Well, this was decent, even if not quite as good as I expected, but it still managed to be pretty impressive and the prose is strong. However, the chaWell, this was decent, even if not quite as good as I expected, but it still managed to be pretty impressive and the prose is strong. However, the characters don't quite leave as big an impact this time around and it's not quite perfect. Nice and easy to read, though, and will be quick to get through....more
“An excellent and welcoming return to the adventures of Macro and Cato, Simon Scarrow once more proves why he’s one of the best historical fiction writers out there. Fans of the series will love this latest addition - The Blood Crows is not to be missed!” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
For nearly ten years, the Roman Empire has fought ceaselessly to strengthen its hold over Britannia. But opposition from native tribes led by the ruthless warrior Caratacus threatens to destroy everything. Prefect Cato and Centurion Macro are summoned by Governor Ostorius to Londinium. Tasked with leading a newly formed cavalry cohort into the heartland of Wales, they must destroy the growing resistance. But with Caratacus hatching increasingly ambitious plans and disorder threatening from within Macro and Cato’s own ranks, this final test will push the soldiers to their limits. And if they do not emerge as victors, the Emperor Claudius’s rule may be at stake, and the very foundations of the Roman Empire could be shattered irrevocably.
As long term Founding Fields reviewers will know, I’m a massive fan of Simon Scarrow. In my view, he’s the best historical fiction writer out there today aside from maybe Bernard Cornwell and he’s certainly the best at writing fiction in the Roman Empire. For evidence, you need to look no further than the twelve-strong Eagle series that he continues to write – which although has had a two-year gap between books and eleven and twelve – during the period where Scarrow was able to put out a Macro-centric prequel novel as well as a standalone novel entitled Sword and Scimitar, and even a series of young adult novels focused on a separate character but still set in the era of the Roman Empire. Now though, for the first new novel in the series since Praetorian, Simon Scarrow makes a triumphant return with The Blood Crows.
The Blood CrowsAnd I’m actually going to say something here – I’m still kind of playing catchup with the Eagle series, having only read (and loved) Under the Eagle and The Eagle’s Conquest, the first two novels in the series. But regardless, I couldn’t wait to delve into this latest novel and was pleased to see that Scarrow allowed time for readers to either meet for the first time or be reunited with the series two principal characters – Prefect Cato and Centurion Macro, who have come a long way since the first two novels and not just in rank – something that is even noticeable for someone who has only read Books One and Two like myself.
The first thing that long term readers will note is how well The Blood Crows has improved in terms of narrative from the earlier novels. It’s more polished, more engaging and perhaps even more of a page turner, being a very engrossing and captivating read. You can jump on here just as easily as you could have done at the beginning – the only bit you may find yourself unfamiliar with is the fact that Cato and Macro have already visited Britannia before – but this was something I was aware of heading in as their early adventures are set in what is now the United Kingdom. This was during different times – when they were in the middle of the Claudian Invasion with Macro being the hardened, tough veteran training the new recruit Macro. This book picks up six years later – following adventures across the entire Roman Empire – with the only difference being the reversal in roles, Now, Cato is the higher in rank – a Prefect, whilst Macro still remains a Centurion. It’s an interesting change in story dynamic and it’s nice to see how this has affected their character building over the course of the series.
The Blood Crows is action packed, bloody and gory right the way through. If you’re a fan of violence and bloodthirsty action then this novel will be right up your street – fans of the series will no doubt be familiar with Scarrow’s approach to action scenes as he pulls the reader in and makes The Blood Crows feel like a fresh and engaging novel rather than just a re-hash of what made the earlier novels interesting with some new and interesting plot threads. Scarrow also pays vivid attention to historical detail – we get an interesting look into Roman culture and we really get to see the differences between say the original inhabitants of Britannia and the Romans, for example. When you also take into account that the dialogue is spot on – you really get a feel for how strong this book is – and of course, it’s something that I don’t need to tell to long term readers who will most likely have got their hands on a copy already.
The pacing is pretty enthralling and entertaining. The Blood Crows is literally edge of your seat stuff and Scarrow has mastered the art of balancing between fleshing out the characters beyond two dimensional figures and hooking the reader. Macro and Cato are really well created characters and I really enjoyed reading about them. An added bonus was the fact that there were multiple times where I found myself saying “Just one more chapter,” despite the fact that I’d already said that five chapters ago – and as a result, I sped through this quicker than normal.
