Review: Hereward The Immortals by James Wilde

Hereward The Immortals5 of 5 axe blows

My version:
Hardback
Historical Fiction Hereward, Normans, Vikings
Bantam Press
2015
Bought, Signed

AD1073. Under the merciless sun of the East, a dark force has risen – a Norman adventurer whose bloody and unquenchable ambition rivals that of King William himself. He has conquered his land, built his fortress and he has amassed his army. And now he has taken Constantinople’s ruler as his prisoner…

It falls to Hereward to rescue this precious captive. For the great warrior-in-exile and his spear brothers, it will mean mounting a raid that could prove the most daring of their lives. Assisting them in this task, will be an elite and legendary band of fighters, the Immortals – so-called because they believe they cannot die in battle. But it will not be enough – for enemies hide within the bloated, bejewelled heart of Byzantium: vipers who would spread their poison, who wish to see the English dead and who will strive to turn a mission that was at best dangerous into one that is now suicidal…

Before I opened the book, I really didn’t want to like it. I didn’t want them to think I could be bought by putting my (blog) name on the back. Did I mention they’d printed a quote from my review on the back? Well, that SPEESH there, that’s me, that is.

And yet, I failed. They won.

Well, you know the kind of book you know is going to be a beast right from the first sentence? This.

All the old memories and pleasure from previous outings with Hereward come flooding back right from the start. The Immortals really is everything you want from – not just a Hereward book, but from – a book. And, that’s a full stop back there.

Hereward The Immortals Signed pageThat Hereward left England and later journeyed to Constantinople to join the Varangian guard, seems to be common, almost accepted, knowledge amongst Historical Fiction authors, well, those I’ve read anyway. I’m doubtful that there is any hard evidence for this, though to be fair, there’s little hard evidence for anything to do with Hereward. The way I see that, is that it means there’s plenty to get your teeth into, for the writer and a reader. Only stick-in-the-muds are gonna get all po-faced on our asses and poo-poo certain ‘liberties’ but, as I pointed out to one, if you can’t point out that it didn’t happen and it is possible, then shut the fuck up and go back to writing your historical romances (Mr Wilde does address some of the limitations of the source material at the end of the book).

So, if you’ve been with James Wilde’s story so far, you’ll know that after being on the losing side at Hastings, and later at Ely, Hereford made a deal with William the Bastard, to leave England and never come back. Hereford seems intent on upholding his side of the bargain and, over the last couple of books, has made his way to Constantinople, intent on joining, with his loyal band of followers, the Emperor’s Varangian guard. They are prevented from joining by the animosity of certain guards with long memories and because they haven’t got the signing-on fees. This book sees the rage at the injustice of their situation, explode in glorious fury.

Hereward’s small band of Ely rebels, has got even smaller over the course of the last couple of books and continues that way here. However, the really interesting ones, Kraki, Guthrinc, Herrig ‘The Rat,’ for instance, seem to develop and fill out a little more here, come more out of the background, prove they are not the ‘Enterprise’ landing party member in the red shirt, and sometimes almost take equal billing with our main man. And, where there are good, honest warriors, there will always be…Ragener. What’s left of him anyway. He was the one that scared us shitless in the original trilogy and while he may have lost a few body parts, he’s certainly lost none of his menace. He is a superb adversary for the story, an unpredictable, predictably evil homicidal maniacal mirror to the well-meaning character of Hereward.

I’m not sure how old Hereward is here (I’m sure I could figure it out if I put my mind to it), but the point is there’s still lots of life in the character, literally and physically. Both in this story and, hopefully, for plenty of stories to come. There’s passion a-plenty. There are do-or-die, breathless, white-knuckles gripping the book battles, that will get the pulse racing, the heart beating, the nerves a-jangling. Desperate last minute, backs against the wall, no end in sight rescues and escapes against all the odds. The story itself feels like it’s balanced on a knife- an axe-edge, the whole way through. Like their fate could go either way at any time. Hereward The Immortals has it all…and is quite probably the most complete, certainly the most enjoyable, since the series began. Probably was as enjoyable to write as it was to read. Certainly hope so.

