In A Burning Sea, Theodore Brun, effortlessly takes us back to the eighth century, where his richly detailed and believable characters travel from theIn A Burning Sea, Theodore Brun, effortlessly takes us back to the eighth century, where his richly detailed and believable characters travel from the snow-wrapped mountains of Scandinavia all the way to the greatest city in the world: Byzantium.
Erlan, the single-minded warrior, is in search of redemption, while Lilla, Queen of Svealand, is looking for the man she loves and also a means to reclaim her kingdom from a treacherous usurper. Byzantium is a teeming hive of intrigue and betrayal and both Erlan and Lilla quickly find themselves embroiled in plots and treachery as the city is besieged by an implacable enemy that threatens not only the city, but the future of the very continent. Theodore Brun's writing is filled with nuance and humanity, jeopardy and violence. A Burning Sea is a dark and twisted journey into a distant time, where the only commodity that could not be bought was honour. This is epic historical adventure at its very best. ...more
Rich in historical detail, The Lady of the Ravens is a touching glimpse into the experiences of those who surrounded the throne of Tudor England. ThroRich in historical detail, The Lady of the Ravens is a touching glimpse into the experiences of those who surrounded the throne of Tudor England. Through the eyes of Joan Vaux we witness the loves, tribulations, joys and fears of the women and children whose existence was all too often controlled by the vagaries and dynastic machinations of the men in power.
Joanna Hickson is a wonderful storyteller and brings the Tudor world to vibrant, and often sorrow-tinged, life....more
Outside the Gates of Eden is an epic, sprawling double gatefold concept album of a novel. It is a poignant and powerful swansong to the end of the tweOutside the Gates of Eden is an epic, sprawling double gatefold concept album of a novel. It is a poignant and powerful swansong to the end of the twentieth century, to the demise of wide-eyed, often drug-fuelled innocence of the Summer of Love and Woodstock; an elegy to ideals and dreams lost. But through it all, like a pounding John Bonham stomp groove, the enduring power of music and love to redeem us all flows through the heart of the story.
Filled with missed opportunities and wasted time, Outside the Gates of Eden is often bleak, frequently ebullient, but always eminently readable. Shiner takes his endearing cast of characters from students wanting to change the world to retirees who, looking back with regrets at their perception of how little they have achieved, do their best to hand over some hope for the future to the next generation.
Lewis Shiner writes with incredible precision and feeling. With seeming effortlessness he captures the ecstatic joy of live performance, and the rush that comes when music and words slot together perfectly to produce something magical in song writing and recording. His passion for music oozes from every page, but above that, his compassion for the characters drives the narrative and makes the book difficult to put down.
This is one of those rare books that fills me with awe and envy in equal measure. I know I could never have written it, but still I wish I had. I loved it! ...more
Dusty deserts, showdowns under the blistering sun, bloodthirsty bandoleros, rough whisky and rougher men. Bullets fly, emotions run high and treacheryDusty deserts, showdowns under the blistering sun, bloodthirsty bandoleros, rough whisky and rougher men. Bullets fly, emotions run high and treachery abounds in The Lost Outlaw. This is classic Jack Lark in a classic western. Paul Fraser Collard has done it again and delivered another exceptionally entertaining historical action adventure. ...more
The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England from the 5th to 7th century, edited by Paul Mortimer and Matt Bunker, is an astounding achievement and a wonderful adThe Sword in Anglo-Saxon England from the 5th to 7th century, edited by Paul Mortimer and Matt Bunker, is an astounding achievement and a wonderful addition to the corpus on the subject. It is both scholarly in its depth and approach and at the same time accessible to the more casual reader with an interest in early Anglo-Saxon England, or swords in general. It covers just about everything you could think of about swords from this period, from how they were used, their place in the military culture, their symbolism, how they were fashioned and decorated, in-depth analyses of the distribution of archaeological finds, the different forging processes, the ideology of swords and several case studies of reconstructions of famous historical swords, such as the Sutton Hoo sword from mound 1 and the Bamburgh Blade.
This is a hefty tome, weighing in at 450 pages. The contributions are varied and for anyone with even a vague interest in the subject matter there will be some chapters that will make compelling reading. There are several highlights in the book, but for me the detailed descriptions of the pattern-welding process and the step-by-step accounts of forging replicas of pattern-welded swords, with numerous enlightening colour photographs, really stand out and elevate this above other works by adding in-depth practical knowledge from expert blade smiths.