So, if you’re interested in reading about the rich history Roman Empire, or are already familiar with Simon Scarrow’s Eagle series and are looking for a place to either get into for the first time, return to after falling behind or return to having waited the past two years for a fresh novel - then The Blood Crows will be right up your street. Superb stuff, and I’m pleased to say that Simon Scarrow has done it again.
THE EAGLE SERIES READING ORDER: Under the Eagle, The Eagle’s Conquest, Where the Eagle Hunts, The Eagle and the Wolves, The Eagle’s Prey, The Eagle’s Prophecy, The Eagle in the Sand, Centurion, The Gladiator, The Legion, Praetorian, The Blood Crows ...more
“An excellent final act, The Prince of Lies finishes off the trilogy very well indeed, and ending the trilogy in a very satisfying way – Fans of the previous two novels will not be disappointed by what they see here, and once again, Lyle proves herself to be one of the go-to people for good historical fantasy novels with this superb finale.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Elizabethan spy Mal Catlyn has everything he ever wanted – his twin brother Sandy restored to health, his family estate reclaimed and a son to inherit it – but his work is far from over. The renegade skraylings, the guisers, are still plotting – their leader, Jathekkil, has reincarnated as the young Prince Henry Tudor. But while he is still young, Mal has a slim chance of eliminating his enemies whilst they are at their weakest.
With Sandy’s help, Mal learns to harness his own magic in the fight against the guisers, but it may be too late to save England. Schemes set in motion decades ago are at last coming to fruition, and the barrier between the dreamlands and the waking world is wearing thin…"
After three years since it's start, we get to witness the highly anticipated conclusion to the Night’s Masque Trilogy. I’ve loved how the first two novels have played out, but one thing that they all share in common, before they begin – is their awesome covers. I loved the one for The Alchemist of Souls and The Merchant of Dreams, and The Prince of Lies is no different. I don’t normally talk about covers in reviews but I’ve had to make an exception for this one – and I think if this was not part of a trilogy (or the first volume) and standing alone in a bookstore, I would have picked it up on the strength of its cover alone – like I did with Douglas Hulick’s Among Thieves - which I’m now regretting, because whilst it was an excellent book, it feels like the wait for a sequel has been forever. However, with a novel released each year – we don’t have to worry about waiting for long with The Prince of Lies, or any of the other Night’s Masque novels – as Anne Lyle wraps them up fairly quickly and doesn’t fall into the trap of having to extent her series beyond an initial trilogy that has happened multiple times before.
The Prince of LiesEverything comes to a conclusion in The Prince of Lies - Mal opens the novel with a reclaimed family estate, a wife (Coby) and son to boot – along with the added bonus of his brother Sandy back in full health. That should mean the end of the series, right? He’s got what he wanted, after all. However, that’s not the case – Anne Lyle drags Mal back into action for one last time, and pit him against the renegade skraylings, known as the guisers. They’re still gaining power, and getting closer to the throne in the form of young Prince Henry Tudor – who is now effectively Jathekkil, their leader – or at least what he was reincarnated as. However, the battle can still be won, with Mal learning his own magic in preparation to save England. But will all of the characters efforts be for nothing?
It’s a very cleverly plotted third installment that although it may not knock you off your seat, The Prince of Lies is a very fitting conclusion to the Night’s Masque trilogy that isn’t entirely perfect – but the only issue that I had with it was merely a minor one, and that is Coby’s character didn’t really get as much to do as she did in the past two books. Now married to Mal and with a child, her reasons for not getting as involved as him are understandable but I would have liked Coby to take a more active role in the plot than what she has done here as I have enjoyed her portrayal in the past two books. However, she still manages to continue to hold readers interests in this book, or at least my interest and still manages to be as likable as she was before. This is mainly because of the introduction of Kit, adding a new POV to the book – meaning that we don’t get as much pagetime with already established characters as I would have liked. But it’s still probably the only real problem that I found with this book, because the rest of The Prince of Lies is very strong indeed.
