Monday, 30 April 2012

The Leopard Sword, Anthony Riches

Publishers: Hodder

Pages: 400

Main Characters:

Marcus, Julius, Obduro

The Leopard Sword is the fourth book in Anthony Riches' Empire series and sees our Centurion Marcus Corvus and the Tungrian cohorts fighting bandits on the German frontier. What at first seems like an easy task of removing a few bandits from the towns of the Roman frontier, soon becomes an all-out war between the Roman forces and the band of vicious rebels under the rule of Obduro.  Obduro holds an immense amount of power over the Roman town of Tungrorum, finding information on the new cohorts posted there and even digging into Marcus’s past, the past which he believed he’d left in Britannia. Marcus and the Tungrians must bring Obduro to heel and re-establish Roman dominance in the area. But this will not be an easy task. Obduro’s stronghold is in the forest of Arduenna, (where he believes he is protected by the Goddess of the forest as he pays her sacrifice with human blood) and is formidable, needing a full Legion to conquer it. Along with the Goddess’ protection, Obduro has an immensely powerful sword which has been known to slice men in two and which he believes will never be beaten by another sword. The task to remove this threat will be difficult for Marcus and the Tungrians.

Meanwhile Centurion Julius has his own personal problem. After returning to Tungrorum (the place he grew up) from Britain, he finds that the love of his life Annia is been held and exploited by one of the town’s most powerful and violent gang leaders, Petrus. Julius must rescue Annia from the wrath of Petrus if he ever wants to re-kindle the love they shared over fifteen years ago. But with the whole of his gangs muscle behind Petrus, it will take brains as well as brawn for Julius to get her back.

If I’m been honest I didn’t mean to read this book! It was only by coincidence that I was searching through ‘the store’ on my Kobo and realised this book had been released that day! I thought that since I had only reviewed the third book in the series the Fortress of Spears a few days ago, (and that it got a pretty good response from you guys) that I should review this one straight away. And as usual I’m glad I did read this book because Riches does another great job!

Like its predecessor the book is extremely fast-paced. From the first page you're in the middle of a battle and introduced to the cunning and devious villain Obduro. The mystery behind who Obduro is also makes this book a brilliant read. His face is always hidden behind a cavalry helmet so you don’t find out who he is till the end, and when he is finally revealed it is quite unbelievable!

The thing I also like about Riches’ style of writing is that in each book he introduces us to the sub-stories of other characters in the series. In the last book its sub-stories were focused on Prince Martos and Dubnus. In this story it is focused on Julius and his life before the legion. I think this only adds to the book because it means as a reader you get to know some of the smaller characters in the plot, instead of it just always been about Marcus!

Great book can’t wait for the next one! Like I said in my review of the Fortress of Spears, I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Simon ScarrowConn Iggulden or Ben Kane.

For author’s official website please click here

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my FREE ‘Book of the Month’ Competition, it starts tomorrow! Click here for further details.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Conqueror, Conn Iggulden

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 526

Main Characters:
Kublai, Mongke, Hulegu, Arik-Boke

Before I start my review I would just like to say that I will be reviewing the other four books in this series at a later date. This is because I read them quite a while ago and it will take me some time to re-read them and remember what happens!
Conqueror is the fifth (and I’m very sad to say) and final book in Conn Iggulden's amazing Conqueror series. The book picks up five years after the death of Ogedai Khan. The great empire Genghis carved out from the lands of the Chin and the Persians has been left leaderless for too long. Guyuk, Ogedai’s son is chosen as the new Khan. However after his untimely death, his cousin Mongke is chosen as the new Great-Khan.
Mongke wants to see the great nation of Mongolia return to its traditional ways and not be bogged down and made corrupt by the Chin that administer it. To return to old ways, Mongke sets his two brothers Kublai and Hulegu the task of conquering new lands and people for the nation. Hulegu goes west into the lands of the Caliphate of Baghdad and creates his own Khanate there. Whereas Kublai goes south-east into the lands of Mongolia’s old enemy, the Sung. In the lands of the Sung, Kublai becomes the leader of men his bother always wanted him to be and conquerors countless cities and people. However Kublai’s expedition is cut short as his brother Mongke is murdered by the infamous Assassins.
Declaring himself Khan, Kublai decides he must return to Karakorum (the centre of the Mongol empire). However on his route home, Kublai discovers his younger brother Arik-Boke has also declared himself Khan and is ruling in Karakorum! This means war for the nation of Genghis as his two grandsons will fight for their birth rite. But will the winner of the war be able to hold the nation together? Or will the enemies all around the empire pounce on their weakness?
I absolutely loved this book! It was so fast paced from the very beginning. Throughout the series Iggulden does an excellent job of describing the characters that carved an empire out of nothing. An empire that would last centuries and have more land mass than both the Rome of Julius Caesar and the empire of Alexander the Great! He does a brilliant job of portraying the lands the two brothers fight in, as well as the tactics and techniques used by the Mongolian tumans in battle. The only slight criticism I would have about this book is the emphasis Iggulden puts on cannons. I know that cannons were used at this time but I do not know if they were as effective as Iggulden suggests in this book? I am no expert on the matter, but I do know that cannons were always hard to move and not very accurate, even a few centuries after this book was based. But Iggulden has them hitting the targets every time and moving quickly into position to fire. Maybe it is because they were based on Chinese design? And because their technology was so far advanced compared to that of Europe’s, it meant their cannons were much more effective? If you know anything about artillery from this time, please let me know! Apart from that small issue the book was great!
As I said above, this was a truly brilliant book from an excellent series and I am really sad it has finished! I think Iggulden could go so much further with Kublai Khan’s story! But I suppose it is not unknown for an historical fiction author to finish a series and then return to it at a later date. I do hope it happens with this one!
Great book and series, I would suggest it to anyone who is a fan of Iggulden’s Emperor Series.
For author’s official website click here
P.S. Please check out my ‘Book of the Month’ FREE competition. It will be launched on the 1st May. For further details please click here

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Introducing the New Free Book of the Month Competition!

Hello everyone and welcome to adam-p-reviews! As some of you guys may know, there comes a time in every fiction-fanatics life when you find yourself overrun with books. I currently have a bookshelf full of books at Uni, a bookshelf full of books at home AND a box full of paperback books under my bed! Therefore, as a means of clearing out my stockpile and a way of passing on some great literature to other readers, I have decided to start a Free ‘Book of the Month’ competition! This will give you the chance to win my favourite Book of the Month for Free!

How will it work?

The way it will work is simple. After I have written all of my reviews for the books I have read in the month (e.g. April) I will then choose which of those books was my favourite. After I have chosen my favourite book you will have the whole of the next month (e.g. May) to enter the competition. At the end of the month I will announce who has won the competition by posting their name on my Blog and Facebook page.

How can you enter?

There are two ways in which you can enter:

1. You can enter by becoming a member or follower of my Blog on Blogger.

2. However if you are already a follower of my blog, or you are not a member of Blogger, you can enter by going to my Facebook page by clicking on this link adam-p-reviews ‘liking’ my page if you haven’t already and writing a comment saying you would like to enter the competition. If you have already ‘liked’ my Facebook page, all you have to do is write a comment saying you would like to enter the competition.

How will the winner be chosen?

I will choose the winner by taking the name of everyone who has followed my Blog or written a comment on my Facebook page. The names will all be put into a hat. At the end of the month I will make a video showing me drawing the winners name out of the hat. I will then place the video and the winners name on my Blog and Facebook page. I will then direct message or inbox you on Facebook or Blogger and ask you privately where you would like me to send your prize! I will send the prize anywhere around the world so don’t worry if you are not from the UK, you can still enter the competition!


If you have any questions about the competition do not hesitate to ask me. All my contact information is in this link ‘Contact Me’.  I will by putting up April’s book of the month on the 1st May 2012 and you will have until 12pm GMT on the 31st May 2012 to enter the competition. Later that evening I will announce the winner and message you about your address.

So good luck! I hope you enjoy the competition as much as I will. Remember it is Free!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Fortress of Spears, Anthony Riches

Publishers: Hodder

Pages: 340

Main Characters:
Marcus, Dubnus, Felicia,

Fortress of Spears is the third book in Anthony Riches Empire series. Set around AD 182 it follows the life of Centurion Marcus Aquila, better known to his friends as Corvus. Marcus is a fugitive from the Roman state. His father was wrongly accused of treason and executed by the Imperial palace. To save Marcus’s life he was sent to the province of Britannia at the borders of the Empire where he serves as an auxiliary Centurion. This book sees Marcus’s century return to the battle against the British rebel Calgus. After defeating Calgus’s forces after the bloody battle of Lost Eagle, Marcus’s cohort is sent further north into hostile territory with his ally Prince Martos. Their aim is to liberate the Prince’s capital Dinpaladyr (or in Latin the fortress of a thousand spear shafts) from his sworn enemies the Selgovae.
Meanwhile and unbeknown to Marcus, a group of assassins has been sent from Rome to find him. These assassins are lead by the ruthless Praetorian Centurion Quintus Sestius Rapax and his cunning partner Centurion Tiberius Varius Excingus. These two Centurions will stop at nothing to find their prey, even kidnapping Marcus’s fiancée Felicia as bait to draw Marcus into their trap. Has Marcus’s past finally caught up with him? And will he feel the wrath of the Imperial palace.
I have really enjoyed this series so far. The books are really fast paced as the campaign in Northern Britain becomes fiercer and bloodier! The sub-plot of Marcus’s treason adds another dimension to these novels that I think some other novels about Rome lack. I have to say, I prefer Simon Scarrow’s and Conn Iggulden’s books a little bit more than Riches' but I do really enjoy his work. This book in particular was brilliant. It was so fast-paced!  Leading from battle to battle and murder to murder, making it such a thrill because you just wanted to read on and on! I also love the character of Marcus, he’s such a bad ass! Fighting with two swords, wanted by the Emperor, a young and talented leader, what’s not to like about him?
This was an excellent book. I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Simon Scarrow’s Eagle series and Conn Iggulden’s Emperor series. Reading all of these series really gives you a timeline of the Roman occupation of Britain. First you have Iggulden and Caesar’s first invasion. Then you have Scarrow with the first conquest of Britain. And finally Riches with Hadrian’s Wall built and the Roman effort to push north of it. If you are into the history of the Roman invasion and occupation of Britain then all of these series put great stories to the facts many of us already know.
For author’s official website click here

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Constantinople 1453, A Place Called Armageddon, C. C. Humphreys

Publishers: Orion Books

Pages: 507

Main Characters:

Gregoras, Leilah, Achmed, Hamza,

Constantinople 1453, A Place Called Armageddon is as the title suggests, set during the siege of Constantinople in 1453. The story follows Gregoras, an exiled Greek noblemen wrongly accused of treason who now serves as a mercenary under the Geneon leader Giovanni Giustiniani Longo. Gregoras needs one more campaign to finally gain the money he needs to build the house of his dreams and eagerly seeks to find it under Longo. However, when the Geneon tells Gregoras the next campaign will be fighting the Turks in the defence of Constantinople, Gregoras refuses to join it. He does not want to return to the city that he was born in, the city he loved and served, but the city that abandoned him by wrongly accusing him of treason and the city that cast him into exile.

Unfortunately for Gregoras destiny is not on his side. The great sorceress Leilah has other plans for him. Knowing war is coming to Constantinople (because she foresaw it,) Leilah uses the opportunity to gain a prize that has been hidden in Constantinople for centuries, the works of Geber and the method of turning metal into gold! However, as she is a woman, living in a society where women do not have the same rights as men. Leilah must twist destiny to her will, and use the two most important men of that destiny (Gregoras and Mehmet II) to gain the prize she needs. Because of this, Gregoras sees himself returning to Constantinople and facing the ghosts of his past, the biggest of these his twin brother Theon.

With an epic title like Constantinople 1453, A Place Called Armageddon I had hoped that this would be an epic book. Luckily for me it was! This book pulls you in from the start with the character of Gregoras. A nose-less nobleman working as a mercenary, it sparks all sorts of questions from the very beginning! Why does he not have a nose? Why with a name that can be traced back centuries is he a mercenary? It draws you into this hero who is obviously flawed because of his past but who could become great with his future.  Leilah’s plot to acquire the works of Geber also make this book that much more interesting to read. It makes it not just a book about the siege of Constantinople, but a book that is filled with love, betrayal and murder, whilst linking the plots between all of the most important characters into one.

For me this was a brilliant read. I think anyone who is interested in the siege of Constantinople should read this book. It really brings the siege to life, telling the tale of the bravery of the defenders and the determination of the attackers. Brilliant book, can’t wait to read one of Humphreys’ other books Vlad, The Epic Novel of the Real Dracula, as some of the characters from this book merge into it as it is set around the same time. Also because of the flawed hero Gregoras, I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Bernard Cornwell as his heroes also tend to be flawed!

For author’s official website click here

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Publishers:  Picador

Pages: 307

Main Characters:

The Man, The Boy

Set in a post-apocalyptic world covered in ash, where the human race is all but extinct, a man and his young son travel the Road south in search of a refuge from the cold winter of the north. Their supplies are limited to a shopping trolley full of cans and blankets. The only defence they have against the cannibalistic highwaymen that prowl the Road is a single pistol with three bullets. But what they do have is determination and each other, will it be enough to survive the journey south on the Road?

