Tag Archives: Alternative History

Retalio by Alison Morton – Review

Title – Retalio (Roma Nova #6)
Author – Alison Morton
Genre – Alternative History
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

“A classic tale of resistance and resilience – the only regret is when the action stops.” – Douglas Jackson Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century. Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.

Review

We are back with Aurelia Mitela in a world where Rome didn’t fall completely and women have a much more prominent role in society. Not everyone is happy with this power divide..none more so than Caius Tellus.. a horrible worm of a man..

To truly understand the buildup to this novel you need to have read the previous two novels AURELIA and Insurrectio.

The government of Roma Nova has been overthrown and Aurelia is duty bound to help put things right..her people are being treated badly, many have died..and many more will. Caius will stop at nothing to have the power he craves even though the situation is highly volatile and he is slowly losing control.

It’s a fast paced novel full of action as the resistance fight back to take control of Roma Nova.

There’s some great twists as the resistance struggle to come together and trust each other..who wouldn’t have issues..after-all anyone could be working for Caius and one bad move could mean death for them all.

While this novel is a work of alternative history it feels quite real and plausible giving the very real political issues we are facing in the present day.

This series is all about ideals..knowing right from wrong and standing up to fight even when you know the cost may be too high.

A great addition to anyone’s library.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

10 Questions with Alison Morton.

Today I’m very glad to bring to you a Q&A with Alison Morton, author of the Roma Nova series.

You can read my reviews of Aurelia and Insurrectio by clicking the images below to open a new window.

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One of the biggest things I’ve enjoyed about the series is that it turns the traditional and outdated idea of social structure on its head.

I hope you enjoy the questions, do let me know your thoughts 🙂

P.S look out for my review of Retalio book 6 in the series soon!


 

Q1 – For anyone who’s read my reviews of your works I’m sure they will know how much I’ve enjoyed reading them but for anyone new what would you say to convince them to give your books a try?

You don’t believe in starting with an easy one, do you, David?  😉

Seriously, I try to provide a cracking story and provoke a few questions along the way. Yes, my books are thrillers, but without dripping body parts and with a different take on what might have happened at the end of the Roman Empire.

I enjoy a good twist when I read, so I like to put a few of those in my own books, but of course, all good reads are not only about the story, but equally about characters. We love to gasp with horror, feel that frisson of fear, fall in love and celebrate along with our heroine (or hero).

Q2 – Strong female leads are something I’m starting to see more and more in books and I love it. Did you always set out to write a series that knocks on the head the idea of the male characters being in charge?

In brief, yes! I wanted a female character who led the action and pushed the story through. Too often the woman is the sidekick or the mother/daughter/sister/colleague who waves the hero goodbye as he sets off on his quest, whether in the 4th, 21st or 43rd century. Virginia Woolf wrote in 1929 about fictitious women, “But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men.” So it’s nothing new!

A little secret: if I find myself slipping back into the action man/passive woman trap when writing, I reverse the dialogue to make sure my heroine is making the decisions!  But it doesn’t make Roma Novan men any less masculine or tough. (I explain it all here.)

Q3 – Your idea of alternative history and that the fall of Rome didn’t mean the end of Roman culture opens up lots of writing possibilities, where did the idea come from?

Several things! I’ve been a ‘Roman nut’ since I walked on my first mosaic at Ampurias in northeast Spain. In fact I’ve clambered over quite a lot of Roman Europe! The idea of a modern Roman heroine has been bubbling away in my head for years.  She would have to be modern as even in Late Antiquity no woman could have a public role, let alone a military one, and Rome was essentially a military society. Then I read Robert Harris’s Fatherland and learnt about alternative timelines and outcomes.Two more neurons connected in the brain!

No fingers were hovering above a keyboard yet, though. Then I saw a really bad film. The cinematography was gorgeous, it was set in modern Rome and it had the enormous bonus of starring Ewan McGregor. (Your women readers will understand the last one better than men, I feel.) However, the dialogue and continuity were rubbish. I knew I could do better. The trigger was pulled. Ninety days later I had a manuscript of 90,000 words. Rubbish, of course, but it went on after much slashing, rewriting and polishing to become INCEPTIO.  The legend of Roma Nova was born.

Q4 – The great thing about the setting of your tales is that you have some leeway with historical accuracy. Was the accuracy in describing the Roma Nova culture important to you?