In the past two novels, despite being set in Shakespearean London, we never really got the chance to see the Bard himself. Well, Lyle includes Shakespeare in person here, and she pulls off the playwright pretty well indeed, giving a nice touch to the series and making sure that his inclusion doesn’t overshadow the roles of other protagonists, and neither does she feel the need to put him in at every possible opportunity, like Peaky Blinders (The TV show) seemed to love doing with a young Winston Churchill. It gets that balance between historical characters (Shakespeare is not the only historical figure in this book) and created characters spot on, and does it pretty well indeed.
The prose, as one would expect from Anne Lyle, is as strong as ever. It’s similar to the high-quality standards of The Alchemist of Souls and The Merchant of Dreams so there is no dip there. The book also moves along at a fairly steady pace – whilst it may not be a page-turning thriller, I never felt the need to skip a few pages ahead because I was bored, and neither did I want to abandon the book altogether. However, The Prince of Lies manages to be just as captivating as previous entries have been, and we instantly find ourselves rooting for the protagonists (which should be no surprise as readers will have already encountered them twice before) over the antagonists and the book never gets to the point where we actually dislike the characters that we’re meant to be rooting for, which is always good (Unlike the character Max from the titular series from James Patterson, who became more or less unlikable the further the books progressed in the series), so on a whole, The Prince of Lies is still mostly solid when it comes to the characters.
In conclusion then, The Prince of Lies is a strong end to the trilogy. It wraps things up very well giving the characters a great send off and will have me really interested in whatever Lyle writes next. Fans of the first two books should enjoy this novel but as you can probably tell from my review, and the fact that it’s a final act in a trilogy, it’s obviously not a good jumping on point if you haven’t read the first two. There’s plenty of awesomeness found within this series as a whole so if you’re reading this review without knowledge of the first two books for whatever reason, then I strongly suggest that you go back and read them – you won’t regret it. The Prince of Lies - despite the lack of a certain character being involved as much as I would have liked her to (only a minor problem really when you consider that the rest of the book was fantastic) is a very strong book, and it’s great to see the trilogy end on a high note. Recommended.
“An awesome read that fans of Simon Scarrow’s previous works and the movie Gladiator should enjoy - Arena reminds readers why Simon Scarrow is right up there with the likes of Conn Iggulden and Bernard Cornwell for the best writers of historical fiction. This is a great read.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Ancient Rome provides the setting for the gripping story of the champion gladiator Pavo, trained to kill, and a pawn in the games of the powerful and ambitious.
Pavo’s journey begins when he encounters the Roman soldier Macro, who has been charged with his training. Bonds of friendship develop between the two men, both aware that their fates depend not only on Pavo’s skills in the arena but also on the whims of powerful and ruthless senators. Can Pavo survive to fulfil his most cherished goal – revenge for the murder of his father at the hands of a champion gladiator?
Right now, Conn Iggulden, Simon Scarrow and Bernard Cornwell are my three go-to authors for good historical fiction and each novel that I’ve read by them I’ve enjoyed, as they bring some experience and entertainment to each novel that isn’t always seen in other’s works. Whilst I may prefer Cornwell to Scarrow, the latter author is still one of my favourites when it comes to writing historical fiction, and I’m a massive fan of his Eagle series that got me invested in his work and as a result I’ve enjoyed many non-Eagle novels that he’s written since, including most recently The Sword and the Scimitar, which I read and reviewed last year. This year however sees Scarrow return to the Roman era and write a novel that interestingly, whilst featuring a character from the series, Macro, isn’t billed as an Eagle novel as the author, along with T.J. Andrews, who’s co-writing this book, weaves an interesting tale that explores many key themes as well as telling a compelling storyline that manages to be unpredictable and engrossing.
ArenaWhilst Cato, Macro’s main companion for the majority of the Eagle books, isn’t present in Arena as it’s set before Under the Eagle, the replacement Pavo is more than capable of replacing Cato as a protagonist and does so very well. Pavo and Macro are both interesting and rootable characters, and Scarrow and Andrews manage to flesh them out a bit more as they drives the narrative forward at a strong pace. This once again is a solid novel from the writer that proves that you can still tell a solid book when you’re writing with somebody else (as for example it’s pretty much a given now that anything that James Patterson writes with a co-author is going to be not as good as his original Alex Cross novels) – and it’s very hard to tell when (and if) the writing has changed between the two as the narrative and ongoing plot unfolds.
