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Battle Flag :
Battle Flag :
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Battle Flag, Bernard Cornwell- Book Review, 10 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Battle Flag : (Paperback)
Battle Flag is the third novel in Bernard Cornwell's epic Starbuck Chronicles. Following on from Copperhead, this book focuses on the battle of Richmond as the Confederate army is put on the defensive to defend their capital city. In amongst the defence of Richmond is the promising, if a little rag-tag, infantry Captain Nathanial Starbuck. After fighting his way through the first battles of the war and distinguishing himself as a brave and loyal soldier, Nate becomes noticed by quite a few of his superiors as a possible leader. However, Nate's commander Washington Faulconer is jealous of Nate, as he is getting all the praise because of his superior leadership skills whereas Faulconer is not. To spite Nate and to stop his rise in the army, Faulconer again puts him into situations that makes Nate risk his life and his honour to further help the Confederate cause. But Nate's talents once again shine through as he returns to the second Battle of Bull Run.

Another brilliant book that only adds to this series. As usual the detail of the book is exceptional, really bringing the history to life and sticking to the historical facts as close as possible. I can't wait to start the next book, The Bloody Ground! I would suggest this book to any fan of Bernard Cornwell, or of his work such as Sharpe because I always think of Nate as the American version of Sharpe! Also if you have an interest in the Civil War period you would love this book. For me I thought it was good because it tells the military side of the war. Whereas at university we only really learnt about the political side e.g. slavery and states' rights. It was nice to finally get hold of what happened in the war and battles which Cornwell does perfectly.


The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling- Book review, 4 Oct. 2012
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
The Casual Vacancy is the first adult novel from famed children's author J. K. Rowling. The novel tells the tale of (though I'm sure most of you will know because it's been in the media so often!) a small fictional town in the West Country of England called Pagford. Pagford is the personification of the English middle class. It has idyllic cobbled streets, one of the oldest pubs in Britain and successful boutiques and cafes that all make Pagford a wonderful place to live. As well as it been a beautiful place to live, the thing that makes the people of Pagford most proud to live there is the fact that the town is run by Pagfordians and not by civil servants and councillors from the neighbouring city of Yarvil.

However, the town is not as united as it seems. The council that runs Pagford is divided by the issue of The Fields. The Fields is a local council estate that for the last sixty years has been run and maintained by Pagford. The traditionalists of the town, headed by the First Citizen Howard Mollison, believe that the responsibility of The Fields should be handed to Yarvil. Howard believes this because many of the incentives introduced to The Fields; like bus stops and new pathways have been destroyed by the `yobs' that live there! Also, The Fields is closer to Yarvil and should therefore be their responsibility!

On the other side of this argument is Barry Fairbrother, a man who grew up in The Fields but who managed to get out and become one of the most influential men in Pagford. Barry strongly believes that the children of The Fields should be given the benefit of Pagford's better schools and facilities. He gives Krystal Weedon, a local problem child whose mother is a heroin addict as an example, as Krystal has benefitted from Pagford's facilities and become a good rower! Barry feels confident that with the evidence of Krystal Weedon he can manage to persuade the rest of the councillors to vote in favour of keeping The Fields as part of Pagford. That is until Barry's sudden and unexpected death!

The death of Barry throws Pagford into turmoil as both camps of the council try to fill his shoes with one of their own supporters. However, in this rush to secure power, secrets of the candidates and many of the local councillors are revealed by The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother (not a real ghost!). The secrets threaten to destroy each camp's hope of gaining power and rip up the lives of many of the characters involved in the novel! With the final review of The Fields coming up shortly, both camps must push forward their arguments. But what is in store for the people of The Fields and Pagford, will they still be ran together or will all of Barry's hard work be forgotten with his tragic death?

Sitting here writing this review I ask myself `where to begin with this book?' There are so many issues and points I'd like to say about this book that it is hard to know where to start!

