Odin’s Game – by Tom Hodkinson – historical fiction

Here’s the blurb;

“AD 915.

In the Orkney Isles, a young woman flees her home to save the life of her unborn child. Eighteen years later, a witch foretells that evil from her past is reaching out again to threaten her son.

Outlawed from his home in Iceland, Einar Unnsson is thrown on the mercy of his Uncle, the infamous Jarl Thorfinn ‘Skull Cleaver’ of Orkney. He joins forces with a Norse-Irish princess and a company of wolfskin-clad warriors to become a player in a deadly game for control of the Irish sea, where warriors are the pawns of kings and Jarls and the powerful are themselves mere game pieces on the tafl board of the Gods.

Together they embark on a quest where Einar must fight unimaginable foes, forge new friendships, and discover what it truly means to be a warrior.

As the clouds of war gather, betrayal follows betrayal and Einar realises the only person he can really trust is himself.

Not everyone will survive, but who will conquer all in Odin’s game?”

Odin’s Game by Tim Hodkinson begins with great promise. I hope, mirroring the writing style of the sagas, the story is simply told, occasionally a little monotonous, and yet, it’s Viking Age Iceland – the promise is there, all the time, expectant that finally there is a novel about the Icelandic way of life. Unfortunately, the novel moves away from Iceland quite quickly, and in doing so, becomes a more challenging read.

The characters are two dimensional, there is some jarringly ‘modern’ dialogue in there, as well as some that is stilted, and yet all mixed with what must be a great deal of research and commitment to telling a story in a ‘different way’ to much that is written about the Viking Age – journeying to Orkney and Ireland along the way, if as so often happens, staying with the Pagan/Christian storyline.

Einar, the main character, is never fully formed enough to elicit a great deal of sympathy from the reader, and his ‘talents’ appearing from nowhere (apart from his ability to tell a good story which he has been trained to do) are supposed to be gifts from Odin, but are, again, not fully explored enough to make the novel feel ‘well-rounded and finished.’

There is a huge amount of promise contained in this novel, but it slips away, never quite grasping the storyline firmly enough, and the ending is both rushed, and ultimately, unfulfilling. A true shame. Such an engaging idea, but a struggle to read. In the end, I willed myself to the end in the hope the ending would be as good as the beginning, only to be disappointed.

The three stars are for the promise of what could be a great novel.

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

(Note – I am obsessed with Viking Age Iceland – it is my passion – it is the basis of my first fantasy series – this may, potentially, account for my disappointment!)

Odin’s Game is released today (20th June 2019), and is available from here:

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Book Review – The Ruthless by Peter Newman – fantasy – highly recommended

Here’s the blurb;

Return to a world of crystal armour, savage wilderness, and corrupt dynasties in book two of The Deathless series from Gemmell award-winning author Peter Newman.

THE REBEL
For years, Vasin Sapphire has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Now, as other Deathless families come under constant assault from the monsters that roam the Wild, that time has come.

THE RUTHLESS
In the floating castle of Rochant Sapphire, loyal subjects await the ceremony to return their ruler to his rightful place. But the child raised to give up his body to Lord Rochant is no ordinary servant. Strange and savage, he will stop at nothing to escape his gilded prison.

AND THE RETURNED…
Far below, another child yearns to see the human world. Raised by a creature of the Wild, he knows their secrets better than any other. As he enters into the struggle between the Deathless houses, he may be the key to protecting their power or destroying it completely.

THE WILD HAS BEGUN TO RISE.

The Ruthless by Peter Newman is a fantastic ‘Part 2’ of what will be a trilogy, charting The Deathless. The action picks up exactly where it left off, although sixteen years have passed, allowing the babies of the book to be all grown up and therefore more involved in what’s happening.

The likeable characters of Book 1 are there, Sa-at, Pari, Vasin, Chandi as well as a few that we didn’t like so much. The world created by Newman continues to be vivid and downright ‘weird’ and there were a few times when I felt a little ‘itchy’ so good were the descriptions of The Wild! All of the characters are set on paths that will see them coming into contact at one point or another, and the end is entirely satisfying, leaving me with many questions still to be answered, and a fear that something really BAD is going to happen in the concluding book of the trilogy. I read this book in just over 24 hours. It’s entirely absorbing, wonderful ‘weird’ and incredibly rewarding. Newman uses words to great effect and I just ‘got’ exactly what he was trying to portray. I really can’t recommend it enough.

Thank you to Netgalley for the review copy. I will be ‘singing’ about this series whenever I get the opportunity

The Ruthless is available now from here, although other retailers are also available;

Book Review – Commodus by Simon Turney – historical fiction – highly recommended

Here’s the blurb;

“Welcome to a fracturing Roman empire in the second century AD: ravaged by plague and with wars rumbling on along all frontiers. One man tries to hold everything together but, beset by personal tragedy from a young age, who is holding him together?
You’ve heard the stories: the crazy emperor who thought he was Hercules and fought in the Colosseum as a gladiator. But is ‘crazy’ too easy a label? Could there have been method behind the perceived madness?”

