Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

An English King by Gabriel Stein – Review

Reviewing as a hobby means sometimes I forget to read books I really want to as I take on too many review requests.

During this year I’ll still take on requests but I’m going to focus more heavily on my own reading pile.. I’ve some brilliant books just waiting to be picked up.

Next up being An English King by Gabriel Stein.

Here’s the blurb

Gerne – Historical Fiction

Constantinopolis. 1096.

Sometimes the enemy comes from within.

Edmund has fought the Normans most of his life – at Hastings under King Harold of England, and later in Greece as a soldier in the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Emperor.

His dream is to lead an army of battle-hardened warriors back home and expel the Normans from England.

With the Empire finally at peace, Edmund feels that the time has arrived to fulfil his duty and avenge his king.

But there are rumours of a new threat. Large hosts of armed Latins – westerners – are marching towards the city, brandishing the sign of the Cross. One of the Crusader leaders is Bohemond of Taranto.

England will have to wait, while Edmund is tasked by his Emperor with a delicate and dangerous assignment: find out if Bohemond is friend or enemy. And if he is an enemy – stop him.

Edmund’s assignment will take him through Anatolia. Battles and sieges await.

The Varangian’s strength – and spirit – will be tested like never before.

Review

An English King is book 2 in The Varangian Series. I very much enjoyed the 1st instalment so I was looking forward to this one.. did it disappoint..not in the slightest!

We are back with Edmund and the Varangian guard.. this time he’s no fresh recruit.. he’s a seasoned warrior and life is looking good for him.. he still dreams of a return to England but he has a family now who rely on him.

A new threat arrives.. the issue is they aren’t really an enemy… it’s the Crusaders.. the problem is they will pass through the Emperor’s land..someone needs to make sure they behave themselves.

As they pass through the Emperor agrees to send in his own troops to support the effort.. the upside for him means he can hopefully reclaim lands long lost to the Empire. The downside for Edmund means he’s tasked with going along with Bohemond of Taranto…. Enemies once… can he be trusted now?

There’s battles aplenty.. treachery.. and loyalty when you least expect it and it will test Edmund to the fullest.

While fighting physically Edmund is also dealing with the mental side of things.. he’s been part of the Empire now for a long time.. will he ever go home.. does he want to.. will it be the place he remembers.. it’s an internal struggle for him. Edmund will need to put these thoughts on hold if he’s going to make it back in one piece.

The battle sequences were detailed and exciting to read. I really felt immersed in Edmund’s world.

As the battles continue the stress begins to show and loyalty is tested..without the Emperors presence the Crusaders trust starts to wane… how long can Edmund and the Emperor’s men keep everyone on the same side.

While An English King is a work of fiction it’s very detailed and shows a keen interest in the subject matter.. this adds to the tale..it’s what sucks you in.

If you are looking for an interesting and exciting historical fiction read you could a lot worse than this. A beautifully brutal tale at times.. showing the stress Edmund is under … it’s a slow burner..it’s all about the build up but when the action really hits it’s cracking! For me it’s all about the development of Edmund as his place in the Empire is solidified.

4/5 Stars!

To find out more head to GoodreadsorAmazon.

Legionary: Dark Eagle (Legionary 8) by Gordon Doherty – Review

Next up on David’s Book Blurg I’m reviewing Dark Eagle book in in the Legionary series by Gordon Doherty!

Here’s the blurb

Genre – Historical Fiction

Winter, 382 AD. The Gothic War is over. After years of bloodshed, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Goths have struck a deal for peace. Imperial heralds crow about the treaty as if it were a triumph. Feasts and celebrations take place across the Eastern provinces. Every hero of the war is honoured and acclaimed… except one.

Tribunus Pavo languishes in exile, haunted by a dark truth: that it was Gratian, Emperor of the West – the most powerful man alive – who caused the war and manipulated its every turn. Tormented by memories of loved ones lost during the great conflict, one word tolls endlessly through Pavo’s mind: Justice!

But in this great game of empire, justice rarely comes without a grave cost…

Review

We are back with Pavo and Sura.. or should I say Urbicus and Mucianus…after the events of the last book and Pavo’s brush with Emperor Gratian our lions are believed dead.. and they need to keep it that way.