I think I'll start with the sort of `controversy' that surrounded this book. This was of course, that the novel has themes that aren't appropriate for children (including sex, drugs and even rock n' roll) even though it was written by the biggest selling and most famous children's author of all time! For me, I didn't really get why people were surprised that the novel had these themes in it for these reasons: Number one, J. K. Rowling specifically stated that the book was not for children and was aimed at an adult audience. Number two, as an author she couldn't be expected to go on writing Harry Potter books for the rest of her life (even though I secretly wish she would!) And finally, number three, I thought that the last three or four Harry Potter books were aimed at adults instead of children and sort of suggested that her next books would not be for children. I can see where some people are coming from saying that what if their child downloads this book from the internet not knowing that it is for adults? To this, I'd say what Rowling herself said, `there are worse things a child could be downloading from the internet than a book' (which I'd agree!).

Ok now on to the book itself! I had three main issues with it! The first was that at the start, it is quite hard to follow the plot because there are so many different characters and the story kept chopping and changing between them! It meant it was hard to get a firm grasp of who was who in the first few chapters. My second issue was that I really didn't like most of the characters. Most of them (especially the traditionalists) are so petty. I know Rowling purposely made them this way but I think I liked them even less because I know there are really people like that in the world, hungry for gossip, only do things to benefit themselves etc. I think the most likeable character in the story was Barry Fairbrother and he was dead within the first ten pages! My third and final issue was that I don't think this book would have had the hype it has had if it wasn't written by J. K. Rowling. If it were written by `Joe Blogs', critics and the media wouldn't have given it the coverage it has had. I feel that there are other authors of this, `real life' genre that have written better books. Authors like Nick Hornby and Mark Haddon would be an example of this.

Anyway, now that I've got the issues out of the way, let me tell you what I liked about the novel. I really loved Rowling's writing style in the book. It was beautifully written and was as descriptive and as lovely as her writing in Harry Potter. I also really liked the ending. The book seemed to move at the same, steady pace until the last about one hundred and fifty pages. The ending was extremely thrilling and alone is worth reading the book for!

I know my likes don't really outweigh my issues and probably make this book sound rubbish. I must say that I did enjoy this book, but I think it is only fair to give my honest opinion, and that opinion is... `Don't believe all the hype'. If you've gotten to this point in the review, I'd just like to say thanks for sticking with it (I know it's abit wordy!) Also please leave me a comment if you have read the book, tell me what you like/didn't like.

I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Harry Potter, just to see what Rowling's style of writing is like from an adult's point of view. I would also suggest this book to fans of authors such as Nick Hornby and Mark Haddon, as they write a similar genre to this book.

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Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2012 4:12 PM GMT


King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2)
King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2)
by Mark Lawrence
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars King of Thorns, Mark Lawrence- Book review, 30 Sept. 2012
King of Thorns is the second book in Mark Lawrence's The Broken Empire fantasy series. The book picks up the story of Jorg Ancrath four years after the Prince of Thorns. This book is a little different to Prince because it has two different story lines. The first is that of the `Wedding Day'. On this day, Jorg is (obviously) getting married, but that is but one small detail in the day. The wider plot to this story line is that Jorg is defending his Castle against the might of the Prince of Arrow, Jorg's rival to the Imperial crown. Things are not looking good for Jorg. He is outnumbered nearly twenty to one by a Prince who is a great strategist and who is very likeable. Jorg also has no great plan to save himself or his Kingdom and must take the initiative and think on his feet if he is going to survive the day!

The second and more substantial story line is that of `Four years earlier', which tells the tale of how Jorg manages his new Kingdom and more importantly follows the story of the `box' which holds one of Jorg's worst memories. This side of the book really shows how the burden of been a King turns Jorg from the bloodthirsty boy in the Prince of Thorns to the man he becomes in the King. It also reintroduces us into Jorg's passion over Katherine and how someone else's terrible action means that he can't be with her.

This was another great book from Lawrence, however I didn't enjoy it as much as Prince. I think one reason for this was that Jorg was less of the unpredictable, fierce Prince who was driven by hate and his desire for revenge. I think there were some aspects of the old Jorg in this book but most of the time Jorg reigns himself in. I think Lawrence did this to show how Jorg was maturing into a man because he was not lashing out and killing on a whim. However, in the Prince, this was my favourite characteristic of Jorg and I would have liked to see more of it in this novel. I also found some aspects of the dual plot sometimes confusing, especially if they were based in Castle Renar because I couldn't remember if it was the `Wedding Day' plot or the `Four years earlier' one!

Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed the book! It was gripping, (I read it in a couple of days) at times funny and full of action and battles. I also like how Lawrence widened the story of the `Builders' in this novel!

