Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Gods of War (King’s Bane #2) by C. R. May – Review

Title – Gods of War (King’s Bane #2)
Author – C. R. May
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 332 Pages
Publication – August 2016
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Spring 524A.D.
As the last settlers board the ships which will carry them to Anglia, Eofer and the men of his war band are sent to harry the Danish coast, drawing the enemy eastwards as King Eomær’s host lands in the west.

But the gods of war can be fickle, and the ravaging does not end as planned.

A warlord, Ubba silk beard, leads the counterattack. Driving the raiders from the kingdom he pursues them through the forests of Scania as the war of fire and steel rages on.

Other forces are at work, other ventures already in play.

Seizing his chance for kingship an assassin strikes, and a new power emerges from the ruins of the old as the young Danish king gathers his army and marches to confront the invader.

Gods of War is the second volume in the bestselling King’s Bane series, the genesis of England.

Review

Before you go any further why not read my review of Fire & Steel, book 1 in the series.

It’s taken me too long to get back to this series but i’m so glad I did.

We are back with Eofer, King’s Bane and it was genuinely a thrill to get back in the action with him and his warband.

For me what made this book a step up from the first is the bond Eofer has with his men. The connection they have with each other is more developed and believable.

This bond is strengthened throughout the book when Eofer is in need of his men more than ever.

The plot has a lot of meat on the bone as I like to say, lots to get to grips with but not so much that you are bombarded with too much info. If anything it was the sheer amount of action and the fast flowing plot that sucked me in.

The Angles are leaving, headed for what they hope is a better future but while the last of them race to get aboard a ship there’s still the chance of attack.

Eofer’s men have great comradery and some very fun conversations which give some light relief at times from all the heavy action.

Spearhafoc, who you may remember from the first installment is back and her story gets dark and complicated, I really enjoyed it but I do hope that her story isn’t over.

What I really liked about this book is the setting. As there’s not a lot of information known about the events it’s given the author the chance to weave a believable tale at times but also exercise his imagination. I want to say more but I don’t want to give away too much of the plot.

For me this is a complex tale, it’s a battle to see which tale is more important, Eofer’s tale or the historical tale. There’s a lot crammed in with this one but it all worked for me. Fun, exciting and it’s left me wanting to get on to the next book in the series quickly.

The action is spot on but varied in such away it doesn’t feel repetitive. We are given raids, full on wars, surprise attacks and you just never know where the author will take you next and that made it all the more exciting to read.

There are a few really emotive scenes also which knock the wind from your sails, this gave another edge to Eofer and for me these moment stole the show, I hope the author throws in more moments like this in book 3.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon

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Cometh the Hour by Annie Whitehead – Review

Title – Cometh the Hour – (Tales of the Iclingas Book 1)
Author – Annie Whitehead
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 249 Pages
Publication – September 2nd
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

In seventh-century England, a vicious attack sets in motion a war of attrition which will last for generations.
Four kings, connected by blood and marriage, vie for the mantle of overlord. Three affect to rule with divine assistance. The fourth, whose cousin and sister have been mistreated and whose friend has been slaughtered, watches, and waits.
He is a pagan, he is a Mercian, and his name is Penda.
By his side is a woman determined to escape her brutal past. She aids his struggle against his treacherous brother and their alliance founds a dynasty with the potential to end injustice and suppression, if only they can continue to stand together…
A story that spans generations, and travels from Sutton Hoo to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and back to the buried treasure of Staffordshire, this is the first volume of the tales of the Iclingas, the family who ruled Mercia, fighting to avenge their kin and to keep their people free.

Review

I’ve been a fan of Annie’s work for a while, Click to read my reviews of To Be A Queen and Alvar The King Maker if you’ve not seen them already!

Annie is great a weaving a historic tale that much I already know, so this one had to give me something more to top her last effort. I’m glad to say this indeed gave me the oomph I wanted.

What set this book apart from the rest was that it covers a wide period of time and you see events through many different perspectives. This gives you get much fuller picture of events as they flowed from one King to another, you can see how things fit together and overall get a much clearer picture.

