Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of Being King by Trisha Hughes – Review

Title – Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of Being King: Book 1
Author – Trisha Hughes
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 333 Pages
Publication – Feb 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

In Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of Being King Trisha Hughes provides the reader with a pacey introduction to the many pitfalls faced by the ambitious as they climbed the dangerous ladders of royalty. It is easy to think that monarchs are all powerful, but throughout the Dark and Middle Ages it was surprisingly easy to unseat one and assume the crown yourself. But if it was easy to gain … it was just as easy to lose.From the dawn of the Vikings through to Elizabeth I, Trisha Hughes follows the violent struggles for power and the many brutal methods employed to wrest it and keep hold of it. Murder, deceit, treachery, lust and betrayal were just a few of the methods used to try and win the crown. Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of Being King spans fifteen hundred years and is a highly accessible and enjoyable ride through the dark side of early British monarchy.

Review

What I’ve learnt from this book is it wasn’t easy being King.. but at the same time it wasn’t always a good thing to be related to a King, your likely to be used as a pawn during a rebellion or murdered to eliminate your claim to the throne.

This was a most informative book and I felt the author did a great job of bringing each of these Kings and Queens to life while also giving the reader a great insight to such issues as disease and aliments suffered at the time.  I thought I knew a lot about Henry VIII but after reading this he’s even more shocking than I first thought.

I think what I loved about this book the most was how it’s presented. Rather than focusing on one person this book covers many and that made it different compared to anything else I’ve read.

Some of the rulers covered I’ve read about previously and I thought I might be bored reading things I already know but Trisha’s style of writing made it exciting again and I loved it from start to finish.

This is a historical fiction novel but only in the sense that the author has used dates/events to the best of her knowledge and research. There is of course periods in time where little evidence remains or when we do have sources available there’s generally another which says something different.

My advice to the hardcore historically accurate people, just enjoy the tale for what it is. This book brings together so many periods of time into bitesize chunks manageable by anyone and enables the reader to then delve further if they wish.

This is the kind of book that gives you the juicy interesting facts and ignites the flames of passion for history. I’m a big fan of history. It was probably my favourite subject at school and it’s certainly made me want to revisit a few historical characters.

If you like your history but don’t want to get into something a little too heavy then this is the prefect condensed but action packed and detailed version of history you’re after!

Enjoy!

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads.

The Escape by Steven A. McKay – Review

Title – The Escape: A Forest Lord Short Story
Author – Steven A. McKay
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 19 Pages
Publication – 3rd April 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

All he wanted was a quiet drink…

It’s spring, 1323 AD, and John Little, notorious outlaw, seeks to forget his troubles in a Barnsley alehouse. He didn’t count on the place being packed to the rafters with drunk, belligerent Scottish mercenaries though.
The locals all respect – even fear John – but the strangers from the north only see in him the chance to claim a great bounty.
When the hard stares and furtive whispers turn into explosive violence the chase is on. Without any of his famous friends to help him though, will it mean the end for the giant outlaw?

This new stand-alone Forest Lord tale sees one of England’s favourite sons in a battle for his very life that will hugely entertain all lovers of action and adventure.

Review

So this is a super short fun tale that fits in with McKay’s Forest Lord Series. It slots in nicely between books 2 & 3 so I’d advise not reading this until you’ve finished book 2 at least.

McKay’s Forest Lord series mainly focuses around Robin Hood as you’d expect so this short is a good chance to shine light on Little John.

It’s short at 19 pages but does offer an action packed little tale to read. The plot is really good and it was a really nice change of focus Robin not being involved. Little John gets to show how much of a formidable opponent he is and the image McKay paints is spot on with how I’d imagine the character myself.

I do hope we see more short tales as I think these are the perfect accompaniment to the series.