You can buy Hereward The Immortals at The Book Depository

Related reviews on Speesh Reads that you may find useful:

HerewardHereward The Devils Army2Hereward End of DaysHereward Wolves of New RomeConquest

 

 

 

Me, on Goodreads

Light/bushel removal

Hereward Back CoverHereward The Immortals

Hot on the heels of me only just noticing I was quoted on the inside of Snorri Kristjanssons really rather fine book Path of Gods (review), I now have just noticed I’m quoted on the back of James Wilde‘s latest in his Hereward saga, Hereward, The Immortals.

I buy way too many books, that’s for sure. I often forget if I’ve bought one, I sometimes forget I’ve already got one and end up with two. I also have a tendency to put a new arrival on one side and only look at it properly, when I’m about to read it. So, The Immortals has of course, been out for a while, so when I thought I’d read it next, last night, imagine my surprise.

I don’t contact people, writers or publishers as king for free books review copies. If they want to contact me and are ok with sending a copy to Denmark, that’s fine. A few have, but in a way I’d really rather they didn’t, as I have a whole load I’ve bought myself, that I want to read and feel I don’t owe the person who sent it to me a good review. A few authors have contacted me and asked me to do them a favour and review their book and I’ve been extremely fortunate that their work has been very good and I’ve felt just fine about giving it a good review. James Wilde hasn’t contacted me, neither has his publisher. The Hereford books I’ve read, I’ve bought myself (though the hardback of the first, Hereford, which I already had in paperback, was given to me as a present, by a friend who lives in Ely and got it James was doing a signing at Toppings there).

I don’t make any money from the blog here, I sometimes wish I did. But I’m just fine with buying my books, I like doing that just as much as I enjoy reading the book, it’s only the bank manager who occasionally takes exception.

The bottom line is – you can trust my reviews more than others, because I’ve paid for the books. And so I’m under no obligation (and let’s face it, from the glowing reviews I read of absolute bollocks, a fair few reviewers do good reviews to order) to be effusive over absolute crap just because I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds.

So, if you are a passing author, published, self-published, or none of the above – sound me out. Now that I can put ‘as seen on the back of real published and in the shops and everything books’ blogger on my CV. Though what the Design department thought when someone told them to put ‘Speesh’ on the back of an otherwise perfectly good book cover, I don’t know.

Me, on Goodreads if you like.

Reading Conquest by Stewart Binns

ConquestHad this one waiting on the shelf for a while. 300-odd pages in and Hereward reminds me of Robert E.Howard’s Conan. Ordinarily, that would be good, but this is England, not Cimmeria or even Hyboria.

Reading Conquest by Stewart Binns

View on Path

The Story of a Book Cover

The Time of the Wolf by James Wilde

IMG_0140My copy of the American version of James Wilde’s Hereward, retitled The Time of the Wolf, arrived a couple of weeks ago. This is a failed attempt of mine to take an ‘arty’ faux-Polaroid picture of it.

I said/threatened to write a post about it. It’s taken a while and some effort to get it all together, so please excuse the delay. Oh yeah, and I have a day job as well. In a hospital.

Anyway, out of curiosity for such a huge change – cover and name, f’goodness’ sake – I thought I could do worse than try and dig a little deeper into the case before posting.

IMG_0139

Oh, and from the same photoshoot at Speesh Towers‘ extensive photo studios…here’s my hardback copy of Hereward.

Even after over 20 years in Advertising there’s still no start to my creativity, as you can see. That’s why I work in a hospital, after all.

Anyway, donning Deerstalker and chomping on a silly pipe, here goes…

The Basics

DC39D4CC-634E-4EF2-B340-EFB6949DB5B9.png

The first in James Wilde’s Hereward (so far) trilogy, is called Hereward. The US version of that book is called The Time of the Wolf. Actually, Amazon includes the subheading in the title as well; The Time of the Wolf: A Novel of Medieval England. Fair enough really, puts it properly in its time-frame for readers unaware of anything to do with the Hereward legend. I struggled with the ‘Medieval’ bit. I usually associate that as being later, than the novel’s 1066 setting. But it’s right enough according to Wikipedia.

In European history, the Middle Ages, or Medieval period, lasted from the 5th to the 15th century

Well, there you go, so all this has taught me something at least!

