New books for August

Well, two of the more note-worthy ones I acquired in August anyway.

I buy all my books, all the books I review here. Apart from three, so far.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to get stuff sent to me for free by publishers, but more because I don’t/haven’t chased them for copies. I’d also maybe have to have a bit more of a high-profile website to be interesting to more publishers, and get free stuff sent, I guess.

The problem as far as I think, is that if I were on a lot of these here lists where bloggers get sent stuff before publication date, for free, for review, is that I’d feel under a certain amount of pressure to give the book a good review. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? I can think of (at least) one other blogger who does get a load of the same sort of thing that I read, sent for free from publishers. And doesn’t waste time letting us know about it. Judging by the pre-publication ‘progress-reports’ the authors concerned re-Tweet. Fair enough that the author wants the publicity and re-Tweeting a “really enjoying the start of a new series/the latest from (name of author here)” is gonna help on the self-publicity front. However, having seen these things re-Tweeted constantly, with every book released, leads me to wonder if she (maybe you know who I’m on about) has ever read a bad book? Ever. Doesn’t seem like it to me. I read plenty of bad books. And I like to think I say so. But not her, as far as I can see. I wonder, sometimes, if the authors don’t feel a little awkward about covering their noses at the smell of rat and re-Tweeting (yet another) glowing report from the reading front-line? I do and I’m only an irritated, keeping it real, part-time, bollocks blogger. Obviously a glowing review is a glowing review, close your eyes and press ‘re-Tweet.’

So, how much of it is a real, honest review and how much is ‘“Wow! Look at me, I got this for free, i read it before you! Oh, and thanks so much for sending me the book, please send me more”? I know what I think. And that’s (partly) why I have avoided trying to get hold of stuff from publishers. The three books I have had sent, I didn’t think they would send. Mainly because I live in Denmark, for a start. Amazon, for example, will have about £8 for posting a book here. The actual cost is probably a bit less, but for a publisher, it’d surely be easier to say ‘”no” to me and miss out on my small audience, than add that cost to their promo budget. The three I have been fortunate enough to be sent, I was contacted directly on Twitter, by the author(s) concerned. One where his publisher had asked him to see if I’d review it and another where he’d visited this site and thought my reviews were half-way decent and that I might be interested in the subject matter of his new book. With the latter, I was asked to send an email to the promo person and see if they were ok with sending the book to Denmark. They were. I get the feeling, from following them on Twitter, that if I were to ask, they’d send others. I don’t, for three reasons.

  • I have an enormous back-log of books to read, that I’ve bought with my own money, I really don’t need to add to it with free stuff.
  • I want to feel that I can review a book on its merits and not as a ‘thank you’ to the nice people for sending it to me and as a ‘please send me more ’cause I’ll guarantee a good review!’
  • I get the idea that stuff sent pre-publication date, for review purposes, is most often not the version that later appears as a First Edition. Not saying there’s anything fundamentally wrong with that, in itself, but I’ve begun collecting hardbacks and First Editions, and First Editions signed, wherever I can.

The books I’m on about above, the reviews that are reviews of freebies i’ve been sent are as follows:

The Splintered Kingdom1. The Splintered KingdomJames Aitcheson
James suddenly followed me on Twitter, then sent a message saying that his publisher had suggested he see if I would review the book. Maybe they’d seen my glowing review of the first in the series, Sworn Sword (which I’d actually bought from iTunes as an e-book and read on my iPhone). I didn’t tell James that I’d already ordered the book from Amazon when he contacted me – free stuff is free stuff, I say. I did warn them I lived in Denmark, but they weren’t put off and the book duly arrived. I loved it, as I had done Sworn Sword. I think this was a post-printing, pre-publication hardback copy.
Click on the book title or image above to read my review.