As I said, I really enjoyed this book and can't wait until the next saga of Jorg's life is released! I would suggest this book to anyone who is a hard-core fantasy fan or anyone who likes writers such as Patrick Rothfuss or Hank Quense.

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Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 1): 1/3
Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 1): 1/3
by Mark Lawrence
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence- Book review, 27 Sept. 2012
Based in a post-apocalyptic world, where the European society has been thrown back into the middle ages, the Prince of Thorns tells the tale of Jorg, a young, rouge prince with a dark past and an even darker future. Jorg is the son of the King of Ancrath, a small Kingdom in where we would call central Germany. However, Jorg is not a man of privilege. After witnessing the murder of his beloved mother and brother at the hands of Ancrath's biggest rival the Count of Renar, and his father's lack of response to their murders, Jorg decides to become an exile and seek his own revenge from the Count!

To do this, Jorg frees a band of mercenaries from his father's dungeons. Through hard work, cunning and pure ferocity Jorg manages to become the leader of these `Brothers' and wreaks havoc across the countryside, pillaging and destroying villages as he and his men please. After a few years of running wild, Jorg realises that he has drifted away from his goal of killing Count Renar and decides to return home to his father and Ancrath. However, what he finds back home is something he does not like!

His father has remarried to a young woman and has already made her pregnant. Jorg is furious that his father can forget his mother's death so easily. His father's new advisor also angers Jorg, for he is a dream-witch called Sageous, a dangerous person to be around! Nevertheless, Jorg wants to stay in Ancrath and lead its men. His father does not believe Jorg is man enough to lead troops and sets him out on a quest, to capture the lands of Gelleth to Ancrath's East. Gelleth's main fortress is Castle Red, an impregnable stronghold. Jorg knows his task is difficult, but with his cunning and the help of his Brothers he manages to find a route under the city in the caves left by the `Builders', a race that destroyed themselves with the detonation of hundreds of `suns' (bombs). In these caves, Jorg and his band of Brothers uncover a race of monsters called Lueucrota who agree to help them through the caves. But, the Lueucrota are not the only things living under Castle Red. The caves are also home to Necromancers, a group of mages that live and feed off the dead. After an epic battle with these Necromancers, Jorg cuts out and eats one of their hearts and gains some of their power!

Jorg and his men find what they are looking for under Castle Red, an ancient Builder `Sun' and detonate it, destroying all of Castle Red and effectively handing his father the lands of Gelleth. However, on his return to Ancrath, Jorg finds that he is betrayed by his father and Sageous and is left to die. Luckily, the Necromancer's heart saves him and puts him back on his original journey- to kill the Count of Renar. However, it is now not just for revenge, but to create himself a Kingdom in which he can destroy his father's!

This book was an amazing read but as some of you may know, there is some controversy surrounding it. I feel that I should take a few moments to describe what and why that is. The reason the book is controversial is because the protagonist, Jorg, is a rapist. Now, I must say that I do not condone what Jorg does in the book. However, I would say that as a character it makes Jorg much more believable because he is a dark and often evil character. I feel Lawrence was right to add this to Jorg's journey and I think he does so in a tasteful way. He does not describe any aspects of the rape; he just writes how Jorg remembers doing it. I do not think this is unlike any other fantasy or historical-fiction novel, apart from the fact that it is the protagonist who is the rapist.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I can tell you more about the book. As I said above this book was amazing! I picked it up because it reminded me of Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller series which I enjoyed. However, this book was so much better! I love the character of Jorg; he is so dark and dangerous! It just makes you think of him as a bad ass, but you know that if circumstances were different he wouldn't be that way. I also loved Lawrence's idea of basing the book in the future but making it seem like the past. And I thought the story behind the `Builders' was a nice touch and hope that he brings in more of their story in his later books.

As you can tell, I thought this book was great! I would suggest it to anyone who is a fan of fantasy novels like A Game of Thrones or The Name of the Wind. I can't wait to read the next book in the series King of Thorns!

