Sign of the White Foal by Chris Thorndycroft

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A generation after Hengest and Horsa carved out a kingdom in the east, a hero of the Britons rises in the west…

North Wales, 480 A.D. The sons of Cunedag have ruled Venedotia for fifty years but the chief of them – the Pendraig – is now dying. His sons Cadwallon and Owain must fight to retain their birthright from their envious cousins. As civil war consumes Venedotia, Arthur – a young warrior and bastard son of the Pendraig – is sent on a perilous quest that will determine the fate of the kingdom.

The Morgens; nine priestesses of the Mother Goddess have found the cauldron of rebirth – a symbol of otherworldly power – and have allied themselves with the enemy. Arthur and six companions are dispatched to the mysterious island of Ynys Mon to steal the cauldron and break the power of the Morgens. Along the way they run into the formidable Guenhuifar whose family have been stewards of Ynys Mon for generations. They need her help. The trouble is, Guenhuifar despises Arthur’s family and all they stand for…

Based on the earliest Arthurian legends, Sign of the White Foal is a rip-roaring adventure of Celtic myth and real history set in the ruins of post-Roman Britain.

REVIEW

You know what I love about Arthurian fiction? This – no matter what version of Arthur is being told – no matter the situation, or the time and place, a believable tale can be spun. In this intriguing tale, Arthur is the foster son of the Pendraig, the High King in Cmry, and has trained as a warrior, but as the story evolves it becomes evident that he is also a natural leader of men. In Sign of the White Foal the author has taken one of the oldest Arthurian texts and given us an exciting look at the harsh existence in post-Roman Briton. The seeming constant petty rivalries, the increasing threat from Gaelic invaders, and the conflict to claim the title of Pendraig. The story flows easily back and forth from Cadwallon’s battle to keep his crown, and the special mission undertaken by Arthur and his companions. The characters are real, their strengths, weaknesses, doubts and fears are all on display as the two story-lines gradually meld together. An enjoyable look at the beginnings of what promises to be a must read Arthurian series. 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

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About the Author

Chris Thorndycroft is a British writer of historical fiction, horror and fantasy. His early short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Dark Moon Digest and American Nightmare. His first novel under his own name was A Brother’s Oath; the first book in the Hengest and Horsa Trilogy. He also writes under the pseudonym P. J. Thorndyke.

For more information, please visit Chris Thorndycroft’s website. You can also find him on Twitter and Goodreads.

 

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Uther’s Destiny by Tim Walker

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Late fifth century Britannia recoils in shock at the murder of charismatic High King, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and looks to his brother and successor, Uther, to continue his work in leading the resistance to barbarian invaders. Uther’s destiny as a warrior king seems set until his world is turned on its head when his burning desire to possess the beautiful Ygerne leads to conflict. Could the fate of his kingdom hang in the balance as a consequence?

Court healer and schemer, Merlyn, sees an opportunity in Uther’s lustful obsession to fulfil the prophetic visions that guide him. He is encouraged on his mission by druids who align their desire for a return to ancient ways with his urge to protect the one destined to save the Britons from invaders and lead them to a time of peace and prosperity. Merlyn must use his wisdom and guile to thwart the machinations of an enemy intent on foiling his plans.

Meanwhile, Saxon chiefs Octa and Ælla have their own plans for seizing the island of Britannia and forging a new colony of Germanic tribes. Can Uther rise above his family problems and raise an army to oppose them?

Book three in A Light in the Dark Ages series, Uther’s Destiny is an historical fiction novel set in the Fifth Century – a time of myths and legends that builds to the greatest legend of all – King Arthur and his knights.

This book is preceded in the series by Abandoned (book one) and Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (book two).

REVIEW

Most of the Arthurian tales I read when I was younger, such as The Crystal Cave series by Mary Stewart (which I thought was magnificent), or saw via movies or TV (Richard Harris’ Camelot), dwelt on the mythical for the most part. Uther’s Destiny while it is certainly comprised of those mythical bits, it is also a stark look at post-Roman Britain; the vacuum left with the departure of the legions, and the very real danger of being overrun by the Angles/Saxons/Jutes etc who rushed in to fill that vacuum.  The author’s portrayal of Uther; a complicated man firmly rooted in the 5th century, a king weighed down with the prospect of losing Britain to the invaders, but also a king with the smarts and tenacity to succeed. Indeed, the characters in this tale from Merlyn, to the proud knights, the scheming Morganna, and the treacherous Pascent all do their part to make this an enjoyable read. Also woven into the plot is the inevitable clash of the old religion with Christianity and Uther’s juggling of the two as needed. So, dear reader, immerse yourself in The Dark Ages, and prepare for the enlightenment to come in the person of Artorious.  4 stars

The Druid by Steven A. McKay

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Northern Britain, AD430

A land in turmoil. A village ablaze. A king’s daughter abducted.

In the aftermath of a surprise attack Dun Buic lies in smoking ruins and many innocent villagers are dead. As the survivors try to make sense of the night’s events the giant warrior-druid, Bellicus, is tasked with hunting down the raiders and thwarting their dark purpose.

With years of training in the old ways, two war-dogs at his side, and unsurpassed skill with a longsword, Bellicus’s quest will take him on a perilous journey through lands still struggling to cope with the departure of the Roman legions.

Meanwhile, amongst her brutal captors the little princess Catia finds an unlikely ally, but even he may not be able to avert the terrible fate King Hengist has in store for her.

This, the first volume in a stunning new series from the bestselling author of Wolf’s Head, explores the rich folklore and culture of post-Roman Britain, where blood-sacrifice, superstition and warfare were as much a part of everyday life as love, laughter and song.

As Saxon invaders and the new Christian religion seek to mould the country for their own ends one man will change the course of Britain’s history forever. . .

. . . THE DRUID.

REVIEW

When an author embarks on a new journey, a new set of stories and characters, it is a somewhat risky proposition. Can the author carry over the same creativity, the same character development, the same blend of historical authenticity and believable fiction. In The Druid, Mr. McKay has successfully ticked all of those boxes. It is at once a thrilling adventure, a romp through a volatile period of Britain’s history, but it is also a character driven tale. Bellicus is a complex man; a warrior, a healer, a teacher, a bard, a spiritual leader in an age where his kind are on the decline. The task awaiting him tests all of his abilities and his emotions as events unfold. One of the features I enjoyed was the inclusion of Merlin (or, more correctly The Merlin), and Arthur as important bit characters. Stripped of the more mythical renderings, they are more down to earth, so to speak.

So, my dear readers, if you were wondering if The Druid would be a continuation of the excellence in McKay’s Forest Lord series, wonder no more. 5 stars

The Du Lac Devil – Du Lac Chronicles 2 – by Mary Anne Yarde

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After finishing book 1 of The Du Lac Chronicles, I wondered what was going to happen in book 2, as it did seem like the Du Lac brothers had a penchant for intrigue; for the wherewithal to survive in a world filled with enemies, and there was so much more to be told.  Even with those high expectations, I could not begin to imagine or expect the sheer magnitude of intrigue and survival wherewithal that is encountered in The Du Lac Devil.  The author has crafted a powerfully emotional tale set in post-Roman, post-Arthurian times; a time of upheaval as Saxon, Briton and Frank seek to enlarge their kingdoms; or, just to maintain what they have.  Populated with fascinating characters; enough emotional turmoil and plot twists to have this humble scribe stop reading occasionally to catch his breath and exclaim, “Whoa, didn’t see that coming.”  I was left with a bewildering sense of loss; of sadness, as the book moved to the rather traumatic ending, but also with a feeling of hope – there’s more to come in this mesmerizing saga.

4.8 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

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