Arena is a novel that I would have probably have purchased as individual novellas if I’d have known about their releases, but for some reason they completely escaped my notice until this point, and I think that I’m glad I waited for the full novel to be released as like Chris Wraight’s serialized Scars, it seems to be meant for a novel format as opposed to a serialized one – I just don’t think that the serialized format would have given me enough time to invest in the characters to continue the story, even though I am familiar with Macro – but reading this novel as a collective whole proved to be a good thing. It also means that I get to read the whole thing at once, because I could not put Arena down when I was reading it – Andrews and Scarrow did wonders with the pace as it seemed to get quicker and more engaging as the novel went on. It’s great stuff, and what’s more, it proves that Scarrow still manages to contain that strong level of consistency in his novels.
This then, comes certainly recommended. You don’t have to read any of Scarrow’s other works in order to know what goes on here as it’s a great entry point. It’s also something that will please old fans as much as new ones, for Arena still maintains that quality that got readers engaged in the series in the first place. It’s an awesome read, and historical fiction fans won’t want to miss out.
“An excellent third entry in the Herward saga that promises to be satisfying, epic, and unputdownable – making it a must for fans of Historical Fiction.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
I’ve been reading Hereward since the beginning, and it’s shaped up to be a really strong trilogy. The opening act, entitled Hereward, was superb – and the following novel, The Devil’s Army, was likewise impressive and very strong for a middle act. And then came End of Days… which just blew me away – it was so, very awesome, and I could not put it down. Despite a few minor niggles here and there, which I’ll explain later in the review - End of Days ends the third act on a high note, and makes this a must-read for lovers of historical fiction.
"1071. Five years have passed since the Normans’ crushing victory at Hastings. England reels under the savage rule of its new king, the one they call ‘the Bastard’. The north has been left a wasteland – villages torched, innocents put to the sword, land stolen. Rats feed upon fields of the dead.
It seems no atrocity is too great to ensure William’s iron grip upon the crown. Now his cold gaze is turning towards the last stronghold of English resistance. After these years of struggle, he will brook no further challenge to his power. His vast army is massing; his machines of war are being made ready.
In their fortress on the Isle of Ely, the English rebels have put their faith in one man – a warrior, a leader and a master of the art of waging war. His name is Hereward, and he has planned an uprising that will sweep the hated king from the throne once and for all.
But Hereward has disappeared – and with him, it seems, England’s hopes of victory. Can this great hero really have abandoned his people? Time is running out, for King William is about to begin his final devastating assault that will surely mark the end of days…
Here is a heart-pounding tale of heroism, treachery and sacrifice – and the bloodiest rebellion England has ever known…"
As mentioned in the pull quote, End of Days is satisfying, epic, and delivers on several levels, and even though it may be predictable for readers who know the era well, Wilde does his best with what he’s got and allows for a fast-paced, page-turning read – I for one, couldn’t put it down, as the book explores several elements such as the characters, the action and the plot really well, allowing for an engaging read that is well worth checking out.
Hereward himself has undergone several changes over the course of this series, and from a man struggling to control his own direction in life, he pretty much ends up as someone far greater than the man at the beginning of Book One would ever have imagined himself to be – the leader of the English resistance against the Norman Invasion. Ever since the conclusion of The Devil’s Army, I’ve been looking forward to seeing where Wilde takes the character, especially given what happened in the previous book. With a large chunk of responsibility now placed on Hereward as leader, this allows for the character to be fleshed out even further than he has been before, being presented as a well rounded, three-dimensional figure that you will remember for a long time after this novel. Whilst the secondary characters aren’t as quite memorable, Harald Redteeth, Alric, Kraki, Guthrinc and the others, they still nonetheless play a key role in this book and gain a solid amount of page time.
I also liked how Wilde handled the main antagonist for this novel – William - yes, that William, known as the Bastard, and the Conqueror of England. Whilst he rarely, if at all featured in person in the first two books, End of Days ups the stakes considerably by not only putting him right at the heart of several of the most important scenes, but also setting the stage for a memorable confrontation between the character and our protagonist, Hereward. The interactions between these two characters when they finally meet in person is my personal highlight of the book, and really fulfils what the series has been leading to up until this point, making reading the third act really worthwhile, despite a couple of minor problems that I had with the book, as explained below.