Knights of the Hawk 22. Knights of The HawkJames Aitcheson
I had, once again already pre-ordered this one, though I admit I’d got ’em crossed the publisher would just send me a copy, me already being on their list (as I hoped it was how these things worked). Anyway, James again contacted me and asked if I’d like a review copy? Who am I to say ‘no’ eh? This one absolutely blew my little cotton socks off. From the way it was written, more for the way it was structured and finally for the way it suddenly threw the whole story out into a world filled with possibilities for the future of the character. It is indeed a thing of joy and beauty to behold. I think I read it all in one go sat on the sofa in the spare room, one rainy Sunday. I only had two weeks, I think, before publication date, and I was unsure as to when they’d want the review put up. I said to James that is was ready and posted it. Seemed to go down ok. I even made it my book of the year for last year – can’t say fairer than that.
Click on the book title or image above to read my review.

The Whitehall Mandarin3. The Whitehall MandarinEdward Wilson
Edward sent me a message on Twitter saying something like he’d visited the site, thought the reviews were pretty good and that the subject matter for his new book, might appeal. He thought if I contacted his publisher person, they’d be pretty sure to send me a review copy. So, with a ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ hat on, I sent an email off to the (very nice) person at Arcadia Books. She said they’d be delighted to send me a copy. Edward was right, the book was so ‘me’, it was untrue. I thought it was not just one of the best books I’ve read this year, but…well, if I could have given it 6 stars, it would have got 7. I thought I’d heard the name Edward Wilson before and took a look through my Amazon Wish List (kept for reference purposes now, you understand, as I’ve stopped buying from Amazon) and found several of Edward Wilson’s previous books there. So, I felt fully ok about giving it a good review, as I was highly likely to have bought, read and thoroughly enjoyed it of my own volition even if I hadn’t been sent a copy. The only ‘but..’ is, that this looks like what reviewers normally get sent, a ‘trade paperback.’ If I’d have bought a copy myself, I’d have got a hardback, First Edition (if I could).
Click on the book title or image above to read my review.

As I say, for me as a not very serious collector, this is one of the things that is stopping me from trying to get on more publishers’ lists. I want hardback, First Edition wherever possible. I haven’t re-bought The Whitehall Mandarin, because I already have it.  I don’t mind paying for books. I don’t mind one bit paying full-whack for them – if I feel that this keeps authors, publishers and bricks and mortar bookstores going, then I get a nice warm glow inside. I take a chance sometimes, and sometimes I’m lucky, sometimes not. That’s the way it goes. It keeps my reviews honest, I feel. I hope you feel the same way.

So, back to where I started:

Hereward IV - PersonalFirst Hereward. Wolves of New Rome, by James Wilde. Or Hereward IV. Obviously, Hereward, Hereward The Devil’s Army and Hereward End of Days were enough of a success for there to be more Herewards. I haven’t read this one as yet, so I can’t say if there’s an opening for even more Herwards, but I sure do hope so. This is as brilliantly thought out and executed a series as I’ve come across. From the cover(s) to the writing and the story presentation.

I, as I do with a lot of my books these days, got this from the good people at Goldsboro. Specialists in signed First Editions, they say – and they are. And this one is not only signed, but publication dated as well. That’s as far as I can see. And that’s pretty good, should this sort of thing ever attract the interest of other collectors.

Signed Hereward IVCheck it out. That’s signed, first lined (where they write the first line of the story (!)) and publication day dated. One better would be if it was dated pre-publication date, I think. But otherwise – and I stand to be corrected, as the man in the orthopaedic shoes once said – that’s about as good as it gets.

Vespasian 5 - Personal

 

 

 

 

Second new book in August, is Robert Fabbri’s Masters of Rome. This is also in a series, the Vespasian series, this one being Vespasian 5. I’ve read the first one, not unsurprisingly called Vespasian Tribune of Rome, so far and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then gave myself the mission of tracking down the intervening ones in hardback – and succeeded at not too horrendous a cost. At a very reasonable cost, I think. Some are second hand, but are in good condition, so there ya go.