This tale really shows that being King wasn’t always the position you’d want to be in, war can breakout at any time, you are constantly watching your back as even your friends might not be as loyal as they say they are and marriage is a political tool and to survive you need to be able to navigate all.

Penda was the biggest draw in the book for me, a lot focuses around him and rightly so, but what I really enjoyed was insights into the man I’ve read about before. I know we don’t know truly what went through people’s heads but we do have a lot of evidence to events that happened and I like how Annie manages to put fact and fiction together in a way that brings life to a historical individual.

What the author gets spot on for me is the flow of the story, effortlessly mixing detailed descriptions of places and people but at the same time never slowing down the pace of the tale.

Religion plays its part in this book and I felt the author depicted this period of transition well, when people changed from worshipping one god to another and highlighted how many would not change their beliefs along with some who would gladly worship anyone as long as it meant they would come out on top.

I’m not going to give away the plot of the tale but it really shows the political nature at the time. Sons are groomed to be King’s while daughters are simply seen as bargaining chips to create power links to other kingdoms.

To sum up, a wonderfully detailed account of the power struggles during the 7th century. There’s a lot of players involved so don’t rush it, take it slow and enjoy. Annie Whitehead has manged to again give me another action packed, engrossing historical read that I highly recommend to all.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon

Blog Tour – The Keeping of Secrets by Alice Graysharp – Review

 

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Keeping of Secrets by Alice Graysharp, here’s the blurb –

Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 289 Pages
Publication – 5th September 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

The keeper of family secrets, Patricia Roberts grows up isolated and lonely. Trust no one and you won’t be disappointed is her motto. Three men fall in love with her and she learns to trust, only to find that their agendas are not her own. With secrets concealed from her by the ultimate love of her life, and with her own secret to keep, duplicity and deceit threaten their relationship. In a coming of age story set against the sweeping backdrop of the Second World War – evacuation, the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, buzz bombs and secret war work – Patricia ultimately has to decide whether to reveal her deepest held secret for the sake of her future happiness.

Review

The Keeping of Secrets is a coming of age tale that unfolds as World War II erupts.

Now I’m going to start this review off a little differently than usual. I’m going to talk about the end of the story first. I’ll admit stories can really move me at times but this one literally made me shed a tear at the end, I was so racked with emotion. I’m telling you this now as I really want you to know just how moved I was by this one.

The story follows Pat, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood. Set in the backdrop of World War II it really made me consider what it must have been like growing up at that time, being shipped off for your own safety, not knowing if your parents are safe and well.

There’s a lot of emotion in this tale, love and lust high up there. At first Pat needs to fend off an unwanted love interested then when she finds someone she likes he moves a little fast but leaves a lasting impression. Obviously I wasn’t alive at the time but I could really understand the urgency placed on love at the time..the uncertainty..the fear.

Pat is a strong person but she holds her cards close to her chest, she doesn’t open up easily so trust needs to be earned. The most amazing thing about Pat is her determination to have a career rather than settle for being a housewife. It showed the attitudes at the time and how things have changed since.

We follow Pat’s life through the ups and downs, the anxiety and fear everyone must have been feeling so we see her forced to grow up rather quickly.

I’m no lover of romance, I’ve always made that clear but this one is done perfectly as it’s encompassed by the sheer emotion of the time. It’s an historical fiction book about life and love during what would have been a very hard period to live in for all. Wonderfully written, so much so I flew through the book .

Alice Graysharp has given readers a wonderfully emotive tale that will sick with you.

I received a copy of the book for a review but I loved it so much I bought a copy too. My thanks go to Authoright and the author for the chance to be part of the blog tour.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon


Alice has very kindly wrote a piece on the inspiration behind the book, I hope you enjoy it –

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Family History as Inspiration behind The Keeping of Secrets

Until I became closely involved in another family through marriage I thought all families constantly reminisced about past events and long dead relatives in such vivid and immediate terms that you felt somehow you’d been there too or known them personally. I don’t know if my family was unusual, but certainly my childhood was steeped in such reminiscences, often told with humour and irony.

