The Crescent and the Cross (Knights Templar #5) by S.J.A. Turney

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An epic battle of the Reconquista; a personal struggle to survive; a fight for glory.

War is brewing, and the Pope has summoned a crusade. The nations of Christendom are rallying to fight the Almohad caliphate, but they are a formidable foe.

Meanwhile, behind Moorish lines, a fortress held by Castile is under siege. As the siege falls, a knight is lost. Arnau leaves on a dangerous, near-suicidal quest to save him, a new squire in tow.

In the heat of the sierras though, things are not as they seem. War is coming to Iberia and all will be tested. Arnau’s sword arm will need practice, as will his mind.

REVIEW

You would think that after the number of books that I have read by SJA Turney, that I would have an idea of what to expect; that it would be unusual for me to be surprised by what transpires on his written pages. That does hold true for The Crescent and the Cross, for the most part – the trademark Turney touches of placing the reader in the footsteps of his characters traversing terra incognito painstakingly described – action that delivers sights, sounds and the smells of the brutality of battle – inducing audible gasps at surprise twists in the plot…and so on. However, I cannot shirk my duty as a humble, yet perceptive, scribbler of reviews. I am filing a complaint with the TEToFC (The Ethical Treatment of Fictional Characters) for the sheer scope of  physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual agony imposed upon Brother Arnau de Valbona throughout the narrative which in turn drags the poor reader into the trauma, causing accelerated heart rates, shrieking, and lack of sleep. Yes, my fellow readers, Mr. Turney has done it again. Oh, by the way, he leaves us hanging at the end…a not so subtle ploy to pull us into the next volume in the series. Hah…it won’t work on me, I would buy it anyway.😊 Five ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Du Lac Princess (The Du Lac Chronicles #3) by Mary Anne Yarde

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The multi award-winning series The Du Lac Chronicles continues:

War is coming…

The ink has dried on Amandine’s death warrant. Her crime? She is a du Lac.

All that stands in the way of a grisly death on a pyre is the King of Brittany. However, King Philippe is a fickle friend, and if her death is profitable to him, then she has no doubt that he would light the pyre himself.

Alan, the only man Amandine trusts, has a secret and must make an impossible choice, which could have far-reaching consequences — not only for Amandine, but for the whole of Briton.

REVIEW

Heart pumping action, eye opening surprises, edge of the seat drama, The Du Lac Princess continues the excellence of this mesmerizing series featuring the startlingly troubled scions of Lancelot. And, my fellow readers, there is a lot of trouble for them to endure making it rather difficult to put the book down. The author has crafted a beguiling tale full of the unexpected, full of emotion, full of the tenor of the time – in short – an exhilarating page turner. Imaginative, exciting…so many superlatives could be used… once again in short – if you haven’t read The Du Lac Chronicles, you are indeed missing out on historical fiction at its finest. And there is more to come.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rise of a Champion by Stuart Rudge

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Antonio Perez is the son of a knight and a returning war hero, yet he loathes the idea of following in his father’s footsteps. But when his father is executed for alleged treason against Fernando, King of Leon-Castile, he launches a desperate bid to save his life and clear his name. Antonio soon learns that the world is much crueller and darker than he ever could have imagined.

Bereft of hope and condemned to slavery for his sins, he finds himself in the household of a young knight named Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, a man destined for greatness. Together, they must face their demons and put an end to the man responsible for the downfall of the fathers; known as Azarola, renowned for his fox like cunning and malice, and one of the most powerful lords of Leon.

Rise of a Champion is the epic beginning to the Legend of the Cid.

REVIEW

It seems that no matter how many historical fiction books I read, there are always historical events, locales, and personalities that I know little or nothing about. Sometimes these events, important though they are, become overshadowed by concurrent events in other parts of the globe. Rise of a Champion is the first book in a series about Antonio Perez, El Cid…undoubtedly an important person in an important time in what is now Spain. It is a rousing tale of his early life; the tortuous road he takes to salvage his family’s honor. The author has done his homework and has created a very entertaining tale of the clash of Moor versus Christian. The characters are well developed, fitting into the time, place and cultures of the era. I had very little knowledge of this period even though I have read many books that take place at the same time – an example of the overshadowing effect – the year Rise of a Champion ends is 1064 – lots of stuff going on in Normandy and Britain right about then. 😊 But, it is good to branch out, to learn about, and be entertained by history no matter the time or place. I am looking forward to following the rest of El Cid’s tale. 4⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Winter Knight – The Knights Templar Novels by S.J.A. Turney

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A murder in a far off castle. A deadly struggle to survive… An intense and gripping Medieval thriller.

In the depths of winter at an ancient German castle, high up in the mountains, a noble is found dead under mysterious circumstances.

Back at Rourell, Arnau is taking on the responsibilities of a full Templar Knight. But when he is tasked with returning Brother Lütolf’s papers to settle a legal dispute between his family and the Order, Arnau is unexpectedly drawn into the killing at the castle. Here he enters a dark game of knives and double-crosses.