Absolutely! I have an MA in History which has given me a grounding in being picky about accuracy and sources in a methodological way. I don’t think you can alternate history without knowing it first.

When you choose to diverge from the standard historical timeline, you have to know exactly what the world was like at that point. This is the last solid foothold you have on the historical record. For example, the Roma Nova storyline is that the group of senatorial families who trekked out of Italy at the end of the fourth century to become the first Roma Novans were pagans persecuted by Christian Emperor Theodosius II. This persecution really was taking place at the time (not something we’re taught about). Theodosius signed the final edict outlawing worship of the traditional Roman gods in AD 394; the punishment was death.

Once you have researched that divergence point in time ad nauseam, then you project forwards using historical logical until you reach thelater time when your story is set. It helps to have a general knowledge of ,and a feel for ,history here. If not, research!

In fact, everything has to be checked from technology and attitudes in the 1960s (AURELIA), how to mount a coup d’état, intelligence techniques, warfighting of the 1980s (INSURRECTIO, RETALIO), weaponry, signals, locations and transferable Roman practices for all the books. But I love research. Honestly!

Q5 – How long have you been a writer and what influenced you to first put pen to paper?

I’ve written most of my life, but mostly practical stuff: student theses, government papers, exercise reports, corporate documentation, PR copy, articles, an academic dissertation even. As a trained translator, my work turning foreign language text into English was precise with a touch of creativity in expression, plus I edited at least one million words in that time. Now, making up stories? Ever since childhood. Writing them down? That only started in 2009 with that bad film.

Q6 – Would you contemplate writing a book in any other genre?

Ha! The great Conn Iggulden who endorsed INSURRECTIO gave me a suggestion about that. But I’m not telling at the moment!

Q7 – How important is feedback from your readers?

Very important. I’m not so grand that I don’t read and take notice of my reviews. Of course, they are all subjective, but I’ve gleaned some excellent advice from readers and fans since INCEPTIO was published in 2013.

The Roma Nova Enthusiasts’ Group on Facebook is small but going well, as is my Facebook author page and I always love it when people react to my blogposts (alison-morton.com) or tweets (@alison_morton).

Q8 – Who have been your biggest influences within the writing community?

This is such a difficult question as it changes all the time! Like many Roman writers, my first Roman book was The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. I grew up on a very mixed diet of fiction, swinging from Georgette Heyer, Leslie Charteris’s The Saint to Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise and Dennis Wheatley’s adventure tales.

I adore Gore Vidal’s Julian, and anything by Margaret Attwood and Tom Clancy. These days, Lindsey Davis is a clear favourite along with Steven Saylor, Ruth Downie, William Boyd, J D Robb and of course, Robert Harris.

Q9 – What books are currently on your reading shelf?

Legionary: the Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual by Philip Matyszak. I’m enjoying it tremendously. I’m ex-military myself, so it’s raising a few smiles.

Q10 – Future plans? More books I hope J

More books, certainly!  I’ve just completed a novella featuring Carina and set between INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS. Perhaps I’ll write more ‘inbetweeners’ or a collection of short stories. Then there’s the foundation story of Roma Nova waiting for me…

Thank you so much for letting me ‘invade’ your blog, David!

 

The Reaper’s Touch (The Ripper Legacies Book 2) by Robert Southworth – Review

Title – The Reaper’s Touch (The Ripper Legacies Book 2)
Author – Robert Southworth
Genre – Alternative History/Fantasy
Length – 308 Pages
Publication – August 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

London 1890, William Harkness is summoned to the scene of a grisly murder. The victim is not a woman of the night, nor a member of the underclass. Nonetheless, Harkness is certain the Ripper has resumed his slaughter. He and his men resume the hunt for the infamous killer but all is not as it seems. William Harkness soon realises that hunters can also be prey…

Review

For me this has to be one of the most hotly anticipated releases this year. Rob likes to tease us readers and keep us waiting but it’s worth it. Rob’s never given me anything other than a 5* book previously and he’s done it again.

What I’ve always really enjoyed about Rob’s work is that I’ve been there from the first book and I can really see how he’s grown. Don’t get me wrong.. I never found fault with any of his books but this one just seems a step above the last as he continues to rattle out fun and mesmerising tales that really suck you in.

What I really enjoyed about this plot is that with a hint of history and a pinch of imagination Rob gives us something completely original and so god damn exciting.