As usual with McKay you get great writing and can expect a bit of violence but it’s not overly gruesome, which is one of the things I like about this authors books. I know it sounds weird but he manages to add fun to the fight.. That makes sense right? Ha

Overall this is a good short from McKay and it ticks all the right boxes but it really does highlight how much I miss the series. *Sighs*

Definitely one for the fans of the author and let me tell you that ending is what makes it 5*

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads

Blog Tour! – Kin of Cain by Matthew Harffy

Today I’m very glad to be the next stop on the Kin of Cain blog tour. First let me tell you I jumped at the chance and did receive a copy of the book in advance but as always with Harffy’s work it was already on my pre-order list so I’ve paid for my copy too 🙂

Other stops on the tour

1st March – Hoover Book Reviews
2nd March – Speesh Reads
4th March – Parmenion Books
5th March – For Winter Nights
6th March – History…The Interesting Bits!
7th March – Lives and Loves of a Book Nerd

Matthew has kindly wrote a post about what the future holds which will follow on from my review so sit back and enjoy! My thanks go to the author and Yasemin at Head of Zeus for making this blog tour happen!

aria_harffy_kin-of-cain_e

Title – Kin of Cain
Author – Matthew Harffy
Genre –  Historical Fiction
Length – 86 Pages
Publication –1st March 2017
My Rating –5/5 Stars

Synopsis

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.

Review

When I first read The Serpent Sword I was shocked at how quickly Octa disappeared from the tale, it’s this murder that sets Beobrand on his journey but I was  left wondering who Octa really was.. was he anything like his brother?

Well now we have the chance to see a little of the man himself in a short story set before the events The Serpent Sword.

86 pages is a decent amount of pages for a short tale in my opinion and Harffy doesn’t hold back. For me what I really enjoyed was this tale has a bit of fantasy and mystery to it. The unknown force that is attacking people..is it human or beast.. either way the King wants it dead!

Octa sets out with a band of men to prove himself to his King and one of my favorite characters is included in this group, Bassus! oh how I love that man.

Harffy weaves a tale which includes the death and gore we are used to but it also manages to give some depth to Octa that wasn’t possible before.

The tale is full of suspense, it’s dark, gritty and gruesome..what more could you possibly want?

When I was reading the tale I couldn’t help but see Octa as Beowulf and reading the author note it was really great to see the Harffy’s thought process on this. It really made the tale stand out.

Personally I feel Harffy has loads to offer and I hope to see  more shorts in the future as I feel they bring depth to the authors world and allow them the chance to share some great stories with us the readers. When I commit to an authors work I want to feel like they are committing to me also..to give me their best and Harffy never disappoints.

Kin of Cain is thriller/mystery/fantasy/myth/folklore and so much more wrapped in to 86 glorious pages and it’s well worth the asking price.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon


What the future holds for me and my writing – Matthew Harffy

harffy_matthew

If you’d asked me four years ago what the future held for me and my writing I would have said I hope to find an agent and then get published. In February 2013 I was close to finishing the first draft of my debut novel, The Serpent Sword. I’d never written anything longer than a few hundred words before and I could see no further than completing the book and somehow getting it out in front of readers who hopefully would like it. That was it. I really had no ambition beyond that, apart, of course, from the secret dream of selling millions of books and becoming rich enough to retire to a tropical island somewhere. But we won’t talk about that.

So much has changed in the last four years. I finished The Serpent Sword and found an agent. I then wrote the sequel, The Cross and the Curse, while my newly-acquired agent tried to sell the first book, and, unfortunately, failed. This failure pushed me to self-publish both books, whilst pressing on with the writing that had somehow become part of my life by this point. Both books were doing well and garnered many positive reviews. This finally piqued the interest of a publisher, so I signed a contract with Aria, a new imprint of publisher, Head of Zeus. Aria re-published the first two books and then published book three of the Bernicia Chronicles, Blood and Blade. They also managed to sell the rights for the three novels to Audible, who have now released the audio books for them, narrated by a great actor called Barnaby Edwards.

I have also written a prequel novella, Kin of Cain, which is out now, and completed book four in the Bernicia Chronicles, Killer of Kings, which is due out in June.

I am now well into the first draft of book five in the series, which will also be published by Aria, who have plans to release all the books in hardcover and mass market paperback in the coming months and years. I am even hearing talk of possible translations of the books in the works!

The point of this rambling on about the past and all the great things that have happened in the last four years is that I had no idea what would happen then, and I don’t really know what the future will bring in the next four years. But what I do know is that there will be more novels in the Bernicia Chronicles. Beobrand’s tale marches on into the seventh century and he will see more kings come and go. He will face his foes in the clash of shieldwalls in battles throughout the island of Albion and, who knows, perhaps even beyond its shores.