The book is the same, except for ‘minor changes’, as the good Mr Wilde puts it. What the minor changes are, apart from presumably some spelling alterations, I don’t know as yet.

The-Time-of-the-Wolf-Wilde-James-9781605984162

(left, The Time of the Wolf lifted directly  from Amazon’s website)

There’s no doubt the cover looks and makes the book feel absolutely lovely. The picture and the cover itself. It’s printed on good quality glossy paper, whereas the UK version is a matt cover, with what we call in the trade ‘spot varnish’ over the figure of Hereward. That costs. The UK has the title Hereward embossed. That costs. The US doesn’t emboss its title, more’s the pity.

As I’d bought this one, knowing it was the US version of one I already had, because of the cover, I had a look around on the cover to see if there was a way of finding out a little more about it.

Hidden away on the inside back cover, is a credit as follows;

Jacket Design by Faceout Studio Jeff Miller
Cover image Getty Images, Shutterstock

Now, Getty Images and Shutterstock I know, are photo agencies. They sell photographs to whoever wants to use the pictures. The ‘whoever’ of course, is usully advertising agencies and designers and people producing work that needs a picture of the kind Getty or Shutterstock have. The cost of the photograph is usually based on its use. If a photograph is used and seen by millions of people, then they are going to associate that image with that product or service. So it can’t be, or is unlikely to be, sold again to another agency to be used for another product or service. Because it is now associated in millions of people’s minds, with the product or service they saw it advertising or promoting. It can be used again of course, but unless it’s to a completely different group of people, it’s unlikely. So the cost will be high, so Getty (there are other photo agencies available – Ed.) can get as much money out of it as possible. At the advertising agency I worked at, we/I always played down the size, location in the brochure or whatever we were producing, along with the audience, to get a picture as cheaply as possible. Luckily, we never got found out 😉

FaceoutFaceout Studios are clearly the people who have got the job from the publishing house to design the cover. Jeff Miller is the designer who has actually done the work (he is listed as ‘Art Director’ at Faceout Studios. Pretty much does what it says on the tin; he directs the art leading to the final printed job. Could do it himself, could direct others to do it). That much I could figure out myself. I went a bit further. Faceout Studio have a website here. Then, you can click through to see other work by Jeff Miller. He also has an on-line portfolio of work here.

Being a curious kinda annoying git, I decided to email Jeff Miller about his work on cover for The Time of the Wolf. And you know what? He replied!

Apart from a very nice, long, detailed and not at all annoyed at being contacted out of the blue by some clown living in Denmark-type email, he also sent me some copies of his initial proposals for the cover design, along with the final cover, pre- and post-tweak.

Amazing!

He says he’s been working for Faceout Studio for almost 6 years now, where he specialises in book cover design. When I first saw his on-line portfolio I was struck by the work he’s done with type. It seemed to me, that he was perhaps more of a type man, than an image man. Obviously the two can go together, but it did seem like Jeff’s first love would be working with type. And lo! In reply to my musing, he says he works

with not only all kinds of typography (hand-written, straight forward, illustrative), but also photo illustration where I sometimes piece together multiple photos and textures to create one cohesive scene (such as Time of the Wolf).

Jeff says he had “a lot of room to take creative liberty in the design.” Which I take to mean he was left alone to interpret his instructions and given free creative reign – without interference – to come up with a solution. Perfection. He didn’t have a client handing him a sheet of scribbles at the start of the initial meeting, saying “The Chairman’s son has had a go and he thinks it should look something like this.” It happened, I can assure you. I know someone that happened to. Obviously, his clients believe – as they should – in the old ‘you don’t have a dog and bark yourself’ maxim. Good for them.

index_2_01I can’t tell you if these were the only ideas he had, though I would doubt it. I would think he had many more and that these three were thought good enough to be presented – either internally, or shown directly to the client, James Wilde’s US publishers – Pegasus Books.

The three ideas.

TOTW.Initial Presentation Idea 2The first one (though the order I’m showing them may not be in the order he thought of them) does have a slightly similar feel to that of the UK Hereward cover, with the warrior drawing his sword ready for the kill. I asked him in a second email, if he had actually seen the UK version. I said, if I’d had the job, I would perhaps have tried not to see it. In the hope that I could have come up with a completely unique idea. One that still fitted the instructions of course, but that didn’t either try to follow, or try to ignore the original UK version for the sake of it. He said he did see the UK version, but as you can see from the final approved idea, he’s good enough to still come up with a look and feel all his own.