If you wish to know more about swords, particularly those from the early Anglo-Saxon period, this encyclopaedic book is a must-buy....more
Sprawling in scope and rich in historical detail, this is a gritty, thrilling end to a wonderful series. Ian Ross not only brings us a scintillating tSprawling in scope and rich in historical detail, this is a gritty, thrilling end to a wonderful series. Ian Ross not only brings us a scintillating tale, with page-turning action and vivid characters, he also writes with such authority and conviction you could believe he has discovered time travel and witnessed the events first-hand. It really is that good!
Triumph in Dust is a triumph of historical fiction....more
In THE DAMNED Tarn Richardson brings us a devilish melange of historical fiction, thriller and horror, all blended together with copious amounts of goIn THE DAMNED Tarn Richardson brings us a devilish melange of historical fiction, thriller and horror, all blended together with copious amounts of gore against the backdrop of the early days of the First World War. Richardson's writing is fluid and literary, but without pretensions, and the plot is as action-packed as any airport novel, or even graphic novel (I am pretty sure there are nods to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's fabulous Watchmen in the story's denouement, which I don't think I imagined). The protagonist, Poldek Tacit, an embattled and flawed Catholic Inquisitor, is a powerful creation, but he would be weaker without the rich cast of supporting players. Here there are strong, sexual women, pompous cardinals, altruistic and pious priests and nuns, English Tommies, trying to maintain some semblance of dignity while their thoughtless, callous military leaders send them onward to certain death. Richardson's descriptive prose paints equally vivid images of mud-clogged trenches as sun-drenched Italian fields glimpsed during flashbacks into Tacit's troubled past. THE DAMNED is a truly genre-busting novel, with characters to root for and villains to despise. Highly recommended. There are two more books in the DARKEST HAND series, so this can be seen as the first course in what I am sure will be a delicious and wholly satisfying, if somewhat dark, angst-filled and gore-splattered, meal....more
Anyone who knows me will almost certainly have heard me mention that Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry is one of my all time favourite books. I have reaAnyone who knows me will almost certainly have heard me mention that Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry is one of my all time favourite books. I have read several other westerns penned by McMurtry, and whilst none of them has reached the heights of his Pulitzer-winning masterpiece, they have all been entertaining enough. So it was with some excitement that I spotted The Last Kind Words Saloon in a bookshop. I jumped at the chance to read a new McMurtry western, and the fact that it was short, was a plus for me, as I have very little time to read. That it was about Wyatt Earp, one of my favourite characters, clinched the deal.
I am not really sure what McMurtry was aiming for with The Last Kind Words Saloon, but it is written with his recognizable charm and sparse prose and has that feeling of authenticity that makes it feel as right as a well-worn pair of boots. Each chapter is a short vignette in the life of Earp, Doc Holliday, Charlie Goodnight and a handful of other western legends. The plot doesn't really go anywhere and McMurtry manages to sidestep and gloss over the showdown at the O.K. Corral, rather than make it the climax of the novel. I think this was intentional and perhaps says something about McMurtry's idea behind the novel. This is about the debunking of the western myths. Showing the sad, petty, violent and often lost people who became legends. There are no heroes in this vision of the American West, just drifters, drunks and chancers and some hard-working men and women who managed to forge a future for themselves in difficult times and in the harshest of terrains and climates.
It has the ennui of McMurtry's Buffalo Girls and perhaps even the shortness of the book was a nod to the subject matter being the sorrowful end of the golden age of the American frontier. If Lonesome Dove, with its close to a thousand pages, is a tour de force of western writing, The Last Kind Words Saloon, at about two hundred pages, feels like a shadow of McMurtry's most famous work, perhaps echoing the sad decline into insignificance of characters like Wyatt Earp who, rather than doing the decent thing and dying in a blaze of glory, lived out his later years in relative obscurity and poverty in California.
I enjoyed this book, mainly because McMurtry, even when he is not trying hard, can breathe life into his characters and write fabulous, insightful dialogue, but if you have not read Lonesome Dove, go there first. This one is for the true fan and best left as a slightly bitter digestif after the sumptuous main course....more