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The Sheriff's Catch

(The Sassana Stone Pentalogy #1)

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  98 ratings  ·  58 reviews
1588. Abel de Santiago has deserted the army and all but avenged his murdered wife, when he is captured and sold as a galley slave. As the Spanish Armada sails for England, there can be few souls on board more reluctant than him.

After a crushing defeat to the enemy fleet, the Spanish ships are battered by extraordinary storms and Santiago finds himself washed ashore in Ire
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 15th 2018 by Unbound
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James Dear David,
Many thanks both for your rating and your question, glad you enjoyed Sheriff. The Rebel manuscript is at least 85-90% ready (as are the ma…more
Dear David,
Many thanks both for your rating and your question, glad you enjoyed Sheriff. The Rebel manuscript is at least 85-90% ready (as are the manuscripts for the following three instalments), I just need to review it 3-4 times before sending it off for structural-editing, copy-editing and a last proof-read. I'm a bit bogged down with Sheriff marketing initiatives at the minute, but I'm hoping to get properly stuck into Rebel sometime in July / August.
Based on my experiences during the publication process for Sheriff, I think I'll require at least 4 months of review before Rebel can be reviewed by professional editors, and it will probably be another three months before it's on the shelves and available online.
With some luck I'm hoping that publication should occur sometime in March-June '19 at the earliest. Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Best wishes,
James I started actively researching the period when I was living in Brussels in 2005. The first book I read was ‘Romegas’ by Carmel Testa and I subsequentl…moreI started actively researching the period when I was living in Brussels in 2005. The first book I read was ‘Romegas’ by Carmel Testa and I subsequently read all the 16th C-related novels and non-fiction books I could get my hands on. I carried out this research while writing another five-part series set in 16th C between 2005 - 2006 while I lived in Brussels and Malta, and continued researching the 16th C after my move to Sydney in 2007. I still read a lot about the period and I spent the whole of 2011 exclusively dedicated to research at the excellent Fisher Library at The University Of Sydney. In October 2012 I also travelled to Ireland to do some fieldwork and visit the main historical sites which feature in The Sheriff’s Catch. In all I must have read around 70 books and countless articles on the period. So to answer your question: I started researching the period in 2005 and got The Sheriff’s Catch published in March 2018 (I started work on it in the last month of 2008). That’s 13 years of research, all in my free time. I spent nine years writing The Sassana Stone Pentalogy, all in my free-time, except for 2010 when I spent eight months working on it full-time.(less)

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Start your review of The Sheriff's Catch (The Sassana Stone Pentalogy, #1)
Historical fiction has seen such a rise in popularity over the past decades, that it's easy to forget that it is, in fact, a long-established and venerable genre. One could say that some of the earliest literature (including, say, the Iliad) is "historical", being based on actual facts which had happened in the past. The genre as we know it became particularly popular in Europe in the 19th Century, through the works of such authors as Scott, Balzac and Hugo. The historical novel was often the ve ...more
Jeanette Heidenberg
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent piece of historical fiction. I have not been this excited about a book series since Game of Thrones. But unlike GoT, the five books of this series have already been written and are awaiting publication.

In my mind, this book is a three-way cross between Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge series, Game of Thrones, and the Bourne Series. It’s an exceedingly well researched historical drama (Ken Follett) with a brutally honest depiction of the realities of warfare (GoT) at a relentless pa
Claire Busuttil
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very good book, well written and well researched. It is engaging from the very first page and leaves you wanting till the very last. It is an emotional journey, dynamic and adventerous. Written emphasizing all five senses, it helps you experience an era in the crude realistic way that the events occurred. A journey of hope, loss, strength and survival. Highly recommended and eagerly waiting for the next books to be pubblished.
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. it is a well told story and related the misadventures of Abel Santiago, a Spanish soldier. There's a fair but if violence but it it totally acceptable due to the nature of the tale.
I look forward to the sequel and thank James and the Pigeonhole for the opportunity to read this
Shelagh Wadman
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have just finished reading the Sheriffs Catch a roller coaster ride from start to finish. From the first page Santi the main character became real and right through the book I wanted to ‘shout at him’ when he made mistakes or when I thought he was being irrational! It is a fast paced historical novel set in the time of the Spanish Armada I was one of the Follett 500 who read Ken Follet’s Column of Fire which told the story from the English side of the war, this book takes us on a journey follo ...more
Di Paterson
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing read. Historical fiction at its best, with fast-paced action and a hero who is imperfect, but who we cheer on through his good and bad choices. Written in the first-person, it's a personal insight into 16th century Europe and the Spanish Armada, but with no rose-coloured glasses. This is death and destruction in all its gory detail, told with vivid imagery and engaging all the senses, so that you feel that you're in the midst of it all.