While Pavo struggles to deal with being separated from his men of the Claudia they themselves are feeling his loss keenly.. and it’s about to get a hell of a lot worse.

The war with the Goths may be over but tension is bubbling and on top of that the tension between the Eastern and Western emperors that has been growing is about to boil over.

I’m used to Gordon’s work by now but he continues to amaze me with gripping plots and fascinating characters. As the title suggests this instalment is dark.. Probably Pavo’s darkest moment to date and once again not all our lions will live to tell the tale.

One chapter stands out for me as a bone crunching heart fluttering smack in the face.. Chapter 9.. it cemented just how far Gratian’s power can go and shows just how high the climb will be for Pavo to get to him.. it won’t be easy.

Along with way we get a wonderful new cheekiness from Darik..he bounces off Sura’s character brilliantly.. While Sura likes to think he’s the best at everything… to him Darik seems to have it all.. Including the looks.. there’s never animosity.. rather a budding friendship when you can tease but know when to draw the line… to see how they connected was refreshing to explore as I’m so used to it just being Pavo and Sura with a supporting cast.. Darik shines through.

Now to the nitty gritty without giving the game away.. yes there’s battle and Gordon did his usually with pure brilliance in describing the different units and how they are formed/where they are from.. for someone like me who likes the action this extra detail doesn’t distract at all but will really hit the mark for those who like authors going that little bit further. If anything it makes me want to learn more.. do my own research.. I’ve always known the Roman army encompassed many nationalities/groups but it’s amazing to see how far their reach was at one point.

With every chapter I smelt defeat on the cards… followed by hope..only to have it dashed again and again.. but wait.. hope arrives again.. Pavo is not the only one who want’s to see Gratian overthrown after all.. but as always all is not as it seems!

Damn you Gordon with all those marvellous twists!

Another little thing Gordon does that I really like is there’s always little titbits thrown in to remind the reader of those lost and fallen..the series may focus heavily on Pavo but he’s happy to share the limelight.

I felt Libo came into his own in this instalment too.. without Pavo he steps up and along with others like Pulcher show what the Claudia are all about.. they won’t go down without a fight.

I really don’t want to spoil anything but of course the Speculatores show their ugly faces again.. but Pavo is ready for them… if he can figure out who he can trust… one gets a rather gruesome death.. I can’t lie… I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I made one note when reading this book and it simply said… hard hitting gut hurting masterpiece.. and I stand by that.. 5*

Now enough.. go buy the book! 😊

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon!

Faces of Darkness by Steven A. McKay

Next up on David’s Book Blurg I’m reviewing Faces of Darkness by Steven A. McKay.

Here’s the blurb

When a young noblewoman is brutally assaulted in her own manor house, two former outlaws decide they must solve the mystery, before things go too far…

CROFTUN, NORTHERN ENGLAND
WINTER, AD 1328

Lady Isabella de Courcy is found alone in a room bolted from the inside, unconscious, and with a dagger forced through her hand, but this is just the latest in a line of similar, terrifying incidents. For months now, she’s been stalked by some shadowy tormentor yet, bafflingly, the attacker has never been clearly seen by anyone, even Lady Isabella, and he seems to leave no trace of his movements.
Can the bailiff, John Little, along with the legendary friar, Robert Stafford, uncover the truth and, more importantly, will they be able to save the troubled victim before she ends up dead?

This new standalone novella from the author of The Druid sees the return of two much-loved characters from the Forest Lord series and is based on a shocking real-life case which remains, to this day, unsolved.Genre – Historical Fiction.

Review

Steven A. McKay has delivered a gem of a story! I really thought McKay had shelved for good Robin Hood and his gang for new pastures.. turns out there’s still some stories left to be told and I couldn’t be happier.

We are back with Friar Tuck and Little John who are about to stumble upon a mystery.. and let’s be fair we all know Tuck.. he’s not one to walk away without getting to the bottom of things.

Little John in his role as bailiff is out to collect a fine and Tuck comes along for the journey. They soon learn of the plight of Lady Isabella, who is being terrorised and things seem to be escalating! There’s one issue though.. there’s no witnesses and no evidence that the individual exists..but there must be someone right?

John and Tuck do due diligence and secure the area.. with no issues found they go on their way… only to be called back as another frightful event has occurred.