Firstly, the book itself has a much more cinematic feeling than the previous two. This feels like a historical fiction equivalent of The Dark Knight Rises - to use one example, a big, bombastic blockbuster, particularly in the latter half of the novel – only without so many plot holes and less Batman, and every third act that’s upped the stakes from its predecessors, and is filled with short, sharp chapters to keep the reader reading. I didn’t really have any major issues with this approach, although some people might feel that it differs from the previous two novels in this aspect. Also, another issue that I found – although I didn’t notice this until after the book and probably would have remained ignorant of it if I hadn’t had read the review in question, Harald Redteeth – mentioned above, labelled present-day Instanbul as Constantinople, and not Miklagard, as it would have been known as by the Vikings.
However, I didn’t have any major problems with this book, and aside from a couple of niggles, it’s pretty much superb. As readers of Hereward and The Devil’s Army will be aware, Wilde knows how to write bloody, no-holds-barred action well, and he does so without mercy here – particularly in the latter half of the book, with a ruthless approach to battle sequences that are really entertaining. As I mentioned earlier, historical fiction fans will love this book – I couldn’t put it down, and as a result, I’m left wondering, what can Wilde bring to the table next? His first three outings are a huge success, and it’s almost certain – if he continues to write novels as strong as this one, then I’ll pick it up for certain. Readers of the first two novels probably don’t need this review to convince them to read the book, but if for some reason you’re still on the fence about it – I can throw my full recommendation behind the book. Buy it!
Hereward Series: Hereward, The Devil’s Army, End of Days ...more
“An epic book that details the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. Hancock’s prose is strong and the story encompasses a vast scale, but ultimately there are some elements that let the book down.” ~The Founding Fields
I went into War God not really knowing what to expect. I’d heard of Graham Hancock before, but this was the first time I’d come across any of his fiction. I also went into the book expecting historical fiction, but it isn’t long before it comes clear that this viewpoint of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico is in fact historical fantasy, not historical fiction. The author takes you on an epic tour of events giving you perspectives from multiple viewpoints, allowing for an enthralling story that will keep you reading. But it isn’t perfect – there are some issues that I had with War God which I shall touch on later in this review.
"A young girl called Tozi stands at the bottom of a pyramid, waiting to be led to the top where her heart will be cut out…
Pepillo, a Spanish orphan who serves a sadistic Dominican friar, is aboard the Spanish fleet as it sails towards Mexico…
This is the epic story of the clash of two empires, two armies and two gods of war. Five hundred desperate adventurers are about to pit themselves against the most brutal armies of the ancient Americas, armies hundreds of thousands strong.
This is a war of gods and men. Dark powers that work behind the scenes of history show their hand as the prophecy of the return of Quetzalcoatl is fulfilled with the arrival of Cortes. The Aztec ruler Moctezuma fights to maintain the demands of the war god Huitzilopochtli for human sacrifice. The Spanish Inquisition is planning an even greater blood-letting.
Caught up in the headlong collision between two gods of war are Tozi, Pepillo and the beautiful sex slave Malinal whose hatred of Moctezuma runs so deep she will sell out her own land and people to destroy him."
The blurb itself is epic, and that word really nails the description of the book. It’s epic. War God certainly isn’t light reading, coming in at over six hundred pages in the hardback version that I was sent for review. The characters are varied, and the book boasts such a large amount of cast that the writer has had to include a dramatis personae at the end of the book in order to inform the reader of their roles. I’m a bit torn on the needs of dramatis personaes myself – whilst they’re helpful for checking up on characters and reminding readers what role they play – shouldn’t a good book be able to make you remember them without needing one? Sure, A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin had a massive list of characters – but the fact that they were so well crafted meant that I never had to use it for reference once. The same cannot be said with War God, for the characters, whilst are strong in certain elements, are let down in others.
Tozi, Malinal, Cortes and others are all enjoyable characters, but they’re just not as memorable as I’d like them to be. I kept wondering who these people were – their voices were never really distinctive enough to stand out. It isn’t helped by the fact that the book is difficult to read in places, and the chapters themselves are quite short – normally this works in a thriller, but a thriller War God is not. It’s Historical Fantasy. Whilst there are some battle sequences and moments that are quicker paced, it only really works if the whole novel is a non-stop ride, and War God certainly isn’t that. It starts slow, and takes a while to get going. The plotlines themselves are far too predictable and as a result, Hancock is forced to move this book into an historical fantasy setting to make the book even more interesting, like the case with Conn Iggulden’s epic Rome series, of which I’ve read the first two volumes of. Only the difference is that whilst Iggulden didn’t need to change history to make it more unpredictable, it was indeed needed here.