Signed Vespasian 5

 

This one, is signed and dated. As far as I can tell, as the publication date was the 7th of August, this one is pre-publication dated! Sweet. As Robert lives in Berlin, I’m guessing he and Goldsboro had to work in a visit to the shop around both their schedules. I did notice, after I’d ordered my copy, a second possibility for order on Goldsboro. I think they offered version that was also first lined. But as that was put up on their website after I’d already ordered this version, I couldn’t be bothered going through all the rigmarole of cancelling and re-ordering. Plus it was more expensive. This one’ll do (very) nicely. It’s the first of his I’ve got that is signed.

I have bought a couple of others this month, but they were a second-hand (1972 paperback copy!) non-fiction book about the Viking voyages to North America and a comic book of the Pathfinder film – about Viking voyages to North America…they’ll have to wait for a Viking voyages to North America-type post.

Book News Friday 16 May

…can see pretty well. Colours still very light and it’s like looking into bright sun the whole time, but I can read ok and that’s what matters.

And what have I been reading about?

The Fifth Legion

Enemy of RomeDouglas Jackson another Blog Fave™ has produced the cover for the next in his ‘…of Rome’ series, called Enemy of Rome. As Douglas says in his Facebook posting, this is more or less how it will look, there may be some tweaks between now and publication. Can’t see why, it looks the apis genu to me. Unless some other very famous in the field, or related field, author decides to put a soundbite together that can be used on the cover. It will be released on August 28th. Order at The Book Depository.

Stylistically, it is a continuation of the covers so far for Douglas’ books. And all the better for that. I wasn’t happy (like that matters) about the title typeface change between #3 and #4, I will admit. But that was more for it breaking up an otherwise perfectly reasonable sequence. I think the ‘new’ face is better, however, it does join a list of other authors in the same HF field. Just hope people don’t get confused, or is that the idea?

The first three below, are the (hardback) ones I have. However, as you can see, Avenger of Rome, did get up-dated to the new typeface for release in paperback. If I’d been collecting the paperback versions, I’d have been a bit miffed.

Hero of Romedefender-romeAvenger of RomeDouglas Jackson - Avenger of RomeSword of Rome cover

 

 

 

 

 

Others to have gone down this route are:

Hannibal Clouds of War New Front

The Emperor's KnivesThey’ll all make for a fantastic collective shot some day in the future, that’s for sure.

It’s been a while since I had anything much to do with specifying typefaces, 10 years this year actually (9th May, to be pedantic), but I’ll take a run at them being based around Times New Roman. What say you?

 Historical Faction

SwornSwordThe Splintered KingdomKnights of the HawkIf reading about times gone by has whetted your appetite for all things old and you’re thinking “but, where can I find out more about that sort of thing?” Well, let’s face it, even if you’re not thinking that, I’m going to link you anyway…and if perchance, you should find yourself reading James Aitcheson‘s magnificent 1066 ‘Conquest’ series, he has ridden to your rescue. He has finally found a use for the reams of research material amassed while writing about The Norman Conquest and has begun posting a series of articles to his website. You need to click on ‘Tancred’s England’ at the top there. I have suggested further items could be on Tancred’s visits to Dublin and Scotland (hope I’m not giving to much away there, if you haven’t read that far). Which has of course led to a rethink of the name for the section. Favourite at the moment, could well be ‘Tancred’s World.’ Which would, as James points out, allow for his imagination to take full flight when planning Tancred’s further adventures. I have suggested Tancred visits Denmark (the Normans were ‘North Men’ after all), mainly in the hope of meeting James on a future research trip. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Boomtown Rats
Looking back, thinking back, whatever, I find I actually enjoyed Stuart Neville’s Ratlines more than I perhaps made out in my review. When I have a slightly less long ‘to read’ shelf over there *points over there*, I will investigate his previous works. However, I will also be ordering up his new one, called ‘The Final Silence.’ It’s out on the 17th of July. I got hold of Ratlines because of the WWII connection and the new one looks more of a mystery, psychological, murder, suspense novel. Phew!

Final Silence - ProofOn Twitter, there was posted a shot of what the lady (@Crime_Queen) said was the proof version of the book.

Final SilenceWhich, as you can see, is a fair bit different to the cover Amazon have in place for pre-ordering.

