Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Pre-Release Review! War God by Graham Hancock

ISBN: 978-1444734379
RELEASE DATE: 30 May 2013

It is the year of our Lord 1519 and Hernando Cortes is preparing to sail from Cuba to the New Lands in what will become known as Mexico, to conquer the people and claim the land in the name of God and the King of Spain.

Meanwhile, in the city of Tenochtitlan, the Great Speaker (Priest) Moctezuma is sacrificing hundreds of slaves in the hope of pleasing the War God, Hummingbird.  Two women - from very different backgrounds - are being prepared for sacrifice and rival tribes are preparing for an assault on the city in an attempt to stop Moctezuma from winning the favour of Hummingbird.

In a twist of fate, the girls are released and hear of the invasion.  They believe the men from across the sea are heralding a new age of peace and they begin the dangerous task of destroying Moctezuma and his hold over the people of Mexica.


One thing I love about historical fiction and those who write novels set in the past, is discovering how another person interprets those times and weaves a fictional story into and around a skeleton of fact.  

Writing about events that have been well documented is a difficult undertaking.  Because of the wealth of information available, it is sometimes impossible to find a "way in", to find a place where you can start and develop a story.  However Graham Hancock has, once again, produced a book that entertains as well as educates.  Many of us will have a basic understanding of the Spanish Conquest of the South American continent but the true scale and brutality of the invasion, as described in War God is likely to shock. Not only the violent methods inflicted by the Spaniards on the natives, but the way the indigenous population waged war on each other and corralled their prisoners before sacrificing them on the steps of their Pyramids and feasting on their remains.

War God is a rich and deeply involving novel that grips you from the very first page.  If you can handle the gruesome detail, then you will devour every page and the end will come too soon, leaving you desperate for book two, The Return of the Plumed Serpent.

I give "War God: Nights of the Witch" 4 Crosses!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Review - Three Kings, One Throne by Michael Wills

In 11th century Europe, the most coveted throne of all was that of England.  Contested on three fronts, Viking, French and Anglo-Saxon it was a time of war and political turmoil.

Torkil, an Anglo-Saxon thayne is a vassall of Harold Godwinsson, Earl of Wessex and the most powerful man in England.  Harold is positioning himself to take over the crown once King Edward has died and is gaining favour throughout the realm as the most suitable heir.  With Harold he has to negotiate the release of Godwinsson family hostages held by William, Duke of Normandy - another claimant to England's crown.

Ivar, is a slave to Harald, a Danish prince.  He rises from nothing to a position of trust and becomes a feared warrior who becomes one of the Emperor of Turkey's elite bodyguards.  When the time is right, he will join with his Master to make their own bid for the throne of England.

Told from these two perspectives "Three Kings, One Throne" ventures across early medieval Europe telling how one of the most bloodthirsty eras came to shape our world today tells the story of two warriors and how their destinies entwine.


There are many tales set in the backdrop of the short reign of Harold Godwinsson and nearly all are written for an purely adult audience.  Michael Wills has written a beautifully simplistic story for young adults which entertains and educates at the same time.

It is not as puerile as my own school history lessons were, which basically consisted the telling of a battle where a king had an arrow stuck in his eye before the Normans took over and a long tablecloth was stitched telling the story!  Michael Wills has done some breathtaking research and constructed a novel which gives enough of the brutality of the age without causing nightmares to the reader.  It is colourful and rich, the descriptions of the various cities in which the action takes place is vivid and helpful annotations explain to the reader where places are or describe items that may be unfamiliar.

If you want to inspire a teenager to read about 11th Century England and develop an interest in history, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  It does have elements that are probably a little too mature for any young person under the age of 13, but nonetheless it is pitched perfectly to educate and entertain a teenage audience.

I give "Three Kings, One Throne" 5 Crosses!

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Friday, 10 May 2013

Review - Siege by Nick Brown

AD 270 and a newly promoted member of the Roman Internal Security Service Cassisus Corbula is given his first assignment - a probable suicide mission.

The fort of Aluauran is an outpost of strategic importance; standing in the middle of the Arabian desert it holds a well of fresh water and acts as a vital staging post.  The fort is undermanned and a force of Palmyran marches on it under the orders of Queen Zenobia, they are to wrestle the fort from Roman hands and make it their own.

