Sunday, 13 October 2013

Agent of Rome, The Imperial Banner, Nick Brown,

Publishers: Hodder

Pages: 421

Main Characters:

Cassius Corbulo, Indavara, Simo

The Imperial Banner is  the second book in Nick Brown's The Agent of Rome series and sees us return to the third century and our inexperienced, unlikely hero Cassius Corbulo. After the events in The SiegeCassius and his manservant Simo have some down time solving some minor crimes which understandably Corbulo enjoys! However, after a long standing conflict between Rome and its greatest rival Persia comes to an end, Corbulo and Simo are called back into action by the Imperial Security Service. As part of the peace treaty between Rome and Persia, a symbolic battle standard know as the Faridun's Banner (or the Derafsh Kaviani) which was captured by the Romans in the war, is agreed to be returned to the Persian Emperor as part of the coming together of the great Empires. The Imperial Security Service is tasked with transporting the standard from Antioch to the peace talks between Rome and Persia. However, when the convoy does not report in several days after its departure, the Service begins to fear the worst and Corbulo is tasked with retrieving the Standard from whomever stole it. Luckily for Corbulo, the Service provides the young officer with a body guard to protect him from the bandits that likely stole the Standard. 

Indavara is a sword for hire and is tasked with protecting Corbulo on his investigation. A freed Gladiator, Indavara is an expert in sword fighting and archery, which is lucky for Corbulo because when Indavara first meets him, he is being attack by three Legionaries! At first Corbulo and the Service expect that the convoy was ambushed by brigands left over from Queen Zenobia's rebellion. However, when clues are unearthed and rumours about Antioch's leading politicians are proved true, Corbulo's belief that the attack on the convoy was an 'inside job' becomes stronger and stronger. Nevertheless, his superiors disagree and are convinced that the Banner was stolen accidentally by opportunistic bandits. With his limited experience, Corbulo is uncertain whether to follow orders or go with his gut instinct,but after a failed assassination attempt on his life, Corbulo is certain that Roman politics and political intrigue is at play and follows his leads to the heart of Antioch's society.

In my review of The Siege I said that I really enjoyed the book because Corbulo was not made out to be a hero, but instead was a scared and inexperienced teenager, which for me made the book more realistic. In The Imperial Banner, Corbulo is still inexperienced teenager but he also becomes a very arrogant and at times, unlikable character. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this factor because again it made the novel and Corbulo seem much more realistic. I could imagine that a rich, aristocratic teenager who has the authority of the Roman Emperor would be arrogant and self-righteous and therefore a little bit unlikable. I don't know if this was intentional but I do really like how Corbulo isn't really the hero that seems to appear in books in this genre. In addition, I found the story behind Faridun's Banner intriguing and thought it was a good mystery for Corbulo to uncover! 

All in all, this was a great historical mystery novel in a very promising series and I can't wait to check out the next novel  The Far Shore. I would suggest this book to fans of other Roman history novels such as Simon Scarrow's Marco and Cato series or Anthony Riches's Empire series. I'd also suggest it to fans of other historical mystery novels such as C. J. Sansom's Shardelake series. 

For author's official website click here.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Strangled Queen, Maurice Druon

Publishers: Harper Collins

Pages: 269

Main Characters:

Louis X, Marguerite, Guccio Baglioni, Robert of Artois

The Strangled Queen is the second book in Maurice Druon's nail-biting The Accursed Kings series. The novel follows on from The Iron King and finds medieval France in turmoil after the death of one of its most successful and respected Kings, Philip the Fair. His son Louis has inherited the Kingdom but does not possess the brilliance of his late father and is easily swayed in making decisions by his bold and charismatic uncle Charles of Valois. Charles is of the old ways of France and hated most of Philip the Fair’s new bureaucratic methods which modernised the Kingdom. In addition, Charles hated the new methods most of all because they raised the middle class into the social elite. He wants France to return to the era of chivalry and the time of powerful nobility. To do this, Charles manipulates his weak nephew by promising him a new marriage after the embarrassment of Marguerite of Burgundy (Louis wife) and Philippe d’Aunay’s affair. However, to achieve his goals Charles must first remove his greatest rival Enguerrand Marigny, the old King’s closet advisor, from the French court.

Meanwhile, Marguerite of Burgundy and her sister Blanche are still been held prisoners by Louis X, whom is awaiting the appointment of a new Pope to divorce his marriage from his adulterous wife. The miserable dark cell is enough to crack the once beautiful and powerful Queen of France and forces her to write a confession that states her marriage was never valid. However, after no news is heard from the King after the departure of the letter, Marguerite’s future looks very bleak and when new condemning evidence is discovered against Marguerite and her protector, Enguerrand Marigny, her future also looks very short…

I found this book much better than The Iron King. Don’t get me wrong, I did really like the first book, I thought as a historical-fiction novel it was probably one of the best I’ve read this year because it was so full of historical detail. However, as a thriller I didn’t think it was that thrilling and thought marketing the novel as ‘the original Game of Thrones’ was very misplaced. The Strangled Queen on the other hand totally fits this bill! It was full of political intrigue, plots and betrayal that I loved and like The Iron King, Druon’s historical detail was top notch. Coupled with the intrigue, Druon successfully and entertainingly shows the weakness of the French crown at the start of the thirteenth century.

This was a great novel and has got me really excited to read the next book in the series The Poisoned Crown, which from the sound of its title already sounds epic! I’d suggest this book to anyone who likes historical-fiction, especially authors such as Bernard Cornwell and his Grail Quest series. I’d also suggest it to fans of Game of Thrones because as George R. R. Martin explains in his Forward note at the start of the book, this novel was the inspiration behind GoT.

For author's official Goodreads page click here.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Daddy was a Punk Rocker, Adam Sharp

Publisher: Adam Sharp

Pages: 132

Main Characters:

Adam, Martine, Colin

Daddy Was a Punk Rocker is the deeply moving memoir written by Adam Sharp, who tells the story of his amazing life, but often difficult and troubled upbringing. Been an unwanted son of a heroin addict mother (Martine) and a punk rock father (Colin), Adam’s young life was plagued with violence and abandonment. In addition, moving from households in Manchester and Newcastle made Adam question who he was as he struggled to create an identity. However, because of his spirit, determination and the belief that his father will always come good, Adam goes on to become a successful but troubled young man.