If I can put myself in Jeff’s position, I would have come up with this in order to steer the client towards the one I wanted him/her to choose. By presenting him/her with something they couldn’t help refuse, if you see what I mean? Explore other solutions only to show that the one you feel is best, is the best. I don’t know if that’s what he did, it’s just what I did many times. Anyway, I would have said this version is a bit too Clan Of The Cave Bear-y for Hereward. Too many pastel shades, too much bright open skies for Cambridgeshire and the Fens. Not sure about the blonde hair either.

TOTW. Idea 1

The second one here, is going more in the direction of what Jeff says was his brief, to show Hereward as a menacing, shadowy figure, lurking in the shadows figure (see full description below). Probably too much, too abstract, too Harry Potter in this form. Those eyes could be a Panther or an owl, they don’t look particularly human, do they? Personally, I think I’d be more than a bit non-plussed to read about the English resistance to the Norman conquests if I’d bought the book based on that cover. You might think it was a new Jungle Book story, maybe? But still, it’s useful in (again) steering the client towards the solution Jeff wants him to go with.

So how did he get a feel for the book and come up with the final design?

He admits he didn’t read the whole book. But then I wouldn’t expect him to have done. And that he read even a portion of it is an indication of his dedication, as he says

I did have a really good idea of what the publisher wanted in terms of mood and what to focus on. I also was provided with a synopsis of the book that helped guide me.

Now we’re really getting to it.

Obviously the publisher has done the decent thing and produced a good brief for Jeff to work from (a rarity, I can tell you). The publisher must have produced a run-through of the book for him. But, as he says ‘mood’ earlier in that quote there, maybe the run-through was not just a synopsis of the main points in the story, maybe it was more of what we call ‘a brief’, where the ideas or themes of what the publisher wants Jeff to put over are also made clear. It is this reference to ‘mood’ that also interests me, as it is clear – and anyone can see by comparing the two books covers (see here) that the US publisher Pegasus Books, have a much different idea of the mood they think they need to promote, that they know the US audiences will go for. Comparing the UK and US versions, it’s almost chalk and cheese, isn’t it?

TOTW.Initial Presentation Idea 3

So, I would imagine that this one is the one the other two were steering the client towards accepting. As opposed to Jeff handing the client a pin and saying here’s three ideas, take your pick.

This is the final version…or, is it?

Anyway, we can now see a solution that fits what Jeff says was his brief from the client;

the publisher did want me to focus on the main character of Hereward.

You could say that was true of the UK cover as well. However, the UK cover, by including other elements of battle in the background as well as the Hereward figure aiming an arrow at us, I think is saying; ‘this is what Hereward does‘. The US publishers, on the other hand, seem to be trying to put over a feel of ‘this is what Hereward is. Fitting what Jeff says about wanting to stress the ‘character’ of Hereward, no? The UK cover says ‘this is what happens in the book’. The US cover actually has to try and put over something a little less easy to picture; the character and mood of Hereward the person. As they see it.

So, how did he reach this final design idea?

I had a pretty good idea that I needed to play up the position in which Hereward was in – he was the good guy, but was looked at as an outlaw that his enemies wanted dead. So he had to appear secretive, a man in the shadows, always a step ahead, but a man that was powerful and smart to survive in such a ruthless climate.

I’m thinking; isn’t that precisely how the Normans would have seen Hereward? A rebel in the shadows, an ‘outsider’ always seeming a step ahead, a man striking at them from the shadows and the Fens’ hidden secret places?

norman-1511-a
An actual Norman knight looking for, but not finding, Hereward.
From http://www.albion-swords.com

It’s almost as though – ever so subtly and I’m sure without realizing it, but maybe due to his American background, once removed from the history and traditions that are a part of (people like) me as an Englishman – Jeff has allied himself with, and is looking at, Hereward from the Norman point of view? Whereas a UK reader would see Hereward from the English point of view. Goes without saying that we would do that, interesting for me to think it may be different for Jeff. In the UK version, Hereward and his warriors are out under open skies, in the US version, he’s standing in the shadows, ready, watching, waiting to strike. Two almost polar opposite interpretations of the same problem, don’t you think?