The time period itself however is what makes this book compelling, allowing for an interesting scenario. As I’ve never read a book about the Aztec Conquest of Mexico before this book was engrossing and when Hancock does stick to the facts, it’s clear that he knows his history, having written numerous books in the past. The action sequences delivered here are well written, bloody and no-holds barred. I’ve mentioned Game of Thrones earlier in this review and I’m going to bring it up again, this book has a similar level of gore and violence, allowing for a dark outlook that just shows how grim this period of history was. He’s shed a light onto a period of history that not many people will know much about and it’s refreshing to read a tale that does not focus on characters from either a British or American perspective. It’s not a bad book despite the negatives that I’ve had to say – and I’m pretty sure that you’ll find something to enjoy here if you’re a fan of either historical fiction or historical fantasy – or both, so this’ll be one that you shouldn’t pass up.
“A great read with an interesting take on the Crimean War, with some excellent writing. If you loved Bernard Cornwell, then you’ll love this.” ~The Founding Fields
I’m a huge fan of Bernard Cornwell’s novels, having read as many that I can get my hands on and have several of his books sitting on my shelves waiting for me to get round to. He was the author that got me into historical fiction, alongside Simon Scarrow, and it’s always nice to discover new authors who are writing in the past – and The Scarlet Thief, penned by Paul Fraser Collard – is one of these terrific debuts that all fans of historical fiction should enjoy.
"The new Richard Sharpe bursts onto the historical adventure scene in a brilliant, action-packed debut of Redcoat battle and bloodshed.
1854: The banks of the Alma River, Crimean Peninsular. The Redcoats stagger to a bloody halt. The men of the King’s Royal Fusiliers are in terrible trouble, ducking and twisting as the storm of shot, shell and bullet tear through their ranks.
Officer Jack Lark has to act immediately and decisively. His life and the success of the campaign depend on it. But does he have the mettle, the officer qualities that are the life blood of the British Army? From a poor background Lark has risen through the ranks by stealth and guile and now he faces the ultimate test…
THE SCARLET THIEF introduces us to a formidable and compelling hero – brutally courageous, roguish, ambitious – in a historical novel as robust as it is thrillingly authentic by an author who brings history and battle vividly alive."
The blurb seems to agree with me that Jack Lark is the new Richard Sharpe. He’s an interesting character, with an interesting background that’s demonstrated very early on in the story. The book itself has many notable comparisons to Sharpe, as you’ll no doubt be able to note as you find yourself reading through these pages – for it is quite clear that Slater, the character in this book who plays a key role in providing a foil for Lark, shares some similarities with Obadiah Hakeswill, Sharpe’s nemesis within the ranks. Whilst Slater isn’t as downright as detestable as Hawkeswill, he certainly has his moments – and he is the character that readers will want to hate by the time this book is over.
The Crimean War was what gave me a bigger incentive to read this book, as whilst it’s not one of my favourite areas of history to cover, it’s certainly one with a lot of potential for some good storylines, even if when I was studying it I looked more at the after effects of the Crimea on the Russians than the actual War itself, but as far as I’m aware – there wasn’t any glaring historical inaccuracies in The Scarlet Thief which should please readers who like their historical fiction to be as accurate and as factual as possible. The action is very well written, and the pace itself is very quick and fast throughout the book – something that helped me not being able to put it down.
The plot is pretty engaging, and the book itself is pretty short as well, allowing for a quick read if you’re a fast reader like myself – it’s a welcome break particularly if you’ve just come off a huge book by George RR Martin or Brandon Sanderson, as you’ll get through this fairly quickly. If you need any further tips on why you should be reading The Scarlet Thief, see what Bernard Cornwell himself has to say about it:
“This is a brilliant debut and I look forward to reading more of Jack Lark.”