It’s hard to give a review of what happens in this novel because I don’t want to give too much away. What I think you guys should know is that this book is truly well written and moving. I loved how honest Sharp was in the novel, which must have been really hard because it’s his own life he's talking about! Nevertheless, I think it’s great that he holds nothing back as it makes his story so much more grittier and real. It also makes his memoir extremely sad. This is because throughout his childhood and adolescence, Adam clings to the idea that one day his father will be like any other Dad and return drug free and ready to whisk Adam away to a home where they can listen to punk music together.  To try and speed along this dream, Adam constantly pushes himself to be stronger, smarter or faster in the hope that his personal achievements will impress his father.

However, by putting his Dad on this pedestal, Adam continually sets himself up for a fall when Colin breaks his promises  by not showing up to their meetings or by returning to his drug addiction. I thought this was so sad because in the mind of a child this must be devastating- to do all that you can to impress someone in the hope they will love you and care for you and then to have it totally ignored must have been heart breaking! You can see why Adam does some of things he does in the novel. Of course, there are some happier moments in the novel too but again I don’t want to say too much and spoil anything!

All in all this book was a great read about a father and son who both wanted to share their lives together but unfortunately couldn’t. I got so addicted to Adam’s story that I was reading it on my iPhone at work because I just could not get enough! I’d suggest this book to anyone who wants to read a novel that’s a little bit different but that’s also immensely honest and entertaining to read! Plus, at the minute the e-book is only 79p on Amazon which I think is an absolute bargain so make sure to go and buy it!

P.S. I’d like to say a massive thank you to Adam Sharp for getting in touch with me and introducing me to his amazing work! Thanks Adam!

For author’s official website click here.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

I Haven't Fallen Off the Face of the Earth, I'm Just Travelling Around It!

Hey guys! Just a very quick video to let you know I'll be in Taiwan between July 11th - 2nd August 2013 so there won't be any posts or updates on my blog or Facebook.

P.S. Please excuse the phone bleep!

Please remember to comment, rate and subscribe.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Agent of Rome, The Siege, Nick Brown

Publishers: Hodder

Pages: 383

Main Characters:

Cassius Corbulo, Strabo, Crispus,

The Siege is the first book in Nick Brown’s debut the Agent of Rome series and tells the tale of Cassius Corbulo, a young Roman aristocrat who after too much boozing and womanizing is forced to join the army by his Senator father. Luckily because of his standing in Roman society, Corbulo manages to gain a place in the Imperial Security Service, which in normal circumstances would handle administration within the army such as gaining food and supplies and not really fight on the front line with normal Legionaries. 

However, when Queen Zenobia of Palmyra throws off the shackles of Rome and revolts in 270 AD, Corbulo finds himself been the highest ranking officer on the Syrian boundary and is tasked with holding an important fort called Alauran on the Roman supply line. Been a fresh recruit and only just passing his officer training, Corbulo is uneasy about taking a posting as the commander of the fort and when he learns that the cohort which is guarding Alauran are veterans from the Third Legion, Corbulo’s insecurity is made much worse.

When Corbulo arrives at Alauran he finds the fort in a state of severe disrepair and with the death of their commander, the Legionaries of the defences have become lazy and ill disciplined. Nevertheless, Corbulo has to find a way to repair the fort and get the Legionaries on his side as news arrives that a Palmyran force has been dispatched to attack and capture Alauran. Lacking in leadership skills, Corbulo uses other methods such as bribes to gain the support of the fort’s most influential officers and manages to motivate the men and their allies to fight and repair the defences with the promise of a relief column arriving within the next week (which Corbulo is not 100% sure will arrive!). However, this may not be enough as the unexplained murder of one of Corbulo’s best men reveals that there is a traitor in the camp. In addition, the sheer number of Palmyran forces which arrives to siege Alauran means Corbulo will have to use all of his limited knowledge of soldiering and the experience of his officers to stem the tide of the Syrian conquest of Roman land!

As a debut novel this book was extremely well written and thought out and different to any other Roman novels I have read. Yes, like Scarrow’s Cato and Riches’s Corvus, the main character was an inexperienced young aristocrat who is thrown into leadership and has to make the best of a bad situation. But what I really enjoyed about this book and what I thought made it refreshing to this genre, is that whereas Cato and Corvus evolve into great leaders charging into battle and killing numerous foes, in this book at least, Corbulo doesn’t. He is still nervous and confused about what he has to do as a leader and often times would rather let others tell him what to do instead of the other way round. I thought this was a great factor because it made the book seem much more realistic because I know if I was thrown into that situation, I’d have no clue what to do! I also think this factor helps portray the situation the Roman Empire was in in 270 AD as they would fast track young aristocrats into leadership roles because they had no other experienced men to fill them. I don’t know, maybe in the later books Corbulo will evolve into a great leader but in this first novel I’m glad Brown made him the nervous young man I think he should have been.

I’d suggest this book to anyone who enjoys Roman historical novels and authors such as Simon Scarrow, Anthony Riches, Ben Kane and Gordon Doherty. I’d also suggest it to anyone who is looking for a great historical fiction novel because this book was brilliant and I’m sure is going to be a part of an amazing series. By the way, I’d like to say a massive thank you to Nick Brown for getting in touch and introducing me to his work- look out for his new novel Agent of Rome, The Far Shore which will be released on July 18th!

For author’s official website click here.

P.S. Don't forget to enter my Book of the Month Competition for a chance to win a FREE copy of The Hundred Year-Old-Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and The Iron King by Maurice Druon. To enter this great competition just follow the instructions on this link.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Inferno, Dan Brown

Publishers: Bantam Press

Pages: 463

Main Characters:

Robert Langdon, Sienna Brooks, Elizabeth Sinskey

Inferno is the fourth book in Dan Brown's truly captivating Robert Langdon series and the novel finds our favourite art historian in the beautiful and historic city of Florence to solve his next art puzzle and mystery. After waking up in a hospital bed, Langdon has no recollection of how he got there or where he is! It isn’t until his Doctor (Sienna Brooks) informs him that he has been shot in the head with minor amnesia and that he is currently in Florence. 