Commodus by Simon Turney is my sort of historical fiction – people who actually lived – with their lives told in an intriguing and interesting way, bolted around known ‘facts’ and not a little imagination to bring the character alive! This is the first book I’ve read by Simon Turney but it won’t be the last.

The story is a well-told tale of a Roman Emperor who, I must assume, has a bit of a bad reputation. This is a sympathetic account of his rule, and I doubt I’ll be the only person who finishes the novel and considers just what it is about him that’s quite so bad (apart from his delight in killing exotic animals that would garner a great of bad press in our day and age) – in that respect the author does an excellent job of rehabilitating a bit of a dodgy character.

A thoroughly enjoyable read. Highly recommended. I read it in a day!

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

Commodus is released on 13th June 2019, and is available from here, as well as from other retailers!

 

Book Review – Limited Wish by Mark Lawrence – fantasy – highly recommended

Here’s the blurb;

“One choice. Two possible timelines. And a world hanging in the balance.

It’s the summer of 1986 and reluctant prodigy Nick Hayes is a student at Cambridge University, working with world-renowned mathematician Professor Halligan. He just wants to be a regular student, but regular isn’t really an option for a boy-genius cancer survivor who’s already dabbled in time travel.

When he crosses paths with a mysterious yet curiously familiar girl, Nick discovers that creases have appeared in the fabric of time, and that he is at the centre of the disruption. Only Nick can resolve this time paradox before the damage becomes catastrophic for both him and the future of the world. Time is running out—literally.

Wrapped up with him in this potentially apocalyptic scenario are his ex-girlfriend, Mia, and fellow student Helen. Facing the world-ending chaos of a split in time, Nick must act fast and make the choice of a lifetime—or lifetimes.

Game on.”

Limited Wish is a far more enjoyable read than Book 1 in the series, possibly because I know what to expect now, (but also because there’s less ‘mirror action’ in the D & D game than in Book 1 – sorry, not a fan because I’ve never played it, and I just don’t get it (ducks for cover!)). I read it in a few sittings, and look forward to Book 3 to discover just how Nick fares. A 5/5 from me.

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

Limited Wish is released on 28th May and is available from here.

 

Pre-order alert – The Queen Dowager and Once a Queen – historical fiction – the continuing story of Lady Elfrida

I did it! Yep, the preorder for The Queen Dowager is now LIVE on Amazon, in advance of release day which is 27th June 2019.

https://amzn.to/2YUw2k3

And, and, there is another surprise as well, for not only is The Queen Dowager ready for preorder, so too is the last book in the trilogy, and the last book on Lady Elfrida. Once a Queen will be released on 25th July 2019.

onceaqueen

I will be sharing more information as the release date grows closer!

https://www.canva.com/design/DADbJNtCtQs/view

To be in with a chance to win one of three ebook copies of The Queen Dowager, just leave a comment below and I’ll randomly select 3 winners on 15th June 2019, and then make contact with the lucky three!

Book Reviews from Netgalley – The First Queen of England by M J Porter – historical fiction

The First Queen of England has been available on Netgalley for the last month, and it’s garnered some fab reviews. I thought I’d bring them together here, both good and bad, as not all of them are over on Goodreads!

So, as with all book reviews, here’s the blurb;

“Before Anne Boleyn stole the heart of a king and demanded marriage, another woman strove to wed an already married king of England. This is the story of Elfrida, who would become the first crowned Queen of England.

England is united under Edgar, but twenty years of uncertainty and a dwindling royal nursery, have left the royal family vulnerable to extinction. Edgar, a king at only 15 years old, has an acknowledged daughter and wife, but the dying ealdorman, Æthelwald, has commanded his wife to seek out the king, now in his early twenties.

True to her husband’s wishes, Elfrida pursues the King, nervous of her husband’s intentions, but trusting them all the same. When the king tries to make her his concubine, Elfrida refuses and withdraws from the court, only to find herself dreaming of the King, desiring his touch and his presence.

When the King seeks her out once more, she willingly follows him back to his court and finds herself plunged into a world of politics and self-interest where her future happiness rests not only on the king loving her but also on the goodwill of others with much to play for at the King’s court.

Bringing alive the characters of tenth century England; its young king, Edgar; its Ealdormen, Byrhtnoth, Æthelwine, and Ælfhere; the great reforming religious figures of Archbishop Dunstan, Bishop Æthelwold and Oswald and the great women of the period, Lady Elfrida, Lady Æthelflæd and Lady Wulfthryn, The First Queen of England evokes tenth century England at its most enigmatic, shining a welcome light on England’s first crowned queen, a woman who would go on to accomplish much, but who must first steal the heart of an amorous King and earn her place at court, and overcome the obstacle of the outcome of not only the King’s second marriage, but also his first.

