Reliquary – Review & Interview

Book One Of The Peregrinus Trilogy

by Prue Batten

Reliquary: Book One of The Peregrinus Series by [Prue Batten]




Relics can move mountains, so history relays. They cure the sick, promise success, enable whole kingdoms to win wars.

A fragment of byssus lies in a small chest and its very existence underlines the life of Christ and the meaning behind the Holy Church. Its power can only be wondered at.

It is the kind of relic which inspires heroic deeds and . . . murder.

An elderly nun and a returned crusader are all that stands between the world’s most sanctified relic and a Templar knight who craves it for his own purpose.

From Constantinople to Caen, from Venice to Viviers, from Rome to Rouen, relics are traded like pepper and frankincense, silk and silver, lapis and alum. Sold to the highest bidder.

Who then should pay the highest price of all for a fragment of aged cloth?

Is the highest price surely . . . and inevitably . . . death?

If you enjoyed The Kingmaker Series or The Knights’ Templar MysteriesReliquary will enthral you.

Reliquary is Book One of The Peregrinus Series


One indication that you’re having a good day is when a favorite author personally requests a review of their new book. An even better indication is that despite the fact that I have a decades long dislike of the historical abuse of power fomented by ‘Holy Mother Church’, Reliquary is a certified page turning tale. The emotional trauma of a nun completely out of her comfort zone – a cloistered existence in a small convent in the middle of nowhere – is deftly and beautifully written. Not that she is the only character suffering pangs of doubt, hatred, unfulfilled love and the like. It is a dangerous mission for all involved in this latest foray into the author’s Gisborne legacy. Another chapter in an amazing series of books, one that had me riveted, and that has me anticipating the next one. There are questions still to be answered, hearts that still need mending. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The author takes the time to answer some questions:

Interview with Prue Batten

What is it that prompted you to start writing?

I love creating stories in the same way that others create art, poetry or music. I’ve been writing prose since I was first able to write words when I would apparently tell myself little stories. That feeling of ‘writing’ is indescribable, and I can’t find the words without sounding precious.

But that’s the other thing, you see; I love words!

Why this particular genre?

I read my first hist.fict in Grade 6. A Rosemary Sutcliff, The Eagle of the Ninth. And from that moment, hist.fict and indeed history, became my genre of choice. But I will qualify that just a little by saying that myth and legend dominated my early childhood reading and so fantasy is a very close second.

But in terms of his.fict, I also had the most wonderful lecturer in medieval history at university. He was a Roman Catholic priest and a history-maker in his own right. He came to the faith after his marriage and was one of the only modern Roman Catholic priests I have heard of who did in fact have a legitimate wife and children. He had a way of kindling sparks of interest in we students. He talked of folk like Peter Abelard, Heloise of Argenteuil, Hildegarde von Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, the Venerable Bede and so many more, bringing them to life before my eyes. The names were like beacons. Before long, I had a deeply rooted love of the medieval era. He spent very little time talking of kings and dynastic wars and hours talking about the development of philosophies and I think that’s why I write fiction that is so far removed from bloody battles and so rooted in the common man’s traditions.

Were there any influences that helped you create the Gisborne legacy?

Now that is a huge question.

Firstly, Dorothy Dunnett who established the House of Niccolo, set in the European Renaissance. She is an iconic hist.fict writer – the doyen of all good hist.fict. in my opinion.

Because I have a lifelong fascination with the medieval era, I idly began to read on trade in the 12th century, reasoning that someone didn’t just begin to trade as the Renaissance took off. And of course, I was right. The medieval era was filled with extraordinary beauty and that beauty came from rare and exotic goods that were the result of travel and trade from beyond the flat edge of the world. Such trading encouraged the best and complete worst of humankind and thus I had my Gisborne trading house.

The man Gisborne is quite another thing and in many ways, quite trite. Originally the first Gisborne book began life as a blog fan-fiction – what Guy of Gisborne’s life would have been if he had turned away from the Sheriff of Nottingham and chosen an untrodden pathway. It had an enormous following because Guy was based on Richard Armitage’s interpretation in the TV series Robin Hood, and any woman who was a fan of Robin Hood knows of the thousands-strong Armitage Army.