Many were of the Second World War, like the night, following a series of raids, my paternal grandfather (who was a shoe repairer by day and an air raid warden by night) was determined to have a bath, but every time he was about to hop in the siren sounded again and this continued through the night so that he never got his bath after all. I recall my grandparents laughing uproarously as they told the story. Or the time my father dived beneath an armoured vehicle as enemy fighters swooped only to find himself stuck when the raid was over and having to wait for his army mates to jack the vehicle up to release him. Not so amusing, though, was the one of my mother in the dentist’s chair, her close brush with death bringing a chill to the spine.

In 2011 I took my widowed mother to the Spring Meeting of St Martin-in-the-Fields Old Girls’ Association held at the school. Having never been there before I was astonished by the school’s elegant Georgian building and its sense of history. That and driving around the streets of Brixton where my mother grew up brought me a three dimensional  aspect to the past – Acre Lane, Water Lane, Brockwell Park, Tulse Hill, to name but a few places I’d heard of so often, all echoes from my mother’s and my grandparents’ lives experienced vicariously.

Later that year, realising my mother was not getting any older and wanting to capture her stories for all time, over a series of Sunday afternoon visits I took notes as my mother recalled her wartime experiences, which I wrote up as a narrative and which she read and approved for publication. I also wrote the first term’s evacuation experiences as a short fictionalised biography.

In  2015, following my mother’s death, I thought to write a novelised memoir based on these recollections in her honour. However, in adapting the short story and planning out how to move it on to become a full book, I found the main character was proving not to be the same person as my mother but instead a person with a life of her own and her own story to tell. So I moved away from the ‘memoir’ approach and  instead came to regard the information I had amassed rather as source material for a novel. This gave me the opportunity to take the storyline and the characters in it where I felt they would go, my parents’ and grandparents’ recollections being my inspiration rather than my text.

Thus while I have identified the evacuated school St Martin-in-the-Fields and I quoted from the school song, all the teachers and pupils depicted in the novel are the product of my imagination. Further, St Birstan’s school is wholly a figment of my imagination. While my mother’s school was evacuated to Leatherhead, there is no school there by the name of St Birstan’s, not the buildings or the location described, and the St Birstan’s pupils referred to are entirely my invention.

However, I thought the story of the night in the theatre was too good to miss out. When we went to that theatre in the 1980s my mother pointed out the wall against which she had lain, just as in the novel, with her mother outside her and  her father outside them, ‘to protect my virtue.’

The Beaver Club did exist and my grandmother worked there during the War. A poignant reminder remains with my family, a square of lace given to her by a Canadian soldier on leave in late 1944 or early 1945 who had taken pity on one of many starving Belgians lining the roads during the Allied advance desperate to sell anything for food, and bought it from them.

In an era now where oral tradition is virtually lost and many people know little of the generations that went before them, I hope The Keeping of Secrets provides a window into the lives of ordinary people like my mother living through those extraordinary times.

AliceGraysharp_Banner

 

Otho’s Regret by L. J. Trafford – Review

Title – Otho’s Regret
Author – L. J. Trafford
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 469 Pages
Publication – 24th July 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Having spectacularly grabbed the Imperial throne by way of a very bloody coup, new emperor Otho is horrified to discover that there is an emperor already in place. His name is Aulus Vitellius and he is relaxing himself in Germania whilst his two generals, the twisted Valens and the handsome but dim Caecina, march two colossal armies to Rome to claim his prize.

With negotiations between the two emperors becoming ever more entertainingly abusive, imperial secretary Epaphroditus has his work cut out trying to save Otho’s throne for him. Hopelessly outnumbered, all looks doomed until a series of unexpected victories give hope to the beleaguered secretary. With the eastern legions declared for Otho and en route to help, all they have to do is stop Valens’ and Caecina’s armies meeting.

Meanwhile, in Rome, a former palace slave, Antonia Caenis, has returned from Judaea with plans of her own…

Review

Otho’s regret is the third book in The Four Emperors series.

You can read my reviews of book one and two by clicking the links below to open a new window.

Palatine- Book 1

Galba’s Men – Book 2

So after the events of the last book Otho is now emperor. Now while he doesn’t seem to be the most natural at the role he does ooze charisma, he’s fair and likeable which people notice.. the issue is he’s not going to get much of a chance to prove himself.