It soon becomes clear that not everyone believes the stories they are being told by Lady Isabella.. things don’t add up.

Tuck is a good judge of character and soon seems to be getting somewhere.. you can see the cogs start to turn once the oil gets the gears going and it leads to a fast paced and gripping ending that packs a punch.

What I really enjoyed about this book..  it’s a perfect little mystery but with the authors fun and gritty edge.. and Tuck and John were the perfect duo. You’d be forgiven for raising an eyebrow.. you either want modern-day mysteries or straight up historical fiction right?..can you mix them? McKay certainly knows the recipe!

I’m going to put it out there now… I love these little novellas.. Can we have Will Scaflock back in the next please :).

Faces of Darkness offers an intriguing plot based around a real life event, balanced with wit from both Tuck and John.. add in the perfect pace and you’ve got a winner!

McKay knows what his readers want.. everything he offers us is pure brilliance and while we may not see the gang around that much it was so good to be back!

5/5 Stars.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon

Wolf of Wessex by Matthew Harffy – Review

Next up on David’s Book Blurg I’m reviewing Wolf of Wessex by Matthew Harffy…. (Granted a little later than planned.. blame the weather and an Ill family ha.. Apologies.

Here’s the blurb

Genre – Historical Fiction.

AD 838. Deep in the forests of Wessex, Dunston’s solitary existence is shattered when he stumbles on a mutilated corpse.

Accused of the murder, Dunston must clear his name and keep the dead man’s daughter alive in the face of savage pursuers desperate to prevent a terrible secret from being revealed.

Rushing headlong through Wessex, Dunston will need to use all the skills of survival garnered from a lifetime in the wilderness. And if he has any hope of victory against the implacable enemies on their trail, he must confront his long-buried past – becoming the man he once was and embracing traits he had promised he would never return to. The Wolf of Wessex must hunt again; honour and duty demand it.

Review

Wolf of Wessex sees Matthew Harffy move away from the comfort of his Bernicia Chronicles Series.

To say I was excited is an understatement.. I was more than a little keen to see how the author would fair with a completely new set of characters.

Following the tale of Dunston was a pure joy! He’s pushing on a years a little as he likes to remind everyone but he’s thrust back into a life he thought he’d left long behind.

As Dunston goes about his normal day he stumbles upon a grisly murder..it’s pretty gruesome.. what makes it worse is Dunston’s dog Odin leads him to a young girl… it’s her father who’s just been murdered.

Thrust together Dunston and the girl Aedwen set out for safety.. Dunston’s wants nothing more than just to live out his days in peace as he’s promised his late wife… unfortunately for him he’s about to walk right into the biggest mess you can imagine.

Dunston is forced to hunt… to use every skill he’s got and Aedwen wants to come along for the ride… the only way to get the quiet life he’s after is to face one last trial.

As they travel the connection between the two grows.. Dunston’s reminded of the past and Aedwen needs that father figure.. a rather unconventional convergence but it’s what they both need… they don’t know it but they can help each other.

Dunston will make those who murdered Aedwen’s father pay. He doesn’t want to be a hero..her saviour.. but he can’t let her down… he’s too honourable to do that.

Down to the nitty-gritty… plot… bloody loved it! Moving away from Beobrand and the Bernicia Chronicles was a gamble of sorts but with talent like Harffy’s it’s a no brainer! My only question throughout the book was would it work.. an old man and a young girl.. can they connect.. will it make sense..and you know what it really did.

While Dunston takes the limelight there is an ensemble of supporting characters who add to the tale, combine this with a wonderfully detailed setting and you’ve got a winner!

I particularly liked the charcoal burners, learning about their lives and how lonely it could have been for them, shunned by many. It proves you can write a cracking plot whilst also sharing knowledge that will stick with the reader long after the book is finished.

The thing about Dunston is he’s complex..his motivations subdued.. until he can hide no longer.. he’s not the young man he once was but he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Gripping from the first page the last, the hero who didn’t want to be, a young girl seeking true justice.

There is one thing in this book better than everything though.. Odin! Dunston’s four legged companion.. his tale is one of pain, loyalty and strength.the connection between the two runs deep.. I loved it.