It’s fairly safe to say then that this book is the perfect antidote to anybody suffering Sharpe withdrawal. It reads like Sharpe, it feels like a Sharpe novel and fans of Cornwell will find themselves at home here. Collard has crafted a great tale that although may not be the most original of debuts – is certainly entertaining. If you’re an urban fantasy fan then you’ll know that I disliked the first Alex Verus novel by Benedict Jacka for being too similar to The Dresden Files. The difference here, aside from the genres, is that Paul Fraser Collard has managed to make The Scarlet Thief very entertaining and more gripping, compelling and engaging than Fated was, at least in my opinion anyway. I’ll be sticking around for the next book in the series, The Maharajah’s General, and it will be very interesting to see where Collard can take the series, and the character from here.
THE JACK LARK SERIES: The Scarlet Thief (May 2013), The Maharajah’s General (Nov 2014) ...more
“An interesting, humorous take on Dickensian London, that despite its flaws, proves to be an enjoyable read.” ~The Founding Fields
After having mixed f“An interesting, humorous take on Dickensian London, that despite its flaws, proves to be an enjoyable read.” ~The Founding Fields
After having mixed feelings about The Long Earth, which was Pratchett’s collaboration effort with Steven Baxter, I figured that I’d give the author another try when I saw Dodger practically half price in a local supermarket. After all, with that many novels released by Pratchett, I was sure to find something that I liked more than The Long Earth, right?
As it turns out, it’s still the same here. Whilst Dodger may have some great things about it that I enjoyed, other elements left me feeling rather flat. I’ll be picking up another Pratchett novel though, most likely one of his earlier Discworld books, for I have been assured that his writing is a lot stronger there than in his more recent offerings.
Dodger is a tosher – a sewer scavenger living in the squalor of Dickensian London.
Everyone who is nobody knows Dodger. Anyone who is anybody doesn’t.
But when he rescues a young girl from a beating, suddenly everybody wants to know him.
And Dodger’s tale of skulduggery, dark plans and even darker deeds begins . . .
Let’s kick things off with what I liked. Pratchett possesses a humorous writing style that although may not have many laugh out loud moments, there are still some entertaining elements to be found in Dodger. The majority of the characters are strong as well, Dodger is memorable and can be rooted for. Pratchett’s strength also lies in portraying already established historical characters. His portrayal of Charles Dickens was one of the highlights of the novel for me, and other notable mentions are characters such as Sweeney Todd (fictional) and Benjamin Disraeli (real), and even Queen Victoria herself. The characters were stand-out element of the story for me, and Pratchett is hitting fine form with them in this novel.
Although Dodger may not be exactly historical fiction, it’s pretty close. Pratchett, as far as I’m aware, gets historical elements of the storyline accurate and there aren’t any glaring mistakes to be found within the pages. The plot is simple and enjoyable, and the pace moves along well enough to keep the reader turning the pages, but not as fast as I would have liked – there are some parts of the novel that unfortunately drag out.
“A bloody, brilliant book that can be enjoyed by anyone. My favourite historical fiction author writes another strong entry in a great setting and de“A bloody, brilliant book that can be enjoyed by anyone. My favourite historical fiction author writes another strong entry in a great setting and delivers a great read that was one of my favourite novels of 2012.” ~The Founding Fields
I need to read more Bernard Cornwell. I know my brother’s a huge fan, owning most of his Sharpe books, and I read and enjoyed the first of that series and have seen the TV show with Sean Bean (which was awesome – and ladies and gentlemen, we have also found something in it where Sean Bean doesn’t die), as well as his novel Azincourt. If 1356 is anything to go by then Bernard Cornwell has still got what it takes, and even though this book wasn’t perfect, the author himself is still the king of historical fiction followed closely in my book by Simon Scarrow, author of the Eagle series. And the best part is about this book is that it can be read without reading the previous novels in the series as well – like I found out whilst I was reading it.
Go with God and Fight Like the Devil. A fascinating hero and the pursuit of a sword with mythical power – this is the remarkable new novel by Britain’s master storyteller, which culminates at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.
Thomas of Hookton, a veteran of Crecy and many other battles, is the leader of a mercenary company of bowmen and men-at-arms who ravage the countryside east of Gascony.
Edward, Prince of Wales, later to be known as the Black Prince, is assembling an army to fight the French once more but before Thomas can join, he must fulfil an urgent task.
