The Raven Banner (The Whale Road Chronicles #2) by Tim Hodkinson

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‘FAST-PACED, DETAILED AND BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN [FOR] FANS OF BERNARD CORNWELL, GEORGE R.R. MARTIN AND THEODORE BRUN’ HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY.

Einar Unnsson will be a great warrior, whether he wants it or not.

AD 935 – Late Winter, City of Jorvik.

Einar Unnssonis destined to be a great Icelandic warrior. He has already defeated the men sent to kill him by his notorious father, Jarl Thorfinn, the ‘Skull Cleaver’ of Orkney. He has a gift that makes him lethal in battle. Yet he has cast it all off to be a bard.

When three men attack him, Einar’s poetry provides little protection. Luckily, the skilled archer and Norse-Irish princess Affreca saves him. She’d assumed Einar had left to raise an army, challenge Thorfinn and seize the Jarldom of Orkney. Now she’s determined to set him back onto his rightful path.

Einar soon finds himself entangled on Affreca’s own mission. She’s seeking the Raven Banner for King Eirik. Legend has it that the banner is imbued with powerful magic. That it was a gift from the Norse God Odin and any army that marches behind it will be victorious. The quest sets events in motion that are beyond Einar’s control.

Einar has no choice but to face his fate and swing his sword once more…

Praise for Tim Hodkinson:

‘An excellently writtenpage-turner, with a feel for the period which invites you into the era and keeps you there’ Historical Writers Association.

‘A gripping action adventurelike the sagas of old; and once finished, you just want to go back and read it all over again’ Melisende’s Library.

REVIEW

Einar would rather sing about the adventures, not be a participant in them, but such is not his wyrd; his fate. A captivating sequel to Odin’s Game, The Raven Banner is a roller coaster ride of a tale. Einar and his companions are put through some pretty hair-raising events (not the least to Affreca  🙂 ).  An adrenaline rushing, page turning, tale of the turbulent times of Aethelstan – Hakon –  Eirik Blood Axe. The characters are full of the times, the experiences, the lore and legends of the many peoples looking to call Britain their home. I am looking forward to the next installment – this is indeed a series to lose oneself in. 4⭐⭐⭐⭐

Brunanburh – A novel of 937 (Chronicles of the English #1) by M.J. Porter

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Athelstan, King of the English; Olaf Guthfrithsson, King of the Dublin Norse; Constantin, King of the Scots; Owain, King of Strathclyde, Hywel of the South Welsh; one ‘great lamentable and horrible battle’.

The year is 937 and Athelstan, King of the English and overlord of the British kingdoms, faces opposition to his rule that will culminate in the great battle of Brunanburh.

Uniquely told from the viewpoints of the main combatants at the battle, Brunanburh tells of a time when the island of Britain was held under the sway of the great King Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, a man with European wide connections, held in awe by many, and foster-father to future monarchs. Charting his reign from 925 to 937 Brunanburh is the story of the petty kingdoms of Britain – England, Scotland, Strathclyde and Wales and the uneasy alliances that could burst asunder at any moment. Switching between the view points of the main Kings on the day of the battle, and events from the previous twelve years, Brunanburh ensures its focus is on the characters and their unique attitudes towards their kingships, the future, and of course, each other.

REVIEW

A riveting look at the attempt by King Athelstan to unify England under his banner. Told through the voices of the main participants, the author has crafted a tale that immerses the reader into the period following Athelstan’s grandfather, Alfred the Great.  Having the protagonists tell their versions of the story is a great way to get into the minds of these formidable characters…a chance to see their hopes, fears, and their indomitable pursuit to control the island of Britain.  In addition to the political machinations, the author gives the reader a brutal look at the eponymous battle…a battle that had been in the making for 10 years…a lot of time for hatred to fester among those that oppose Athelstan. A well paced, page turning book with a plot full of surprises awaits you my fellow readers.  4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Earl Strongbow (The Invaders Series Book 3) by Edward Ruadh Butler

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Exiled from court, distrusted and indebted, Richard de Clare is a man whose past is greater than his prospects and whose once-great name overshadows his deeds. Having backed the loser in the civil war, he faces penury and disgrace due to the disfavour of the distant and over-mighty king.