So this is the second book in the Ripper Legacies. If you’ve not read the first book click here to read my review.

We are back with William Harkess and his rabble of men as he joins forces with Inspector Abberline to hunt down The Ripper. This time his foe is more dangerous as William becomes more of an annoyance to him.

The book has some rather vivid moments where some unfortunate people do meet their end. While this is a completely new tale it does link well with The Ripper’s own handiwork, it makes it so much more believable and sets the tone/period of the story perfectly.

Another plus for this tale is that this time the heat is really turned up on William. Not everyone will make it out alive and this really built up the pressure.

Rob did a great job of quickly reminding me of the main players in the story and also helped me remember the previous tale in the series by mentioning a few certain characters and events that brung everything flooding back.

Southworth develops his characters well, each has their own role in the tale and there’s a few great additions to this one. I won’t spoil it but Bessie and Faraday really made an impression on me.

Do you like twists? I know I do. Well this book had a couple that hit hard..In a good way. What I expected was turned on its head within a page then the author pieces everything together nicely leaving you to wonder why you didn’t see it from the start. To be honest with Robs work I do very little thinking.. I simply enjoy the tale.

The ending sets up book 3 nicely, leaving you craving more.

All I know for sure is Rob keeps offering up brilliant stories so I’ll certainly be buying the next book as soon as it’s released.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

The Reaper’s Breath by Robert Southworth – Review

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Title – The Reaper’s Breath (The Ripper Legacies Book 1)
Author – Robert Southworth
Genre – Historical Fiction / Alternative History
Length – 242 Pages
Publication – Feb 2016
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Mary Kelly lies dead upon her bed… Her sorrowful eyes still hold captive, the agony of her fate. Anger, and fear walk side by side as the populace of London demand justice for the slain. Is it a single mad man or is there a bloody political game being played out in the grime filled streets of the old City? The authorities are powerless to stop the bloodletting and call for a new kind of law. William Harkness, former officer of the 66th Regiment of Foot will join the hunt. His task is not to bring an insane killer to court, his hands are not tied by the laws of the day.
William Harkness is the killer of killers, the assassin of evil…

Review

Finally we have the new book from Robert Southworth. It feels like I’ve been waiting ages.. but let me tell you the wait has been worth it!

If you’ve read Rob’s previous series focusing on Spartacus you will know he has a talent for making a story based loosely on history. It’s an interesting style of story and If I’m honest before reading this book I wasn’t 100% sure it would work..the whole ripper event are well documented so I just couldn’t see an story to be told.. but credit to the author, he easily manages to take a little bit of history and give it a twist which shows just how good his imagination is.

To be clear for anyone who reads the book.. this isn’t a ripper book as such. It’s based on some of the events and some of the real people are mentioned but this is entirely a book of fiction on which Rob has been able to show his unique style of storytelling. I’ve never read anything like Rob’s book before and I’m so glad I found his work.

So.. the story. Well this book follows William Harkness, the classic flawed character which every great book needs. William is approached by Inspector Abberline to help when people turn up murdered.. they think there’s more to these murders than they are willing tell the public… they want him to help catch a killer who has avoided the police for over 15 years!

There was some great stand out characters for me, namely Obadiah & Naismith. Obadiah had the aura around him.. like nothing could hurt him.. ever. Naismith.. mysterious Naismith.. he was just an intriguing character from the start.

Let’s get down to the honesty I like to bring to all my reviews… The plot itself seems well planned out.. everything made sense, nothing seemed out of place or had me confused. At one point I was 100% sure I had figured everything out..Then the author throws in some spectacular twists and turns that I just didn’t see coming.

Emily was an interesting character, to be truthful I would have liked to see more scenes between her and William to see the connection develop but what the author gives us didn’t disappoint me..

The biggest enigma in the book for me was Williams’ dad, Sir Simeon Harkness. You don’t know much about him at first only that he and his son have issues. Throughout the book he develops well and the author finally lets you into the family history that has plagued these two men.

In conclusion Rob has brought his unique style to this book, plenty of suspense and twists to keep you gripped and it’s written so well, enough detail to keep your mind activate but not enough to bog you down.

Robert Southworth has delivered another brilliant book which showcases his talent and I’m eager for more

Look out for an interview with the author on my blog in the near future!

To find out more head to Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com or Goodreads.