And when I decide to move on from Beobrand? When I am done with the mead hall and the shieldwall? What then? Well, I would love to write a western, but I am told there is no money in them. If I am ever close to living in my dream where I have enough money to write what I want and not care about how many people will read it, I will probably turn my hand to the American West. I can almost smell the rotgut whiskey and the pungent stench of gunpowder in the air of a rowdy cattle town when the ranchers and their cowhands have rolled in from the dusty trail. If you look carefully, you will see much of the so-called Wild West in the Bernicia Chronicles, but I would relish the chance to write at least one book set on the Frontier of civilization in the 19th century.

If, as is much more likely, I will have to write books that might sell and which appeal to readers of my books, I have an idea for a Viking saga, which actually has elements of a western in it. But I can say no more now, as it is just a twinkle in this author’s eye! It’s either that or romance, which my wife assures me sells better than the violent books I write. I’m not sure I would do very well at that, but I might have to think of pen name if I want to find out!

I am sometimes tempted to write a fantasy. I am a huge fan of writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and David Gemmell, so I have a firm understanding of the genre. And the thing that I like most about it, is that I would not have to stick to historical facts! In many ways, the stories I tell could easily be transposed into a word of epic fantasy. But as I am writing historical fiction, I am constrained by what is known to have happened, the technology available, and when things occurred. Oh, and no dragons or magic!

I would love the chance to be able to just create a plot and write whatever I wanted because I would be in total control and nobody could tell me I had got something wrong, as it would be my creation!

So, what of the future? I think we’ll have to wait and see. But if people keep buying my books, I think I can safely say I’ll continue to write them.

Hopefully others will enjoy whatever directions in which the muse takes me.

Author info:

Matthew Harffy is the author of the Bernicia Chronicles, a series of novels set in seventh century Britain. The first three books in the series, The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse and Blood and Blade are available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and all good online bookstores.

Kin of Cain, a standalone prequel novella set in the same world as the Bernicia Chronicles was published on Amazon and all good online bookstores on March 1st 2017.

Killer of Kings , the fourth of the Bernicia Chronicles, is available for pre-order now on Amazon and all good online bookstores.

Website: www.matthewharffy.com

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: MatthewHarffyAuthor

Cuckoo Clock – New York by Elisabeth Marrion – Review

Title – Cuckoo Clock – New York
Author – Elisabeth Marrion
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 288 Pages
Publication – Sept 2015
My Rating – 4/5 Stars

Synopsis

Kristallnacht 9 November 1938. Doctor Esther Rosenthal’s husband has just enough time to whisper to her before the SA pulls him out of the door and slams it shut behind him. Esther has to leave Germany in a hurry and embarks on a journey taking her through Holland, England, and ultimately to the USA. In Holland she meets a group of children from a Berlin orphanage, the first children to go to England on the Kindertransport. Together with her father Mordechai she joins them on their crossing and accompanies them to Harwich. The Kindertransport comes to an abrupt end on the outbreak of World War II. What will happen to the children still in Harwich without a new permanent or foster home? ‘Cuckoo Clock – New York: Esther’s Story’, is the third book in the Unbroken Bonds series.

Review

The third book in the Unbroken Bonds series didn’t disappoint at all. Elisabeth Marrion once again brings an emotive tale in short, sharp informative chapters.

After reading the first two books in the series I wasn’t sure if this one would live up to the high standards set but I need not have worried.

Esther Rosenthal has to flee Germany with her father and what happens after that is a wild ride indeed as she ends up looking after some children who really need someone to watch over them. The bond they create was beautiful especially her father, he’s a lovely passionate character.

Esther travels the world during some very dangerous times and it was fascinating to see things from her eyes.

What the author really shows well in my opinion  is the changes in people once the war broke out. People’s perceptions changed and not everyone is kind but It also showed how compassionate some people were in such a time of upheaval. 

I also loved the connections throughout the whole series linking them together.

The tale is very fast paced with it’s super short chapters but you are still given enough depth to each character to really fall in love with them. By the end of the tale you’re committed to them and their journey and it was a pleasure to read.

I can’t recommend this series enough.

I’ve always known about the wars fought, I understand many people died but it’s books like this that put some of the emotion into it for readers such as myself who’ve never had to live through these events. It makes you think of the sacrifices people had to make and the troubles they had to endure.