Wolf of Wessex is a cracking read, dark and brutal just the way I like it. The plot grows at a decent pace and at every turn you are led by the author on a heart-gripping adventure..

As much as I want to see Beobrand return Harffy has proved I’ll love anything he writes… more please!

5/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads!

No Stone Unturned (The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries Book 1) by Pam Lecky – Review

Next up on David’s Book Blurg I’m reviewing No Stone Unturned (The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries Book 1) by Pam Lecky.

Here’s the blurb:-

Genre – Historical Mystery.

A suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave, and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

Review.

I’m a big fan of Pam Lecky’s work and have been following her progress since 2015 when I read The Bowes Inheritance. When I got wind of the latest release I couldn’t wait to grab a copy.

The tale follows Lucy, whose life has just been shattered by the death of her husband.. but nothing makes sense.. he shouldn’t have been there..what was he doing and why didn’t he tell her where he was really going?

Soon Lucy learns her husband was in league with some very bad men and her life could even be in danger.. but what are they looking for?.. to top it off her finances are a mess since her husband kept these affairs from her.

To escape the stress and the building pressure she heads to her childhood home..but things aren’t going to easy there either and while she’s trying to find out what to do with her life she ends up in more hot water… this time she gets to see the inside of a prison cell.

Lucy gets a helping hand by Phineas Stone.. they have briefly met before.. but why is he here? What is he after? Can he be trusted? Can anyone?

Soon a dark web of deceit is uncovered that goes further than either of them could have imagined.

When the pieces start to fall into place we see Lucy, who is determined to be independent, head out to solve the mystery and the revelations will have lasting repercussions for Lucy and her family.

So down to the nitty-gritty. I loved the plot and it played out at a perfect pace. The characters were fun and developed well but what Pam Lecky got spot on once again is her writing style..quite literally for me it was the perfect mix of plot progression, descriptors & character development.. nothing was forced in there.. it was a natural progression.

I also really enjoy Pam’s style of female leads.. they a flawed (like all the great characters are!), they are independent, head strong and can be ruled by emotions at times.. it’s not anything against men certainly but Pam shows female driven stories work just as well and as male driven stories.. better even. Like with all good characters there worth moments I loved her and moments she had me screaming inside to see what’s right in front of her… I wasn’t frustrated with her.. more I was invested and wanted her to succeed.

Overall a fun little historical mystery tale which ticked the all the boxes. It’s mystery, thriller and suspense all thrown into one and I do hope it’s not the last we see of Lucy and Phineas!

5/5 stars!

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads.

Empires of Bronze: Son of Ishtar by Gordon Doherty – Review

Next up on David’s Book Blurg I’m reviewing Empires of Bronze: Son of Ishtar by Gordon Doherty.

Here’s the blurb

Genre – Historical Fiction

1315 BC: Tensions soar between the great powers of the Late Bronze Age. The Hittites stand toe-to-toe with Egypt, Assyria and Mycenaean Ahhiyawa, and war seems inevitable. More, the fierce Kaskan tribes – age-old enemies of the Hittites – amass at the northern borders.

When Prince Hattu is born, it should be a rare joyous moment for all the Hittite people. But when the Goddess Ishtar comes to King Mursili in a dream, she warns that the boy is no blessing, telling of a dark future where he will stain Mursili’s throne with blood and bring destruction upon the world.

Thus, Hattu endures a solitary boyhood in the shadow of his siblings, spurned by his father and shunned by the Hittite people. But when the Kaskans invade, Hattu is drawn into the fray. It is a savage journey in which he strives to show his worth and valour. Yet with his every step, the shadow of Ishtar’s prophecy darkens…

Review

Wow! Where to start..

Son of Ishtar starts with a brutal heart wrenching prologue which sets the tone for the story perfectly.

Prince Hattu makes his way into the world..but the cost is great. Ishtar the Goddess claims Hattu has her man and a dark prophecy is written.

As Hattu grows up he’s shunned by many as the cursed son.. always in the shadow of his siblings but when the Kaskans attack its time for the prophecy to be fulfilled.

Hattu is a strong character.. he holds himself well, he’s selfless, loves his family and wishes only to prove himself to the King.. finally Hattu has his chance to train as a solider but it’s not going to be easy. The King expects him to fail.. but that’s not going to happen!

As Prince he’s afforded no respite..rather the opposite..he’s pushed harder than any man before him and slowly but surely you see boy become man. As he grows you see a change to how others view him as he earns their respect.. this causes its own issues though as jealously is a cruel emotion.

I’m not going to spoil the tale.. I just couldn’t ruin such an exciting and gripping read for you. Lets just say.. Hattu has something to fight for..someone to fight for, and when all is said and done his hands will be covered in Kaskan blood!

Son of Ishtar is a fast paced riveting read from the first page to the last.. it’s a dark harrowing tale of betrayal and loyalty.. of love and hate!

The battles are intense.. the deaths brutal and unforgiving..and I loved being along for the ride with the men of the Storm, the Wrath, the Fury and the Blaze!

I can say with certainty that Son of Ishtar is my recommend book of 2019! Highly anticipated and well worth the wait.

As a fan of Gordon’s I can say he’s got it spot on once again, the balance between plot, character development and detail. Never once do you feel anything is forced.. the book just flows perfectly.. plot and descriptive details mixed seamlessly.. no boring segments.. no boring characters.. no confusing sub plots.. just pure intense reading that sucks you in.

Gordon Doherty has put so much time into this book and it shows.. utterly breath-taking, heart stopping goodness that leaves you craving more!

5/5 stars!

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads

Lions of Rome by S.J.A Turney – Review

Next up on David’s Book Blurg I’m reviewing Lions of Rome book 4 in the Praetorian series by S.J. A. Turney

Here’s the blurb

Genre – Historical Fiction.

Rufinus is dead, crumpled at the base of a cliff in far-off Dacia. Or so the world believes. Back in the west, secretly in the entourage of the fierce Septimius Severus, the young hero moves in the shadows with fellow conspirators in an attempt to finally bring down the would-be tyrant of Rome: Cleander.

Under assumed names and in a variety of roles, the former Praetorian conspires with some of the most important men in Rome, bringing the city to the very brink of disaster in a grand and complex plot to cause the fall of the untouchable chamberlain.

And as governors, prefects, Praetorians and consuls work their secret plots in the seedy underbelly of Rome, Rufinus finds he has an opportunity to settle old scores along the way.

The empire is suffering. Rome is seething. Rufinus is back.

Review

We are back with Rufinus for his fourth adventure , you’d think after past events he would want the quiet life..not so.. he still wants to see the downfall of Cleander.

Plot wise I think the author took a slight risk, although it worked pretty well, as the series takes a more fun tone at times. The author provides insights into this in his author notes and it was really interesting to see his thought process.

So on with the nitty-gritty…  Rufinus is for all intents and purposes is dead after a nasty fall from a cliff.. he survived barely and now he’s fit and healthy it’s time to get back to Cleander and his downfall. But he’s going to need the help of some likeminded and powerful individuals to do it.

Along the way we learn more about the men sent to kill Dis, a frumentarius, loyal to the Emperor who was murdered way back at the start of the series and now he’s this close Rufinus vows to take vengeance.

We see Rufinus tackle each foe In turn.. getting closer and closer until the time is right to strike..some chances come sooner than others and the waiting game certainly frustrates Rufinus whilst building up the tension for the reader.

What Turney get’s spot on for me is the detailed plot. Whilst a little bit more outrageous with Rufinus changing his appearance to stay hidden time to time the frankly exciting and well planned plot was easy to get sucked in. You can see the cogs turning slowly as Rufinus works his way through his targets and the author managed to show his impressive knowledge of roles within the empire and how individuals would interact with each other day-to-day.

I also really enjoyed the links to the past..I’m not going to say much but I’m glad Merc wasnt forgotten.

Lions of Rome is a slow burner..not to steal a phrase but we are in the endgame now..and the pieces on the board need to be set in such a way that Cleander won’t see it coming! While you might feel the frustration just like Rufinus does the author knows just what to give his readers, just wait until you get to the last 3rd of the book when everything starts to come to fruition..you won’t want it to end!

Overall a detailed and fun story that didn’t disappoint..i’m excited for more from the author although I fear he churns hits out faster than I can read them! Ha

One final note for the author.. I missed Acheron greatly.. and for anyone who gets the reference don’t worry too much 🙂

4/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads.