A sad, touching and action packed novel about Grey Warden & Blight history revolving around the majestic Griffon beasts. My new favourite of the 5A sad, touching and action packed novel about Grey Warden & Blight history revolving around the majestic Griffon beasts. My new favourite of the 5....more
Another gripping and hugely entertaining read. The most original and humerous reimagining of norse mythology in recent years but also deals with suchAnother gripping and hugely entertaining read. The most original and humerous reimagining of norse mythology in recent years but also deals with such real human issues from honour to family to love to diversity and equality. Highly recommended reading for everyone and anyone....more
Absolutely bloody brilliant! Great characters, superb action, amazing battles and sparkling dialogue. Combined with a cleverly and well crafted plot tAbsolutely bloody brilliant! Great characters, superb action, amazing battles and sparkling dialogue. Combined with a cleverly and well crafted plot that is full of surprises and a good dash of humour. A fine and fitting end for all involved, some remarkable plot twists that neatly bring the characters and storyline full circle with great storytelling. This final book was packed full of Norse mythical references and I was especially impressed with the introduction of a horror element to the magic used. It didn't revert to stereotype and still maintained a strong Nordic influence and style to its approach and indeed how the heroes and companions fought against this new and increasing threat. Overall this trilogy is a masterful retelling of the raise of King Olaf and his blood-coated mission to make the Danes Christian and Snorri has cleverly captured the religious conflict of the time and presented it in a manner that really does remind the reader why the Vikings held firm to their belief in the Aesir and the Old Ways for no great heroes have ever truly emerged from Christian trials and adventures, only in the ways of the North are true heroes forged, their tales becoming legend....more
Harald Hardrada is one of my FAVOURITE Viking Kings EVER! I have read both fictional & non-fiction books on his epic journey from zero to hero butHarald Hardrada is one of my FAVOURITE Viking Kings EVER! I have read both fictional & non-fiction books on his epic journey from zero to hero but I will confess Justin Hill's 2nd novel which focuses on this giant of Norse history, is the first that has made me fall deeply in love with him. Almost as much as I fell in love with King Cnut in Helen Hollick's Hollow Crown. Harald's is a story that involves him facing and overcoming challenge after challenge and shaping him to be the great Norwegian King, as great as the tales tell him to be. My favourite part of the entire book has to be when Harald reaches Miklagard, the Great City, Constantinople (Istanbul) - the city, society, landscapes, people and of course the very treacherous politics was superbly captured and brought alive on the page. There is one particular and relatively minor conflict Harald gets embroiled in as he serves amongst the Emperor's armies, involving one of the men of the many crews he now commands, and the choices he makes in that event is the strongest indicator of the kind of leader and ultimately King Harald will mature to be. I won't give away too much detail about the situation but it is a clear & firm demonstration that Harald is a man worthy of following and more evidence of why so many did. There are of course lots of more everyday scenes involving Harald that better define his character and personality, be it with his crew, his mistress or wives, with his children or even when he is talking to a General or an Emperor. Each of these scenes is distinctive and sometimes emotionally touching. I have laughed with Harald, cried with Harald, cheered with Harald, even yelled in anger or shock with Harald. You really do get under the skin, into the blood and dive in his soul as you read each chapter. Within each chapter I found there was at least 1 line I read that would stick in my head for hours after I had put the book down (which was only ever when I was working I must admit). I found so many literary gems amongst the prose that I started adding them to my own personal list of favourites and it grew and grew as I read the book. I won't list them all as they might hint at spoilers for new readers but I will mention the first line that I was struck by. It was when Harald was with his brother, King Olaf's army, waiting to face the rebellion forces. Harald remarked to himself that Death is like going to sleep, it's living that hurts. If you hurt you know you are alive. Or something like that, to that affect at least. Having recently, in the past year, encountered death through my father, and having had morbid thoughts about what dying is actually like, this one line made a lot of sense to me and I could see how that would bring some comfort & strength to a young warrior facing his first fierce battle. It also showed that this was a Viking who due to his Christian upbringing at least, was considering more than just what kind of afterlife he might have in heaven, he was actually contemplating how he transforms from earth to heaven through death. It is a small yet significant way of reminding the reader that at the end of the day, despite his momentous life & impact on history forever, Harald was still a human being, like ourselves, who will consider his own existence and the sad and often scary fact that we all die in the end. Albeit in Harald's time death & dying was more common and more visible than it is in the 21st century. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it's beautiful and masterful telling of Harald's life. Highly recommend to fans of Vikings, 1066, or just Historical Fiction in general....more