I’ve not read any Lee Child (though I do know he is a fellow Brummy, albeit an Aston Villa fan. Still, nobody’s perfect…Actually, surprised Lee’s quote wasn’t “Bostin’!” I guess he’s moved away), but I would have thought his was a very good name for having on the cover, as in the Amazon version. I also like the more ‘open’ style of the Amazon version, especially the knocked over chair. It gives it a little something, as my old boss was want to say. I asked ‘Crime Queen‘ wha’goahn? And she says that the proof version she posted a picture of is not the version that mere mortals like you and I will be reading. It is a copy just for booksellers (which I’m not) and reviewers (which I’m not an important enough one to be worth sending one *sob* I suppose I should have asked. Damn!).

You can also follow Stuart Neville on Twitter.

Ah, so…
Not to be outdone by Douglas Jackson (see above), James Douglas has announced he has a new book out, called The Samurai Inheritance. Well, I knew that, so it’s more an announcement of what the cover will look like.

The Samurai InheritanceSomething like this in fact:

‘James’, says that the strap lines may well change (Hey! I’ll do a couple for the usual fee!). With the fairly obvious Robert Ludlum references, well, in the titles anyway, they should get a copy to him to re…ah, I see…to Eric Van Lustbader then.

Moving straight on…’James’, the little tease, teases thusly: “From the back streets of Berlin to the jungles of Bougainville, Jamie finds himself on the trail of the last great secret of World War Two and embroiled in a conflict the world isn’t supposed to know about.”

The other Jamie Saintclair adventures from Douglas ‘James’ have been superb reading, so I’m really looking forward to slapping some peepers on this one. It will be released on 28th August.

Review: The Last Caesar

The Last Caesar
The Last Caesar by Henry Venmore-Rowland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is there room in the Roman market for another author writing fiction set in Ancient Rome? When you’re as good as this, there is. When your name’s as big as Henry Venmore-Rowland – you better create a lot of room.

And he does, he has.

Henry Venmore-Rowland (so good they named him thrice?) was a new author to me – and reading his biography and looking at his picture, he’s a new author to him as well! He is powerful young, that’s for sure. But, as James Aitcheson (Sworn Sword, Splintered Kingdom, Knights of the Hawk) has proved, age is no barrier to writing absolutely tip-top Historical Fiction. And it isn’t here either.

The Last Caesar is a really good, readable book. An engaging, accessible and maybe even surprisingly confident first effort. If someone popped up half way through and said HV-R was a wizened professor of Romeology at some ancient university, you’d believe them.

The main character, who tells the tale, is Aulus Caecina Severus. He’s a likeable chap, just into his 20s as his tale starts. He is writing his story as an older man remembering how it was. So he is able to add some hindsight. Like Alan Dale in Angus Donald‘s Outlaw Chronicles. But this is much more of a conversational style. He’s writing, it seems, as though this story will be read by a person from the same period, not later generations. So there isn’t the need for so much explanation, as he presumes you know what he’s talking about. It all creates a much more conversational, open, accessible style. There are nods and winks and things taken for granted, as someone would who was writing for people who knew his world, because they were living in it. Makes for a really open and inviting sort of style, I felt.

His story starts with Severus seeing action in Britain, the last days of the defeat of Boudicca. This caught my attention, as I’d just come off the back of an exceptionally good novel by Anthony Riches, set roughly in the same period and part of the Roman Empire. Though his recollections actually begin in the reign of Nero, with his posting to Hispania and his intention to use this as a way to return to Rome a wealthy man. He gets invited to a meeting, which turns out to be a meeting to plot the overthrow/removal of the Emperor Nero. Which puts him over a rather Roman-type barrel really. There’s no real way back after you’ve been to an ‘overthrow the Emperor’ party. The story does, of necessity for staying withing binocular distance of the historical facts, move on to Spain, to France to Germania and the massed Legions of the Rhine. As HV-R points out at the afterword, he sticks close to what facts are known about the year of the four emperors (as he says, the eighteen months of the five emperors doesn’t have the same ring), so the journeying and the people met are in keeping with what actually happened.