But ¾’s of the way through the telling of that first story, I could feel myself moving into more serious historical fiction. My research on the era went deeper and the narrative began to change dramatically. In time, I had a publishable book. The story continued for two more books to make a trilogy and in that time, I met characters I grew to love and who had their own story to tell. Thus, I ended up with another series and am now on my way to a third series. The members of the household are many and varied…

What books, genres, authors does Prue read when she’s not writing?

I read most genres except sci fi and romance, and I’m not a great fan of time-travel. My favourite genres are hist.fict and fantasy but I also enjoy good contemporary fiction. My favourite time frames are Roman, Dark Age, medieval and Renaissance, but I’m very flexible if it’s a good story The names Simon Turney, Anna Belfrage, Gordon Doherty, Matthew Harffy, Theodore Brun, Robert Low, Bernard Cornwell, Paul Collard and Paul Bennett, all spring to mind. But there are many others. Actually, looking at that list above, I realise Anna is the only woman. She must work extra hard to keep her name amongst the collective Illuminati! I shall have to try harder to join her!

My favourite fantasy stories are those based on myth and folklore. I have a Number One favourite – internationally renowned Juliet Marillier who was, in fact, the person who challenged me to write a contemporary fiction about a woman of a certain age. In addition, and although nothing has come from this writer’s pen for many years, I do love Cecilia Dart Thornton’s work.

I also enjoy biographies on people I admire or who create an interest by the way they have lived their lives: certain members of the Royal Family, some American presidents, Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Joanna Lumley, David McAllister and so forth.

Who do you turn to for advice or encouragement when the Muse is a bit reticent in supplying inspiration?

Would you believe I don’t turn to anyone? I either write through it or take a complete break and do something else. I love the outdoors, I walk a lot with my dog, I’m a gardener and embroiderer, I love ballet, ocean swimming, kayaking – boating of any sort. I suppose if anything stirs the Muse, it’s Nature. I’m also a believer that things happen when they’re meant to.

Circling back a little to Passage, one of the more poignant stories I’ve read, was it difficult to take on a tale outside of your normal comfort zone?

Thank you for the compliment and yes, it was. When dealing with the contemporary world, one knows one’s readers will be very familiar with so much more than one’s 12th century. In addition, one knows one’s readers will automatically assume that one is writing one’s own life into the narrative. Thus it was important to establish that the work was fictional, BUT that it was based on an actual event in my own life.

That was the other difficulty. The accident my husband suffered on the farm caused some PTSD. Mostly for him, but a little for me as well, and writing Passage allowed me to process that dreadful day and be glad that our outcome was so different to Annie’s.

A further difficulty was that I have reached the time in life when some of my friends are passing away or losing their lifelong partners. By necessity, Passage became a lesson in grief – one of the hardest lessons we all have to learn.

It seems bizarre to say I enjoyed writing Passage, but I actually did. To be able to set the story on my own coastline, the one I love so much, was beyond special and I’ve always believed that a setting can be a character in its own right. Maria Island dominates Annie’s landscape and in fact was transformative for her. Every day I look at that island now, I see it in a different light.

What is next for Prue Batten?

Reliquary is Book One of a 3 book series – The Peregrinus Series. I’m a quarter of the way through the second book, tentatively titled Oak Gall and Gold. Each book is a standalone but they all involve members of the Gisborne ben Simon trading house with whom, it might be said, I’m in a long-lasting relationship.

Thank you, so much Paul, for these insightful questions. I’ve commented elsewhere that such questioning keeps one’s feet on the ground and makes one realise why one is indeed a writer. That’s very important! Cheers.

The Canterbury Murders

(Stanton & Barling #3)

by E.M. Powell

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A fire-ravaged cathedral. An ungodly murder.

Easter, 1177. Canterbury Cathedral, home to the tomb of martyr Saint Thomas Becket, bears the wounds of a terrible fire. Benedict, prior of the great church, leads its rebuilding. But horror interrupts the work. One of the stonemasons is found viciously murdered, the dead man’s face disfigured by a shocking wound.

When King’s clerk Aelred Barling and his assistant, Hugo Stanton, arrive on pilgrimage to the tomb, the prior orders them to investigate the unholy crime.