Poor Langdon has no idea why he is in Florence but more importantly, why someone would want to shoot him. All he does know is that the weird and demonic visions which keep coming to him of a grey haired woman telling him to ‘seek and ye shall find’ seem more and more real, but Langdon has no idea what they mean! However, Langdon’s ponderings and confusion is soon ended as a blonde spiked haired woman wearing black motor cycling leathers, bursts into his hospital room and tries to shoot him! Luckily, his quick thinking doctor manages to whisk Robert away to the safety of her flat and tries to explain what is going on, revealing to Langdon that when he arrived at the hospital he was carrying a very peculiar object with him.

The object is a long metallic tube with a biohazard symbol on it that looks like it will only open with the use of a specific person’s fingerprint. Again, Langdon has no idea how he got it, however, when he places his finger on the device it opens. Luckily the item inside is not radioactive but is instead a small projector which when turned on, projects one of the most famous images of the Renaissance era, the La Mappa dell’Inferno by Sandro Botticelli. After this revelation, Langdon and Sienna are taken on a journey through Dante’s Inferno and discover that the person behind the projector and the reason for Langdon’s presence in Florence, is an extremely rich and powerful biogenetic scientist who believes that the human population needs to be culled for it to further evolve. Langdon and Sienna must work out the mad-scientist’s riddles and puzzles to discover where he has hidden his ‘solution’ to the problem of overpopulation and prevent it from been released to the world!

Botticelli's La Mappa

Once again Dan Brown has produced an astounding, bum on the end of your seat thriller! I’m always amazed at how he manages to consistently produce a remarkable plot but at the same time fill his books with so much historical detail, which I think Inferno has the most of. Brown’s understanding of Dante’s Divine Comedy is apparent throughout the novel but I really like how he manages to convey the information and story and twist it to his own plot.

Overall this was a great book and I’d suggest it to anyone who likes Brown’s other novels or to anyone who just wants to read a great novel!

For author’s official website click here.

P.S. Don't forget to enter my Book of the Month Competition for a chance to win a FREE copy of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson or The Iron King by Maurice Druon. To enter this great competition just follow the instructions on this link

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Book of the Month Competition- June

It’s back, yay!

That’s right my Book of the Month Competition is back and this month I’ve not got one but TWO great books to giveaway to make up for the last two months absence! The reason there has been no competition during April and May is because I had to write my dissertation and revise for my exams and didn’t want the added work of running a competition on top of that. But now I’ve finished university I can restart the competition and give you guys an opportunity to win some great books!

So what are these great books you may ask? Well, the first novel is The Iron King by Maurice Druon. George R. R. Martin called this book one of the biggest influences behind A Game of Thrones. The novel is based in 13th Century France and tells the tale of the decline of the Capet dynasty over a seven book series. The Iron King is the first book in the series and well worth entering my competition to win!

The second novel is The Hundred-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared and is based around the adventures of Allan Karlsson, a hundred-year-old man who wants some action in his life and climbs out of his retirement home window to find it! Again, this is a great novel so why not enter the competition to try and win it? There will be two winners (one for each book) however if you have a preference of the book you’d like to win(maybe because you’ve already read the other one) then feel free to send me an e-mail at and I’ll make sure you get that book if you win :) 

So, if you’d like a chance to win these two great novels, all you have to do is click on this link to my Facebook page, ‘like’ my page and then write a comment saying you would like to enter the competition. If you are not on Facebook but are a member of Blogger, you can enter the competition by following my Blog directly through Blogger, by clicking on the ‘join this site’ button on the right hand side of the page. You can also enter by subscribing to my Youtube page by clicking on this link here. If you're already a member of one of my various social media sites, all you have to do is leave me a comment on one of them saying you'd like to enter- it's that easy!

Remember it’s FREE to enter and it will not cost you a penny to get the book in the post. So why not have a go? You could win one of these excellent novels for absolutely FREE!

Good luck to everyone that enters, I hope you’ll have as much fun with the competition as I will.

I'll be choosing the winner on the 30th June. For further details on the competition, such as how the winner will be chosen and how the winner will be announced please click here

Also don't forget to check out my Youtube video for more info!

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson

Publishers: Herperus Press Limited

Pages: 387

Main Characters:

Allan Karlsson, Julius, Benny, Bosse.

I’d noticed this book on bookshelves many weeks before I actually purchased it. For some reason I’ve always held a prejudice against novels with really random names such as The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared, because I always think that the random titles are just a marketing scheme to get readers to buy the books, but I suppose all book titles do that… Anyway, for that reason I decided not to give this novel a read, however, after a friend of mine suggested this book I thought I’d give it a go- and when I saw the novel was on a ‘buy-one-get-one-half-price’ deal I decided, ‘why not’? And to be perfectly honest, I’m so glad I picked this book up, it was great!

The novel is split into two parts based around the adventures of Allan Karlsson, a ninety-nine year old Swede who decides his mundane life in a retirement home is not the life for him. The first story is that of Allan’s escape from the home (through his window) and his accidental theft of a suitcase from a rude man in a bus station. Allan has no idea that the rude man is in fact a notorious Never Again gang member or that the suitcase has 50 million Swedish Krona in it! Needless to say, when the gangster finds out Allan has stolen his suitcase, he immediately groups all of the gang's resources to hunt down the hundred-year-old man. However, what the gangster doesn’t realise is that though Allan is old, he is also very resourceful and manages to make new friends to evade the gang members and even the police! Nevertheless, when the leader of Never Again gets involved, Allan and his friends have to be careful or they could end up losing their lives!