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The Splintered Kingdom (The Conquest)
The Splintered Kingdom (The Conquest)
by James Aitcheson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Splintered Kingdom, James Aitcheson- Book Review, 19 Sept. 2012
The Splintered Kingdom sees us return to Tancred after the end of Sworn Sword. As promised by Robert Malet in Sworn Sword, Tancred is rewarded for his bravery at York (Eoferwic) with land which takes him for been a Knight into a Lord! Tancred's new land and hall is in the small town of Earnford on the borders between England and Wales. Life is good for Tancred, he is now a Lord with his own knights, he has wealth and he has a new woman. However, life on the Welsh Marshes is not as easy as it seems. The fearsome Welsh have started to raid Tancred's land as their leaders have become more militant towards the new rulers of England. And upon hearing the news that some of Harold Godwinson's old friends and allies have taken refuge within the Welsh King's courts, Tancred suspects that there will soon be trouble not just for his small holding but for the kingdom at large!

His fears are proved right as he and his men are called to arms to defend the imminent invasion from the Welsh and Saxons. But this is not the only threat; Eadgar Ætheling and the King of the Danes have joined forces and are removing the Norman presence from the North! After finally convincing the leader of the army set to tackle the Welsh (Guillaume Fitz Osbern) to take the initiative and attack does Tancred find himself at the head of five hundred men, with the task of pillaging and plundering the Welsh countryside. However, Tancred falls into a trap and is only just saved from defeat and death, with the Norman army been pushed back out of Wales with its tail between its legs!

With this last blow and humiliation, Robert Malet decides enough is enough and takes Tancred and the rest of his men north to York to try and find a safe haven for his sister Beatrice. But on their journey they are ambushed and Tancred is taken captive by the Welsh King! After finally escaping his captors, Tancred returns to his journey north in search of Robert and the rest of his men. What he finds is the King's army moving to the aid of York which has been sacked by the Ætheling! Tancred also finds that Robert and Beatrice have been taken captive by the Ætheling and his Danish allies. Tancred must return north to save his Lord's family (again!) and face his nemesis Eadgar, the murderer of his old Lord and his love Oswynn.

This was another faced-paced, thrilling and historically detailed novel from James Aitcheson! I really liked how James developed Tancred as a character is this book. How he is not just a knight with no responsibilities but a Lord in his own right, having to care for his people and command his own soldiers! There is also a great twist in this novel that really sets up the next one! I won't say too much because I don't want to spoil it for any of you, but it is awesome!

I would suggest this book to anyone who has read Sworn Sword. If you have read it, you MUST continue reading this series because it is amazing! I would also suggest it to fans of authors such as Bernard Cornwell and Robert Low because their novels are based around the Vikings and the Saxons.

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Azincourt
Azincourt
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Azincourt, Bernard Cornwell- Book Review, 17 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Azincourt (Paperback)
Azincourt is a one off novel from the historical author Bernard Cornwell. It tells the tale of the English invasion of France in 1415, looking through the eyes of a humble English archer Nicholas (Nick) Hook. The novel follows the English army from its departure, to the gruelling siege at Harfleur, through its march up to Calais and the final battle at Agincourt. It sees Nick turn into a hero and sees him help win the Battle of Agincourt with the help of his faith in the Saints Crispin and Crispinian.

This book was a great read and was the first book that really got me into historical fiction. It is very well written with a very accurate account of the English campaign of 1415. The part I like most about this book was that many of the characters were all real people and Cornwell uses them in the right historical context. Cornwell's descriptions of the battles at Harfleur and Agincourt similarly make the book a brilliant read. Again keeping to the historical context, Cornwell describes the battles as if you were actually there and looking through Nick Hook's eyes. As well as describing how the battle happened, Cornwell's description of how the archers are used makes this book even better to read. I think it would have been easy for him to over exaggerate the role the archers played in the Battle of Agincourt. For example, having them lead a charge for dramatic purposes or been great swordsmen who could fight the French Knights. But Cornwell doesn't. He explains the actions of the archers correctly, (firing volleys of arrows and then finishing off the dying French Knights). Cornwell makes this book great because he sticks to the historical evidence and context, making the book much more realistic and much better to read.

Nick Hook's story is also a great asset to this book. Like many of Cornwell's books, its sees unlikely people become the hero. It takes Hook from the atrocities of the siege of Soissons, to becoming an archer in Henry V's army and finally a leader of his group of archers. Where he experiences romance, death, disease and the other factors life in a fifth-teenth century army brings.