Trapped in the ice-bound fortress, mastery of the sword is no longer enough. This is a different kind of war: one of shadows and whispered threats. Arnau must use all the guile he possesses, or risk succumbing to an icy tomb.

The latest instalment of S.J.A. Turney’s unputdownable and bestselling Knights Templar series, The Winter Knight is perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Ben Kane and Christian Cameron

REVIEW

A slight deviation from the first three books in The Knights Templar, The Winter Knight is not only a further look into the development of Arnau as a trusted member of the Order, but it is also a masterfully told murder mystery. The author presents a seemingly impossible scenario – a murder with no viable suspects. But like the tapestry that hangs in the schloss where each picture; each section tells a tale, each chapter reveals more clues, more clarity, and more danger for Arnau who is tasked with solving the mystery. Naturally, the author has not made it easy for our sleuth. Stuck in the middle of a blizzard ridden mountain fortress, oft times not exactly dressed for the elements, and surrounded by people who have no love for the Templar Order, Arnau follows a twisting plot line as treacherous as the knee deep snow covered forest trail leading to the castle. Beautifully depicted, the pages practically emit the frost ridden breath of Arnau, or the sound of the snow crunching underfoot, the author has once again taken this reader on another page turning adventure.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Conspiracy of Wolves (Owen Archer #11) by Candace Robb

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1374. When a member of one of York’s most prominent families is found dead in the woods, his throat torn out, rumours spread like wildfire that wolves are running loose throughout the city. Persuaded to investigate by the victim’s father, Owen Archer is convinced that a human killer is responsible. But before he can gather sufficient evidence to prove his case, a second body is discovered, stabbed to death. Is there a connection? What secrets are contained within the victim’s household? And what does apprentice healer Alisoun know that she’s not telling? Teaming up with Geoffrey Chaucer, who is in York on a secret mission on behalf of Prince Edward, Owen’s enquiries will draw him headlong into a deadly conspiracy.

REVIEW

My first foray into the author’s Owen Archer mystery series, A Conspiracy of Wolves is a very satisfying, and entertaining whodunit. I enjoyed the camaraderie between Owen and the crew enlisted to solve the grisly murders. The plot kept me intrigued as each new chapter revealed some new information or twist to the case, shedding light on the complex revenge taking place (I can say no more about that). As this is the first of the series that I have read, I was pleased that the author left enough hints in the narrative to give me some of the back story to Owen’s life and adventures. Another aspect of the tale is the doings of the village and the folk who live there, a creative way to help the readers immerse themselves in the story. The characters are a joy to read…the author has left nothing out in their development. My only problem (and it’s a good one to have) is that I have so many books to read…now I have another series to delve into.  4 Stars  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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About the Author

I’m Candace Robb, a writer/historian engaged in creating fiction about the late middle ages with a large cast of characters with whom I enjoy spending my days. Two series, the Owen Archer mysteries and the Kate Clifford mysteries, are set in late medieval York. The Margaret Kerr trilogy is set in early 14th century Scotland, at the beginning of the Wars of Independence. Two standalone novels (published under pseudonym Emma Campion) expand on the lives of two women in the court of King Edward III who have fascinated me ever since I first encountered them in history and fiction.

I am a dreamer. Writing, gardening, walking, dancing, reading, being with friends—there’s always a dreaming element.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER  | BOOKBUB

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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

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

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

Daughter of War by S.J.A. Turney

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An extraordinary story of the Knights Templar, seen from the bloody inside
Europe is aflame. On the Iberian Peninsula the wars of the Reconquista rage across Aragon and Castile. Once again, the Moors are gaining the upper hand. Christendom is divided.
Amidst the chaos comes a young knight: Arnau of Valbona. After his Lord is killed in an act of treachery, Arnau pledges to look after his daughter, whose life is now at risk. But in protecting her Arnau will face terrible challenges, and enter a world of Templars, steely knights and visceral combat he could never have imagined.
She in turn will find a new destiny with the Knights as a daughter of war… Can she survive? And can Arnau find his destiny?
An explosive novel of greed and lust, God and blood, Daughter of War marks the beginning of an epic new series from bestseller S.J.A. Turney. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Matt Harffy.

My Review

Since I do a lot of reading & reviewing, and my ‘to be read’ pile keeps growing, I usually read three books concurrently. To avoid confusion the three reads are typically of different eras, subjects, etc, etc. While reading Daughter of War, I was also involved in a book about pre-Norman invasion England, and one about the American Revolution.  All excellent reads, all intense page turning dramas demanding my attention. Usually I split my reading time evenly through the current books, finishing them more or less at the same time. Well, my peeps and fellow travelers, Daughter of War ruined my plan. I found myself unable to switch books despite the fact that I was enjoying the other two, and could not stop turning to the next chapter, finishing this one way ahead of the others. The author has taken a portion of history that is not well known, or recorded, and has fashioned a well crafted tale replete with wonderful characters, and his typical methodical research. Emotionally charged, detail filled, and a splendid look at a time and place in history that kept me enthralled and entertained. I am certainly looking forward to more of Arnau of Valbona.  5 stars