The second story (and the one which I preferred) is that of Allan’s life. What’s so interesting about Allan’s life is that he seems to have been at nearly every major historical incident in the 20th Century! Whether that be a friend of Franco’s in the Spanish Civil War, working on the A-Bomb, working with Stalin, been thrown into a Soviet Gulag, been in the Korean War and working for the CIA, Allan seems to have been a major influence on all of these events. I really loved this side of the book because one I love history and two because it makes you think about older people and some of the major events in world history which they have lived through. I think this novel makes this a key point in a sort of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ way. Many people judge the older generation as been boring and sometimes a bit of a nuisance, but in reality they have all lived through these extraordinary events and many (like Allan) may have taken part in them, which I think is amazing!

All in all, this was a great book and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read an interesting and humorous novel with a bit of history thrown in on the side! I don’t know what books to compare it to because I’ve never really read anything like it before, but it has definitely persuaded me to give books with really random names such as Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Monk who sold his Ferrari and A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine a chance! In fact, if you can think of any other books with really unusual names please leave them in the comments below!

For author's official website click here.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

To Be Read List May/June 2013

Hey guys! I just posted a quick video on YouTube of my To Be Read List for May and June. Check it out and let me know if you've read any of the books on there and what you thought. Also, please remember to comment, rate, share and subscribe to my videos! Thanks :)


Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Iron King, Maurice Druon

Publishers: Harper

Pages: 328

Main Characters:

Philip the Fair, Queen Isabella of England,
Spinello Tolomei, Guccio Baglioni

After reading on George R. R. Martin’s blog that this series of books was the inspiration behind the A Song of Ice and Fire series, I eagerly picked up this book from my local bookstore. As Martin said, the characters in this tale were as clever and as cunning as any in the Game of Thrones, however, the fact that all of them were real people made this book extremely appealing to me because you all know how much I love historical fiction. Alongside this, the fact that the novel was written by a French author about French history also had a great appeal to me because most of the historical fiction I’ve read has always been written by Englishmen and therefore, I think always making the stories a little one sided!

The book takes place in the early 14th century and is based around the court of Philip the Fair, or as some call him the ‘Iron King’. King Philip and his advisors have just managed to finally murder the last of the innocent Templar Knights that had been living in France since the last Crusade. In an attempt to seize their money and power, Philip and his advisors had created false accusations of heresy, sodomy and many other vile acts to create a case against the once respected Templars. However, just before the Grand Master of the Knights, Jacques De Molay is finally burned, he puts a curse on Philip’s family (the Capets) which curses their line to the 13th generation.

Meanwhile in England, the new Queen Isabella (Philip’s daughter) is plotting against her three sister-in-laws. There are rumours circulating around Paris and even in London that her three sister-in-laws; Marguerite, Jeanne and Blanche have lovers other than their husbands. If proved to be true, this outrage could bring great shame to the House of Capet. Isabella uses her quick mind to try and find out if the rumours are true and punish her sister-in-laws for the shame they are bringing to France.

The final story in the novel is that of Guccio Baglioni who is the nephew of a wealthy Italian banker called Spinello Tolomei. Guccio is tasked with sending a message to Queen Isabella to help her find evidence against her sister-in-laws. On his way back from England, Guccio is also given the chore of retrieving a debt from a noble family that has fallen on hard times. However, when he gets to the family’s house, he falls in love with their daughter and gives them a further year to pay off their debts. This act of kindness helps Guccio and his uncle later on in the novel after it is discovered that King Philip is moving to expel all of the Italian bankers from France. Tolomei tasks his nephew with finding a safe place to hide a document that could be used to blackmail one of the King’s advisors into preventing the expulsion. Guccio decides the best place to hide the item is at his new love’s run down home.

As I said before I was excited to read this book because of the amount of social intrigue George R. R. Martin said there was in it. If I’m been honest, this aspect of the novel was a little disappointing for me because there was no point in the book where I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next, like I always am when I’m reading Martin’s novels. However, as a historical fiction novel I thought it was brilliant and as Martin said, the characters in the book are great because they are so evil, naïve and cunning like many of the characters in the Game of Thrones, however, these characters are all real, making the events in the book seem even more cold and hard-heated then they already are! Moreover, the events of this time were interesting to read because it was the prelude to the Hundred Years War, which I'm fascinated with and it was interesting to see these events from a French perspective.

All in all, this was a good historical fiction novel but I think it was a little misleading with some of the marketing on the book. I am definitely going to continue the series and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next novel! I would suggest this book to anyone who is a historical fiction fan and enjoys books such as Bernard Cornwell’s Thomas Hookton novels. I would also suggest it to fans of George R. R. Martin and I’d be really interested to hear what you thought of the book, so please let me know if you have read it!

For author’s official HarperCollins page click here.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Scarlet Thief, Paul Fraser Collard- Sneak Peak/Preview

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 281

Main Characters:

Jack Lark, Captain Sloames, Colour Sergeant Slater

Hey guys! I’ve got a sneak peak/preview for you today of Paul Fraser Collard’s brand new book The Scarlet Thief which is published by headline and will be realised tomorrow (9th May). I hope you enjoy my review!

Jack Lark was just a normal boy from the poor east-end of London who, sick of lifting heavy beer barrels in his mother’s pub, decided he wanted something more.  For Jack, that opportunity came when the recruiting officers of the British Army arrived in Jack’s borough looking incredibly impressive and promising the young Londoner a life of excitement and adventure with postings in the vast British Empire. So, one day, Jack plucked up the courage to leave his mother’s pub and join the army, however once enlisted, Jack realises that the life of a soldier is not as exciting as he hoped…

The year is 1854 and Britain has not been at war since the days of Napoleon and Wellington. Therefore, most British troops are not in active service but are instead on garrison duty in the heartland of England. Unluckily for Jack, his new unit is garrisoned in Aldershot and Jack soon finds out that garrison life can be extremely boring. However, trying to better himself and trying to impress a young woman, Jack manages to get promoted to the station of Orderly under Captain Sloames. Being new at his job, Jack is not as efficient as other orderlies in the camp, but with an understanding Captain like Arthur Sloames, he soon learns what his duties are.

