Book Review – Oathbreaker by Adam Lofthouse – historical fiction

Here’s the blurb;

“It’s not the shadows you should fear, but what hides within.”
Alaric is an enemy of Rome.
For too long he has thwarted the empires attempts to gain control over the land that has long resisted them: Germania.
To the Romans he is a scourge, always evading their carefully laid traps. But to the tribes he is much worse: Outlaw, chief killer, battle turner, Oathbreaker.
All men know him, all men fear him. At his back is a war host, on his shoulder sits Loki, the Trickster.
A deal has been struck between the legions and the tribes: lifelong enemies agree to become friends, for a time. The eagles’ march with the wolves, together they hunt the raven.
Isolated and lacking in allies, will Alaric be able to break free from the noose that slowly encircles him? Or will the Sly One once more come to his rescue?
OATHBREAKER: One man’s stand against the tyranny of empire.

Here’s my review:

The main character in Oathbreaker, Alaric, is very far from being any sort of hero. Yes, he might be prepared to stand apart from the might of the Roman Empire, but he doesn’t care who he tramples on along the way. Sometimes he’s almost likeable, but a lot of the time, he’s just a single man, making slightly dodgy decisions, often based on his own rage and fury, and trying to live with the consequences.
Alaric is proud of his reputation, but of course, it means that he has far more enemies than allies, as becomes clear as the plotline develops. Alaric also suffers from that most common of problems, he believes the accolades he receives and even revels in them. Having not read the previous two books by this author, which feature Alaric, I’m not sure how his character develops after the events of Oathbreaker, but I’m curious to find out.
Unlike many ‘Roman’ era books, there is actually very little Roman in Oathbreaker. Rather the story is of outsiders looking in, understanding how the Roman Empire works, perhaps better than the Romans do!
Oathbreaker rarely falls into the traps of novels sent in this era, although there are a few ‘back story’ elements that are a little too expected, and the reader, just like Alaric’s most loyal friend, Ketill, does work out what’s actually happening long before Alaric does!
A firm four stars from me – it’s great to read a book that merges the Roman world and that of tribal Germania and have it told from the viewpoint of those tribes. I look forward to reading more.

Oathbreaker is available now, and should be on the list of all who read Roman historical fiction!

You can get a copy from here:

 

Book Review – The Last Astronaut by David Wellington – sci fi

Here’s the blurb:

“A huge alien object has entered the solar system and is now poised above the Earth. It has made no attempt to communicate.

Out of time and options, NASA turns to its last living astronaut – Commander Sally Jansen, who must lead a team of raw recruits on a mission to make First Contact.

But as the object reveals its secrets, Jansen and her crew find themselves in a desperate struggle for survival – against the cold vacuum of space, and something far, far worse . . .”

I had high hopes that The Last Astronaut would be as good The Martian, and for at least 50-60% of the book, I was really impressed with the character development and the storyline itself. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi books, but this did have me hooked. From then on, I felt as though the story got a bit bogged down and slightly repetitive. It also adopted some quite stereotypical character development issues and my enthusiasm for the book wained quite dramatically. I did finish it, and the ending was reasonably satisfying, but it didn’t quite have the ‘wow’ factor I was hoping for.

A firm 4/5 – the beginning was a 5/5 but the ending was only a 3/5. Perhaps cutting 20% from the ending would have made the read much faster and maintained the momentum built up at the beginning. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a review copy.

The Last Astronaut is released on 25th July, and you can get your copy here:

Book Review – Priest of Lies by Peter McLean – fantasy

Here’s the blurb:

Peaky Blinders with swords’ (Barnes & Noble), perfect for fans of Mark Lawrence and Joe Abercrombie.

‘The poorer and more oppressed people are, the weaker they become – until they just refuse to take it any more. Then they will rise up, and the gods help their oppressors.’

When Tomas Piety and his Pious Men returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his crime empire and look after his people. But the sinister Queen’s Men had different ideas and whether he likes it or not, he’s now a spy as well.

Now, half the city of Ellinburg lies in ashes and the webs of political intrigue are stretching out from the Queen’s capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling.

In Dannsburg the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people’s champion . . . or just a priest of lies.

And as Tomas’ power grows, the nobility had better watch their backs . . .”

Priest of Lies is an enjoyable book, and one that would perhaps have been more enjoyable if I’d read book 1 in the series (no shouting at me at this point. It is possible to start a series with Book 2 – I’ve done it quite a few times) but  I’ve seen quite a bit of excitement for the book on Twitter, and it became a bit infectious, which is why I went straight into Book 2 when it became available on Netgalley (that, and Book 1 is £5.99 on kindle – I’d happily pay that for an author I love, but for a new author to me, I’m a bit hesitant.)

The writing is good, the character of Thomas Piety is bold and executed well, and yet for all that, I just didn’t quite enthuse over the story. The premise is both unusual and also quite predictable, and I always knew there was going to be a big showdown at the end, and there was, so I wasn’t disappointed in that.

There are a few story arcs that felt a bit too superfluous for my liking, and Thomas Piety has an annoying tendency of glossing over some details that I would have quite liked to be expanded upon and then going into detail regarding matters that I wasn’t interested in at all.

Overall, I enjoyed the story of Thomas Piety and I’m sure it will please fans of the series, but I just don’t think it’s my sort of thing! A firm 3/5. (I am a fan of Mark Lawrence, but not Pinky Blinders, or Joe Abercrombie.)

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy.

Priest of Lies is released today, 2nd July, and is available from here;

 

 

 

Book Review – The Exiled by David Barbaree – Historical Fiction

Here’s the blurb:

“A.D. 79. Parthia is gripped by civil war. One king vying for the throne, desperate for help, welcomes an alliance from an unlikely source: a man claiming to be Nero, the dethroned Roman emperor.

Meanwhile, young Gaius wishes he could spend his summer on the Bay of Naples amongst his books. Instead Pliny, the famous admiral, has sent him to befriend the nephew of Ulpius, the mysterious blind senator from Spain. A man Pliny does not trust.

But when a Parthian hostage is nearly killed, days before Parthian emissaries are expected, and as rumours of the False Nero entering the land reaches Rome, Gaius and Pliny race to learn how these events are connected.

As the political intrigue comes to a head, something happens that only the mysterious clairvoyant Sibyl could have foreseen: Mount Vesuvius erupts, and black ash fills the sky . . .”

It was always going to be a big task to produce a novel quite as good as Deposed (which was excellent and fully worthy of five stars.)

The Exiled does a good job of trying to be as good as the first book, but somehow, and despite, or perhaps because of, the sheer amount of political intrigue going on, it does not match up to the sheer audacity of Deposed. Indeed, for quite a large swathe of the book, I was wondering if it was a standalone novel and not at all related to Deposed. But, I pressed on, hopeful that it would improve.
And it did. From about 50% the book picks up and the seemingly disparate events begin to fall into place, and the careful plotting and planning of the book begin to reveal themselves.
While some of the characters remain underdeveloped, and some of the chapters feel ‘too thin,’ it can’t be denied that the story is both clever and solidly told, and the ending is unexpected.
I hope that this series continues.
Thank you for my review copy Netgalley.

The Exiled was released on 27th June 2019 and is available from here;