of his battle-fame and skill? 

Author info: 

Matthew grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

Buy links

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2nNItf2

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2nNEyPz

iBooks: http://apple.co/2ocWWEi

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2ocS2Y7

 

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Website: www.matthewharffy.com

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

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The Du Lac Chronicles by Mary Anne Yarde

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Alden Du Lac lost his kingdom to the ever ambitious Saxon, Cerdic and is about to lose his life.  Enter Cerdic’s daughter, Annis and thus we are thrust into a powerful story of loss, betrayal, torment, and above all, the love that sees them through.  Annis is young and inexperienced having been sheltered and basically ignored, by her father.  Alden, a son of Lancelot, is/was a king and is haunted by what he feels is his betrayal to his people.  Book one of this series, follows them on an uncertain, tortuous path, firstly to escape the wrath of Cerdic and eventually to prepare to confront him.  I found myself immersed in the time and place as the author skillfully interlaces an emotion filled love story with the the actions of ruthless and ambitious men, and the history of Cornwall.  I love a good Arthurian tale, and while he is already dead at the time of this one, I welcomed this ‘it could have happened this way’ take on the aftermath of his demise, and am looking forward to book two.  4.3 stars

 

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