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.

Scars from the Past by Derek Birks

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Having enjoyed the author’s previous series about the Elder family, I was happy to find out that a new set of books featuring the Elders was being written.  I knew it would involve many new names and faces but was sure that the circumstances would be full of drama and intrigue and I was not mistaken or disappointed.  An imaginative tale with a relentless stream of action culminating in…well let’s just say the ending is full of surprises.  One of the characters who was an instrumental figure in the Feud books, and one of my favorite fictional characters, makes her presence known.  I am speaking of Eleanor Elder, a woman of many talents and one who will not be vanquished no matter how much is thrown at her, though her meddling does meet with some unexpected and most dire results.  A very satisfying new entry for Mr. Birks and a worthy successor to his Feud series, as he leads the reader into the lives of Ned Elder’s family; a family that just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  4.3 stars and a hearty shout, “Long Live Eleanor”  🙂

Kin of Cain by Matthew Harffy

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First let me say thanks to the author and the fine folks at Aria for including this poor, humble scribe with the illustrious group of reviewers on this Blog Tour.  Since I am leading off this tour, I reckon it’s appropriate for me to announce, “Welcome, and now, on with the show.”

More Dark Age tale telling from the author of The Serpent Sword.  This time he weaves a story that is well known but puts his own twist on it, and in a manner that is both entertaining and foreshadowing.  The main character in this tale is the older brother of Beobrand, the hero of Matthew Harffy’s excellent Bernicia Chronicles series.  Octa becomes part of the group of warriors chosen to ferret out and kill a night stalking monster wreaking havoc among the common folk.  As he has done in the full length  tales, Mr. Harffy brings to vivid life the ethos of a dark age warrior; the fealty owed when oathsworn, the bonding between fellow sword brothers, the ale hall boasting.  The quest to find the monster is emotion and action packed.  A boggy, misty, fen land can play with a man’s mind, so too can facing the limits of one’s endurance in a very trying situation.  Unrelenting drama unfolds as the warriors close in on their quarry and not a few surprises make their task that much more interesting.  I enjoyed learning a little about Beobrand’s big brother and the sword that plays such a large part in his tale. 4.7 stars and a Hoover Book Review’s coveted “Job well done” acclamation.  🙂

 

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Blurb:

AD 630. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical tale set in the world of The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Winter grips the land in its icy fist. Terror stalks the hills, moors and marshes of Bernicia. Livestock and men have been found ripped asunder, their bones gnawed, flesh gorged upon. People cower in their halls in fear of the monster that prowls the night.

King Edwin sends his champions, Bassus, Octa and band of trusted thegns, to hunt down the beast and to rid his people of this evil.

Bassus leads the warriors into the chill wastes of the northern winter, and they soon question whether they are the hunters or the prey. Death follows them as they head deeper into the ice-rimed marshes, and there is ever only one ending for the mission: a welter of blood that will sow the seeds of a tale that will echo down through the ages.

 

Author info:

 

Matthew 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.

 

 

Pre-order links

 

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lqNXhW

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2lr4mTa

iBooks: http://apple.co/2kRcU2r

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2kxbbDm

 

 

Follow Matthew

 

Website: www.matthewharffy.com

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: MatthewHarffyAuthor

 

 

Follow Aria

 

Website: www.ariafiction.com

Facebook: @ariafiction

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

NetGalley: http://bit.ly/2lkKB0e

Sign up to the Aria newsletter: http://bit.ly/2jQxVtV

 

 

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”