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

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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 Sugar Merchant by James Hutson-Wiley

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When Thomas’s family is annihilated in a raid, his life changes forever. Wandering for days, starving and hopeless, he is rescued by a monk and is taken to live at the abbey of Eynsham. There he receives a curious education, training to be a scholar, a merchant and a spy. His mission: to develop commerce in Muslim lands and dispatch vital information to the Holy See.
His perilous adventures during the 11th century’s commercial revolution will take him far from his cloistered life to the great trading cities of Almeria, Amalfi, Alexandria and Cairo.

But the world in which he lives is chaotic. Struggling with love and loss, faith and fortune, can Thomas carry out his secret mission before conflict overtakes him?

Spanning the tumultuous medieval worlds of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, The Sugar Merchant is a tale of clashing cultures, massive economic change and one man’s determination to fulfill his destiny.

The 11th century world through which Thomas Woodward travels is changing; marked by the emergence of a disruptive commercial revolution. In the Mediterranean, the great Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam meet, often in cooperation and peace but, at times, in bloody conflict. It is an era of migration, globalism and multiculturalism leading to a robust interchange of technology, ideas and the basic tools of international trade. But, the interests of the Christian west are on a collision course with those of the Muslim world. War is coming. The Church is rallying the nobles of Europe to embark on an ‘armed pilgrimage’ to reclaim the Holy Land. Now, Thomas and his Muslim and Jewish partners’ lucrative sugar trade is in jeopardy. Thomas’s own secret and dangerous mission, directed from Rome, will become filled with even greater peril.

REVIEW

An intriguing tale of the 11th century, one that takes in bits of history that are not usual fare for this reviewer. The world of commerce, the world of mingling religions, the world of manuscript preservation – all of these story lines blended into the adventures of one remarkable protagonist, Thomas Woodward. The author gives a finely detailed look at not only the intricacies of world trade, but also the climatic clashes of the three “peoples of the book”, and the magnitude of the changes wrought by that clash.  While the main focus is on the trading enterprise, the huge demand for the new sensation, sugar being the ingredient that brings success to Thomas and his partners, it is also a cloak and dagger (or in Thomas’ case, a staff) espionage tale that adds a nice element of entertainment to the narrative. An excellent weaving of history and story telling, the reader is drawn into the inner turmoil Thomas experiences as his business success threatens his mortal soul. I recommend The Sugar Merchant – a delightful, yet thought provoking tale.  4 stars

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Sheriff & Priest by Nicky Moxey

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It’s been nigh on 90 years since the Normans came to stay and to rule, and it was a tough time to grow up a Saxon.  Wimer, though is made of stern stuff and survives the second class treatment meted out by the Norman elite.  His intelligence and adaptability such that he can rub shoulders with and become friends with the future Henry II.

Once again, I found myself immersed in a period of time that I’m not that familiar with.  A time of Sheriffs and the fiduciary demands of the King and the Church.  Ahh, the Church, a subject that at once fascinates and infuriates me.  Wimer is caught up in the fervor of reaching heaven, not only for himself as a priest but for those he cares for in that capacity.  An unfortunate set of circumstances and a bitter feud between Henry and his Archbishop Thomas a’Becket has dire results for Wimer and culminates in a decades long search for peace of mind and soul.

The author has crafted an intriguing tale based on the scant historical evidence of Wimer’s life, and has with meticulous care provided a believable picture of 12th century England.  Well researched and shot through with creative story telling, the reader can feel the weight of emotions and the pulse of the countryside; the absolute hold of the church on every facet of life and the cruel backlash of falling afoul of either secular or spiritual rulers. I am certainly looking forward to the sequel.  4.3 stars