James Vella-Bardon's style is wonderful, hi
Maria Rivas-mc
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book is obviously the result of immense research on the period. It is well-written and vividly recreates the time - something like The Vikings series on Netflix. In both cases, the realism at times was a bit too much for me to handle. I also couldn’t love the main protagonist whose hotheaded vow of revenge for the deaths of his wife, unborn child, and father-in-law saw him leaving a young brother-in-law behind and leading another recklessly into risky situations. This book relates the first ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel is fast-paced, gripping and brutally honest. From the moment that Abel Santiago finds himself abandoned in the woods after a raid on a Dutch rebel force to his arrival in the kingdom of Dartry, there is not a moment of respite. Yes, there are the sequences in the galleys and the crows-nest, but even these provide a vivid glimpse into the horrors of 16th-century seaboard life. A very good read, despite its grimness.
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. It i
s an interesting historical novel set at the time of the Spanish Armada. I found it very well researched and nicely written. The pace is fast with lots of action, keeping you turning the pages. A must for anyone who enjoys adventure and historical novels. I look forward to reading the sequel.
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great read! The pace was fast and furious, detail of the countryside and life in the 1500's enlightening. Would recommend unless you are someone who does not enjoy sequels as this is part 1. For myself, I can't wait for the sequel.
Paul Rubens
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful read and what an enjoyable experience reading it along with the author and "countless" other readers in Pigeonhole. (the "countless" is my inside joke with the author).
I cannot recommend this book highly enough for so many reasons. Let me list a few:
Unbelievably well researched detail of one of the greatest watershed events of history - the Spanish Armada (what would Europe look like today if they had have succeeded in invading England??)
As super story that never stops. The exci
Mark Degiorgio
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books designed to get you in trouble! The kind that you just can't put down; at 2 am you tell yourself, that you'll sleep once you get to the end of the chapter and before you know it the sun is rising and you're still reading! Where you actually consider getting a few lines in when stopped in red lights....

Fantastic read, superbly interesting historical novel. Can't wait for the next book!!
Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was very different to what I normally read and it still managed to captivate and entertain me.

I, an avid reader of young adult fantasy, needed a few pages to get used to the writing style. This is historical fiction and therefore not as filled with banter and sarcasm as the books I usually read. Still the voice of the main character, Santiago, was easy to like and relate to.

In this book we follow Santiago, a 30-ish Spanish solider, on a mission to revenge the murder of his wife and unb
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an extraordinarily riveting fast paced historical genre story. A pleasure to read such a thrilling plot, taking us through post Reformation Europe to Ireland in the 17th century. I loved the book so much I read it twice within two weeks, my sensory perceptions tingled with each chapter.
I was lucky enough to read and comment with other readers on Pigeonhole app. James has created very visual and auditory imagery, with wonderful descriptions bringing the characters and surroundings to lif
Douglas Laing
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The writing maintains an absolutely breathtaking pace in this well researched historical thriller. The action takes place around the failed attempt by the Spanish Armada to invade of England ruled by Elizabeth I. The story is told through the eyes of Spanish solder betrayed by his army comrades and sold as a galley slave to row aboard one of the Spanish galleons. It is a different story from the usual tale of Sir Francis Drake's great victory. Our hero, chained to his oar, survives countless bro ...more
Gail Wylde
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pigeonhole
I loved this book! It was a real roller coaster of a read and left me quite breathless at times. Our hero is Abel Santiago, a Spanish soldier at the period in history round about the time of the Armada. All the characters in this book are very well written. You either really love them or absolutely hate them. There is a fair bit of violence but every action is in keeping with the story so totally acceptable.
I want to thank the author James Vella-Bardon for writing this book (and the others books
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was so good I had to read it twice! I read a Stave a day through Pigeonhole and enjoyed camaraderie and banter with my fellow Pigeon posse and interesting and insightful comments from the Author - James Vella Bardon. Incredibly well researched and provided a fully immersive, rollercoaster ride through the troubled and turbulent times. So looking forward to the next one of this Pentalogy. Waiting impatiently James !!
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you liked Outlanders you'll love this book
Sandra Salter
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The pace is fast, descriptions are superb and the characters are so well rounded, you either love them or hate them. A brilliant storyline and I cannot wait to read the next book.
Fred Grigor
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this via The Pigeonhole reading a Stave a day. The book is utterly enthralling. It was fast paced, full of historical fiction. Descriptive of the period. I can’t wait for a sequel.
Billy Buttons
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was entered in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. This is what our readers thought:
Title: The Sheriff's Catch
Author: James Vella-Bardon