A supporting cohort is making its way to the fort, but it is doubtful they would make it in time to stop the Palmyrans.  Corbula has to take command of the men, falsely telling them he is a Centurion, and hold the fort until reinforcements arrive.  One hundred men against the force of a nation is long odds, but Corbula must prevail or else the Roman Empire will lose its eastern frontier.


Nick Brown has done a marvellous job in writing a book that is well researched and hugely entertaining.  The premise of an unprepared, yet well theorised young man being sent into a hell-hole to rally a body of men who have little respect for unseasoned campaigners is interesting, especially when he has to conceal his true role as a "Grain Man" - a term used for the Secret Service - who are despised.

I've read quite a few books set in Ancient Rome and can tell that Nick Brown has done an excellent job researching his novel.  His characters are expertly crafted, they jump off the page and the internal dilemmas the inexperienced officer has when trying to rally the troops are superbly written.  In particular, Corbula's  manservant Simo is the pick of the bunch.  Deeply loyal, despite only being given to Corbula at the start of his mission, he is a cross between The Admirable Crichton and a St Bernard; he is perceptive, witty and quickly proves his worth in all manner of ways.

Brown's military knowledge shines through in his battle scenes which are hard hitting and described in brutal terms.  The ragtag bunch of disheartened and drunken soldiers know they have little time to prepare for war and realise they may not survive to see the relief column.
All in all, Nick Brown has written a superb debut novel and I look forward to reading more of Corbula's adventures. 

I give "Siege" 5 Crosses!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Review - Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell

London 1854 - the nightly fog that obscures most of London is the perfect hiding place for a killer.  A family is found dead in their home; father, mother, two young children and their housemaid.  All beaten to death and their throats cut.

Detective Inspector Sean Ryan is the policeman in charge of the investigation and it quickly becomes apparent that these shocking deaths are similar to a murder that happened 43 years previous and which were written about in an essay by the infamous writer Thomas de Quincey.  Famous for his book detailing his lifetime addiction to opium "Confessions of an Opium Eater", de Quincey had written a piece called "Murder as a Fine Art" all about the brutal Ratcliffe Highway murders.  It seems this new slaying is a homage to the original and de Quicey, being in London to promote his writing, is the prime suspect.

Ryan is pushed into a premature arrest by the Home Secretary, the powerful an popular Lord Palmerston. But when an attempt on de Quincey's life fails it becomes clear that there are forces at work which have great influence and unlimited resources.  Ryan, his assistant Constable Becker, Thomas de Quincey and his daughter Emily, end up fighting the establishment and a group of hidden assassins not only to discover the killer's identity but to uncover a conspiracy that could have drastic consequences to the British Empire.


David Morrell transports you back 150 years to a time of social deprivation and when London was one of the most unhealthy places to live in the known world. The odour of sewage, the smog, the gaslit streets and the atmosphere of fear caused by the horrific murders are portrayed evocatively.  

The story is well researched and certainly inventive, however I did feel at times that the writing became a homage to the level of research undertaken by the author, rather than a novel which told a story.  I also felt the pace was slightly off, parts of the plot were revealed to quickly in my opinion and a few of the characters needed a bit more "meat on their bones".  I am not a fan of Americans who write novels set in Britain but who feel it acceptable to use American slang rather than the correct words.  For example, an English street urchin would not ask for a "cookie" and neither would they stand on "sidewalks".  I found this to be off-putting, especially as the author has done such a sterling job by thoroughly researching the era in question.

However, there is no doubt that this is a very original piece of work and the author is passionate about Victorian London.  The prose is easy to read and you can clearly imagine being in London as night falls and the fog comes down around you.  Overall, it is an entertaining novel and would be a great holiday read.  

I give "Murder as a Fine Art" 4 Crosses !

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Sunday, 5 May 2013

Fifth Knight Giveaway Winner

The winner of the Fifth Knight Giveaway is:


Congratulations Amy, I hope you enjoy the book.  thank you to Elaine Powell for being so thoughtful and providing a copy of her book as a prize.

There will be another giveaway soon, so keep in touch!