The Last Emir (Knights Templar #2) by S.J.A. Turney

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Risk everything; fight to the last: a taut and intense historical thriller from master author S.J.A. Turney

The relics of Christendom have been plundered during the long Moorish conquest of the Iberian peninsula. Newly minted Templar Sergeant Arnau de Vallbona must recover one of the most elusive to save his priory at Rourell in Spain.

Travelling to Majorca on a stealth mission to retrieve the bones of St Stephen, Arnau soon discovers the raid is more complex than it first appears: the mighty Almohad dynasty has laid claim to the island, and will fight them every step of the way.

Along with his companion, the aged warrior Balthesar, Arnau is in desperate straits. Surrounded on all sides by hostile forces, it will take all their cunning and strength to escape with their prize – and their lives….

A thrilling and unexplored account of the Knights Templar, grounded in extraordinary research, The Last Emir is perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, K.M. Ashman and C.F. Iggulden.

REVIEW

Arnau is not a very complex man…steadfast, loyal, unerring in his devotion to the Order and to God. However, in The Last Emir, complexities are the name of the game, and Arnau will either adapt or he will die. While the story line revolves around the search for a long lost relic, the plot soon encompasses the fight of good versus evil, the age old story of revenge, and the irony of one’s faith being tested and used in a much broader understanding of God and men. The author has given the reader a heart pounding tale with his usual flair for drama making it hard to put the book down. Meticulously researched, the reader is drawn into a time and place of religious turmoil, and the seeking of power and dominion over heathens and infidels. The story, entertaining as it is, also has the quality to make one think about how things in the world could be without the religious intolerance we have been subjected to for millennia. As a reader, The Last Emir, is a pleasure to enjoy. As a member of the human race, The Last Emir, is a hopeful glance at how Christian, Muslim, and Jew can coexist. 5 Stars

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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

Hoover Book Reviews –

one of the Top 100 Fiction Blogs on the web:

Guillaume by Prue Batten

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Once again I found myself drawn into the medieval world as depicted by one of my favorite authors, Prue Batten.  Once again, she does not disappoint as she embroiders a tale full of intrigue and suspense.  The story takes place in the village of Lyon and concerns a family’s trading business; a business that draws unwanted attention from an over zealous monk – a despicable character who is just one example of the author’s ability to weave believable personas into the fabric of the story’s time and place.  From the Crusade induced troubled mind of the protagonist to the steel backbone of the maligned Jewess, Ariella, the reader is treated to a page turner of a tale.  Ms. Batten is a master at setting the stage, leaving hints and clues as to what is coming, and yet still surprising the reader with the eventual results.  A descriptive, and at times poetic, look at a world that was gradually moving into the time of the Reformation, and where loyalty and trust were often hard to find.  5 stars and an anxiously awaiting reader for the third volume of this marvelous series.

The Fire and the Light by Glen Craney

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I found myself in unfamiliar territory regarding location, time and subject while reading The Fire and the Light, not that that is a bad thing.  The 13th Century is not my normal reading period, French history is not my usual subject and the Albigensian Crusade is just a distant history lesson long since forgotten.  What I found in picking up this book is a marvelous story by Mr. Craney.  He has taken the bits and pieces of this historical event and has crafted a tale worthy enough to be thought of as actual history, rather than fiction.  The characters are superbly written, from the spiritual leader of the Cathars, Esclarmonde, to the dastardly members of the Church seeking to destroy her and her band of heretics.  The emotions and the conflicts engendered by the Cathar beliefs are true high points in the narrative; the giving up of everything, including those you love, the willingness to die for those beliefs, the extreme suffering endured…all of this and more kept me enthralled and entertained throughout the tale.  Once again, I found myself immersed in a setting so brutally real that I would put the book down for a bit, catch my breath before returning to it.  4.7 stars and a Hoover Book Review “Highly Recommended Award”

 

 

For King and Country by Charlene Newcomb

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Oh what a tangled web Charlene Newcomb has weaved in the second installment of Battle Scars.  The Crusaders have returned home to England without King Richard who languishes as a ‘guest’ of his enemies on the continent.  For King and Country tells the tale of how Henry, Stephan and Robin deal with the turmoil being fomented by Prince John and his grab for the English throne.  Well, that’s the main plot and it is supported by a myriad of sub-plots and those are what make this book a real winner.  The relationships, those sought after, and those that are eventually realized bear witness to the author’s ability to reach into the human heart; to make the anguish, the joys, the sorrows, leap from the page while shes ties the threads of the web together.  Strong characters, vivid detail and an interesting take on the Robin Hood mythology make this page turning adventure a joy to read.  5 stars

Men of the Cross by Charlene Newcomb

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When I started this book I expected a story about the Third Crusade; one that would bring to the fore the majesty and the folly of the venture.  Those elements were certainly on display as the author leads the reader on an exciting, entertaining and surprisingly evocative tale.  From the mustering of Richard’s knights to the taking of Sicily and through all of the adventures they encountered before arriving at Acre.  The action is portrayed in nice detail, the political intrigue between Richard and Phillip gives the reader a taste of what that time was like and mimics a little I suppose what our time is like even now…that old adage that history repeats.  As to the characters, well I for one was drawn into their feelings, the ones of joy and the frequent bouts of sorrow and confusion.  The two main protagonists are fictional characters, Henry DeGray and Stephan l’Aigle, two knights in the retinue of King Richard.  Henry is on his first Crusade, indeed his first time going into harm’s way while Stephan is a seasoned veteran having fought by Richard’s side before.  Neither one of them comes out of this adventure the same way they went in.  So much angst, so much confusion, so much revilement, and yet so much love.  Among the co-stars of this tale are the very real King Richard Lionheart, Sir Robin(yes that Robin), Allan(yes that Allan), Little John(yes oh you get it by now)  🙂 However, Robin and his two mates are given here with a slightly different slant…there is no taint of an outlaw to Robin and his companions are younger in this story and play some interesting roles throughout.  Now as for Henry and Stephan, I cannot say enough about how well crafted these two are; kudos to Char.  I recommend this book highly and cannot wait for the sequel.  5 Stars

About Char

me1sCharlene Newcomb. Char. That’s me.

Librarian.
Navy vet.
Mom to 3 grown, amazing children.
I live in Kansas. Yes, Toto. Kansas.

Born & raised in South Carolina, I wanted a life of adventure and travel. I realized that dreams of hitting the big time with my all-girl rock band Liberation were just that – dreams. And becoming an astronaut wasn’t in the cards. So I joined the Navy to see the world and spent six years as a communications technician/voice language analyst. I fit college into my life (BA in History, and many years later an MA in Library Science). That desire to travel in space translated into writing science fiction: I published 10 short stories in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, many featuring a Rebel underground freedom fighter named Alex Winger. I have published 2 novels, one a contemporary drama, Keeping the Family Peace; the other,Men of the Cross (book 1 of Battle Scars), which allows me to share my love of history with readers. Book 2 of the series will be published in 2015.

Welcome to my worlds.

Contact me at charlenenewcomb at gmail dot com.

Follow me on Facebook or  on Twitter. I’m also on Goodreads though I don’t keep up with that site as much as I should!