A heart pumping, emotive tale that honestly anyone could read. You can’t fail to be sucked into the Unbroken Bonds series

My thanks go to the author for the chance to read/review their work.

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads.

Click the links below to read my reviews of the other books in the series

The Night I Danced With Rommel

Liverpool Connection

The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy, Narrated by Barnaby Edwards – Audiobook Review

Now I’m sure you heard of of Matthew Harffy before and If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know I’m a massive fan of his work.

As luck would have it Matthew has kindly offered me the chance to listen and review a copy of the 1st book in The Bernicia Chronicles series, The Serpent Word.

I reviewed the physical book back in August 2015! Has it really been that long??? This series has come a long way since then and truth be told the Audiobook adds nicely to the collection.

I don’t want to cover old ground so if you didn’t see my original review click here to open a new window – The Serpent Sword.

Here’s the blurb about the story –

633AD. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, powerful, action-packed historical thriller about vengeance and coming of age. The Bernicia Chronicles are perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Beobrand is compelled by his brother’s almost-certain murder to embark on a quest for revenge in the war-ravaged kingdoms of Northumbria. The land is rife with danger, as warlords vie for supremacy and dominion. In the battles for control of the region, new oaths are made and broken, and loyalties are tested to the limits. With no patronage and no experience, Beobrand must form his own allegiances and learn to fight with sword and shield.

Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, he faces challenges which transform him from a boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall. As he closes in on his kin’s slayer and the bodies pile up, can Beobrand mete out the vengeance he craves without sacrificing his honour…or even his soul?

So focusing on the Audiobook itself, what did it offer me over the written text? Well that’s easy, Barnaby Edwards the narrator.. Wow!

Now I’ve listened to a few Audiobooks so far and some things that can really bug me as a listener are the pace and also the oomph in which the tale is told. What do I mean by oomph? Well passion and emphasis..When I hear the narrator speak I want feel the emotion. This Barnaby Edwards got spot on for me. His tone of voice suited the tale and he just gave it that extra something to make the audio tale interesting. If a listener doesn’t like the narrator you’re screwed but Barnaby didn’t put a foot wrong for me.

Going back to the tone of Barnaby’s voice, well as I’ve said it suited the tale. He has what I can only describe as a grittiness to his voice and that was most enjoyable when changing from one character to another as he managed to make it feel like you were listening to different people.

Overall The Serpent Sword is one of my favourite books and the audio version does it justice.

The hard thing for Audiobooks is that I feel they need to work harder to keep the listener happy. With a written book the reader can read at their own pace and set the tone of voices and such in their own mind.. with audio you are relying heavily on the narrator.

So to summarise, this is one hell of a bloody and gritty tale perfectly narrated. The pace was spot on at just over 12 hours to finish the book and I bloody well enjoyed listening to it.

My only advice is don’t listen to it while your partner is asleep, when the action starts and you get excited they don’t seem to enjoy being woke up because you’re bouncing around the bed pretending you have your own sword.

If you want to know more about the book click the links below

Audible

Amazon 

My thanks go to the author for giving me the chance to listen to the book 🙂

 

The Prisoner: A Forest Lord Novelette by Steven A. McKay (@SA_McKay) – Review

Title – The Prisoner: A Forest Lord Novelette
Author – Steven A. McKay
Genre – Historical Fiction
Publication – 20th December 2016
Pages – 27 Pages
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

When two lawmen – fabled former outlaws themselves – are sent to a snowy English village to arrest a rapist it seems a straightforward task, but is all as it first appears?

England 1325 AD

As Robin Hood and Little John take the criminal into custody they find the people of Stapleford accommodating enough and the terrified victim’s bruises are plainly visible. Inevitably, as they set off on the journey back to Nottingham the lawmen’s disgust at the captive’s crime colours their opinion of him and Little John has to be restrained from brutally assaulting the man.
The harsh winter conditions slow their progress though, and eventually the prisoner’s protestations and desperate violent actions have the lawmen questioning what’s really been happening in Stapleford…

Can Robin and John complete the mission they’ve been given, or will their own innate sense of justice lead them down an unexpected path?