Firstly, I’d like to say that I have seen the film this book was made into and that I was not that impressed with it.  On the other hand, this book was brilliant! It was filled with such suspense and sadness I ended up reading it in less than two days! The two characters are brilliant. You can really feel for ‘the man’ as he is trying everything to keep his son alive but always seems to have fate against him. He is so brave, always putting ‘the boy’s’ safety before his, whilst risking his life time after time to find food and shelter for his son.  ‘The boy’s’ character is also brilliant. Like his father he is brave, facing things no other little boy could. As he is such a young and naïve child, McCarthy portrays him as the last piece of goodness left in the world. He always looks for the ‘good guys’ in this novel and always wants to help others, even if it risks his father’s and his own life. By the end of the book you feel so much for these two characters and are glad that they both find their own peace at the end.

The only small issue I had with this book was that the narrative was written in a way I’d never really read before. An example of this was ‘said the man’, it was sort of written in the third person but not the typical ‘he/she said’, so at first it was a little hard to get used to. Also, there is a lot of American language and sayings, which for a Brit was quite hard to understand at first. However after a few pages I got used to McCarthy’s style and as I said above, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Brilliant book, if you’ve seen the film you should definitely read this book, it had so much more feeling than the film and the characters were amazing!

For author’s official website click here

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss

Publishers: Gollancz

Pages: 672

Main Characters:

Kvothe, Denna, Bast, Chronicler

The Name of the Wind is the fantasy novel from Patrick Rothfuss and is based around the character Kvothe. This novel, the first in the Kingkiller Chronicles tells the tale of Kvothe’s childhood. Telling the tale himself, Kvothe hopes it will quieten the rumours around him and show how he truly became the most powerful arcanist the world has ever seen. However, within Kvothe’s story there is a mystery. After Kvothe’s family was murdered by the Chandrian, a group of seven evil beings lead by Haliax. A person so evil the God’s have placed a constant shadow over his face because of the horrible deeds he has done.  Kvothe want answers why these once mythical creatures would murder his troupe. His desire for knowledge leads him the University. In the University Kvothe channels his efforts into finding more information on the Chandrian and why they would kill his parents. However because of a trick played on him by another student, Kvothe is banned from the Archives of the University and can no longer search for the answers he needs.

Kvothe is also dirt poor. After his families murder, Kvothe took to begging on the streets of Tarbean. His experience on the streets gave Kvothe a wisdom other young men do not have but it still made him no richer. When Kvothe reaches the University he tries to earn his talent or ‘pipes’ at the local music hall. Gaining his pipes would mean wealth for Kvothe. If he shows he is good enough at playing the lute, he will be able to get jobs in taverns playing music or even gain a rich sponsor to make sure he is fed and clothed and maybe even pay for his tuition at the University. Kvothe gains his pipes by playing one of the hardest songs he knows, through playing this song he meets Denna. Through Denna, Kvothe’s search for the Chandrian is re-ignited, as a wedding where Denna is singing is attacked and its guests are killed in the same circumstances Kvothe’s parents were. Kvothe must travel to this wedding to see if he can find any more clues about the Chandrian and why they murdered his family.

This book was suggested to me as a good way to get into more fantasy novels. Having read The Song of Ice and Fire and The Hunger Games, fantasy and sci-fi novels seem to be the books to read at the minute, so I wanted to widen my scope and get into more of them. When I mentioned this book to other people or read reviews about it, the conclusion was that it was amazing and a ‘must read’, so I eagerly set about reading it!

However for me this book did not live up to that amount of praise and acclaim. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good book and I really enjoyed reading it but I just didn’t think it was as good as other people said it was. For starters, it was very slow at the beginning and quite hard to get into. There are some  hints that the next hundred pages are going to pick up the pace but for me they really didn’t. What I will say though is the last 25% of the book was brilliant, really fast paced and really making you want to read on to the next book!

Also, and I know some people will totally disagree with me here but I thought Kvothe’s time at the University was like the adult version of Harry Potter! He’s learning magic, he has two close friends (like Hermione and Ron), has a rich, well bread enemy (Malfoy), is always getting into trouble for his inquisitiveness and is living in a school (Hogwarts). For me this was just a little boring because the synopsis for the book had Kvothe killing Kings, slaying Dragons etc. whereas the majority of this book is him at a school.

As I said above, Kvothe is poor and there are countless time where I think Rothfuss focuses on his poorness too much.  There are times where you think ‘right Kvothe’s got plenty of money now, the author will move away from that issue’, but Rothfuss never seems to do so. Even when Kvothe earns his pipes and you think the money issue has ended, Rothfuss drags Kvothe back into poorness again. To me it just seems he should have left this issue of money when Kvothe started University and focus more on other things like his search for the Chandrian or his relationship with Denna rather than Kvothe becoming poor (again).