 Nevertheless, just as Jack believes he is getting somewhere in the army he becomes a target for the rough and bullying Colour Sergeant Slater who has a grudge against Jack for been promoted and therefore, no longer been under Slater’s control. The Colour Sergeant has been known in the camp to frame other soldiers to get his revenge, so Jack is as cautious as he can be around Slater. However, after a fight between the two soldiers, which accidently results in a death, Jack has to escape the camp or face a severe punishment. Luckily, Captain Sloames helps Jack again and offers him the opportunity to join the division of troops that have been deployed to the Crimea to fight the Russians.

Jack happily accepts, as it will get him away from Slater. However, on the road to Dover, Captain Sloames is struck by a fever which ends in his death. Jack is at a loss of what to do. He thought the war in Russia would lead him to glory and riches but with Sloames’s death, that future is uncertain. On the other hand, he cannot return to the garrison for fear of punishment, which could see him whipped and Slater, which could see him killed. Jack has to make a decision on his own future and eventually makes one that will see him go to the Crimea, not just as an Orderly, but as the new Captain of the King’s Royal Fusiliers!

As a first book in a new historical series, I thought Fraser Collard did an excellent job. At first seeing this book was based in the Crimean War, I assumed that the novel would take place around the Siege of Sevastopol, which is probably the best know event in the war after the Charge of the Light Brigade. However, I was totally wrong, as Fraser Collard bases the novel at the very start of the war with the first battle between the allies (Britain and France) and the Russians at the Battle of the Alma. I really liked this fact because I did not know that much about the battle and found reading Fraser Collard’s description of it both entertaining and exciting but also really interesting, making me want to find out more about this period of history!

I also really enjoyed the story in the novel as it was the type of zero-hero plot which I always love in a historical fiction book. I think this is why the book has been compared to Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels so often (along with the fact it in based in the 19th Century). However, I did like uniqueness of how Jack became a hero in this novel and how his personality and attitude still manages to shine through even when he becomes an officer. Plus, I thought the ending set up the next novel in the series really well, making me want to read more of Jack’s tale!

All in all, this was an exciting and interesting novel which I really enjoyed reading!  If you are a fan of British military history and like novels such Sharpe, then I think you’ll love this book so make sure to check it out!

For author’s official website click here.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Wolf's Gold, Anthony Riches

Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 371

Main Characters:

Marcus, Julius, Felicia

Wolf’s Gold is the fifth book in Anthony Riches's action packed Empire series. In his latest book, Riches takes our hero Centurion Marcus Corvus and his Tungrians away from their recent victory in Germania to the far reaches of the Empire. Their destination is Dacia on the north-eastern edge of the Empire, and their job is to protect an important gold mine that supplies the Imperial Treasury with tonnes of gold every day! The mine has come under threat from the Sarmatians, a rebellious tribe that lives in the area. The Sarmatians are a war-like people who are feared for their skills in archery and for the poisoned arrows they use against their enemies.

However, as Marcus and his fellow officers find out, the rebellion is not as straightforward as it seems, as the King of the Sarmatian horde, Asander is not as hostile to Rome as is first thought. However, he is a puppet for his hot headed brother-in-law Inarmaz, who is violently opposed to Roman rule in Dacia. Marcus and his Tribune, Scaurus work hard to have Inarmaz removed as a threat from the Sarmatian army. However, they soon find out that the temptation of gold is not easily quenched, as traitors from within their own ranks plot to seize the gold mine and steal all of the Emperor’s gold, whilst setting their old comrades up to face a severe fight. The likes of which they haven’t seen since Germania.

This was another great edition to Riches’s Empire series. I liked the fact that the Tungrians were taken to another part of the Empire to fight new and interesting allies. I also liked the fact that Marcus’s storyline is built on in this book, as he debates with himself if he should return to Rome to avenge his family’s murder, or just try and move on with his new wife and son.  It gives some insight to where the series is going to go in the next few books, which got me really excited to read the next novel!

I’d suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of other ‘Roman’ novels and authors such as Ben Kane, Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden and Gordon Doherty. As a series, I’d highly suggest it to anyone who wants to get into Roman historical-fiction as it is a great series packed full of action, battles and great characters!

For author’s website click here.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Forgotten Legion, Ben Kane

Publishers:  Arrow Books

Pages: 432

Main Characters:

Romulus, Tarquinius, Fabiola, Brennus.

The Forgotten Legion is the first book in Ben Kane's epic three part The Forgotten Legion series. A series, which I have to admit, I have not read but instead have listened to as audiobooks. I am currently on the final part of the second book in the series called The Silver Eagle and have just download the final book of the trilogy, The Road to Rome onto my phone today! As a series of audiobooks, I have to say that I have been really pleased! The narrator Michael Pread does an excellent job of bringing Kane’s story to life. I especially like Pread’s narrations of the battles in these books as he make you feel like you’re there, standing in the Roman ranks with all the shouting and chaos going on around you!

The Forgotten Legion is based around one of the most infamous eras of Roman history, the triumvirate of Pompeii Magnus, Crassus and Julius Caesar. During this period of corruption and instability emerges two tales. The first is that of Tarquinius, an Etruscan warrior and soothsayer who has the ability to tell the future from the stars, the elements and from the innards of animals. At a young age, Tarquinius is told by his teacher that he will travel to Rome and there meet and befriend two Gladiators. The Etruscan keeps this prophecy in mind, and after his teacher’s death, travels to Rome. In the city, his prophecy is reveal as (by accident) he is introduced to two Gladiators who are wrongly accused of murder and are on the run from Roman justice.

The second story follows Romulus and Fabiola. Romulus and Fabiola are twins who were born as slaves into the ownership of a wicked merchant. At the age of thirteen, the twins are sold into two of the harshest forms of slavery. Romulus is sold to a Gladiator school and Fabiola is sold to the Lupanar, Rome’s most famous and expensive brothel.  Life seems over for the two young slaves, Gladiators only last a few months in the vicious Lupus Magnus and Fabiola seems destine to live out her life as the plaything of wealthy men. However, their stories do have a silver lining.