Fans of the bestselling Forest Lord series will love this exciting new stand-alone tale, set just before Blood of the Wolf, that explores the themes of morality and justice in medieval England.

Review

The Prisoner is a short story in the absolutely brilliant Forest Lord series by Steven A. McKay which brings fresh life to the tale of Robin Hood.

This short is 27 pages long which isn’t much but you get a good little story for your 99p.

If like me you’ve read the rest of the Forest Lord series you’ll be needing a fix of McKay right about now and this does the job nicely.

What I really enjoyed about this tale is once again how the author manages to give an ending I didn’t see coming. You really never know with McKay what twists and turns he’s going to throw at you.

For me the story ticks all the right boxes for a short tale. If you’re familiar with the series you’ll love being back, and if you’ve not read the series yet this would a be a great insight to McKay’s Robin.. you can’t go wrong for 99p in my opinion.

This isn’t a Christmas tale but it does have an ending which can bring a smile to your face and give you a bit of joy which is exactly what you need at this time of year. Justice will be served.

Everyone is busy with the holiday season so this is the perfect tale for you, it’s not a big commitment and it’s got a strong story which builds on the series and characters we’ve grown to love

Top notch for a short story

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon

Guillaume by Prue Batten – Review

Title – Guillaume (The Triptych Chronicle Book 2)
Author – Prue Batten
Genre – Historical Fiction
Publication – 10th Dec 2016
Pages – 314
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

The Church – powerful and moneyed.
The Heretics – zealous and poor.
Lyon – a city that might claim to cast the seeds of reformed thinking upon the world.
Guillaume of Anjou, formerly an archer fighting with other Angevins in the Third Crusade, is now the manager of a successful merchant house. In his new position, he unwittingly steps into and out of the shadowed world of trade and secrets in Lyon.
Guillaume carries the weight of a book in his hands – a book that may well light the flame of the greatest philosophical and spiritual change Europe will experience so that word and sword will cut a swathe through the fabric of life in Lyon.
But he has also made an enemy who wants nothing more than revenge.
He will fight for his life…

“With her customary elegant use of language, Prue Batten plunges us effortlessly into the mercantile houses, twisted alleys and secret shadowy tunnels of medieval Europe. Guillaume is a riveting tale of twelfth century trade, treachery and intrigue.” Matthew Harffy, bestselling author of The Bernicia Chronicles.

“This is for readers who love the historical fiction of writers such as Wendy Dunn, but yearn for the adventure of an earlier period and the excitement and mystery of ordinary people tangled in dangerous politics.” Gillian Polack, bestselling author of The Middle Ages Unlocked

Review

This is my first venture into the work of Prue Batten and I can safely say I was impressed!

The book follows a man named Guillaume who helps run a merchant house. I can’t lie, I loved him.

His life is about to change very quickly. As we go through the tale you can tell he likes to give out a calm impression but underneath he’s exhausted.

From the start of the book you can tell someone is either out to get Guillaume or destroy the business he helps run but you are kept guessing as to which and the motive behind it. I really enjoyed the mystery in the book, the author keeps you hooked until she is ready to reveal all.

Character development is the thing I look for most in a book. I need to find them believable and Prue Batten has put together an ensemble that ticks all the right boxes for me.  Not only was Guillaume a great character but the story also had a great supporting cast to the tale. The relationships, motivations and personas all felt right, they developed naturally rather than being forced.

This book is full of treachery, murder, mystery and intrigue. Shadows form the past return and it’s all woven together in a wonderful plot that was gripping from start to finish. This book really was a treat to read.

I also really enjoyed the descriptiveness used by the author. Prue gives you a background to the trade Guillaume is part of and this only added to the story which made it feel more real.

I can’t spoil the plot for you but can I can say this, there’s multiple players involved in this story and until the last few chapters you don’t have all the pieces so it a real buzz when things start to click together.

A special mention must go out for the ending of this book. Again I can’t spoil it but it suited the story perfectly and left me with that empty feeling..Hold on, that’s a good thing! I mean I was left with that “oh wow” moment and was left wanting.. needing more. I can’t wait to read more of the authors work.

Guillaume is a well written tale with great characters and a perfectly paced plot.. There’s nothing about this story I didn’t love!

My thanks go to the author for the chance to read/review their work. I’ll certainly be watching out for more 🙂

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon