The Queen’s Mary – In The Shadows of Power by Sarah Gristwood

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Once again I venture into what is a mostly unknown time and subject to me, but that is what I love about English history; there’s just so much of it that I doubt I’ll ever be bored by it.  This is a story about the Scottish Queen Mary but it is told through the eyes of one of her ladies in waiting, Mary Seton.  The fate and fortunes of those of noble birth is always fascinating and in the case of this particular Queen, fatal.  The author kept me on my toes throughout the story as the various intrigues of the Queen; a woman who appears to be out of her depth; especially so when the men she marries turn out to be at cross purposes with the Scottish nobility.  It is also a tale that is filled with the intricacies of court life; of the lives of those who were born and raised to serve the Queen’s Majesty. In Mary Seton, the last of the four Mary’s to still serve the Queen, we find a woman in constant turmoil as to her loyalties and a desire to be free of the demands of her position. The narrative flows at a nice pace as we follow the Queen and her Marys down the path to the inevitable clash with Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England.  4 stars

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The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

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When I first saw this book popping up in discussion via a Facebook group I belong to, I decided that I wanted to read it even though it is not historical fiction but rather a historical fantasy tale.  So, I put it on my radar to be read when time allowed.  However, the forces of the universe deemed it was time when I won a copy of the book, and so as to not disrupt those forces, I disrupted my schedule instead; gladly as it turned out.  It is a gripping tale that held my interest from the beginning and kept me thoroughly entertained.  The main character, Kassia is struggling just to survive day to day living with no real prospects for the future.  Then a stranger appears and offers her a job that will pay enough to see her and her sister Irisa through for quite a while.  What she doesn’t realize is that this sets off a chain of events that changes her life forever.  The story is compelling, the characters are well written, the imaginative settings and differing cultures the author conjures up make this a truly excellent read.  Part of the blurb for the book states that Kassia is a thief. That is certainly true as she stole my heart along the way.  4.3 stars  I am looking forward to the sequel.

The Scathing – King’s Bane III by C.R. May

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The Engeln have now settled on the isle of Britannia and are intent on staying, and will fight to maintain and expand their territory and culture.  The people of Powys are not too happy with this and are intent on driving the invaders out as they expand their own reach.  A clash is inevitable and the author is on top of his game in this tale of that confrontation.  Great characters, wonderful verbal byplay, thrilling action and an insightful look into Dark Age Britain make this book hard to put down. A good tale needs to be able to surprise the reader on occasion and The Scathing certainly fulfills that requirement.  In fact, it is the surprise element that has me looking forward to the continuation of this series.  4.7 stars and The Hoover Book Review’s prestigious “You Just Blew Me Away” award.  🙂

 

After the Ides by Peter Tonkin

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Ahh, that tumultuous period after Gaius Julius Caesar’s assassination.  A power vacuum now exists in Rome providing the drama as the contestants for that power vie for and against each other.  Lots of work for the agents who used to work for the now divine Julius and who are now firmly in Antony’s camp carrying out his wishes and commands throughout Italy and beyond.   Given that the historical events are pretty well known it would take a creative  imagination to render the fictional bits believable and intriguing.  The author has done that through the actions of the elite group of agents conjured up to bring the story to life.  They mesh seamlessly with the likes of Antony, Octavian, Cicero etc, as they interact with friends and foes.  The story flows nicely as it heads to the tension filled collision of Antony and a Cicero provoked Senate.  As well as providing an intriguing tale, the author has splendidly described the geographical locations; an example of that is Antony’s retreat from Mutina into the Alps following Hannibal’s route. My only real complaint is that book 3 isn’t out yet.  4.7 stars

The Earthly Gods by Nick Brown

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Indavara held captive by unknown persons for nefarious purposes.  Cassius Corbulo gone off the “Service” grid to help an old friend while he awaits any word on the whereabouts of Indavara.  The Agent of Rome series by Nick Brown is a must read for anyone interested, not only in the doings of the Roman world, but also those who like a good mystery/detective/action/thriller.   As the series has progressed, so too, have the main characters…to the point where Corbulo/Indavara/Simo have become fictional favorites of mine.  As in the previous volumes, the author gives the reader an excellent tale filled with surprises and an imagination filling description of the places and people involved.  The main difference in this episode as opposed to the earlier ones is that this one does not follow a particular historical event, but rather is more personal in it’s context giving the author a chance to explore in more detail the things that make Corbulo and company tick, exposing more of the emotions and feelings of the crew.  I eagerly await the next volume.  4.7 stars

God’s Hammer – Hakon’s Saga Book 1 by Eric Schumacher

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An interesting tale of the first Christian King in Norway, Hakon, a son of King Harald.  Sent to England as a young boy to be fostered by King Aethelstan, he is weened off the old gods and when he returns to claim his kingdom, he comes as a baptized and committed Christian.  As you can well imagine that presents some challenges as Hakon strives to garner support for his rise to power.  The author’s depiction of the young, naive and certainly impetuous Hakon, who is thrust into the mayhem of war and the strictures of the old gods, is well done.  The story flows nicely and gives the reader a chance to experience life in a time and place that is full of conflict; not only for the throne but also the clash between Odin and the White Christ.  Old ways die hard and that is certainly the case in this intriguing story; one that will continue in book 2, Raven’s Feast.  4.3 stars

The Lone Warrior by Paul Fraser Collard

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Even as a civilian Jack Lark finds himself enmeshed in mayhem.  Caught up in a large scale mutiny by native contingents of the British Army in the city of Delhi, Jack is thrust once more into the gaping maw of bloody warfare.  As in the other books in this enthralling series, the author doesn’t stint when it comes to the brutality on a battlefield, nor in Jack’s battle lust inspired prowess at killing.  The author also continues to refine Jack’s character to a point where the reader can really begin to feel the anguish he suffers; the joy of having someone to live for and the pain that results from it, the conflicting emotional results of his place in the army.  Does he belong there?  Does he belong anywhere?  Many were the times I had to put the book down (okay, close my Kindle), and take a breath.  This series started out great; it has only gotten better. I, for one, can’t wait to read the next one.  5 stars