So, Jeff’s got hold of what the mood should be, where does he start with the design?

Everything started with the backdrop. I found the basic nuts and bolts of a backdrop that looked mysterious and already had a lot of great shadowing. The environment also looked weathered – a possible hideout that Hereward took refuge in. Then I found a great image of Hereward that I altered some to match the lighting and shadowing of the backdrop.

Now, the two picture elements are a. The background, b. The figure of ‘Hereward.’ He doesn’t say which came from Getty and which came from Shutterstock and without knowing how he searched for the pictures, it’d take a lifetime to go through all their pictures to find the originals. Jeff then had his work cut out putting them together, so they seemed to be the same picture;

After creating a match, I then went into some intense color shifts, enhancements, and texturing to mesh Hereward and the background even closer together – to get a nice cohesive look.

Jeff is of course playing down what I can assure you is a quite formidable piece of computer work here. ‘After creating a match’, for instance isn’t, though some of my bosses used to claim it was, just a case of pressing a button. You really have to know your way round Photoshop (I’m taking it as read it was Photoshop Jeff used) to get that sort of thing right.

So that’s the picture in order, now for what I suspect was what Jeff enjoyed the most, the typography.

Lastly, I focused on the typography. I found a typeface that had lots of great qualities that represented Hereward, the harsh climate, the mystery surrounding him as an outsider in his time period. I used more texture on the title to give some 3D effects, along with some grit that almost appears like stone.

Just shows how something that most of us probably don’t give a second thought to, the words, how they look, the type, really ‘speaks’ to a typographer.

Interestingly, though as I’ve already mentioned, for the final, printed version, they then changed the look of the sword Jeff’s ‘Hereward’ is holding.

The Time of the Wolf HardbackThis is a scan of the actual hardback copy I have.

As you can see, it is the same as the ‘Polaroid’ at the top, but *trumpet fanfare* not the same as the one pictured on Amazon’s page for ordering it! Check it out, click on the link up top, or here.

What on earth could have happened? I reckon, Amazon needed to put it on their website before Jeff and the publishers were completely finished with the designing and Amazon just said “give us something!” and they got sent this working version. It could be that the decision to alter the sword, was taken late in the day, just before printing and Amazon had got what was previously thought to be the final version.

If it had been from my agency, I’d put it down to a f*@k-up.

But it also suggests that the pictorial elements are actually a composite of three pictures – background, figure and sword handle.

Why?, you ask – and Jeff answers;

I had to change the sword handle to look less phallic and more representative of a broadsword with lots of character. That decision was dictated by the publisher, which in hindsight I understand and I actually like the end result better.

Here Jeff is showing absolute classic designer professionalism and doing the best possible job for the target market, rather than getting precious and refusing to budge, or denigrating an alteration that was made that didn’t originate with him. I’d have loved to have worked alongside someone so focused as he is.

And here a publisher is showing absolute classic client behaviour in seeing a connotation no one else would – if they hadn’t pointed it out!

There is, by my estimation, a fair bit of work involved in producing a cover like the one Jeff has here. There’s no way on earth I could have done it. I would like to think I could have come up with the concept as Jeff has done, but in my early days – before the first Apple Macs came on the market – it would have been sketched out by me – called a ‘Visual’ – shown to the client, altered beyond recognition, then I’d have led an illustrator by the hand to do the finished artwork. Once I’d found one who had the style and the time to do it that is. I would think he/she alone would have needed at least two weeks to do the first, finished version of the artwork. Then there would have been all the Client alteration nightmares…How long nowadays?

I would safely say covers like The Time of the Wolf typically take around 1/2 a day and up to 2 days to execute. It all depends on the quality of imagery we are able to work with and how closely imagery syncs up with the vision we have in mind…I saw a lot of potential in both main images and through experience I knew that it was highly probable to make everything look cohesive and real. I did use a lot of color shifts, shading, lighting and textures to bring everything closer together, but sometimes it takes a lot of tweaking to get things looking right.

Two days!

Stunning. I am not joking in any way, when I say I still have nightmares about producing this sort of thing. Making mistakes, making last minute changes and generally crossing fingers over 50% of the time. Jeff’s calm, matter-of-fact attitude above seems like a message from another world to me.