However, even though I had these issues I still enjoyed the book. I think I’d read too much into the hype people had created around the book and set my standards too high and then got really disappointed when the book didn’t meet them. Maybe this was my mistake and not the books.  I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series The Wise Man’s Fear to see where Rothfuss takes Kvothe’s story.

A good book but took a little while to get into. I think you would enjoy this book if you are into fantasy novels. For some strange reason I was always reminded of Skyrim when I read this book!? So maybe if you like playing Skyrim you would enjoy reading this book? Give it a try and let me know!

For author’s official website click here

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Under The Eagle, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 434

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato

As some of you may know, earlier this year I reviewed Praetorian by Simon Scarrow. As I said in my review, it was the eleventh book in Scarrow’s Eagle series. These next few reviews will be the reviews of the ten books that prelude Praetorian. I would just like to say that because I will be putting all ten up at once, each book will only have a brief overview of what happens. This is because I would like to fill you in with what happens in the series leading up to Praetorian but not bore you with ten long reviews been posted all at once. Plus I read these earlier Eagle books a few years ago so I can’t remember exactly what I thought of them at the time! So here we go. The first book in the series is Under the Eagle, I hope you enjoy it.

Set in 42 AD on the eve of the Roman invasion of Britain, Under the Eagle follows the tale of two very different legionaries. The first is Quintus Licinius Cato (Cato).  The son of a palace slave, Cato is released from his serfdom on the condition that he joins the roman army stationed in Germany. After arriving at the camp, Cato soon finds that he will have to adjust to the life of a soldier and put his cushy life from the palace behind him. Cato’s adjustment becomes worse as he is appointed the rank above his other legionaries because of his connections with the Imperial palace. Cato will have to show that he is not just a bookish boy from the Imperial palace but a leader of men, otherwise his Centurion Marco will be on his case!

Marco couldn’t be more different from Cato. After spending ten years in the army Marco is finally raised to the prestigious post of Centurion.   Life couldn’t get much better for Marco. Doing some ‘good soldiering’ in the best Legion in the Roman army, Marco is looking forward to future campaigns in Germany. That is until Marco find his new Optio (second in charge) is the new green boy from the palace, Cato. Marco and Cato’s relationship is just that of Centurion and Optio until Cato’s gifts with administration and the fact he save’s Marco’s life see them become the best of friends, as they find out where the Legion will be campaigning in the next year- Britannia.

For author’s official website click here

The Eagle's Conquest, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 432

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato

The second book in the Eagle series see’s Marco and Cato arrive on the shores of Britannia at the head of the Second Legion. The pair now comes to realise the task the Legion has been set as they fight wave after wave and tribe after tribe of British warriors. The Legions must crush the hordes of the indigenous people before they can mass together and overwhelm the Roman Legions.

However the British are not the only threat to Rome. As Marco and Cato find out, a mysterious group known as the Liberators emerges and plans to overthrow the Emperor and bring Rome back to the glory it held during its Republic.  Marco and Cato have to act quickly if they want to prevent the Liberator’s plan from happening and help save their comrades in Britannia from been left to their fate…

For author’s official website please click here

When The Eagle Hunts, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 430

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato

It is the winter of 44 AD and the Roman army has pushed back the indigenous tribes of the Southern Eastern coast of Britain and consolidated their gains by capturing the fort and town of Camulodunum (modern day Colchester). The leader of the Roman Legions General Plautius, feels so confident in the army’s position in Britain that he sends for his wife and children to join him at Colchester. However on their journey to join Plautius they are captured and held by the famous and terrifying Druids.

The General must save his family, it is well known all over Britain what the Druids do to their captives. But he is leading an army so he cannot go himself. To solve this problem he asks for two volunteers to locate and rescue his family. These volunteers we know very well, Marco and Cato. Will they find the General’s family in time or will they become caught as well?

For author’s official website please click here

The Eagle And The Wolves, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 430

Main Characters:

Marco Cato

After a year of occupation the relations between the Romans and the British tribes becomes tense. Even the tribes that have sworn fealty to the Romans are becoming hostile, removing their old pro-Roman rulers and replacing them with young anti-Roman ones.

Marco and Cato, now veterans in the conflict between Rome and Britain are charged with training the troops of ones of these old and peaceful tribal leaders. The rabble that turns up for training would never become Legionaries but it is the only force that will keep Rome’s ally protected from its anti-Roman subjects. Marco and Cato must craft these warriors into the well-disciplined fighting machine that is a Roman Century.

Meanwhile the Liberators and other groups are plotting against the Emperor and the armies in Britain. Marco and Cato must keep their eyes on the Emperor’s enemies to make sure that they and their comrades serving under the Eagles are not all destroyed because of the games politicians play.