Persuaded by his generals Vitellius decides he should be Emperor and they set out to take the throne by force if needs be.

Vitellius and his generals have very different reasons for their actions and the author did a great job of breathing life into each of them and developing them as much as she did. The two generals Valens and Caecina have to be my favourite additions to the series so far.

With armies on the march espionage is inevitable with both sides planting spies..the fun twist is there’s more than just two players in this tale…someone is lurking..someone has their own motivations to delay Valens and Caecina but you are kept waiting and wodering as the author builds this suspense keeping you hooked until the end.

One person who has made this series stand out for me is Philo. He’s trying to move on with his life after everything has happened to him.. he’s a little out of the loop with events in the palace but soon gets sucked back in.. he even ends up playing his part in the war that is coming. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ll ever love a character as much as Philo.

Epaphroditus surprised me this time around. I never really fell in love with him until now.. this tale shows a different edge to the character which I really enjoyed.

Trafford effortlessly manages to make the tale light-hearted and fun (especially when Sporus is around) but at the same time develops the uncertainty and fears that are brewing.. Building the suspense so much your heart pounds until everything starts to tumble-down around Otho.

I’ve had high expectations with The Four Emperors series which continues to deliver time and time again. It ticks all the right boxes for historical fiction. It’s descriptive but never too heavy, fun when needed but still deals with the serious side of events.

What Trafford has done superbly is make history fun and exciting with the perfect mix of fact and fiction. It’s books like this that keep my love of reading burning strongly, always stoking the furnace..pushing me further, raising that bar which each installment.

I can’t say I’m an expert.. I just know what I like.. and this book is a shining example of what a 5* star historical fiction book should be in my opinion.

My thanks go to Karnac Books for the uncorrected proof copy for review..This will have pride of place on my book shelf.

You can read more reviews on Goodreads and pre-order your copy of the book today on Amazon or purhcase direct from the publishers Karnac

A Violent Aftermath – Guest Post by author Gordon Doherty – (@GordonDoherty)

In late 378 AD, the Eastern Roman Empire was in pieces. Emperor Valens lay dead on the plains of Adrianople, surrounded by the corpses of his best generals and legions. Victorious, the Goths of Fritigern roamed all over the land of Thracia (modern day European Turkey and Bulgaria) like conquerors, and with no emperor or army to curtail or contest them, it must have felt like the end of the world to the Roman people – holed up in the few high-walled cities capable of resisting the Goths.

The stages of the Gothic War (left-right): revolt, pillage and then victory. And that’s where Legionary: Empire of Shades begins – in a fallen land.

Thanks to Osprey Publishing for this excellent artwork.

 

Theodosius I was the man chosen to tackle this sorry state of affairs. A Spaniard who had proven himself in recent military engagements in Pannonia, he was offered the Eastern throne by his Western counterpart, Emperor Gratian. Gratian’s thinking and the conversations held between the two men must have been quite a thing to eavesdrop upon – for Gratian had only a few years previously ordered the brutal beheading of Theodosius’ father, viewed as a rival. Regardless, Theodosius accepted the offer. Did he fear Gratian? Did he perhaps see the ‘gift’ of the Eastern Empire as a way to prove his loyalty to his father’s killer and guarantee his own safety? Or might Theodosius even have had a hand in his father’s death? We will never know (although I do indulge in a bit of speculation in ‘Empire of Shades’).

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Theodosius I

 

After accepting the Eastern purple, Theodosius made his headquarters at Thessalonica. The city, capital of the Diocese of Macedonia, was well-positioned: on the eastern coast of modern-day Greece, far south enough from troubled Thracia so as to distance himself from immediate threat, but close enough to plot a reconquest. There he set about reviving the shattered Eastern Army. Firstly, he erected a great turf wall around the city – partly to bolster its defences but also to enclose an area that could serve as a military campus within which he could rejuvenate the ruined Eastern Army. And that was Theodosius’ next step – to summon to Thessalonica the remaining fragments of the legions shattered at the Battle of Adrianople, who were by now hiding in the hills and woods on the periphery of Thracia.

