An Argument of Blood by J.A. Ironside & Matthew Willis

 

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It is my privilege to be part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for An Argument of Blood. First, a brief summary of the story:

William, the nineteen-year-old duke of Normandy, is enjoying the full fruits of his station. Life is a succession of hunts, feasts, and revels, with little attention paid to the welfare of his vassals. Tired of the young duke’s dissolute behaviour and ashamed of his illegitimate birth, a group of traitorous barons force their way into his castle. While William survives their assassination attempt, his days of leisure are over. He’ll need help from the king of France to secure his dukedom from the rebels.

On the other side of the English Channel lives ten-year-old Ælfgifa, the malformed and unwanted youngest sister to the Anglo-Saxon Jarl, Harold Godwinson. Ælfgifa discovers powerful rivalries in the heart of the state when her sister Ealdgyth is given in a political marriage to King Edward, and she finds herself caught up in intrigues and political manoeuvring as powerful men vie for influence. Her path will collide with William’s, and both must fight to shape the future.

An Argument of Blood is the first of two sweeping historical novels on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

And the review:

An entertaining tale of William the Conqueror (or Bastard, depending on who’s talking), as a young man shaken out of his young man’s revelry and into the harsh reality of life as a Duke.  It is also a tale of Godwin’s youngest daughter, Aelfgifa, the unlovely, yet extremely intelligent girl who finds herself a player in the game for the English throne of the heir less Edward.  The authors have combined to deliver an intriguing look at how these early years led to the eventual history making/changing year of 1066.  The characters come alive, the youthful exuberance of William turning into a fierce determination, the misjudging and dismissal of Aelfgifa are perfect examples, and by no means the only ones.  It was a strange time and everyone who has the slightest link to the throne gets involved, and while this is all historical fact, it takes a good fiction writer, or in this case fiction writers, to take that history and piece together a tale that falls into the realm of believable possibility.  We all know the outcome awaiting William, but it is still an intriguing take on the path leading to his destiny, and an intriguing look at the easy to overlook woman who played an important part in that destiny.  4.3 stars and am looking forward to the sequel.

About the Authors

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

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Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

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During the Book Blast we will be giving away a signed copy of An Argument of Blood


To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

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– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter the giveaway here

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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

The Abbey of Death by Steven A. McKay

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Will Scarlett, outlaw, wolf’s head, violently tempered right hand man to Robin Hood, has been pardoned for his many sins and crimes but cannot find peace within.  Donning the robes and tonsured hairstyle, he becomes a monk.  In a wonderful bit of story telling, the author has taken an account of a troublesome group of monks who basically disregarded their vows and ran wild, causing strained relations between the townsfolk and the local abbey.  Brother Scaflock(Scarlett) finds that old habits die hard even as he begins to find some of the peace he’s been seeking.  A tension filled tale worthy of being the final episode in the author’s very fine Robin Hood series, The Forest Lord. 4.3 stars

 

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Let me just state from the get-go…I fancy myself as an author given that I have written and published a novel (with more to come) but when I read someone like Guy Gavriel Kay, I ache to have just a little of his talent; just a little more ability to draw word pictures in his manner.  Lions is a complex story of love, loyalty, and devotion during a period of great upheaval; a period reminiscent of the Moorish-Christian competition to see whose God is best(sadly, still going on.)  If I get anything out of reading this tale it is this, that the genocidal insanity of religious domination in political affairs is quite possibly the saddest concept in human history.

Another aspect of Lions is the almost impossible situations some of the characters find themselves in; especially when it comes to love and loyalty…so many lines are crossed and in such a way that the differences between Jaddite-Asharite-Kindath pale in significance to the individuals involved.  The Kindath physician Jehane, the poet/warrior Ammar, the Jaddite warrior Rodrigo and many others, provide the reader with characters so fully developed as to make the story seem historical rather than a fantasy account.

So, my peeps and fellow travelers, prepare for an emotion filled, heart tugging tale from a master at his craft.  5 stars…or maybe two moons…or maybe just the Sun..read the book, you’ll get what I mean.  🙂

 

 

Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

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With the deposing of Edward II, the ruler over England is now Edward III, though he is ruled by his mother Queen Isabella and her lover, the formidable Lord Mortimer.  Adam now serves the young King, his loyalty is resolute even though he still harbors great affection for Mortimer.  In this, the third tale of Adam and his wife Kit, the author brings to life the increasing tension in the royal court as Edward III comes of an age where he longs to shed his keepers and take up the mantle of kingship on his own.  It is a story filled with twists and turns; the emotional frailties of the human spirit; the battle for control of the crown; the longing for home and loved ones.  It is also a story of love and romance; Isabella and Mortimer, Edward and his young wife Phillipa, and most especially between Adam and Kit.  The author is on her game when it comes to the foibles and joys of the bonds of love.  An eloquent, page turning drama awaits the reader, though I must admit to having to stop turning pages when Kit and Adam are – well you’ll see for yourself.  🙂  I’ve come to appreciate the amazing talent Anna Belfrage has exhibited in drawing me into the stories she writes, and Under the Approaching Dark is another fine example of that talent.  5 stars

The Spider and the Stone by Glen Craney

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A tantalizing look at the life of James Douglas, or The Black Douglas as he was called by those who feared him.  My only real venture into this part of history was Braveheart, but that centers on William Wallace, not the man who rose to become the right hand of Robert the Bruce in the long standing war with Edward Longshanks and his son Edward Caernarvon.  I was drawn into this epic tale right from the start; the intensity of the narrative grabbed and never let go.  The characters are beautifully written, from the morose, melancholic Bruce, the savage brutality of Longshanks, the effervescent monk Ned Sweeney, the redoubtable Belle, the scheming Isabella, and of course, the continually torn Jamie Douglas.  The author presents the events and the time such that one can feel the thunderous approach of  Longshank’s heavy horse, or the bitter Scottish weather confronting the fleeing Bruce and Douglas.  An entertaining book to be sure; one that demands your attention to the detriment of sleep or other obligations.  4.8 stars

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.