The Mercian Brexit can be read as an introduction to The First Queen of England – offering an account of the very early days of king Edgar’s reign form 955-957.

The First Queen of England Part 2 and Part 3 now available – telling the continuing story of Lady Elfrida in late tenth century England.

The King’s Mother is also now available, book 1 in a new trilogy continuing the story of Lady Elfrida.”

I’ll start with the 5/5 reviews, and there are four of them, which is fab!

“I received an ARC from NetGalley. I loved this book. Loved everything about it. Cant wait for part 2. I did get confused here and there because the character names are so similar but once I got that down, it was easy to follow. I love to read about history and a story where a woman is still valuable even after being married once before is even better. I will say I knew nothing about this King or Queen of England but i am glad to know them now.”

“This is the first time I have heard about Elfrida’s story so this as a pleasant surprise. This novel had romance, drama, and political intrigue! I’m definitely looking forward to purchasing the sequel!”

“Lady Elfrida has laid her husband to rest. He has died at a very young age. She also is widowed at a young age. Though they had been married for several years there are no living children. She is sent back to her fathers home. Just before her husband passed he had mentioned the King. She discovers that she was supposed to have married the king, but her husband was besotted with her and kept her for himself. It was a happy union. Now she discovers that the kings wife and small daughter are to go live in a nunnery. He will be without a wife. When she meets the king she is instantly beside herself with the strong attraction they feel for each other. She knows that to be Queen she will have to become his wife and not a concubine. With the help of strong ladies from the court, who will advise her on what needs to be done, she will do everything in her power to become the first Queen of England. Well written. Has actual persons in the storyline. Interesting!”

“A wonderful and very interesting story about King Edgar of England and his third wife, Elfrida. Highly enjoyable! I read it in one night. A must for Historical Fiction Fans! Will definitely be reading book two in this series. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. Thank you, Netgalley! All opinions are my own.”

And then the 4/5 and 3/5 reviews.

“Extremely interesting and factual. Great insight to the culture that spawned the Tudor dynasty..  Will look forward to reading more by this author and will recommend.”

“I was disappointed in this book as I had thought it to be historical fiction…unfortunately, there was a lack of history. I feel King Edgar of England and Elfrida both hved stories of their own, but this book only centers on their passion, even that not very well. The writing felt uninspired, also. Only my opinion.”

The First Queen of England is still available on Netgalley for a few more days for anyone who fancies delving into tenth century England (until 25th May 2019), and I would like to thank all reviewers for reading and offering their opinions! I appreciate each and every one of them, (and yes, that does mean the not too enthused ones as well – not everyone can like everything –  I certainly don’t.)

The First Queen of England is available on Amazon now (and also Audible), along with Book 2 and Book 3, and the first part of a second series, The King’s Mother. Books 2 and 3 of the second trilogy will be published soon.

Storm of Steel by Matthew Harffy – historical fiction

Here’s the blurb;

“AD 643. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the sixth instalment in the Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Heading south to lands he once considered his home, Beobrand is plunged into a dark world of piracy and slavery when an old friend enlists his help to recover a kidnapped girl.

Embarking onto the wind-tossed seas, Beobrand pursues his quarry with single-minded tenacity. But the Whale Road is never calm and his journey is beset with storms, betrayal and violence.

As the winds of his wyrd blow him ever further from what he knows, will Beobrand find victory on his quest or has his luck finally abandoned him?”

Storm of Steel is the next book in the Bernicia Chronicles, following the life of Beobrand – henceforth known as ‘grimdark’ Beo or just plain grumpy. Life seems quite hard for Beo, often torn between the decisions he makes and the oaths he must fulfil, and this is just another of those occasions when he’s forced to take actions he might not strictly have wanted to.

The majority of Storm of Steel takes place at sea, or near the sea. There’s a lot of ‘ship’ stuff and the weather, as always in Anglo-Saxon England (he he) is rubbish, and its winter and no one sails in the winter, apart from grimdark Beobrand. There are storms aplenty and it always seems to rain/snow/sleet! There’s a lot of sea sickness and quite a bit of action. And then, almost abruptly, the book ends.
There are many things about the book that are good, but at times the story feels a little laboured, and I still don’t like the scenes where the POV moves away from Beobrand. The story is not particularly complicated, and because it’s Beobrand, even the scenes where his life might be in peril, are destined to end with his survival. That said, the final big ‘scene’ is very well written and enjoyable (but yes, it takes place both at sea. on the shore and in the rain – in fact, I think it’s snowing and sleeting), but I would have liked a bit more here, rather than moving forward to a few months later.
A firm 4/5 and my thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy.

Storm of Steel is released on 9th May 2019 and you can purchase a copy here, although other retailers are available!