 

 

Left: The Roman city of Thessalonica and its famous Galerius Rotunda. Right: The lay of the land following the Adrianople disaster.

 

But as these army ‘fragments’ congregated at Thessalonica, it would have quickly become apparent to Theodosius just how few had survived the disaster, and it seems he acted upon this stark truth quickly. Starting in 379 AD, he issued a series of decrees to allow the depleted ranks to be filled and for obliterated legions to be reformed. Retired veterans were obliged to return to duty, as were their sons – attempts at bribery to escape service would now be dealt with severely. Indeed, noblemen were required to supply their slaves to the army, and refusal would result in said noblemen being burnt at the stake! Even peasants, beggars and deserters were swept up in an effort to plug the manpower shortage.

Starting at the same time as this mass-recruitment, and continuing over the next few years, Theodosius raised five new generals, or ‘Magistri Militum’ to command these raw troops. With fresh recruits and new leaders, Theodosius now needed a victory to cement their loyalty and his place on the throne. One of his first retaliatory strikes against the Goths occupying Thracia was carried out by a small Roman expeditionary force: under cover of darkness, they outmanoeuvred and fell upon a drunken, sleeping warband (thought to have been four or five-thousand-strong), descending upon them from a hillside to claim a decisive victory.

News of the triumph was very much welcomed in Thessalonica, but Emperor Theodosius knew it was merely a warband that had been defeated, barely denting the horde. And still, the legions were too few and too thin to consider action against Fritigern’s main force. Thus, in search of yet more manpower, Theodosius was forced to turn his eye towards the north, into the wilds of ‘Barbaricum’ (everything north of the River Danube).

Theodosius was forced to look to the most unexpected of places for fresh recruits… the lands of Barbaricum! (left: the Carpathian Mountains, right: the woods and hills nearby)

 

Bringing more Goths into the empire – as allies to fight against their marauding kinsmen – was a risky strategy but a wholly necessary one. Indeed, it had been policy in past (albeit far-more stable) years. It is here that the heroes of the XI Claudia Legion come to the fore in ‘Empire of Shades’. Tasked with trekking into Barbaricum and escorting dubious allies back into the war-torn empire, they then face the prospect of once again standing up against Fritigern’s horde. Weaker, fewer, and with recent defeats branded on each legionary’s mind, the soldiers of the empire must learn to believe once more, to stand together, and to rekindle the dying light of the East….

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Available at all good online stores, now!

Gordon’s website: www.gordondoherty.co.uk

Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage – Review

Title – Under the Approaching Dark (The King’s Greatest Enemy #3)
Author – Anna Belfrage
Genre – Historical Fiction/Historical Romance
Length – 432 Pages
Publication – 10th April 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II has been forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over… After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster. In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much. When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers. Under the Approaching Dark is the third in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Review

So we are back with Adam and Kit. I must admit I’ve missed these two. This is the third book in The King’s Greatest Enemy series, If you’ve not read the previous books you can read my reviews here –

In the Shadow of the Storm – Book 1

Days of sun and Glory – Book 2

Immediately I was struck by the cover of this book much more so than the previous two, the image and the colours used are definitely to my taste and suit the tale which is a mix of historical fiction and romance.

Hugh Despenser is dead..Finally Adam can relax! Nope.. not a chance.

King Edward II has been forced from the throne and his son Edward now rules as King Edward III. This king is young but he likes to keep those he likes close to him.. Adam included.. He’s sworn to the king and will serve him until the day he dies or is released from service.

There’s a lot of growing tension in this book. First and foremost some of the most powerful lords and businessmen don’t like the fact Mortimer and the Queen mother are acting as the king’s advisers, more so when it’s clear they are lovers even though both are still married! Add to this a brewing conflict with Scotland and a difference of opinion on how it should be handled means rebellion is on the cards.

One issue keeps bubbling to the surface..what to do with the old king? Well this is where Adam and Kit come in, I don’t want to spoil the tale at all but I really enjoyed their involvement in this part of the tale.

As the young king grows it’s clear to Adam that one day this king will not appreciate the input of the Queen mother and Mortimer but they have tasted power and it doesn’t look like they will give up control easily. He even starts to take his frustrations out on Adam during training but as the tale progresses I do feel the king learns Adam’s worth.