He has, however, one last gambit to play, one final attempt to claim a wealth and glory that would eclipse even the greatest exploits of his mighty fathers.

And, nothing less than the hand of an Irish princess and a throne will suffice if Richard is to surpass the great feats of his family.

REVIEW

Raymond de Carew, Strongbow’s right hand man in the quest for glory in Ireland, is a troubled soul. Despite his prowess as a warrior and battle leader, he’s mired in self doubt about the path his life should take. In this, the 3rd volume in The Invader Series, the author has given the reader in depth looks into the lives of Strongbow and Raymond. Their strengths and weaknesses, their tenacious resolve, their motivation and desire to succeed are what fuel this action packed, tension filled drama. Obstacles, surprises, deception, and treachery from within threaten not only Raymond’s reputation, but Stronghold’s last gasp at respectability. I found the characters to be true to their various backgrounds; Norman, Ostman(Dane), Gael(Irish), and Welsh. The author paints them with their built in disdain for others, whether that takes the form of Norman vs Ostman, or nobility vs upstarts (in this case Sir Hervey is a right bastard 🙂). A thoroughly enjoyable tale of a volatile time, a volatile place, and certainly a lot of volatile men with big ambitions, and sharpened blades.  4 stars

Lord of the Sea Castle (The Invader Series Book 2) by Ruadh Butler

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It is 1170 – a tumultuous time for the people of Wales, England and Ireland. Raymond de Carew is in love, but the woman he desires is an earl’s daughter and so far above his station that he has no hope of ever winning her.  However, Raymond’s lord has a mission for him: one that if it succeeds will put an Irish king back on his throne and prove Raymond worthy – for in Norman society, a man can rise as high as his skill with a sword can take him.  With only a hundred men at his side, Raymond must cross the ocean to Ireland ahead of his mercenary lord’s invasion. There he will face the full might of the Viking city of Waterford… and either his deeds will become legend or he will be trampled into dust. The second volume in the thrilling Invader series.

REVIEW

Raymond de Carew has a lot thrown at him in this rousing tale of love, loyalty, loss, and lots of nasty Gaels. It is a well crafted, complex story line, complete with a host of nationalities all competing for wealth and power – English, Welsh, Irish-Gael, Norse-Gael, and Norman. The author has succeeded in presenting these varied peoples in the wonderfully drawn characters that populate this tale. Raymond is a perfect example of this – a true leader of men, yet the complexities of his duty to Strongbow and the results of the many events he is involved in, cannot help but forge doubts and frustration.

An action filled tale from start to finish, with the final quarter of the book being absolute page turning anticipation as Raymond’s foothold on Irish soil is faced with certain destruction by some of those nasty Gaels.  Yes, my fellow readers, twists and turns abound in this highly entertaining novel, and it will continue in the next volume of this series. There is much yet to be decided.  🙂     4 Stars

The Cardinal’s Court by Cora Harrison

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When Hugh Mac Egan’s client is implicated in a murder…a murder that happened while the King, Henry VIII, was in residence at Cardinal Wolsey’s Hampton Court, he has to use all of his wiles to prove him innocent or watch him hang(or worse). The Cardinal’s Court is a wonderfully crafted whodunit, plenty of suspects to choose from, plenty of motives, and plenty of shenanigans designed to foil Hugh’s progress. The author has given the reader a fascinating look into the court intrigues, the political maneuverings, the nuances of Irish versus English law, and the daily routines that enable Hampton Court to function.  An enjoyable read awaits you, my peeps and fellow travelers, along with a tantalizing mystery to solve.  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