Monday, 27 October 2014

On My Desk: THE EMPTY THRONE by Bernard Cornwell

It has arrived!! There he is! Photo taken in the flesh.
And it is sporting what I feel may be the best cover of this series to date.

 It isn't that it has a cool helmet placed on a cool chair.
 It is because of the meaning behind that chair, that chair in that hall (the image on the back cover is more telling than the close up image on the front).
Some of you will know what I mean and those who don't, if you have any interest in these books, should read the series from the start, or catch up with the series if you have only read a few.

As a massive fan of the Warrior Chronicles (Saxon Stories in the US) the cover art on front and back, is quite thrilling to me.
I can not yet sink my teeth into the story behind the cover. I am up to my eyeballs in a really enjoyable book right now. I have about half of that book to go before I can finally start The Empty Throne.

Not complaining really. It is an embarrassment of riches and I welcome it.

- MM

Sunday, 26 October 2014

All Good Things Must End: KINGDOM by Robyn Young

Kingdom by Robyn Young
Oddly, I had mixed feelings when I finally got to open this last instalment in Robyn Young's Insurrection Trilogy.

The first in the series, Insurrection, is one of my favourite books and reading it was a real highlight of my 2013 reading year, but there is no escaping the fact that this is a trilogy, and if you know anything about the Robert the Bruce story, and the Wars of Scottish Independence, then you will know some of the highs and lows of this book, and this trilogy as a whole.

My mixed feelings were these. Sadness, excitement, reluctance. 

Sadness, knowing it was all going to come to an end. I had waited so patiently for this book's release. Was thrilled to the bone to find myself alone with it on a quiet evening. But I was still a little sad to see the story reach its zenith.

Excitement, as this is a story – so much of it based in fact - of many climaxes. You do not have to wait for this final book for major historical events to unfold. 

The battles, the betrayals, the demise of William Wallace, the unimaginable and unjustifiable crimes against the Bruce's friends and family. There is not one book in this series that does not have one or more of these poignant moments in British and Scottish history as its backbone. But in Kingdom, you have one of the biggest. You have Bannockburn

Reluctance, because this is not a series. This is a trilogy. The bucks stops here, folks, and if you got attached, prepare yourself for it all to end. There are no more after this one. The story has concluded.

I so often see authors writing long winded series' when they could have written a trilogy. I took comfort in knowing that this was not going to happen here. These magnificently written Insurrection books would wind up with book three.
There were enough important and fascinating events happening during this period of time that the author could have quite easily made the books shorter and stretched them into six books, but why would she do that, when she can turn them into a powerful trilogy? Each book an epic in their own right? 

I for one, am glad this author has the guts to write epic books and complete them in the third instalment. It is truly refreshing and I can not wait for her next trilogy. I will devour them as readily as I have devoured these.

- MM

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sherwood Shenanigans: WOLF'S HEAD by Steven A. McKay

Wolf's Head by Steven A. McKay
I was in the mood for this book when I came to it. Perhaps that is why I caved in and did a very rare thing. A rare thing for me that is. I accepted this self published book (and its follow on) in exchange for a review of each.
Yes, yes, I know that some of you are now picking yourselves up off the floor. It is a surprise and I am sorry to sling it on you in such a sudden manner. Accepting copies of Self Pub and Indie books  in exchange for a review is out of character for me I know (I have personal reasons for it). But hey, I have a weakness for the setting. What more can I say?  It is a one off.  So, dust yourself off, put your monocles back on and let's get down to the business of book reviews....

Fiends of the forest, highwaymen, pirates. They lend themselves well to the pages of our fiction and the plots of our movies and tv shows. Most of us grew up with the tales of Robin Hood, in all their varied forms, like cartoon Disney foxes or dashing, debonair swordsmen swinging from chandeliers And for the young and impressionable, such as myself, it sparked a life long interest in the theme as fantasy. Fantasy of the mind, where I might live for a while, escaping the stress that was life through school, young adulthood and then adulthood. I am an adventurer in the mind, not so much in the feet.
(I may dream of jumping out of a plane. I will not actually go and jump out of a get my meaning? IN the mind, not in the feet.)

I find that there really are not enough of these kinds of adventure criminal stories being written today. I can name the ones I know, that have been written in the last ten years, on two hands. And if you want to narrow that down to just Robin Hood, then I am forced to count them on one hand, with Wolf's Head being one of them, Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead another and Outlaw by Angus Donald the next. There are scant more that I can name off the top of my head. Hood to me is young adult and I do not like young adult books, so where does that leave me?? With two book choices. 
Are you seeing now why I broke my own golden rule and accepted this book in exchange for review?

I did not think a great deal of Outlaw by Angus Donald, but I can see why some would love it. If that is the kind of story you crave - loose retellings of Robin Hood in action adventure style - then I would recommend Wolf's Head to you quick as a flash. They are not that dissimilar in writing style, truth be told. Which is a mix of the simplicity, naivete and inexperience so many debut writers suffer from. A little uncomplicated for my tastes, but still able to carry a story well enough and easily devoured by readers who aren't as snobbish as I am about writing techniques and wordsmithing.

  Still, I was surprised by the book when I first started reading it. I actually expected it to be really badly written and I can honestly say that while uncomplicated it isn't badly written. That sounds a little like a mixed message, but the experienced fiction readers amoung you will know what I mean. Simple doesn't always mean bad. It just means the techniques are a little raw and the breadth of word use is not there. But what is there, is not messy and ill formed. I expect as the books come down the line from Steven A. McKay over time, that simplicity will be overcome by experience.
 I think this book will continue to find its audience in the ebook market place and will continue to rate highly there too. It is a perfect light and easy read for those looking to download the diamonds in the rough on Amazon.  

Going off what I have given two stars to over the years, I find this book was better than some of those.  So, three stars officially and two and a half stars on my personal scale.

- MM