And given the fact that I can tend to glaze over at the use of too many Roman names and lose track or even interest – in the case of the last Harry Sidebottom I read – in who Severus Aquilla Maximus was or who he’s double-crossing (insert Roman word here) with his (insert Roman name of instrument here), this never feels like you really should have paid more attention because I’m gonna be testing you at the end and you’ll be kept in after school if you’re not 100% correct (hello Prof. Sidebottom again).

The Last Caesar is a really good, solid, enjoyable story, with characters that are easy to care about and care enough about to care about what might happen to them in their future. And with enough other, more minor characters, to keep one more than intrigued as to what fate might have planned for them in their future. This book is – as yet – one of two and, as these things usually get written in threes, we can only hope that we shall be spending a lot more time in the exciting company of AC Severus et al. There is a lot of politicking as the action his lead character could have taken part in, is of course limited. So it isn’t staggering from one pitched battle to another. But the politicking, the back-stabbing etc doesn’t descend into cliche, as you find in some Roman stories, but rather backs up, compliments and makes understandable the characters actions.

A thoroughly coherent, believable and interestingly enticing read. I look forward to getting stuck into the second (and hopefully more) novel(s) from young Henry Venmore-Rowland.

View all my reviews

Today, 14 October, is the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings

Tom Lovell's painting of Hastings
A painting of the battle by Tom Lovell, commissioned by National Geographic.

Today, the 14th of October, in 1066, the Norman conquest of Britain really got underway following their victory over the English at The Battle of Hastings.

Well, I’m guessing that the date is more the historian’s best guess, rather than having actual written (or otherwise) evidence for it. Until we find a diary with

“14 October 1066. Got up, messed about a bit, fought in Battle of Hastings. Went home”,

it’s probably going to be a best guess, date-wise. And didn’t we change calendars at some point since then? Or is that taken into account?

Nevermind, today is the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, hoorah!

Except it was a little further inland, seven miles to be exact, from Hastings, at a place now called Battle. There’s lucky, eh?

“Where shall we have our battle?”
“Well, there’s a place just up the road called Battle?”
“Brilliant!”

Is probably how it didn’t go.

So, William the Conqueror – except he wasn’t ‘conqueror’ going into the battle (and he wasn’t The Bastard, either. He might well have been one, but I guess you didn’t call him that to his face. And live very long), met Harold Godwinson (he of very few nick-names) And we lost. As I’m still English, it’s still ‘we’.

I’m not going to try and go into the details of the battle, that takes a long time and a better writer. If you want to know more, you can do so here. The English Heritage site for the site, is here.

So, why highlight the battle? Well, as I mentioned previously, just at the moment, several of the books, several of the series of books I’m reading, seem to be set in the period leading up to the battle, the battle itself and the aftermath, life as a result of the Norman victory.

So, let’s take a look along the shelves in the Library here at Speesh Towers:

The Norman Conquest 2I’ll start with the non-fiction outing, The Norman Conquest, by Marc Morris. A really tremendous book and a great, thrilling, read. I’ve rambled on previously and at length about this book, so I won’t go into depth once again about how good it is.
It just is.
And, he recently made nonsense/mincemeat of the claims that even Battle wasn’t the actual site of the battle. Go read it for yourself and decide if you want to argue with him.

Justin Hill - ShieldwallShieldwall by Justin Hill (and the follow-up Hastings, whenever that comes out) is set in the years before the Norman invasion. Hastings, I’m guessing, will probably take in the battle.

If I were you, I’d buy the paperback version of this one. The cover is really good.The hardback, for some reason, is really poor in comparison. Just as well they didn’t just republish with the hardback cover in this case.

Berwick Coates - The Last ConquestOne I have yet to read, is The Last Conquest by Berwick Coates. The blurb says “The Normans have landed in Sussex, ready for battle. They have prepared for everything about the English – except their absence… King Harold and his fyrd, are hundreds of miles away, fighting to expel the Viking host in the north. But they have heard that William has landed and rumour is that they are marching back, triumphant and dangerous – and spoiling for a second victory…This is the story of the greatest battle ever seen on British soil and of the men who fought it.”

