A Black Matter for the King by Matthew Willis & J.A. Ironside

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Blurb

TWO POWERFUL RIVALS — ONE DECISIVE BATTLE

Now a political hostage in Falaise, Ælfgifa forms an unlikely friendship with William, Duke of Normandy. William has been swift to recognize her skills and exploit them to his advantage. However, unbeknownst to the duke, Gifa is acting as a spy for her brother, Harold Godwinson, a possible rival for the English throne currently in the failing grip of Edward the Confessor. Homesick and alienated by the Norman court, Gifa is torn between the Duke’s trust and the duty she owes her family.

William has subdued his dissenting nobles, and a united Normandy is within his grasp. But the tides of power and influence are rarely still. As William’s stature grows, the circle of those he can trust shrinks. Beyond the English Channel, William has received news of Edward’s astonishing decree regarding the succession. Ælfgifa returns to an England where an undercurrent of discontent bubbles beneath the surface. An England that may soon erupt in conflict as one king dies and another is chosen.

The ambitions of two powerful men will decide the fates of rival cultures in a single battle at Hastings that will change England, Europe, and the world in this compelling conclusion to the Oath & Crown series on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

My Review

Let me start out by saying that Aelfgifa is probably the character in fiction I’ve found who is closest to me in terms of biting wit, though I will admit freely that I’ve never gone one on one with powerful individuals such as Duke William of Normandy, or her brother, Harold Godwinson. To me, those conversations were the highlight of this tale. That’s not to imply the other facets of the book aren’t worthy, indeed I was thoroughly entertained by this telling of the monumental events leading up to and including 1066. It is the kind of writing that draws the reader into the settings, you are sitting in the herb garden eavesdropping on William and Aelfgifa; thundering alongside William and Gallet as they spur their coursers into the enemy; commiserating with Aelfgifa as she struggles to convince Harold of a better course of action. Intense drama, creative working of the sparse historical record, and a detailed look into what made William and Harold tick. William’s volatile temperament, Harold’s miscalculated duplicity are a couple examples of the genesis that became the Norman invasion of Saxon England. A rousing, page turning tale awaits you my fellow readers. 5 stars

About the Authors

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J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

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Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

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An Argument of Blood by J.A. Ironside & Matthew Willis

 

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It is my privilege to be part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for An Argument of Blood. First, a brief summary of the story:

William, the nineteen-year-old duke of Normandy, is enjoying the full fruits of his station. Life is a succession of hunts, feasts, and revels, with little attention paid to the welfare of his vassals. Tired of the young duke’s dissolute behaviour and ashamed of his illegitimate birth, a group of traitorous barons force their way into his castle. While William survives their assassination attempt, his days of leisure are over. He’ll need help from the king of France to secure his dukedom from the rebels.

On the other side of the English Channel lives ten-year-old Ælfgifa, the malformed and unwanted youngest sister to the Anglo-Saxon Jarl, Harold Godwinson. Ælfgifa discovers powerful rivalries in the heart of the state when her sister Ealdgyth is given in a political marriage to King Edward, and she finds herself caught up in intrigues and political manoeuvring as powerful men vie for influence. Her path will collide with William’s, and both must fight to shape the future.

An Argument of Blood is the first of two sweeping historical novels on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

And the review:

An entertaining tale of William the Conqueror (or Bastard, depending on who’s talking), as a young man shaken out of his young man’s revelry and into the harsh reality of life as a Duke.  It is also a tale of Godwin’s youngest daughter, Aelfgifa, the unlovely, yet extremely intelligent girl who finds herself a player in the game for the English throne of the heir less Edward.  The authors have combined to deliver an intriguing look at how these early years led to the eventual history making/changing year of 1066.  The characters come alive, the youthful exuberance of William turning into a fierce determination, the misjudging and dismissal of Aelfgifa are perfect examples, and by no means the only ones.  It was a strange time and everyone who has the slightest link to the throne gets involved, and while this is all historical fact, it takes a good fiction writer, or in this case fiction writers, to take that history and piece together a tale that falls into the realm of believable possibility.  We all know the outcome awaiting William, but it is still an intriguing take on the path leading to his destiny, and an intriguing look at the easy to overlook woman who played an important part in that destiny.  4.3 stars and am looking forward to the sequel.

About the Authors

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

03_J.A. Ironside.jpg

Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

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During the Book Blast we will be giving away a signed copy of An Argument of Blood


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Enter the giveaway here

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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.

 

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