For Fabiola this comes with the introduction of Decimus Brutus, a charming army officer and Julius Caesar’s right hand man. Fabiola (after been taught the tricks of her trade) manages to seduce Brutus with the hope that one day he will buy her freedom and reunite her with Romulus. Romulus’s silver lining comes in the friendship he makes with a Gaul called Brennus, who happens to be the best Gladiator in all of Rome! Brennus helps train the young slave in sword fighting and when the chance arises, even sneaks Romulus out of the Lupus Magnus for a night on the town! However, the night does not go as planned, resulting in Romulus been accused of murdering a Roman noble and the two Gladiators fleeing for their lives. Luckily, fate seems to be on the Gladiators’ side as they manage to escape Rome and join an auxiliary unit destined for service in the East with Crassus’s army. It is here where the two Gladiators meet Tarquinius and the prophecy is fulfilled. However, with the army moving east against Rome’s greatest enemy, their journey is not at an end, as the three suffer bad omens, defeat and capture to become part of the Forgotten Legion!

This was a great book! I thought the story of Crassus’s army and the ‘Forgotten Legion’ was really interesting because most other novels based in this period of history are always set around Caesar’s ascendancy and Pompeii’s reaction. So I found it really interesting reading about Crassus’s fate and the amazing story of the Legionaries that were captured after the battle of Carrhae. As always, Kane does an extremely good job of adding precise details to his novels, which gives his books historical accuracy. At the same time, the detail also makes them extremely fun to read as the extra details makes it much easier to visualise these events that happened over two thousand years ago! Plus, when you have Michael Pread narrating, it gives another, extra bonus to the book and I’d highly suggest you check out the audiobook of The Forgotten Legion!

A really entertaining book (and so far) an amazing series. I would suggest this book to anyone who is a historical-fiction fan and enjoys Ben Kane's other novels. I'd also suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of authors such as: Anthony Riches, Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden and Gordon Doherty.

By the way, why not check out my Youtube review of The Forgotten Legion below and remember to give it a ‘thumbs up’ if you like and maybe even give my channel a subscribe if you really like :D

For author’s official website click here.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett

Publishers: Harper Perennial

Pages: 224

Main Characters:

Rincewind, Twoflower, the Luggage, Death

The Colour of Magic is the first novel in Terry Pratchett’s legendary and loveable Discworld series. The novel takes place on a disc-shaped world, floating on the back of four elephants, which are riding on the back of a giant turtle that travels through the universe! The story follows two main characters, Rincewind and Twoflower. Rincewind is a failed wizard from the city of Ankh-Morpork, who because of his daring nature was expelled from the wizard’s university before he could learn any spells. However, from reading a restricted book (which is the reason he gets through out of the university) he does accidently manage to learn one extremely powerful spell. Unfortunately, the spell will only reveal its words whenever it chooses and again leaves Rincewind a wizard without any magic! Plus, things are made much worse for Rincewind as he is plagued by Death who makes it his goal to kill the unfortunate wizard!

Twoflower is an insurance seller from the Agatean Empire (which is on the opposite side of the Discworld from Ankh- Morpork) who decides that he wants to travel and see the Discworld. One day, Twoflower packs up his luggage and sets sail to Ankh-Morpork. Now, Twoflower is very naïve and doesn’t realise that the Agatean Empire and Ankh-Morpork are two very different places. In the Empire, there is a vast amount of gold, which means that each of its citizens is very rich compared to the people of Ankh-Morpork. Thus, when Twoflower turns up with a magical suitcase full of gold, he gets a few strange and unfriendly looks. Twoflower is the first ever tourist to Ankh-Morpork and the ruler of the city has to keep him safe, otherwise he’ll feel the wrath of the Agatean Empire. To keep Twoflower safe, the ruler of Ankh-Morpork appoints Rincewind as his guide. However, the task is not an easy one, as the wizard and the tourist have to flee the city because of a fire started by Twoflower, setting them on a magical and hilarious journey!

I’ve wanted to read a Terry Pratchett’s novel for a while now but I never really knew where to start! I was thinking of reading his latest novel Dodger, which I think is the thirty-ninth novel in his Discworld series. However, after some advice, I decided to start at the very beginning of Pratchett’s extensive series with The Colour of Magic and I’m glad I did, because this book was great!

My favourite part about the novel was its humour and its apparent randomness! After reading some reviews of the book, I noticed that not everyone enjoyed this. However, for me, I thought this was great and made the book extremely fun to read. In addition, the novel is left on a great cliff-hanger making me want to read the next novel in the series.

All in all, this was a really fun and entertaining novel and I can’t wait to read more novels from the Discworld series. Hopefully one day I’ll have read them all but I don’t think that will be any day soon! I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fantasy fan or anyone who is a fan of fairy-tale stories. Fans of Hank Quense's work will also love this novel as they both have that humorous, quirky feel to them!

For author’s website click here.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Wotan's Dilemma, Hank Quense

Publishers: Strange World Publishing

Pages: 77

Main Characters:

Wotan, Fafner, Alberich

Wotan’s Dilemma is the latest book in Hank Quense's Strange World series. Much like Hank’s Falstaff's Big Gamble, Wotan’s Dilemma seems at first to be quite a random book. However, with Hank’s humour and style, he manages to bring all this randomness into a really funny and unique novel!

Wotan’s Dilemma is based in a post-apocalyptic Earth far into the future. In this new world, humankind has resorted back to its medieval ways of living in small towns and clans, whilst fighting with primitive weapons such as the sword and the spear. However, what’s different about this new (but old) world is that Earth is inhabited by aliens, some bad and some good. The most evil of the aliens living on Earth is Fafner, a black, slimy, octopus-like monster who is a professional criminal on the run from the Inter-Galactic Police.  Another alien living on earth is Alberich, a puny pale-green Nibelung who was exiled to Earth. Alberich may be puny but he has a brilliant mind and after finding some magical gold, invents a helmet and a chip that can see into the future. Fafner hears about Alberich’s great invention and as a criminal mastermind, robs Alberich and steals his inventions, setting himself up as an Evil God and ruling over the local populace.

Meanwhile, the Norse god Wotan has a dilemma. The gold that Alberich found was the Rhinegold, the magic gold that gives the gods their powers. Without the gold, Wotan and the other Norse gods will become old and weak and eventually have to go to the Old God’s Retirement Village and live with other forgotten gods such as Ra, Horus, Zeus and Jupiter. However, Wotan cannot just take the gold back as it has to be given freely, and after it is stolen by Fafner, he knows that it will never be given back willingly.  