The book is well written and full of action and is very historically accurate. I would suggest that anyone interested in the Hundred Years War, archery or Bernard Cornwell read this book. It certainly got me into the all of these and is a good book to start if wanting to read any of Bernard's other novels!

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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
by Seth Grahame-Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith, 17 Sept. 2012
The novel is set in a sort of Biographical way, where Grahame-Smith retells the story of Lincoln's youth, using his long lost journals (which existence has been debated by historians ever since Lincoln's death!) The novel tells of how Lincoln was first introduced to Vampires at an early age after the death of his beloved mother. First believed to have died from milk poisoning, Lincoln later finds out from his father that she was murdered by a Vampire. This sends Lincoln down a path where he swears to `kill every Vampire in America'. However on his first attempt, Lincoln is nearly killed himself, believing that Garlic and Holy Water will repulse any of his foes! After receiving a broken leg (and other injuries!) Lincoln is saved from death by Henry Sturges, who as Lincoln later finds out is also a Vampire! Sturges introduces Lincoln to the correct way of Vampire hunting and tells him the secret that throughout history, Vampires have always been behind the world's leader. Sturges tells Lincoln that in this part of time, it is the Vampires who are behind the slave trade in Southern America. That they use the slaves as a way to feed without the fear of been hunted by mortal men, because the white ruling classes in the South don't care if a few worthless black slaves go missing!

This secret convinces Lincoln to become part of the underground group, The Union. A group of mortals and Vampires who want to see co-existence between the two different species. The Union convinces Lincoln to become President of the United States and helps him to achieve his aims. However when the Southern Vampires discover The Union has their man as the President, they decide to succeed, causing the Civil War. The book argues that the Civil War was not fought for state's rights or the emancipation of slaves, but was a war between the two species Vampires and Humans. A war that if the South had won, the whole of the human race would become their `cattle', only existing as a food supply for the Vampires.

I found this book very interesting and like I said above there are parts that seem very believable! I think this is because Grahame-Smith manages to coincide parts of Lincoln's secret life with historical events. Events such as the death of Lincoln's children. This sickness that killed them was not a fever or illness but a poisoning from a Vampire's bite. The events at the first battle of Bull Run and the South's victory where not because of better tactics or the fact that the South fought back the North's flank, but because the South had Vampires in its' ranks and therefore couldn't lose. These explanations from Lincoln's journal and Grahame-Smith's use of the historical events does suggest that history `could' of happened the way Lincoln says in his journals and that Vampires do really exist.

However, been a history student and looking at this book from a historical point of view there are many flaws to Grahame-Smith's argument. The first would be where are Lincoln's journals now? In his introduction, Grahame-Smith says he was `loaned' the journals by a 21st Century Henry Sturges and that when he completed his manuscript he had to return them. This seems a little too convenient. That he should have access to these legendary documents, write a novel that is the definition of the word `conspiracy' and then say that the documents he based his entire argument on are no longer his (and that no one else has ever read them to back up his argument) is stupid! How can he expect people to believe him if he gave back all of his evidence?

The second flaw is that some of the quotes Grahame-Smith uses are too broad. As a historian, it is common to use quotes to back up you argument but it is also common to twist quotes to back up your argument! An example of this is that Lincoln says he wanted to `get rid of every Vampire in the U.S. government'. In this book Grahame-Smith twists the word `Vampire' to literally mean the blood-sucking, sharp fanged creature of legend. However I could twist the word `Vampire' in this sentence to mean someone who is sucking the life out of America, i.e. someone who is corrupt in government, someone who blocks new measures within government or someone who is hindering progress. Is does not mean that there is literally Vampires within the U.S. government!

And the third and final flaw in Grahame-Smith's argument was the photo's he uses for evidence. Some of the images (even from looking on my Kobo) look photo-shopped! Some are just pictures of normal people who Grahame-Smith says are `probably' Vampires. Why? Why are they Vampires? They look like normal people to me! They don't even have the resemblance to Vampires which Grahame-Smith gives in the book! Whilst some of the images used were painted after Lincoln's death by people who had never met him and had never been at the events they were painting. I could paint a picture of Lincoln with an axe in his hand and a dead Vampire at his feet, but it does not mean he was a Vampire Hunter, it is just a picture!