The Time of the Wolf Hardback copyTo finish, I did ask him about the sky and the moon at the very top of the finished cover. I wondered to myself, if they weren’t linking a bit too much with the ‘Wolf’ angle of the title. For me, it almost looked like it was as if they were trying to say ‘(Were)Wolf.’ With maybe half an eye on the current trend for Twilight-style series. According to Jeff, it was

to help better establish Hereward living in the shadows (or in a natural environment) to keep out of reach and unknown to his enemies. Moonlight also helped play up the mystery effect in my opinion, and it added some subtle connection to “Wolf” in the title – a man of the night, a man of secrecy.

So, I wasn’t far off on that one, was I? Reputation rescued at the last minute. I’ve still got it.

It seems the title change was decided upon by the US publishers, Jeff says. Whilst he actually says they “rarely” get the chance to alter or influence title changes, it must mean they can on occasion suggest changes. As he says;

each publisher has an extensive marketing team that has a specific vision for how they want to market each book.

I’m gonna leave discussion of the title change there, aren’t you glad about that? I could write a thesis on that subject, but it’s best I keep my powder dry for now.

I think all in all it is really interesting and thought provoking, way beyond my initial feelings of irritation at what seemed merely a fixing something that ain’t broken, that the US team thought they needed a such a different vision to that of the UK team.

The Time of the Wolf – the final front-ier and back.

TOTW.Final Jacket copy

I think Jeff has come up with a really excellent solution to the problem he was given. Based on solid reasoning, inspiration, masses of talent – and not least, some really excellent computer jiggery-pokery.

Hereward The Devils Army251nOWkC794L._SL500_AA300_It is hard for me to be truly objective in coming up with a criticism – and in my world, the world I worked in for over 20 years, ‘criticism’ means being positive, coming with your thoughts on why something works – does what the client wants it to do, here; sell Hereward books – or doesn’t work. Not whether you like it or not. Because I have lived with and loved the UK Hereward for a long time more than I have with The Time of the Wolf, I can’t go back and undo that. Also I’ve seen how the UK series has worked out with the covers for book two and three, and thought it was unimprovable on for so long.

When I first saw the US cover, I just thought ‘no, that’s wrong’, I must admit. But, after learning more about Jeff’s work, learning the thoughts behind the change in the name, the thoughts and reasoning behind the change of style and the needs of the American market for Hereward, from Jeff in the main; I’m very comfortable with saying that I would have approved of and presented Jeff’s cover, had one of my designers had worked it up for me.

I would love to get hold of the people who actually did the UK ‘Hereward’ covers and compare notes with them. However, I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine they will/would be so open, honest, sharing and all round decent as Jeff. So, unless one of them reads this and wants to put me right…we’ll leave Hereward/The Time of the Wolf there.

Or, shall we…?

As I said, I did ask Jeff if he had seen the UK Hereward cover, but I hadn’t thought of that when I sent him the original email. He was good enough to say at the end of his reply, that if I had any further questions about the cover, to let him know. So I did.

Twitter Hereward name

Then there’s the little matter of the second Hereward book; Hereward The Devil’s Army. It was, after all, the mention of a title change by James Wilde on Twitter about that,that lead me to finding and buying The Time of the Wolf in the first place. What do we – or Jeff – know about the name and design of that one?

If you can bait your breath just a little longer, I have very nearly (though probably not by the time I’ve got round to finishing the post) exclusive news on that front…

Tancready!

James Aitcheson has now revealed the title for the eagerly awaited third book in his '1066 The Bloody Aftermath' series.

And it seems I've lost money on my guess of 'Tancred Rides Out'.

Here's his post today on Facebook:

So 'Knights of the Hawk'. Who are they? Are they up against Tancred, or does he become one of them? Knights at the time could mean French, of course. Or were there any English Knights about at the time? They'd have to be either underground, or on the outer edges of the Normans' new kingdom, possibly siding with the 'rebels'. 'Hawk' doesn't sound all that peaceful, does it? A 'hawk' is today used to describe someone 'favouring war in a debate over whether to go to war', as Wikipedia has it. Hawk being a bird of prey, a hunter, a predator, a killer. And Tancred does have some unfinished business the finishing of which would be greatly helped by a group of friendly Knights. Or are they another of the 'new enemies' promised at the end of 'The Splintered Kingdom'? And, the First Crusade isn't that far away, where the first military order of Knights was founded (Hospitaller), is there anything there?
 
I felt that Tancred was becoming more than a little anglicised during 'The Splintered Kingdom' and I was thinking it would be interesting to pit him against the people he came over from France with. See what that did to him mentally as well as physically. Poacher turned gamekeeper-like maybe.
 
I'm certainly looking forward to, at the very least, finding out if I was barking up the right tree there, or not. Then there is a loose end, an unexpected 'idea bomb' that went off in the last book and that I hope he has found it possible to develop in 'Knights of the Hawk'.
 

Right or wrong trees apart, I think if the above nonsense shows anything – apart from that it is a very good idea I don't think I can write a book myself – it is that we are extremely lucky to have a new writer like James, creating a wonderfully evocative series of books and a world full to the brim with exciting, interesting possibilities. The other side of the coin in a way, to James Wilde's 'Hereward' series. I wouldn't like to have to put money on who would win if those two* ever met, that's for sure.

*Tancred and Hereward, that is. Not James and James. Or James and Hereward, or…That's enough – Ed.

 

Breaking Hereward III news!

So, hot on the heels of my exclusive (that is, if you rule out the author mentioning it on Twitter and the cover appearing on Amazon) news the other day, of Hereward III quite probably being due out/available to order/buy in July…Comes official confirmation. For ‘official confirmation’, read; you can now order it on Amazon.

Hereward TweetJames Wilde posted this on Twitter on Thursday, I think.

(Not really the best way to pretend it’s ‘Breaking News’, eh? “I think…”)

This does at least give us a look at the cover – and it doesn’t disappoint. Looking at that, I feel quite alright about what is going to be inside. Clearly, as a recent film so aptly put it; ‘There will be blood…’

Here’s the cover a bit larger. Looks like more of the same, eh?

That’s a good thing, by the way.

It would be interesting to find out who is playing Hereward on these covers. To get an idea of how/who makes the choices in the book cover process.

Is it an actor? It obviously wouldn’t be good to have a recognisable actor on the front, as it would make you think more of the previous characters the guy has played; ‘that’s him from there. You know, that film where he’s a spaceman!’, rather than ‘Hey! That’s Hereward from the two previous books!’. While I do hope lots and lots of people read – and enjoy – the Hereward books as possible, as I have done, I’m sure being on the covers of James Wilde’s Hereward books, isn’t going to raise type-casting concerns for the chap…

But, is it a friend of the author’s? Or, how much influence does an author actually have in these sort of decisions? I would have thought, as the book publisher is the one putting the money up front initially (I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the arrangement wasn’t a lot like record contracts used to be in the good olde days, where the artist pays the money back out of (hopefully) future earnings) and they (the publisher), knowing the business of what sells, what is appropriate, what is needed, would have the final say. But, how much artistic control does the author have in these decisions? Has an author ever dug their heels in for their ideas and taken a book away from the publisher, because they had a ‘difference of opinion’ over the cover? I see the cover of a book as fulfilling the old cliche; ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression.’ It’s that simple and that important.

I’ll have to ask Mr Wilde sometime. On Twitter, that is. I don’t want you getting the impression I know him!

Erm, anyway, back to the ‘News’ angle.

You can pre-order Hereward. End of Days on Amazon now. I’m guessing it is probably just the Amazon.co.uk version at the moment. Mainly because I’m pretty sure that the publication date for the first two in the series was later in the USA than the UK, and there did have to be some changes, not least in the title. Not sure why it was deemed necessary, but there you go. The release date seems to be set at 9 – 13 July. You can pre-order it now for £14.99 (128kr, $23.25, €17.40), as I have done, The money will only come out of your account when it is shipped (mainly for my Father, that) and if the price is different on release date (obviously hopefully lower) you pay the price on release date. If you’re in Denmark, as I am, you pay Danish VAT/Sales Tax…but that’ll still be cheaper than getting it down town Aarhus – even when you take into account paying postage to Denmark, as the order is below £25. Unless that bookstore I was in the other day is doing a deal, though I suspect not…but, I’m rambling.