I have followed the rise of Sigurd and thus Giles Kristian since 2009. His first Viking trilogy was full of historical action, drama and battles. A trI have followed the rise of Sigurd and thus Giles Kristian since 2009. His first Viking trilogy was full of historical action, drama and battles. A truly groundbreak debut that stood proud besides the other greats like Cornwell, Severin and Ludlow. This being alas his final Viking trilogy, is not just an epic coming of age story of a Viking warlord from the previous trilogy but it also represents and demonstrates an astounding maturity and refinement of Gile's talent. The landscapes, emotions, dialogue, all are now more potent with skaldic craftsmanship that the narrative voice is much like a seidr enchantment than that which is featured. You can not help but read on, turn one more page, finish one more chapter. Truly unputdownable and edge of seat reading. The ending is worth the wait for the final battle to settle this boiling blood feud between King Gorm and Sigurd does not begin until the final quarter. Sooo many other challenges, dramas, adventures and dangers must be overcome for both Sigurd and Runa. As much as it is Sigurd leading the war cry, I am pleased to see Giles gave Runa a chance for glory and thus her brother doesnt entirely hog the gaze of the gods. Epic Storytelling is the best way to describe the entire trilogy as a whole and this final book is an amazing testemant for the love Giles must have for the character of Sigurd to have effectively written 6 books about him. It is a fitting tribute and telling of the life and glory-fame of Sigurd and an amazing eternal dedication of Giles's nordic roots....more
Absolutely bloody loved it! Best of the DA series so far. Loved the new characters as much as the familiar ones from previous book & games that feAbsolutely bloody loved it! Best of the DA series so far. Loved the new characters as much as the familiar ones from previous book & games that feature. The drama between the mages and templars and the Seekers of Truth had me reading chapter after chapter wanting more. Literally couldnt put it down at times. A must read for DAI fans for sure. A moving and almost heartbreaking origin story for Cole but offers up such amazing hindsight into the background of the Inquisition....more
Another really enjoyable, exciting and gripping novel set in the world of the Dragon Age Game. Recommended reading after Stolen Throne book & beforAnother really enjoyable, exciting and gripping novel set in the world of the Dragon Age Game. Recommended reading after Stolen Throne book & before playing the DA Awakening DLC as it concerns that story. Further cemented my affection for Marric and I also became fond of other characters too....more
What can I say about this final heroic adventure with a legendary man so many have come to love? I will do my best to give away no spoilers here...
FirWhat can I say about this final heroic adventure with a legendary man so many have come to love? I will do my best to give away no spoilers here...
Firstly there is a strong theme of Division running through this last adventure. England has become fractured by civil war over the Magna Carter and King John's lack of acknowledgement of it. So the Royalists and the Rebels once again start fighting over lands & castles. But into this mix steps King Louis and his invading French army to support the Rebels in exchange for the throne. Thus the civil war is now a war of conquest and through siege and battle Robin & Alan & Co find themselves changing sides to match their loyalty to the English Kingdom rather than the King. There are of course many superb nail-biting, heart-stopping and dramatic and dangerous experiences of the war both as victors and loosers through these turbulent years. Yet as mentioned before Division can exist at any and all levels - not just loyalty - division can be caused by love & hate, oaths sworn and lies told, anger & jealousy, rank and by blood. So it is amongst a world fractured and shattered both within the band of brothers & companions through to the very fate of the English Throne that creates the turmoil that leads to a shocking last turn of the page for our brave heroes. It was a true joy to read word for word paragraph and page. It made me laugh, cheer, boo, hiss, gasp, and cry out the words "oh god no". It made me happy, disgusted, proud, sad and by the end heartbroken. The tag line on the end of the book sums it all up really - and if you have read all of the adventures and this one you will understand - "Heroes fall. Legends live forever." Angus Donald has indeed reforged this legend and character into a burning brand that will be burnt into the minds and souls of many readers. A mark of loyalty to his stories that will never fade. A mark that all readers of this series will proudly bare....more
For fans of the game or just fans of fantasy this is a hugely enjoyable book. It has twists at every turn and action and drama in heaps. Some plotlineFor fans of the game or just fans of fantasy this is a hugely enjoyable book. It has twists at every turn and action and drama in heaps. Some plotlines are a bit predictable but you still end up choosing to side with one character over another. Or maybe you don't. Overall the story does a good job of showing the consequences of actions & choices and that sometimes the path to freedom is not an easy one. Which Dragon Age Origins as a game also demonsrates through gameplay & characters...more
Where to begin - how about from the very beginning - I must warn all future readers that this book is one of those where it is what it says on the covWhere to begin - how about from the very beginning - I must warn all future readers that this book is one of those where it is what it says on the cover - Harrowing - this is a book that deals with the grim, the dark, the deadly, the deceitful, the shameful, even sinful, parts of humanity. All set within the bleakest period of medieval English history - the Harrowing of the North - where the Normans led by Duke William (and King of England alas) came and 'laid waste' to the northern shires. So if you are at all squeamish this probably isn't the best choice - not that James has filled every chapter with hangings, murder, rape, hall burning, starvation etc. In fact the actual carnage of the setting is presented in a more sinister manner, with a great subtlety that will chill you. As horrific as the previous list of incidents involved in The Harrowing is, James shows you that for a survivor the empty landscape, lack of food & water and absence of family, friends, homes and most importantly TRUST, is perhaps a bigger danger than the blades of the Normans themselves. So welcome to the world of 1068 and you will learn, see, feel, hear and experience why so many of the time thought it was the End of the World and that God was indeed punishing them all for their wicked ways through the medium of Norman tyranny. The Reader will get to know 5 characters in this dark & foreboding world - Tova a servant, Merewyn a Lady, Beorn