For author’s official website please click here

The Eagle's Prey, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 466

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato

Over a year has passed since the Roman invasion of Britain. After the first initial victories over the British tribes, the Roman Legions now become the subjects of raids and hit and run attacks. The British tactics move away from open warfare and towards a guerrilla one, where they pick at the Roman strength without engaging them in a pitched battle (that they could never win). This frustrating type of war starts to show on the Roman armies as moral becomes low and soldiers are killed daily by the British raids.

In an attempt to land a crushing and decisive blow to the British, the Legions force the enemy leader Caratacus into a pitched battle. Seeing this as an end to British resistance the soldiers and the Empire cannot wait to finally draw the invasion to a close. The Emperor needs a victory to consolidate his place as the leader of Rome and the Legionaries want to leave the wet and miserable Britain and return to their families.

However not everything goes to plan. The battle does not turn out as well as everyone expected and the fault of this embarrassment falls through every level of the Roman army until it hits the bottom and falls on Marco and Cato’s shoulders. Will this be the end of Marco and Cato as officers in the army, or will they triumph over their own personal enemies and keep their place in the Second Legion?

For author’s official website please click here

The Eagle's Prophecy, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 499

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato

The sixth book in the Eagle series sees Marco and Cato in Rome awaiting a military tribunal concerning the death of an officer in the battle with Caratacus at the end of the last book. Meanwhile a dispatch carrying important Imperial scrolls across the Mediterranean is intercepted and stolen by a group a vicious pirates.  The Imperial Secretary Narcissus needs to get these scrolls back quickly and secretly, the Emperor’s enemies must not find out they have been stolen.

But who could he ask? Who would be loyal enough to retrieve the scrolls and not tell anyone about them? Narcissus decides to send Marco and Cato after the scrolls and then blackmail them with the result of their military tribunal to buy their secrecy.  At first the pair are happy to go on Narcissus’ errand, it gets them out of the cesspit that is Rome. However this changes when they find out their superior officer for finding the scrolls will be Vitellius, their arch-enemy.
We see the pair in a new surrounding as they go off in search of the pirates, looking all over the Mediterranean in their search. But will they find the pirates in time and stop them revealing the scrolls to the Emperor’s enemies?

For author’s official website please click here

The Eagle In The Sand, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 501

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato

The Eastern Frontier of the Roman Empire is in trouble.  Often seen as the ‘backwater’ of the Empire, its troops are in a poor state as well as its forts and roads. Its officers are also corrupt, believing that because of their distance from Rome they are outside Roman law and are therefore outside the limits of punishment. Meanwhile unrest is happening in Judea. After the crucifixion of Jehoshua seventeen years earlier at the hands of the Romans, his followers have united under one man Bannus in an attempt to remove Rome from the region for good.

Marco and Cato, after just been proved innocent in a case concerning the death of an officer, are posted to the Eastern front in an attempt to keep their heads down (as they have enemies all over the Empire) and in an attempt to train the troops protecting the Eastern frontier. When they arrive in Judea they find the situation much worse than what they were told back in Rome. Not only are the troops poorly trained, the forts ruined, the officers corrupt and the threat of a Jewish uprising very real,  it is also very likely that one of Rome’s oldest enemies Parthia will invade the Eastern frontier.

For author’s official website please click here

Centurion, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 533

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato

Centurion picks up after Eagle in the Sand and sees our two heroes posted on the Eastern frontier of the Empire. After training their troops to the standard expected in the Roman Legions. Marco and Cato must now focus their attention on the huge Parthian army massing on the borders of Palmyra. Palmyra itself is at risk of revolting and as a measure to stop this happening, Rome sends in troops to protect the royal household of Palmyra. Seeing this as an aggressive manoeuvre, the Parthians invade. Marco and Cato must fight their way through a lengthy siege and a gruesome pitched battle to push back the Parthian hordes and protect Rome’s dominance in the East.

For author’s official website please click here

The Gladiator, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 366

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato

After a successful campaign in Palmyra and finally pushing back the invading Parthian armies.  Marco and Cato have finally earned the right to return to Rome and seek a more lucrative position in the Roman Army. However sailing off the coast of Southern Crete, their small transport is caught in the middle of a devastating earthquake. Limping into the harbour on the island of Crete, they find that the earthquake has destroyed whole cities and towns. In the chaos that follows, a slave uprising emerges with the gladiator and ex-pirate Ajax (from The Eagles Prophecy) surfacing as its leader. As the rebellion picks up momentum and more slaves and equipment become available, the rebels soon defeat the island’s garrison forces. It soon falls to Marco and Cato to rally the troops in the province and quash the rebels. But will they succeed or will the rebellion and Ajax be to powerful?