HerewardHereward The Devils Army2Hereward End of DaysJames Wilde‘s Hereward, Hereward The Devil’s Army, Hereward End of Days, cover the period of the invasion, but are more concerned with the English resistance in the period immediately after the battle at Hastings.

SwornSwordThe Splintered KingdomKnights of the Hawk 2James Aitcheson‘s Sworn Sword, The Splintered Kingdom and Knights of the Hawk are also set in the period in the immediate aftermath of the battle of Hastings, but are seen from the Norman’s side.

Hawk Quest Hardback 1Hawk Quest, by Robert Lyndon, is set in the period of the battle and invasion, but the action takes place away from the usual places associated with the Norman conquest. Though it is subtitled An Epic Novel of the Norman Conquests.

You can possibly add Angus Donald‘s Robin Hood series as well, though it comes a little while after 1066, it is still dealing with how life was as a consequence of the invasion.

Well, that’s what I’ve got on my shelves. I will no doubt, buy more. I’m always open to good recommendations, if you have any.

I’ve visited the battle site, at Battle, and even on a wet and miserable Autumn afternoon, as it was for me and possibly them then, it is a place well worth taking the time seeing.

Just 122 days and one Knight to go

What are we waiting for at the moment?

Why it’s Knights of the Hawk by our pal James Aitcheson of course! And it’s out on the 24th of October.

Knights of the HawkI’m writing another post partly because there’s a new image of the cover available on the Random House website and partly because I’m really looking forward to slapping some eyes on the story.

Here’s what the blurb is saying;

“The third novel in the compelling Conquest series (1066: The Bloody Aftermath) from the author of Sworn Sword. Perfect for fans of Ben Kane.

AUTUMN, 1071. The struggle for England has been long and brutal. Now, however, five years after the fateful Battle of Hastings, only a determined band of rebels in the Fens stand between King William and absolute conquest.

Tancred, a proud and ambitious knight, is among the Normans marching to crush them. Once lauded for his exploits, his fame is now fading. Embittered by his dwindling fortunes and by the oath shackling him to his lord, he yearns for the chance to win back his reputation through spilling enemy blood.

But as the Normans’ attempts to assault the rebels’ island stronghold meet with failure, the King grows increasingly desperate. With morale in camp failing, and the prospect of victory seeming ever more distant, Tancred’s loyalty is put to the test as never before.”

In the Random House post, they seem to be hedging their bets on the name for the series. Both ‘1066 The Bloody Aftermath’ and ‘conquest’ making an appearance. Amazon have it as just the ‘Conquest series.’

You can order it as of now on Amazon UK, or Amazon US. Also on Random House, The Book Depository, or your local book seller.

From the writer of these fine books:

Sworn Sword, hardback, paperback – my review

SwornSwordSworn Sword Paperback

The Splintered Kingdom, hardback, paperback – my review

The Splintered Kingdom7C36113B-2A6D-4E5E-9B4B-A2AD452FEA50.png

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.

 

Paperback version of The Splintered Kingdom coming soon

If you aren’t looking forward to the third in James Aitcheson’s ‘1066 The Bloody Aftermath’ series, I will be calling at your house soon, wanting to know why.

Jam-packed full of incident, detail, description and all sorts of violent, Norman Conquest goodness, this has been an incredibly powerful start from a talented young author reasonably new to the Historical Fiction world.

SwornSwordThe first in the series called Sworn Sword’, set an incredibly high standard. It introduced us to a Norman Knight called ‘Tancred’, fresh from fighting and winning, of course, at Hastings. He’s now trying to come to terms with a country and a people who either don’t know, or are unwilling to accept, that they have been conquered. As you would expect maybe.

I found it particularly interesting to find myself, as an Englishman, trying my best not to sympathise with an invading Norman knight, a Frenchman for goodness’ sake, subduing the ‘rebels’, my fellow countrymen! It’s much more usual, to read about, or see things from the poor, downtrodden Saxon’s side. That on its own is worth getting stuck into this series for.