But the killer soon claims another victim–and another. As turmoil embroils the congregation, the pair of sleuths face urgent pressure to find a connection between the killings.

With panic on the rise, can Barling and Stanton catch the culprit before evil prevails again—and stop it before it comes for them?

THE CANTERBURY MURDERS is the third book in E.M. Powell’s Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. Combining intricate plots, shocking twists and a winning–if unlikely–pair of investigators, this series is perfect for fans of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael or C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake.


Part of the charm of reading murder mysteries is the exhilaration the reader feels when they know who the culprit is…and then to have that feeling replaced by another bout of exhilaration when they realize they were wrong, but now they know for sure who the culprit is. Repeat this cycle until the very end and then exclaim, ‘I knew it‘. A thoroughly enjoyable tale as Barling and Stanton tackle a series of brutal murders – a formidable task in and of itself. Let’s add a few impediments to the investigation…an incompetent Prior, the rebuilding of the Canterbury Cathedral, an ambitious recorder of the miracles at the tomb of St. Thomas Becket, and just a tad of pressure with the imminent arrival of King Henry. Oh, let’s add some more drama – a serious rift in the relationship between Aelred and Hugo. Yes my fellow readers, the author has created a masterful whodunit; a page turning race to resolve another seemingly impossible set of crimes. Suspects – many…mistakes made – many…tormented souls – many…a shocking discovery – one. Stars – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the Author

E.M. Powell’s historical thriller and medieval mystery Fifth Knight and Stanton & Barling novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers.

The third Stanton & Barling mystery, THE CANTERBURY MURDERS, will be released in November 2020.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

E.M. Powell is represented by Josh Getzler at HG Literary.


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The Mules of Monte Cassino

by Jim DeFilippi



The ground level truth of the most massive and brutal battle of World War II. It begins with: “Sacrifice. Slaughter Stupidity.”


I’ve been a student of history all of my life. From the kitchen table talks with my Dad about WW2 & Korea to majoring in ancient history in college, I’ve always been keen on reading books that buck the trend of the whitewashed, text book, winners write the history ilk. The Mules of Monte Cassino certainly qualifies as trend bucking as the author presents a sardonic look at an unfathomable set of military decisions in southern Italy. Decisions based on ego and distrust of one’s allies resulting in thousands of needless deaths and the destruction of the famous Benedictine monastery. Powerfully descriptive, the author leaves nothing to the imagination as he follows the ‘mules’ across impassable rivers, boot sucking mud, precision artillery & sniper fire from the defenders; not once, but four times. While I don’t enjoy reading about the repeated stupidity of the human race throughout history, it is after all rather hard to avoid, I do enjoy reading creative narratives. Mules certainly has that. Written in a Vonnegut-like fashion, the tongue in cheek attitudes of the narrator and two participants in the battles are an absolutely delightful breath of fresh air. It’s books like this that should be taught; a little irreverent, but certainly more honest than typical text books or the recently released (and subsequently shutdown by a new administration) 1776 Commission Report. So, my fellow seekers of historical truth, The Mules of Monte Cassino is the non-fiction version of Slaughterhouse Five and Catch-22, and is well worth your reading time. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Time for Swords

by Matthew Harffy

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Lindisfarne, AD793. The life of a novice monk will be changed forever when the Vikings attack in a new historical adventure from Matthew Harffy.

There had been portents – famine, whirlwinds, lightning from clear skies, serpents seen flying through the air. But when the raiders came, no one was prepared.

They came from the North, their dragon-prowed longships gliding out of the dawn mist as they descended on the kingdom’s most sacred site.

It is 8th June AD793, and with the pillage of the monastery on Lindisfarne, the Viking Age has begun.

While his fellow monks flee before the Norse onslaught, one young novice stands his ground. He has been taught to turn the other cheek, but faced with the slaughter of his brothers and the pagan desecration of his church, forgiveness is impossible.

Hunlaf soon learns that there is a time for faith and prayer… and there is a time for swords.