La Malice, a sword of mythical power guaranteeing victory to its owner, is thought to be concealed somewhere near Poitiers. With signs that a battle between the English and the French is looming others are seeking the treasure too, and some – French, Scots and even English – are pursuing their private agendas against Thomas.
But all – Thomas of Hookton, his enemies and friends and the fate of La Malice – become swept up in the extraordinary confrontation that follows, as the large French army faces the heavily outnumbered English in battle.,
Obviously, the novel is set in the year 1356 and deals with the leading up to the Battle of Poitiers, famous for being a battle that I knew absolutely nothing about before coming into this book, and I was glad to see that Cornwell managed to hook me in and keep me there, as well as providing an educational look into the battle with his vivid descriptions, strong characters and a masterful understanding of medieval action.
“A bloody, gritty novel that brings the Battle of Azincourt to life. Cornwell weaves a wonderful novel that you won’t want to put down.” ~The Founding Fields
Note: This novel is titled Agincourt in the USA.
I’ve been recently introduced to the legend that is Bernard Cornwell through his Sharpe series. Although I’ve only read Sharpe’s Tiger, I’ve seen the TV series with Sean Bean in them and found them to be pretty interesting, and I have been meaning to check out his non-Sharpe novels for a while now. Ever since I brought Azincourt in a supermarket recently, I knew it was going to be read and reviewed soon. And as it turns out, Azincourt is one of the best historical fiction novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, although - unfortunately, it’s not without its flaws.
Bernard Cornwell has been thinking about this subject for years. He has long wanted to write a book about a single battle, the events that lead up to it, the actual days in the battle and the aftermath from multiple viewpoints.
Agincourt, fought on October 25th 1415, on St Crispin’s Day, is one of the best known battles, in part through the brilliant depiction of it in Shakespeare’s Henry V, in part because it was a brilliant and unexpected English victory and in part because it was the first battle won by the use of the longbow. This was a weapon developed in this form only by the English – parishes were forced to train boys from as young as eight daily – and enabled them to dominate the European battlefields for the rest of the century.
Lively historical characters abound on all sides but in Bernard Cornwell’s hands the fictional characters, horsemen, archers, nobles, peasants are authentic and vivid, and the hour by hour view of the battle is dramatic and gripping.
Azincourt is a wonderful read. It’s gritty, dark and action-packed. The novel’s best part is clearly the battles, and Cornwell demonstrates his skill at writing them well. You can’t get any better writer at battles in the medieval ages than Bernard Cornwell, as he makes the reader feel like we’re there, fighting with the main characters, struggling against the French. The author has done his research well and I didn’t notice any glaring historical inaccuracies, which is always a good thing when you’re reading Historical Fiction. Although the actual battle of Azincourt doesn’t take place until the latter half of the novel, it’s worth the wait, and when it hits, it hits with a bang. You get to see everybody from King Henry V of England from Nicholas Hook, common Archer and the main protagonist of this novel in action, and Cornwell has written the tale superbly well.
The novel is told in third person which allows for multiple narratives and a look into characters from both the British and the French side (although the focus is mainly on the British), and the only real problem is with this is it’s much harder to get into the main characters heads. From what I saw in the Sharpe TV series, we get a similar formula used for the plot here, except only in Azincourt, and not in the Napoleonic Wars. A common soldier. Check. Aforementioned common soldier will fight heroically in every battle, and often emerge on top. Check. We get a love interest for the same common soldier. Check. In this case it’s Melisande. However, whilst this may be a similar format to what fans of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series will be used to, it’s done so well that you won’t care about this. Cornwell’s tale is action-packed, and the pace manages to be kept consistently all the way through. I have a feeling that Cornwell fans will have brought Azincourt already, but I don’t know why I’ve put this off for so long. I believe my next purchase from this author will be The Fort, as I’ve wanted to read more about the American Revolutionary War for a while now.
The author doesn’t shy away from the blood and the gore elements of the battle, and we’re reminded just how unpleasant that the middle ages was. The novel moves along at a fast pace, and we get a variety of action sequences in order to keep the reader entertained. Although Cornwell could have made us feel more attached to our characters and perhaps developed them more, Azincourt still manages to be an engaging read. The next novel written by Cornwell, which I will no doubt be buying as well, is titled 1356 and is released in September this year, published by Harper Collins in the UK, and tells the story of the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, an area of history which I know very little about.