Nevertheless, Wotan is resourceful and plans to create a mighty, if slightly dim, warrior to battle and kill Fafner and return the Rhinegold to the gods. However, to create this warrior will take a generation (which the god doesn’t have) and his plan doesn’t go as smoothly as he planned…

As I said, this was an entertaining, amusing and interesting book. I especially liked all of the Norse mythology and the link between Wotan and the composer Wagner. I also thought Hank left the ending open for another novel in the series, so it will be interesting to see if another book comes out of this story!

I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, especially novels such as The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett as Wotan’s Dilemma has that same quirky, humorous feel. I’d also suggest it to anyone who would like to try something a little different as this book won’t disappoint!

If you’d like to purchase this novel, it is available for Kindle at and at

For author’s website click here.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

My Top Five Highly Anticipated Books of 2013

It may not feel like it in Britain at the moment but summer is not far away. Alongside (hopefully) the nice weather, lighter evenings and a break from school or university, the summer also brings along the release dates for some of the biggest ‘blockbuster’ books of 2013. And after looking through my ‘recommended’ list on various websites like Amazon, I decided to name the Top Five Books I’m most looking forward to reading this summer.

5. The Fall of Arthur, J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien- 23rd May 2013.

Like many of the Tolkien releases after the Lord of the Rings movies, this new book was started before Tolkien’s death and was eventually finished by his son Christopher. The new Tolkien book was started in the 1930’s in the form of a poem. The book was written before the release of The Hobbit and is not based in Middle-Earth, but instead in the almost fantasy realm of King Arthur. I’m looking forward to reading this new book/poem because it will be interesting to see how the Tolkiens write about history and not just Middle-Earth.

4. Emperor, The Blood of Gods, Conn Iggulden- 23rd May 2013

This is the fifth book in Iggulden’s amazing Emperor Series. It sees us return to Brutus after the murder of his old master Julius Caesar.  Most of us thought that the series was finished with Emperor: Gods of War, however, Iggulden thinks that he ended the series too abruptly with Caesar’s death and thought the story needed tying off with one more novel.

3. Inferno, Dan Brown- 14 May 2013

It will be interesting to see who Dan Brown angers in his new book Inferno. Once again we return to the charismatic university professor Robert Langdon as he travels to Europe to uncover the secrets of one of the world’s most famous literary pieces.

2. Hannibal: Fields of Blood, Ben Kane- 6 June 2013

This is the second book in Ben Kane’s Hannibal series and tells the tale of one of the most famous battles in Roman and world history; the Battle of Cannae. Hannibal: Enemy of Rome was the first book of Kane’s that I ever read and really got me hooked on his novels. So, it will be exciting to return to the series that greatly captured my imagination and see how Kane depicts the infamous battle!

1. Emperor of Thorns, Mark Lawrence- 1 August 2013

This series blew my (and many other’s) mind when I first read it! So much so that I voted the first book in the series Prince of Thorns my favourite book of 2012! I can’t wait to get back to Jorg and see where his grim but epic journey takes him.

Alongside these novels there are some other great books coming out this year! Bernard Cornwell says he expects to get his new book out this year and there are rumours that Patrick Rothfuss might be publishing his final novel of the Kingkiller series. There are also some great books from other great, if less well known authors coming out this year. Currently I’m reading Hank Quense's new book Wotan’s Dilemma, which so far has been great!  I believe Kelley Grealis's new novel The Search is due out this year and I think Gordon Doherty's sequel to Strategos: Born in the Borderlands is also set to be released sometime later this year!

So, 2013 is set to be an exciting year for reading! What books are you guys looking forward to reading over the summer and the rest of the year? Let me know in the comments below or over at my Facebook page by clicking here.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Waste Land, Simon Acland

 Publishers:Beaufort Books

Pages: 384

Main Characters:

Hugh, Blanche, the Best-Selling author,

The Waste Land tells two very different but interlinking stories. The first and main story in the novel is based at the end of the eleventh century and revolves around a young man called Hugh de Verdon. Hugh is the youngest son of a minor French noble and has always dreamed of been a fighter and a knight, just like his father. However, after his father and brothers are killed in an ambush, Hugh is forced to take on a clerical life, as his mother cannot cope with the death of his father and sends Hugh to become a monk. Hugh is enrolled as a novice at the great Monastery of Cluny, where because of his quick mind and his family connections, rapidly becomes secretary to the Prior of the monastery. Although Hugh enjoys been able to read and study at the monastery, he feels that the clerical life is not as fulfilling as he wanted. Hugh still wants to be a fighter like his father; he still wants to feel the exhilaration of riding a horse and chasing down pray. Luckily for Hugh, the declaration made by Pope Urban, stating that there would be a Crusade against the Saracens of Jerusalem, answers Hugh’s preys. Also, with the emergence of the Duke of Lower Lorraine (Godfrey Boulogne, who is a distant cousin of Hugh’s) at the monastery, finally convinces Hugh that been a Crusader is his path. Hugh manages to gain leave from Cluny and heads east with Godfrey. However, unluckily for the young knight, Hugh soon finds out that war and Christianity are not as glorious as he believed in his dreams, as he is introduced to secrets and stories that reveal the true nature of Christ’s death.

The second story is that of a group of Oxford professors and scholars. The school has come under a lot of financial pressure over the last few years, resulting in a new Master being employed to sort out the mess. The new Master knows that money has to be brought into the university and with the emergence of an ancient manuscript from the Crusades, written by none other than Hugh de Verdon himself, the Master comes up with a plan to get the university out of debt. He employs a Best-Selling author who used to go to school at the university and who, like the university, has also fallen on hard times. The professors help the Best-Selling author to tell Hugh’s extraordinary tale and help fill in some of the gaps which are missing from the era of the Crusades. However, with the discovery of Hugh’s manuscript comes jealousy and envy, as it is the school and not the finder of the manuscript who will make all the money off the new book. This causes a chain of events that leads to sabotage, arson and even murder as the individual tries to kill the university professors who will deny him his fame and fortune.