A riveting tale of coming to grips with life altering changes. A life of contemplation and learning suddenly rendered moot with the thrust of a seax. In yet another startling story of the brutal 8th century, the author has given this new cast of characters the same diligent attention to detail and development. An amalgamation of unlikely allies bonding together; an emotionally charged internal battle as Hunlaf moves farther from his life as a monk and closer to becoming a warrior, a storyline that leaves the reader guessing as to what’s going to happen next. And extra points for getting in a mention of Beobrand. 😊 And even more extra points because this tale is just a beginning. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Matthew Harffy grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him. He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

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Twitter: @MatthewHarffy


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The Du Lac Prophecy

(The Du Lac Chronicles #4)

by Mary Anne Yarde

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Two Prophesies. Two Noble Households. One Throne.

Distrust and greed threaten to destroy the House of du Lac. Mordred Pendragon strengthens his hold on Brittany and the surrounding kingdoms while Alan, Mordred’s cousin, embarks on a desperate quest to find Arthur’s lost knights. Without the knights and the relics they hold in trust, they cannot defeat Arthur’s only son – but finding the knights is only half of the battle. Convincing them to fight on the side of the Du Lac’s, their sworn enemy, will not be easy.

If Alden, King of Cerniw, cannot bring unity there will be no need for Arthur’s knights. With Budic threatening to invade Alden’s Kingdom, Merton putting love before duty, and Garren disappearing to goodness knows where, what hope does Alden have? If Alden cannot get his House in order, Mordred will destroy them all.

The Du Lac Prophecy has a recommended reading age of 16+.


Oh the evil mankind will adopt to justify their greed for power. From the opening scene of a brutal reprisal to the shocking ending, Mordred, with the backing of the Church, continues to build an impressive resume of evil deeds done…and the author continues to build a remarkable tale. Time is drawing near for the inevitable confrontation between Mordred and Alden Du Lac…the build up is a nerve wracking stroll down a path strewn with surprises…the sort of plot that keeps the reader guessing, and turning the pages. The fates of Merton/Galahad/The Devil, Amandine, Alden, Alan and Bernice, et al hang in the balance. A cliff hanger of an ending to this episode has me chomping at the bit to get to the next installment. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Camelot by Giles Kristian

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Britain is a land riven by anarchy, slaughter, famine, filth and darkness. Its armies are destroyed, its heroes dead, or missing. Arthur and Lancelot fell in the last great battle and Merlin has not been these past ten years. But in a small, isolated monastery in the west of England, a young boy is suddenly plucked from his simple existence by the ageing warrior, Gawain. It seems he must come to terms with his legacy and fate as the son of the most celebrated yet most infamous of Arthur’s warriors: Lancelot. For this is the story of Galahad, Lancelot’s son – the reluctant warrior who dared to keep the dream of Camelot alive


In this emotionally taut follow up to Lancelot, the author has taken the Arthurian saga/epic/myth a step further; a certified page turning tale that immerses the reader into that darkest of dark periods in Britain’s history. Wonderfully crafted characters, imaginative plot lines full of surprises, a drama played out in heartrending, and visceral fashion…The Horse Lords of Arthur reemerge from fen and forest, proud, loyal to the death…Merlin rediscovers the gods…the lament of Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere rekindled in Galahad and Iselle…yes my fellow readers, the follow up is an excellent continuation of Lancelot. Take the advice from this humble scribe as sung by The Moody Blues: Are you sitting comfortably? Let Merlin cast his spell.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell



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Their lives are ones of quiet contemplation—and brutal murder.

Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out—and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton, set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again—and again.

When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?



As the blurb indicates, our intrepid duo find themselves tasked with solving a murder. This time within the confines of a very secluded, snowed in, Cistercian Monastery. Their task becomes even more grisly – the culprit isn’t finished yet. The tale, as befits a whodunit, is full of suspects, motives, and frustration on the part of Barling and Stanton. The author also paints a vivid picture of the austere, Spartan-like atmosphere of the lives of The White Monks and the harsh existence of the lay laborers. It is certainly a page turning mystery, each new chapter revealing another clue, or in some cases the horrible death of one I thought might be the killer.  🙂 In one of the more poignant moments in the series to date, we are brought face to face with the mysterious past of Aelred Barling, but as Eric Idle said repeatedly, “Say no more.” – no spoilers allowed.   I enjoyed the first book, The King’s Justice, I enjoyed this one even more.  5 stars


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E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.


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