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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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

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

The Wolf Banner by Paula Lofting

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It seems that just about everyone wanted to rule England…the French, the Godwins, Edward and his heirs, the Danes.  It also seems that anything that could go wrong for Wulfhere does go wrong.  In the sequel to Sons of the Wolf, the author pulls out all the stops and delivers a scintillating run up to the cataclysmic events coming in 1066.  Wulfhere is a prime example of the range of emotions the author uses to bring the reader into the mindsets of the main and bit players in this chaotic, uncertain time.  A champion fighter, respected thegn and loyal servant to the King, Wulfhere endures much turmoil and suffering and has to dig deep to survive everything thrown at him.  The author also gives the reader a penetrating glimpse of the dance between the parties vying for power; be it the throne of England or the Earldom of Mercia.  Duplicity, underhanded dealings, and the pragmatic approach to the politics of the day are dealt with in an informative and entertaining fashion.  A page turning delight awaits, dear reader.  4.3 stars

Sons of the Wolf by Paula Lofting

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It is 1055, a decade or so before William makes his move for the English crown.  King Edward is without an heir…Harold Godwinson wants to be that heir but before that can happen, there are other enemies to deal with.  Wulfhere is the thegn of a small village and has newly returned from the battlefield, one that is a source of nightmares and those are only part of the woes the protagonist faces at home.  Wulfhere is a complicated and conflicted character and is but one example of the well written characters the author has created, both fictional and historical.  The author has also given the reader a wonderful view of what life was like, the lives of the villagers, the thegns and nobles are vividly portrayed.  So too, are the scenes of battle, whether a full blown engagement or a feud induced brawl, the bestial savagery of man is on full display.  I really enjoyed this tale.  It is a page turning nail biter and what’s even better is that it’ll continue in a sequel. 4.3 stars

 

In Search of Glory(The Lost King Book 4) by Martin lake

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The final book in Martin Lake’s series The Lost King continues the story of Edgar Aetheling, the uncrowned King of England and his struggles to survive the machinations of William and his Norman conquest of England.  While I enjoyed the first three books, this one I enjoyed the most.  The author has superbly crafted a tale that grabs the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go.  The characters come to life and in so doing, immerse the reader in the 11th century and the daily struggle to survive the whims and paranoia of England’s new masters.  This is especially true in regards to Edgar who throughout the tale is beset with doubt, frustration, and emotional turmoil as he tries to choose the correct path to pursue his destiny.  Learning to tread the tightrope walk set before him by William and his nobles without falling, Edgar’s tale is an extreme balancing act that not only threatens his life but also of his friends and loved ones.  Martin Lake has produced a series that provides a glimpse of the good and of the evils of human nature; the greed, the betrayals, the lust and the love that marked not only that period but of all human history.  5 stars