Star Rating: 5 Stars
Number of Readers: 18
Editing: 9/10
Writing Style: 9/10
Content: 10/10
Cover: 9/10
Of the 18 readers:
18 would read another book by this author.
16 thought the cover was good or excellent.
18 felt it was easy to follow.
18 would recommend this story to another reader to try.
13 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘plotting a story’.
5 felt t
Rumsha A • Storiesandplottwists
The graphics! I can not even begin to tell how graphic and vivid and brilliant the descriptions were throughout the book, whether they be of  wild wolves quenching their thirsts through the slashed throats of Spaniards, dipping their snouts in, or of the gally slaves crapping and puking their guts out on the stinking floorboards of the Armada.

I never knew i would enjoy a book on history and war set in the 15th century as much as i did reading 'The Sherrif's Catch' by @vellabardonj .

It all star
Alison Riseley
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book on The Pigeonhole. It was brilliant!
If you like historical drama, it is set in the Spanish Armada, but from the point of view of a Spaniard, it is extremely well researched.
If you like action, each chapter drives you forward at pace and is impossible to put down (we had to as we were only given a chapter a day).
If you like identifiable characters that you can connect with emotionally there is love, passion, anger, revenge, sorrow, bitterness, desperation in abundance.
This is
Andrew Lane
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this via The Pigeonhole. A visceral thriller, with no quarter given. A fusion of so many heady influences: just when you think the odds are too great, the dial is given another full turn. Its protagonist ‘Santi’ is a Dumasian Mad Max, crashing through catastrophic scenarios which are based on rock solid historical research. The dialogue was engaging and at times hilarious. The level of detail was just right, with much being revealed and even more being implied. The scenes are narrated at ...more
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
M.C. Dulac
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
Fast-paced, gripping and moving historical fiction, with an original take on one of the turning points of history – the wreck of mighty Spain’s Armada on the west coast of Ireland in the 1500s.

The book’s hero, Santiago is an everyman, caught up in the currents of historical events bigger than him. Santiago starts the story as a Spanish infantryman stationed in Holland, a small cog in the complex wars of the 16th century. Although part of the occupying force, he has fallen in love with and marrie
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a great debut novel from James Vella-Bardon and the first instalment of a pentalogy. Firstly about Unbound, the publishers, who are revising the age-old practice of patronage in the arts in the internet era - allowing supporters to make contributions and see works published. Well done Unbound ! The book itself is a great read. A rollicking series of cliffhanger escapes amongst the spectacular scenery of 16th Century Europe and Ireland. Although it takes a few chapters to find its feet - ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5/5 stars!

It review time! I wanna thank the author and publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!

I absolutely loved this book. I know I usually read YA fantasy or Sci-fi but fun fact before I read YA I used to read a lot of historical fiction!

So when reading historical fictions the first thing I am looking for is time period accuracy and this book was spot on I felt like I was transported into this time period which helped for a deeper understanding of the characters th
Andrew Debono
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There is a lot to love about this book. It is a wonderful mix between excellent research on a period of time that I knew very little about (and places such as the Netherlands and Ireland that were affected by the Anglo-Spanish conflicts going on at the time) and some very brutal and exciting action. We witness the events through the eyes of the protagonist, who the author makes pass through various hellish experiences and who does not always manage to get the upper hand over the adversities he f ...more
Maximilian Hawker
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Sheriff's Catch is Vella-Bardon's debut novel and is a precision piece of immersion which so characterises the best in historical fiction. I won't bother summing up the plot, as the blurb can be read elsewhere, but the energy of the author's prose keeps things moving along at a blistering pace, taking the action across 16th-century Europe as Santiago, the protagonist, hunts down the men responsible for the death of his wife; if this ever became a movie, Santiago would have to be played by Li ...more
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James lives in Sydney's Northern Beaches with his young family and a spirited cavoodle.

In 2018 his debut 'The Sheriff's Catch' climbed to #3 on the English fiction bestseller list in his native Malta.

Recipient of a few international literary awards and nominations, he enjoys writing thriller novels set in periods of history which have been swept under the carpet.

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