I know I have been hard on this book (and my review is a little long!) but as a historian I have to look at the evidence Grahame-Smith gives for his argument and I find that evidence very weak. However it does not mean I didn't enjoy this book, I loved it! I thought it was an interesting concept and as I have said, at times Grahame-Smith does a good job of making it believable by coinciding events in Lincoln's journal with actual historical facts. All I would say is that as a piece of analytical, historical argument it is lacking, but as a novel it is great!

I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Vampire novels or is a fan of Abraham Lincoln, as the book does have an interesting concept!

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Animal Farm
Animal Farm
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Animal Farm, George Orwell- Book Review, 17 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Animal Farm (Paperback)
Animal Farm is the cult classic from George Orwell. Set at Manor Farm, the story tells of a community of farm animals that throw off the shackles of oppression from the farmer (Mr Jones) and form their own utopian society where all animals are equal, sharing the work and the food the farm produces. The new society is led by two pigs Napoleon and Snowflake, who at first try to keep to the rules of the utopia and administer the farm freely.

However after a disagreement between the two pigs, Snowflake is chased from the farm and Napoleon becomes dictator of the farm, raising the pigs above all other animals. With power comes corruption and the pigs start to see themselves as superiors, making the other animals work whilst they live in the farmer's house and drink alcohol (which was banded when all animals were free).

Like 1984, Animal Farm is a statement about our society. That there will always be a ruling class and that the rest are forced to live underneath them, using fear and oppression to keep control. It also shows how an ideal can so easily be corrupted by power. I like how Orwell calls this book his `fairy-tale' showing that such a utopia could never ever exist.

This was a good book and very easy to read (but the pragmatics are a little harder to work out). I would suggest this book to anyone who has read 1984 by Orwell or anyone who is into sociology and how societies work.

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Sworn Sword (The Conquest)
Sworn Sword (The Conquest)
by James Aitcheson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sworn Sword, James Aitcheson- Book Review, 12 Sept. 2012
Sworn Sword is the first book in James Aitcheson's 1066: The Bloody Aftermath series. The novel is based two years after the Norman conquest of England and tells the tale of Tancred a Dinant, a Norman Knight serving under the Earl of Northumbria, Robert de Commines. Tancred's story starts with the Norman capture of the city of Durham (or Dunholm as it's called in the book). Tancred is on a scouting mission looking for any English fugitives that have escaped the attack on the city. But his mind is elsewhere. He would much rather be celebrating the victory with his comrades in the city and spending time with his woman Oswynn than riding through the dark, wet Northumbrian countryside. But his mission soon becomes less of a strenuous walk and more of a fight for survival.

Tancred and his men come across a regrouped horde of English warriors and a new Northumbrian army led by Eadgar Ætheling, an English pretender to King William's throne. Tancred and his companions are trapped in a fierce fight, but it is a fight they cannot win, and are forced to flee as Durham is sacked and recaptured by the English. Tancred is wounded and left without a Lord as Robert de Commines is killed. But, with the help of his friends Wace and Eudo, he makes his way to York (Eoferwic). After passing out for a few days, Tancred awakes in the house of Guillaume Malet the vicomte of York. After he has recovered, Tancred is given a mission by Malet to take his family to the safety of London and to escort his priest Ælfwold to Wilton (Wiltune) with a message. After giving his oath to Malet, Tancred, Wace and Eudo set out on their journey South, and it is not a moment too soon as Eadgar's army is about to lay siege to York!

On their journey Tancred, Wace and Eudo uncover a secret conspiracy that could unite the entire English race against the Normans and send them back over the Narrow Sea! Tancred must work out who the conspirators are and help recapture York to stop the secret becoming known! But will he and his two companions be able to do it in time? Or will King William and the Normans have a country-wide rebellion to put down?