An old foe reappears in Kit’s life..and it spells trouble. Again I won’t spoil it but this foe drives a wedge between Adam and Kit by hitting them with a very sensitive issue indeed.

Of course Kit and Adam can get through anything..They may not make it out unscathed but as long as they have each other they will be fight and stay together. They each have their cross to bear during this tale and it can only make them stronger and more determined to be with each other and no other.

For me the book is certainly a 5* story, I won’t lie though..the romance was a little much for my personal tastes but the reason the story still warrants a 5* is because I can understand why it’s there.. the books wouldn’t be the same without it..I feel the book needs this romance and it certainly does build on the truly loving relationship and connection Adam and Kit have which brings that something extra to the tale.

For me this is the best installment in the series so far and it gives Adam more chance to shine. As much as I love Kit it’s Adam who leaves the lasting impressions on me during this books,  I loved the writing and there’s so much going on to really get you hooked in. Well worth reading.

For more information or to purchase check out Amazon or Goodreads.

Matthew Harffy Q&A

Today I’m doing something a little different to my normal Q & A’s.

I’ve been a loyal fan of Matthews for a while now and I recently bought the hardback copy of his book, The Serpent Sword.

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Now I don’t think there was anything wrong with the self-published book but the new hardback is so gloriously beautiful I just had to own it.

One of the clear differences I spotted instantly was this beautiful map! Every good book needs a map!

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The new release got me thinking. Beobrand really has grown over the series from a young man into an older but not necessarily wiser man, trusted by many even though he doesn’t see his own worth in himself.

There is deep changes within him during Killer of Kings as it’s time for Beo to head home and face his past..

It’s be a long journey for Beobrand and also for the author.

Matthew very kindly offered to answer a few questions about his work.

Enjoy.


 

So one of the big changes since I first read The Serpent Sword is you’ve been picked up by Aria Fiction (Well-deserved I might add).

One of the biggest OMG moments is seeing a hardback version of The Serpent Sword hit the shelves. It’s really great to have been along with you on your journey and I’d like to ask a couple of questions.

Is it a good feeling to have a publisher behind you and do you miss anything about being self-published? 

It is great to have a team of professionals behind me now. The feeling that things are happening behind the scenes is really amazing. This includes things such as the brokering of translation deals, or selling the audio rights to Audible, and things like press releases, marketing and publicity.

As to whether I miss anything about being self-published, I think the truthful answer is not much. I suppose I am a control freak, and I have very strong ideas about how I like to do things, so if I miss anything, it is having total control. Having said that, I think Aria and its parent publisher, Head of Zeus, are perhaps different from the norm in terms of publishers, as they allow me a lot of input into things like the covers and are keen to involve me in most of the decisions, which I am really grateful for. Aria is a very young, dynamic publisher and they can get things done very quickly. I think I would possibly go mad working with one of the much bigger publishers, that have very slow turnaround from handing in a manuscript to seeing it published. As it is, I am already sometimes frustrated by the loss of agility from when I was self-published. However, any perceived loss of control is more than outweighed by improvements to quality and visibility and distribution of my books.

Do you feel any pressure to churn out the books or do you thrive having targets to meet?

Yes and no! Having deadlines that are written into a contract certainly focuses the mind and I would go as far as to say that at the beginning of the year, when I knew I had a new manuscript to deliver in November and I had nothing written, I felt the pressure. Now that I am hundred thousand words into the first draft of book 5, Warrior of Woden, that pressure has lessened. However, once I’ve handed it in, and I look towards book 6 which is due for delivery to my editor by November 2018, I am sure the pressure will be on me again. So there is pressure, but I actually think having targets is a really good thing for any long project. Even when I was self-published, I set myself weekly and monthly goals. Without them there is a tendency to drift and not to progress towards a defined target.

Since being picked up have the books gone through more editing?

