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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The Beaufort Bride: The Life of Margaret Beaufort (Beaufort Chronicles #1) by Judith Arnopp

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As King Henry VI slips into insanity and the realm of England teeters on the brink of civil war, a child is married to the mad king’s brother. Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, takes his child bride into Wales where she discovers a land of strife and strangers.
At Caldicot Castle and Lamphey Palace Margaret must put aside childhood, acquire the dignity of a Countess and, despite her tender years, produce Richmond with a son and heir.
While Edmund battles to restore the king’s peace, Margaret quietly supports his quest; but it is a quest fraught with danger.
As the friction between York and Lancaster intensifies 14-year-old Margaret, now widowed, turns for protection to her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor. At his stronghold in Pembroke, two months after her husband’s death, Margaret gives birth to a son whom she names Henry, after her cousin the king.
Margaret is small of stature but her tiny frame conceals a fierce and loyal heart and a determination that will not falter until her son’s destiny as the king of England is secured.
The Beaufort Bride traces Margaret’s early years from her nursery days at Bletsoe Castle to the birth of her only son in 1457 at Pembroke Castle. Her story continues in Book Two: The Beaufort Woman.

REVIEW

Growing up in America, my education did not include learning too much about British kings, the exception being George III, and perhaps Alfred. The Tudors were not common fare for our  history books notwithstanding Henry VIII and his six wives, a failing that I have remedied the last few years through historical-fiction novels (and the subsequent research those tales inspire.) The story of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, is poignantly told in The Beaufort Bride. She lived in an age when girls of the noble classes were often deprived of any control over their lives, subjected to an unknown future with a husband they may have never met. The author does a superb job rendering that fear, that uncertainty, that determination to survive in the character of a 13 year old girl, a pawn in the game of courtly politics. In an easy flowing narrative, we follow the life of Margaret as she comes to grips with her lot in life and the circumstances that place her and her child in the dangerous world of royal succession. I was captivated by this seemingly powerless, and fragile child as she struggled and succeeded to make the best of her situation, and the despair she felt when that situation was shattered.

I enjoy the heck out of books that keep me turning the pages long after the time I’ve allotted for reading, and this is one of those. Looking forward to continuing Margaret’s story. 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

Glass Island by Gareth Griffith

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Dark Age Britain – the Romans have gone, the Saxons are coming, the native Britons are in trouble. An exhilarating, yet tragic tale awaits you, dear reader; one that has it’s basis in the thin historical record of the period and that is expertly applied in a fictional context that is as believable as to seem like the truth. The author has given such life to the characters and a view of the world they lived in that makes one think this is the way it might have been. I was especially intrigued by the strong female presence among the male dominated warrior society and that they made a huge difference in the lives of their people, either by healing, guidance or even in warfare. The pivotal battle against the marauding Saxon’s (without giving away too much) is an excellent example of the author’s ability to make the reader feel a part of the chaos and turmoil; an aching with every loss is felt through the written words.  It is also a tale of resilience in the face of tremendous loss and an uncertain future – a tale of an age that was brutal, where only the strong survive. 4 Stars

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

The Scathing – King’s Bane III by C.R. May

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The Engeln have now settled on the isle of Britannia and are intent on staying, and will fight to maintain and expand their territory and culture.  The people of Powys are not too happy with this and are intent on driving the invaders out as they expand their own reach.  A clash is inevitable and the author is on top of his game in this tale of that confrontation.  Great characters, wonderful verbal byplay, thrilling action and an insightful look into Dark Age Britain make this book hard to put down. A good tale needs to be able to surprise the reader on occasion and The Scathing certainly fulfills that requirement.  In fact, it is the surprise element that has me looking forward to the continuation of this series.  4.7 stars and The Hoover Book Review’s prestigious “You Just Blew Me Away” award.  🙂

 

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