There are several interesting loose ends to be picked up and continued after Hereward. The Devil’s Army. Rivalries to be continued and Normans to be vanquished. At least temporarily, given the larger historical context. But never mind that, I think this is the one I’m most looking forward to (so far) this year.

Go order it now! There’s clearly an upward curve on these Hereward books – the first was great, the second was greater, the third will be great…well, whatever is better than ‘greater’. And hopefully, despite End being in the title, there will be a #4, #5 and so on…I’ll have to ask him.

What else are we looking forward to? Why, it’s Hereward III

When I say 'we', of course I mean 'me'.

Book three in James Wilde's 'Hereward' series.

Hereward is, as the book jackets have it: “The last Englishman. The first freedom fighter. The forgotten hero.”

The first 'Hereward' book from James Wilde, was just called 'Hereward'. Which is fair enough. For those of us of a certain age and nationality, quite possibly of the English persuasion, as I said in my review of 'Hereward'; it is almost impossible not to think '…the Wake' after hearing/saying 'Hereward'. But, perhaps to signal this was going to be a different look at the Hereward legend, not that there have been too many others I can well imagine, '…the Wake' was perhaps deliberately absent. It was a title given to him (long) after his death, so I suppose that too is fair enough.

'Hereward' was excellent. A real storming, take no prisoners start to a trilogy (?). From the first paragraphs, I had an image of this wild, relentless warrior character emerging from the snowy mists of ancient England of the 11th Century, I really felt this was an exciting, new, thoroughly believable, well-rounded, detailed and nuanced character. A freshness and verve one doesn't come across every day. A character well worth reading more about.

I wasn't wrong. Far from being the 'difficult second album', the second Hereward, 'Hereward. The Devil's Army', was more of the same – and then some. Much more betterer, as my old Dad often says. My review.

So, apart from some up-dates on having to change titles for an American audience (something I am opposed to, but then again, I'm not an author), what do we know about number three? well, we know it will be called (at least on this side of the pond) 'Hereward. The End of Days' and it's on it's way. Any more? A little. In a Tweet last Friday, James Wilde said thus:

“The script for Hereward End of Days was delivered to my editor before Christmas…only I've just fetched it back to add more to it. But! Still on course for July publication!”

I don't know if this is going to be a trilogy, or if he will continue the Hereward story for as long as it is inspirational – I certainly hope for the latter. Of course, any part three of a series with 'End' in the title will fill me with a sense of foreboding, but fingers crossed. Anyway, we have 'only' until June to wait to find out. I'll try and remember to post an up-date when it's possible to pre-order on Amazon-type places.

I think this Hereward series is going to be seen as a classic in the future.

James Wilde comes from the same region of England as I do and his Twitter identity is named accordingly. He is @manofmercia – well worth a follow or two.

 

 

Review: Hereward

Hereward
Hereward by James Wilde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Superb. Nothing less.

Hereward gripped me and held me at sword-point from page one.

(That was my attempt at writing something they might want to use on a future Hereward book jacket).

I can’t remember being so impressed by a historical novel for a long, long time. It really is that good.

Set in an interesting and – for me, at least – under discovered period; the years just before and just after the Norman invasion of 1066. We’re in the death-throws of the Viking period, the old, ‘real’ England is struggling to come through and (re-) establish itself and (in this novel) the Normans are a dark and brooding presence who everyone knows are just waiting to strike.

Hereward is caught up in the maelstrom of Viking mercenaries, shifting alliances, half-truths and general jostling for position at what passes for the English Court. After being in the wrong place at the wrong time and hearing something he definitely shouldn’t, is forced to flee north where he might find some safety and sanctuary. From there, he goes on to meet old adversaries, confront old ghosts, make new enemies and make progress towards finding out about his past. He returns to The Fens and begins to form and lead the English resistance to the Normans’ seemingly un-stoppable dominance.

This has everything you could want in a historical novel; fighting, tension, fighting, suspense, fighting, love, fighting, intrigue – and fighting. I’ve seen that there is a number two ready for me to get to grips with, and I will be doing so as soon as possible.

Oh, and he’s man of Mercia, like me.

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