I really enjoyed reading The Waste Land! As many of you know, I am a massive fan of historical-fiction but have never really read any fiction based around the Crusades, and only have the most basic of knowledge about what happened during the First Crusade in 1096. For me, The Waste Land was an excellent book to read to get an introduction and an interest in the Crusades, as Hugh’s story is so interesting and takes him all over the various battles and cities in the Holy Land. Furthermore, Acland does a brilliant job in describing the battles and cities in his novel and to say that he describes himself as a ‘modern linguist’ and not a historian, really shows how well written and descriptive this novel is, as it emerges you in the history and makes you feel like you were there, fighting alongside Hugh! Moreover, the added aspect of the murder-mystery of the university and the witty-and-often-malicious banter between the professors adds some humour and a further dimension to the book, which I really liked!

However, I did have one minor issue with the book; towards the end there was a lot of Hugh riding and walking. I felt that this slowed the pace of the book down as the riding often took place between two major events. Now obviously I understand that marching and riding was a major part of any Crusader’s life, but I still felt that towards the end, Hugh’s travelling did slow the book down. Also, this is not really a problem for me (I really liked it in fact) but the novel does end on a cliff hanger! Like I said, I really like this as it sets up the next novel of the series and makes you really excited to read it. However, I know some readers do not like cliff hangers! But do not worry! Simon’s next book in the series The Flowers of Evil is already released, so if you wanted to, you could just buy this book straight after The Waste Land and continue reading Hugh’s tale!

Nevertheless, even though I did have this small issue, I still really enjoyed the book! It was a great historical-fiction novel mixed interestingly with murder mystery and medieval Grail romances. I would suggest this book to anyone who is interested in the Crusades or has an interest in historical fiction as a general. I would also suggest it to fans of other historical grail quest novels such as Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell or the Templar novels written by Michael Jecks.

If you would like to purchase this novel it is available at or for Apple products at iTunes.
For author’s official website click here.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Guest Post : Sources for The Waste Land by Simon Acland, author of The Waste Land

Hey everyone! Here's my first ever guest post! The post is written by Simon Acland the author of The Waste Land, a Grail Quest story with a bit of a twist! Here's a short synopsis of the book from Goodreads:

The Waste Land chronicles the adventures of Hugh de Verdon, monk turned knight, during the extraordinary historical events of the First Crusade. He journeys from the great Benedictine monastery of Cluny to Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem. He encounters the Assassins, endures a personal epiphany and discovers the ‘truth’ behind the Holy Grail.

Hugh de Verdon’s tale is retold by a group of desperate Oxford professors, based on his autobiographical manuscript, discovered in their College library. Their humorous - and murderous story also provides a commentary on the eleventh century events and shows that they are perhaps not all they seem.

In his guest post, Simon writes about his experience in researching and writing The Waste Land. I hope you enjoy!

Sources for The Waste Land     
By Simon Acland, author of The Waste Land

“So are you a historian then?”

That’s the first thing many people ask me when I tell them I have written a novel set in the First Crusade. When I say, “No, a modern linguist actually”, and that my inspiration came from studying the 12th and 13th Century Grail Romances, they normally say “Wow, you must have done a lot of research.”

At that point I feel a bit of a fraud. To me, research implies toiling in libraries among dusty documents, written in ancient languages in indecipherable script. For me it was much easier than that.

Because the First Crusade is such an extraordinary period of history, and occurred at a pivotal point as Europe was making the transition from the Dark Ages to medieval times, there is a wealth of good books about it. The modern Granddaddy is Stephen Runciman’s  A History of the Crusades (Cambridge 1951), but has been followed by many other distinguished works. The main historians other than Runciman on whom I relied are Jonathan Riley-Smith, Christopher Tyerman, and Thomas Ashridge. And I was able to find some specialist works, for example about Cluny, the great Benedictine Monastery where my hero Hugh de Verdon starts his journey, about the fabric of the City of Jerusalem, and the intricacies of medieval warfare.

For the novelist it is also fortunate that many of the contemporary chronicles are available in print and in translation. These fascinating texts were mostly written by monks who accompanied the leaders of the Crusades to the Holy Land. They tend to support the image and reputation of the individual leader in whose entourage the authors travelled, for the prominent Crusaders were always at each others’ throats. But texts such as the Gesta Francorum, the Gesta Tancredi, and the Historia Hierosolimitana provide an invaluable direct insight to the way the Crusaders thought.

The picture would not be complete without the Muslim point of view, especially because the Arab world was far more civilised, tolerant and advanced than Christendom at the end of the 11th Century. Ibn al-Athir is the most distinguished near contemporary Arab historian, and there are several useful summaries of his and others’ work such as Francesco Gabrieli’s 1957 Arab Historians of the Crusades. Then Usama ibn-Munqidh wrote a delightful diary about his life, starting early in the 12th Century, published as An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades. Although it postdates the First Crusade itself, and so does not provide any information about the events themselves, it shows the Arab life at the time and the barbarism of their Christian attackers.

A third perspective is provided by the Alexiad, the biography of her father written by Anna Comnenos, the daughter of the contemporary Byzantine Emperor Alexios I. She also shows the Crusaders in fairly uncivilised light, although she clearly fancied Bohemond of Taranto!

So the lucky novelist is spoiled for choice. Partly because of this, and unusually for a novel, I did include a bibliography of the works I found most useful at the end of my book. A word of warning, though. It is not just an academic bibliography. You may be surprised to find references to adventure classics such as John Buchan’s Greenmantle and Henry Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines. This is because there are a couple of episodes in The Waste Land that pay homage to these books. And you may be surprised to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail included on the list. Well, see if you can spot the knight who says “Ni” in The Waste Land! Or watch my video at, and then you will understand!

Simon Acland worked as a venture capitalist for over 20 years and wrote several books on investing and leadership. The Waste Land is his first novel. For more information, visit his website at :

My review of Simon's book, The Waste Land will be posted tomorrow :)

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