a Warrior, Guthred a Priest and Oslac a Minstrel. Each flees not just the Normans but also a secret past, a secret sin, each struggles against suspicion to forge an unlikely alliance of travellers as they try to reach a place in the far north where an army of rebels is gathering to strike back at the Normans. Over 7 days and 7 nights, each character battles not just the severe winter elements, the sights of their people butchered and the constant threat of the approaching Norman army; each also battles with their own fear of the future, each tries in vain to keep any hope of freedom, peace, even normality, returning to their once simple lives. This is a very different book compared to James's original trilogy involving Tancred a Norman Knight. Not just in point of view - the majority of the tale is told from Tova's eyes, you only ever hear her thoughts and opinions and feelings towards the group of survivors - this makes a noticeable different in that James is writing from a female voice, not a male voice. He also uses multiple voices as this story is about five people, not just Tova. This technique is perhaps the most challenging to write as you must make each voice distinctive as each character is and he does this masterfully well. The toning and phrasing is just right for each character - as the Reader travels with these characters I am sure each reader will have their own favourite and each will not only judge but also change their minds about others as their secrets are revealed one by one, and these secrets will have an impact on the groups survival. It is another wonderful masterstroke by James to weave five characters and five stories together as one but to also enable the past of each character to have such a direct and guaranteed surprising & shocking impact on the 'Present' of the story. Shows great story craftsmanship as well as planning & plotting to pull it off so completely without any flaws or tangles. Yet again James has managed to illuminate in full colour, sound & sensation a much over-looked sometimes forgotten period of English history and remind us all through these five unique characters how very human the Anglo-Saxons were and the very real life-changing danger they all lived through....more
A deliciously gorey, grim and gripping dark norse fantasy set in the bloodiest era of english history. The overall tone may be black but it makes theA deliciously gorey, grim and gripping dark norse fantasy set in the bloodiest era of english history. The overall tone may be black but it makes the characters shine like stars and the danger sizzle with tension. Compared to the previous 3 books I would say this is my favourite due to the focus on the simple yet the savage cost of survival. Whether it is with or without the magic of runes. It is also a closer and more intimate maybe even sympathetic look at the character that is Wolf-Cursed. Yet the story also cunningly causes the Reader to will the fate of the gods to be fulfilled as I personally didnt want the true Villain (not the one you may think of during reading) to succeed for it would be worse for the wolf. Certainly looking forward to seeing which historical turmoil this grim saga continues to unravel......more
This book is quite a dense academic read for those with just a general interest in Cnut. I enjoyed reading about the build up and history of Cnut befoThis book is quite a dense academic read for those with just a general interest in Cnut. I enjoyed reading about the build up and history of Cnut before he became King of England and a few other chapters on interesting aspects but the last few chapters were tough going due to the amount of names from records and names of records mentioned. A bit overwhelming....more
WOW! The first book was exciting. The second book was thrilling. Now this final and third book should come with a warning that there will be jaw-dropsWOW! The first book was exciting. The second book was thrilling. Now this final and third book should come with a warning that there will be jaw-drops, heart break, stomach punches and the occasional chuckle. Sooo much happens and it truly is an epic finale that befits and honours all the adventures Freya had before the impeding danger of Ragnarok. I really enjoyed following the adventures of not just Freya but also so many other characters. Kate has become a master of working with Norse Mythology in all aspects and characters. She has kept the traditional essence but given it new energy and created a superb set of stories that are enjoyable for all ages from the first line to the last. I will honestly miss this norse fantasy world and its fantastic characters....more
God of Vengeance was all about - Vengeance. And family and honour and betrayal. Winter's Fire is about Reputation and Patience and Survival. Sigurd andGod of Vengeance was all about - Vengeance. And family and honour and betrayal. Winter's Fire is about Reputation and Patience and Survival. Sigurd and the company had some serious big adventures and that did earn Sigurd a reputation and even a nick-name - Odin-Favoured. But Sigurd knows it will take more than this new reputation and the head of a Jarl to have any battle luck against King Gorm. Who will now be even more determined to squash the threat from Sigurd before it becomes serious. So Sigurd and Co head south, away from Gorms reach to earn more war-fame, silver and loyal sword-norse.... but danger stalks them at every turn. The adventures that happen in this sequel are more frequent albeit more small in scale compared to previous book. But each twist in the weft and warp of this growing saga shows Giles is still a Master of Kennings and a skillful Skald for keeping the pages turning. We grow even more on the current cast and equally learn to love or hate new characters that enter the tapestry of the tale. I particularly love a brilliant plot line that Giles has dedicated to Sigurd's sister Runa as it matches my favourite aspect of the Vikings. I won't reveal any further details so I don't spoil it. I would best describe this as a simmering and bubbling sequel that is as enjoyable as the first with gripping beats of drama and tension all the way through. It is building a great expectation for an epic dramatic finale in Wings of the Storm where the heat of the drama is turned to boiling point. I for one can not wait to see blood spill over the edge of this literary vessel and watch with baited breath to see who survives....more