PrintNumber two in the seriesThe Splintered Kingdom’, came out in hardback last summer and more than consolidated the promise shown by Sworn Sword. And you can, indeed you should, get it as a hardback on Amazon. Now, on his Facebook page this last Monday, James has posted a picture of how the paperback cover for number two in the ‘1066: Bloody Aftermath’ series will look.

And this is it.

You wouldn’t want to be stood there in yer jim-jams trying to duck out the way of that, now would you?

Seems like they’ve decided to colour up the background there, doesn’t it? And move James’ name up to the top. Typeface for the title is different as well. Maybe considered a bit bolder? The main figure, presumably of Tancred, seems the same, but the fight now seems to be taking place at night, or at least later in the day, than the hardback cover. Interesting that. Don’t know if that’s to make it stand out more, or look the same as other books of this ilk. I wouldn’t mind asking someone like James to explain the process of deciding upon a cover and the process of going from hardback to paperback covers.

Hmm…Just me then.

And, no self-respecting book these days would be seen out without a prominent ‘he/she’s really ace’ – type quote from cuddly Ben Kane. Wouldn’t be proper.

I have the hardback, but I will also be ordering the paperback as well.

But, that’s just madness, I hear you cry!

Well, there’s something I want to check. Which I’m not going to go into details about, but which I mentioned to him at the time I got my pre-release copy (just thought I’d drop that in…hey, it’s the only one I’ve ever had, gotta get some mileage out of it!).

You can order The Splintered Kingdom in paperback on Amazon here. Other good booksellers are available, as they say.

They also say good things come in threes, here’s hoping they also come in fours, fives, sixes, etc., if you know what I mean?

The Splintered Kingdom-come.

Without wishing in any way to make this sound like a regular occurrence, my advance copy of James Aitcheson’s new novel ‘The Splintered Kingdom’ arrived in the post this lunchtime.

The series James is writing, is subtitled ‘1066: The Bloody Aftermath’.

I read his previous book (I downloaded it in iBooks on my iPad/iPhone), his first, ‘Sworn Sword’ a while back and thought it was excellent. It was, for me at least, an unusual book in that it was written from the point of view of the conquering Normans, where we English (at least) are used to hearing, seeing and reading stories of the Conquest, from the poor/heroic Saxons‘ side.

‘Sworn Sword’ was, as I hope my review on here and/or Goodreads makes clear, a thoroughly enjoyable, gripping and even thought provoking entry into the Historical Fiction genre by a new, young and extremely talented writer.

But then, I read for pleasure and write reviews on Goodreads because I like to read Historical novels and like to try and encapsulate what I thought of the books I read, for my own pleasure. I keep this blog going for my own pleasure, I don’t expect anyone to read it, apart from those who perhaps key in the addresses they really wanted to visit, wrongly and stumble here by mistake.

Links get posted to Facebook and onto my Twitter account.

James must have seen a Twitter link and re-Tweeted the link to my review.

He then followed me and sent a direct message asking if his publishers, Random House, could send me a pre-release copy of ‘The Splintered Kindgom’ for me to review.

I, of course, said ‘yes’ (when I read the DM he sent me, I actually shouted ‘YES!!!’).

I pointed out that while I would of course love it if they sent me a copy, I live in Denmark. If that was still ok, then send away. It seems it was and the book arrived today.

In one piece too, which isn’t always the case with parcels sent here from the UK.

So, I’m gonna get cracking with the readin’ and the writin’ of the review.

I will be totally honest with what I think of the book – but, let’s face it, it would be a long way to fall in a short time if it isn’t at the same level as ‘Sworn Sword’ – that I can guarantee.

And that’s mainly based on the face that review copy or not, I had actually pre-ordered ‘The Splintered Kingdom’ on Amazon a month ago. So I would have read and reviewed my copy of the book whatever.

Just looks now like some lucky acquaintance/relative will be getting a very nice Christmas present this year.