For me this was a great book. For some time I have been looking for a novel that is based around 1066 and the Norman Conquest and Sworn Sword was just what I wanted. It is not directly based around the Battle of Hastings but does refer back to it as Tancred talks about what happened there. I really liked that Aitcheson decided to base his novel after the battle and more on the Northumbrian rebellions and the `Harrying of the North' because I think that this point in history is as important as the Battle of Hastings. It was a time where the Normans effectively colonised England, interbreeding and intermarrying with the English, further gaining a hold on the Kingdom. Plus the `Harrying' showed King William's determination to keep hold of his Kingdom by killing thousands of Northerners and creating an elaborate castle system throughout the North to further police and control the English population, (many of these castles are still standing today!) further cementing in the English psyche that they were here to stay! It shows to people that Norman history is not just about 1066 and the Battle of Hastings but has other as exciting and important parts! Plus I enjoyed it because it is based in the North and I'm a Northern boy!

The book itself was well written and I thought Aitcheson paid a lot of attention to detail. For example giving place names their French/Saxon names instead of just their modern English ones. I also liked that some of his characters like Robert de Commines and Guillaume Malet are based on real historical people, further showing that he added more detail to his novel to make it seem that much more factual and enjoyable to read!

As I said I was looking for a good novel about 1066 and Sworn Sword really delivers! I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories as it is based around similar themes; they both are about the conquest of England (Cornwell=Vikings, Aitcheson=Norman) and both are great reads! And I can't wait to read the sequel The Splintered Kingdom!

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The Secret of Ravelston
The Secret of Ravelston
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Secret of Ravelston, Sergio Silveira- Book Review, 6 Sept. 2012
The Secret of Ravelston is the historical murder mystery novel by Sergio Silveira. Based in Northern England during the nineteenth century, the novel tells the tale of Jane Freemont, a young upper-middle class woman living in Wallingsford in the South of England. Jane is a modern woman for the nineteenth century, always questioning her superiors and giving her honest opinions at rather inappropriate times. However Jane is unfortunate. Her attitude is not so welcome in her home town of Wallingsford where Jane's forward thinking (and an embarrassing mistake!) get her exiled from the town. Her brother, the town's Pastor has only one option, to send Jane to live with their Uncle in Ravelston.

Jane is distraught at the thought of living in Ravelston. It is so far in the North, surrounded by wilderness and has no social life what-so-ever! She will never find a husband and have nothing to do in the boring, small town. But when she arrives, Jane soon finds that Ravelston is not the sleepy, rural town she expected it to be, but it has a dark secret which neither the town's rich or poor are willing to share!

The townspeople seem to be unusually quiet about the disappearance of a young servant girl called Mary Hale. The rich of the town are unconcerned with Mary's disappearance because she was poor and therefore unimportant; claiming that she will have found work elsewhere. Jane knows that Mary can't have just left because all of her possessions are still in her old room. When Jane tries to ask Mary's old colleges why she left and where she went to, they state that they don't know and are too scared to tell Jane the truth because they will lose their jobs, the only thing that keeps them from the streets. Jane becomes obsessed with the disappearance of Mary and uncovers a love affair which could never be allowed between Mary and a wealthy local noble. Whilst uncovering the true secret of the town which could destroy the richest family there, the Ravelstons.

I really enjoyed this book. I think it was made that much better because of my conversations with the book's author Sergio Silveira. Sergio is actually a native of Brazil and grew up there during the 1960's when the rural Brazilian society was similar to the English society of the nineteenth century. A society where the rich became richer off the back of the hard work the poor did in their fields. A society where the poor servants were not considered important and where made to work for a pittance so the rich could enjoy their luxury. It is really interesting to see some of Sergio's own experience come through in the book and even more interesting/amazing/terrifying that these societies were still in existence fifty years ago and in some places still exist today!

The book itself was great. At first I didn't think I was going to like the character of Jane. She was the typical spoilt, middle-class girl at the start of the book; only considered about how the situation could benefit her advancement in society. However when she realises the errors of her ways and how lucky she is, she becomes much more considerate towards other people and with her outspoken manner, asks the questions of why rich people are rich and poor people are poor. She was also funny which I really liked!

I found the mystery of Mary Hale very gripping but I did find the reason for her disappearance a bit disappointing. I thought something really, really bad had happened to her, but with only twenty pages left I was thinking `come on, come on, what gruesome fate awaited her?' Whereas what really happened to her is rounded up within the last couple of pages and is very timid compared to what I thought was going to have happened and for me, this made the ending seem a little rushed!

Nevertheless this was still a thrilling read with a little more substance than the average murder mystery novel. I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of authors such as C.J. Sansom and his Shardlake series.

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