For author’s official website please click here

The Legion, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 366

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato, Ajax

The slave rebellion on Crete has ended but its leader Ajax has gotten away. With permission from the governor of Crete, Marco and Cato set out on their journey around the Mediterranean in search of the ex-gladiator. Their search leads them to Egypt, where they find out Ajax is not trying to raise another rebel army as they expected but is going to strike Rome in its heart. Marco and Cato must stop Ajax’s plot or the whole Roman Empire could crumble under hunger and rebellion.

For author’s official website please click here

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Spot Of Bother, Mark Haddon

Publishers: Vintage

Pages: 503

Main Characters:

George, Jean, Katie, Jamie

A Spot of Bother is the second novel from author Mark Haddon. Most of you will know of Haddon’s other novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which has been widely acclaimed and even placed as a top fifty book to read before you die! A Spot of Bother follows the life of George Hall, a recent retiree and hypochondriac! Obsessed with the belief that a skin lesion on his side is cancerous, even though his doctor has diagnosed it as eczema, George decides to take the matter into his own hands. After nearly killing himself by trying to cut off the lesion with a pair of scissors, George thinks his life couldn’t get much worse. How wrong he is. George soon finds out that his wife Jean has been having an affair with his neighbour and his daughter Katie is marrying a man who George and the rest of the family don’t approve of. The novel is about how George copes with these massive changes in his life after living the same routine every day until his retirement.

This was a good novel and a nice easy read. It did have a very humorous side to it as the main character George is the typical stubborn old man type of character. But there was also a very sad side to this book, as we see George’s life fall apart as all of these events happen and he has no control over them. I thought this book was not unlike How to Be Good by Nick Hornby. This is because it is set around the same sort of plot. Wife has an affair, husband has a mental breakdown and it is quite funny but at the same time quite sad.  Because of this similarity I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed Haddon’s The Curious Incident. It made me feel this book was a lot less unique because the plot was so similar to How to be Good. But to be fair, The Curious Incident is an absolutely brilliant book and I have not yet read anything like it, so it might be a little unfair to compare A Spot of Bother to it.

Like I said above, this was a good book and made for some nice easy reading but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as The Curious Incident. I would suggest it to anyone who is a fan of Nick Hornby, because as I’ve said the style of this book is very similar to that of Hornby’s. I am looking forward to seeing what Haddon’s next novel will be as A Spot of Bother and The Curious Incident are so very different. It will be interesting to see where Haddon will go next!

For author’s official website click here

Saturday, 7 April 2012

1000 Years of Annoying the French, Stephen Clarke

Publishers: Bantam Press

Pages:  510

Main Characters:

William the Conqueror, Henry V, Joan of Arc,
Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle

1000 Years of Annoying the French is the brilliant book from Stephen Clarke. Clarke, an English writer living and working in Paris wrote this book about the relationship between the English speaking word and the French over the last one thousand years. Not exactly a history book. Clarke gets the balance of historical data and humour perfectly, making this book appeal to a much wider audience than a normal history book about France and England would. The book also addresses some ‘facts’ that we take for granted as been false or misguided. The examples Clarke gives in the blurb are:

‘Was the Battle of Hastings a French Victory? Non! William the Conqueror was Norman and hated the French!’

‘Were Brits really responsible for the death of Joan of Arc? Non! The French sentenced her to death for wearing trousers!’

‘Was the guillotine a French invention? Non! It was invented in Yorkshire!’

You can see why the book would be so attractive to an Englishman! We English will take any chance we can to get one over the French and this book does that. I don’t mean that this book is anti-French in any way. I think many French people would get a few good laughs from reading this book. But what I will say is that it is definitely pro-British!

Funny, entertaining and educational, this was a brilliant book. I would suggest this book to anyone who has a general interest in British history. I read it because I had an interest in the Hundred Years war and absolutely loved it. Besides, it is a nice easy read and not too dense as some history books tend to be. Great book can’t wait to read Clarke’s other Anglo-French novel A Year in the Merde.

For author’s official website please click here

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Fort, Bernard Cornwell

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 464

Main Characters:

Lieutenant John Moore, Paul Revere

The Fort is one of Cornwell’s latest novels and tells the tale of the Penobscot expedition of 1779. Where a small garrison of seven hundred British troops held an unfinished fort on the coast of Maine from a determined rebel army. The rebel army, sent by the state of Massachusetts, consisted of nine hundred men along with forty two ships. The Fort tells the story from the British and American sides as they both focus on capturing or keeping Fort George.