The Serpent Sword and The Cross and The Curse both went through a couple of extra rounds of editing. But as they had already been published and edited when I was self-published, the process was lightweight, with not many changes being made. For the subsequent books, Blood and Blade, Kin of Cain and Killer of Kings, the editorial process has been slightly more thorough than when I was self-published I would say, mainly due to the fact that the publishers pay different types of editors, such as copy editors and proofreaders, who are professionals. When I did these things myself, I enlisted family and friends and was lucky to have people with an eye for detail who I could turn to.

I’ve been very impressed with some of the comments from my copy editor, who manages to spot points of inconsistency in things like names and spelling between books. For example, he mentioned that I had used the name of a small character in book 3 that was also mentioned in book 1, but in each occurrence it was a different character being referred to but sharing the same name. It was a very minor point but by changing the name in one of the books it removes any confusion that might be there for the reader.

So far in your writing career what’s been your highlight?

It’s hard to name just one. Getting the first good reviews from total strangers, finishing each novel, signing with Aria. I think recently the two things that stand out are hearing the audiobooks for the first time (I was worried that I wasn’t going to like them, but in the end I loved what Barnaby Edwards has done with them), and holding in my hands the recently released hardback edition of The Serpent Sword. There had been two versions of print on demand paperbacks of the book already, but for some reason the hardback feels more real. Not just that, but the book is now available in libraries and in high street shops, which is a huge step forward.

Any low moments?

There are lots of moments when the writing process gets me down. It is by definition solitary, and it is easy to lose sight of the ending of the story and to get lost. Now that I have a few books under my belt I push through these moments, trusting that I’ll find a way. So far, I’ve managed to do just that.

It’s also very disheartening to receive truly negative reviews. I understand that not everyone is going to like my writing, and that’s fine, but from time to time somebody will leave a review online that seems to be trying to cause offence. I know all authors get this type of review, so I know it’s nothing personal, but it certainly feels personal when somebody is slagging off a book it’s taken a year to write!

It doesn’t affect me now as I am not actively sending out my manuscripts looking for a deal, but earlier on in my career, when I was looking for a publisher and, before that, an agent, it was quite demoralising to receive rejection after rejection. Writing certainly isn’t for the fainthearted.

Looking at the hardback the biggest improvements I see is the map which is much more prominent and detailed. Whose idea was it to make this addition?

I agree! The map is wonderful. I had always wanted a better map in the books, but when I self-published I was doing all of the work myself, including the maps, so I didn’t have the skills or the time to do anything more detailed than a simple map of Britain with the place names of the major locations in the books. When releasing the books again, Aria spruced up the maps I had created, making them look more artistic, but they hadn’t added any more detail.

When the hardback was being designed, I went to a Head of Zeus sales conference in London and was approached by Nicolas Cheetham, the deputy MD of the publisher. He produced a rolled up printout of a new map that was more detailed and drawn in the style of Tolkien’s maps from Lord of the Rings! Nic had read the Serpent Sword and thought a better map would really elevate the hardback release. Having seen the final product, I can only agree with him. The plan at the moment is to include similar style maps in all subsequent hardback releases of the Bernicia Chronicles.

Who picks the quotes for the backs of the books, you or your publisher?

That was the publisher. There were a few that didn’t get used on the hardback, but I don’t know how they decided which to use. I’m guessing other quotes might get used on the paperback edition.

The most important question..when’s the next hardback coming out?

The hardback of The Cross and The Curse is due for release in November 2017, coinciding with the mass market paperback release of The Serpent Sword. Just in time for Christmas!

So the next book for release is Killer of Kings. What should we expect?

In Killer of Kings we follow Beobrand south into East Anglia. There he quickly finds himself embroiled in a battle of epic proportions. On his travels he also returns to his old home village in Kent where he meets old friends and uncovers some dark secrets.

What’s next for you?

Right now I am writing book 5 of the Bernicia Chronicles, Warrior of Woden. After that, it will be on to book 6! When I finish that, we’ll have to see what’s next. I’ve got a few ideas about more books in the series, or starting a new series, but time will tell!

Thanks for the great questions. It’s always a real pleasure doing an interview on your blog.


Thank you Matthew for taking the time to answer my questions.

Killer of Kings is out now! You can read my review here or head straight to Amazon

Want a Hardback copy of The Serpent Sword? Check out Amazon for more details.