For me, I think this was one of my least favourite books Bernard Cornwell has written. I think it lacked the grandeur that his other novels have. What I mean by this is that most of his other novels are set during a certain period of history. His Saxon Tales are set in the period of the Viking invasion, his Grail Quest is set in the period of the Hundred Years war and his Sharpe novels are set in the Napoleonic era. Now I know some people will say “well, The Fort is set in the era of the American Revolution” and it is, but it is just focused on the assault on Fort George which I think is a bit too narrow. I think if this book included more of the history from the other parts of the American Revolution then I would have found it a lot more entertaining.

That’s not to say it was a bad book. As usual the detail Cornwell puts into this book is as good as any other. His description of the cove where Fort George is placed is also excellent and really helps you imagine the landscape the rebels and the British fought over. But, unlike his other novels I didn’t feel there was a defined main character, which for me is one of my favourite parts of Cornwell’s writing, there’s always a hero! I think that Cornwell focuses on numerous characters in this book because they are all key people in the revolutionary war. However for someone like me who does not know that much about the war, these names go ‘straight over my head’ and the importance of the characters is lost on me. I know this might sound abit ignorant (and it is!) I should look up who these people are, but to be honest, this book gave me no motivation to do so.

Like I said, this wasn’t a bad book but I just didn’t seem to connect with it the way I have done with Cornwell’s other books. I think if you are interested in the Revolutionary war then you would like this book much more than me. Maybe if Cornwell brings out a sequel and elaborates on how the Penobscot expedition affected the outcome of the War of Independence, then I would enjoy it more.

For author’s official website please click here

Monday, 2 April 2012

Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, Ben Kane

Publishers: Arrow Books Ltd

Pages: 576

Main Characters:

Hanno, Quintus, Bostar, Sapho,
 Fabricius, Malchus,

Set at the start of the Second Punic Wars, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome tells the tale of two very different people who share the same destiny. The first is that of a young Carthaginian called Hanno and the second is that of a young Roman aristocrat called Quintus. The novel starts with Hanno’s tale as he and his friend Suni ignore their fathers demand and go off fishing. The shoals of tunny are huge and the boys catch dozens of the expensive fish which will bring them a profit back in Carthage. To celebrate their record catch the boys share an amphora of wine and fall asleep, awaking hours later to be adrift at sea miles from their home. After been lost in the ocean for a few days the boys are eventually found by pirates who sell them into slavery in Italy. Originally meant to be gladiators, Hanno is bought by a young aristocrat because of his exceptional skills with languages, the name of the aristocrat is Quintus.

Quintus’ tale starts with him coming into manhood. To prove that he is man, Quintus and his father go bear hunting. After successfully killing the bear, Quintus is now seen as a grown man and allowed to take more control over the management of his father’s farm and also allowed to train to become a cavalry officer in the Roman army. One of his new duties of been a man is to go to the slave market in Capua and pick out a new household slave.  Quintus decides to pick a young Carthaginian slave because of his understanding of Latin and Greek. From this part on, Hanno and Quintus’ tale takes a dramatic twist, which sees them change from master and slave, to friends and then to enemies.  It takes them from been boys to men as they both fight for their countries in a war that could wipe Rome and the Roman civilisation off the map.

The reason I choose to read this book was because it did not look like your usual Roman novel. I have read the Roman novels from Simon Scarrow, Anthony Riches and Conn Iggulden and they all have the same thing in common, they are all written from a Roman perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I loved each and every one of those novels but I think Kane’s idea of writing the book from the point of view of a Carthaginian was a refreshing change. It was a great book! The story was brilliant as we saw two people who should be enemies become friends and then have to end that friendship as the war between Carthage and Rome began. The thing I was most impressed with in this book was the amount of detail Kane put into it. Firstly the descriptions of the scenery in this book are breath-taking as Kane paints a clear picture of what cities such as Carthage, Rome and Capua looked like. As well as the scenery, I thought Kane’s description of the units in each army were also brilliant. Kane clearly defined what the difference between each unit was and how it was used, which only added to the book when imaging the battle scenes within it. It was amazing that Kane could describe these things so well , as much of the material that was written at the time of the Punic Wars is now lost. But through careful research and some of his own rational thinking, Kane fills in the gaps of history perfectly in this book, making it excellent to read.

I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Roman fiction and likes authors such as Simon Scarrow, Anthony Riches and Conn Iggulden. As I said above, it is different from these novels as it is written from the ‘enemy of Rome’s’ perspective but it still has the immense quality that these novels have.  Brilliant book, can’t wait for Kane to bring out its sequel!

For author’s official website click here
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