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Alastair Rosie "Alastair" (Scotland)

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To End All Wars: A Story of Protest and Patriotism in the First World War
To End All Wars: A Story of Protest and Patriotism in the First World War
Price: £4.72

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best WWI History I've Read, 30 Nov. 2014
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I first saw this book on a warm Saturday afternoon when I chanced upon a rally in Glasgow by the Scottish Socialists protesting the recent decision to bomb ISIS bases in Iraq. The book was part of a swag of Socialist books and pamphlets and it was the title and blurb that drew me in. Here it seemed was a history of World War One that wouldn't focus solely on the bloody carnage on the Western Front, nor the more familiar, to my Australian upbringing the useless slaughter of Gallipoli. I couldn't afford the price of the hard copy but the Kindle edition is much cheaper and so I downloaded it that night.
I wasn't disappointed, even though the price is far higher than other e-books. Hochschild's history of the war does indeed chronicle the savagery of trench warfare but it also covers in great deal the heroic work of anti war agitators and draft resistors who, against overwhelming odds, went to war against a government determined it seemed to embark on a campaign of mass slaughter of its own people. One interesting feature of this work is the fact he starts not with the assassination in Sarajevo but with the Boer War where one of the most powerful armies in the world was tied down for three years by a ragtag guerilla army. Britain won that war not through military success but because it utilised a particularly vile battle tactic, the concentration camp, which would be borrowed and refined by Nazi Germany forty years later. This blurring of the lines between combatant and non-combatant he argues was the first sign that war as the world knew it was rapidly changing, and that's without mentioning the the most obvious changes, machine guns and barbed wire.
He faithfully recounts the events leading up to the war, the frenetic arms race and the clash of empires, the British, German, Belgian, Russian and Ottoman, who were all nibbling at each other's 'possessions,' for want of a better word. His history also records the rise of the suffragettes with such heroic characters as the Pankhurst family, who would be splintered by the war. Other notable heroes and heroines in no particular order are: Keir Hardie, Bertrand Russell, Charlotte Despard, sister of General John French, Stephen Hobhouse, John S Clarke, Alice Wheeldon and her family, and Albert Rochester. These are but a few of the brave souls who stood against the tide of xenophobic hatred sweeping through Britain and Europe at the time.
Thus this book is about a war on two fronts, the more traditional front line and the home front but where other military histories merely assign a chapter to the home front as a kind of admission that, "we're very grateful for your support," Hochschild has made the home front such a major part of the book that it's impossible to separate the two fronts without cutting the book in two. Divided into six parts and an introduction, parts two through six follow the progress of the war with the introduction laying out the background with part one introducing the dramatis personae and part seven the aftermath of the war and the fate of the major characters. Haig comes under particular fire from Hochschild who singles him out in particular for his incompetence although French, Foch and Hindenburg are no less a target. The rise of the propaganda machine is also covered in detail. Arguably it was the efficiency of the propaganda machine along with its twisted co-conspirator the military censor that helped keep the war dragging on for four years. In this aspect Hochschild exposes men like Kipling and John Buchan, who wilfully prostituted their writing talent for the benefit of the war department.
As war histories go there are probably more detailed blow by blow books but in this centenary of the start of the 'War to End All Wars,' Hochschild's history is a vital counterpoint to the cowardly Conservative ministers and revisionist historians who wish to rewrite the history of the Great War and make it seem like a fight for democracy and free will, which is all the more dubious after reading this book. That it has a Socialist slant is beyond dispute but he doesn't shirk from exposing the betrayal of the Socialist cause by the Bolsheviks and the great retreat of the Labour party from Bolshevism. I thought the last comment particularly summed up my feelings towards that war and all the wars since then when Alice Wheeldon, wrote from her prison cell. "The world is my country."


The Reluctant Jesus
The Reluctant Jesus
Price: £1.39

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A laugh a minute, 24 July 2014
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REVIEW OF THE RELUCTANT JESUS
BY DUNCAN WHITEHEAD
REVIEWED BY ALASTAIR ROSIE
Comedy is hard to do and some would argue in the Social Media age, a dying art form. I remember saying to a friend recently I remember when we used to laugh without fear. I picked up this book as a free promotional offer and the synopsis made me laugh out loud. That’s good and then I got into the book and couldn’t stop laughing.
The story revolves around Seth Miller, a New York Jew in 1999, his best friend, Bob Nancy, a woman called Maggie De Lynne aka Magdalene and Bill Z Bubb. Throw in a preoccupied God trying to bring in a paperless office and come to terms with software glitches, a heartbroken Lucifer who had to leave his son thirty two years ago to go travelling with God and you’ve got a story that has you in stitches. Seth is your stereotypical New York Jew with typical Jewish parents, an overbearing, overprotective Mother, absent minded father who inform him just before his thirty third birthday that his real father is God. That’s right, the actual God, who inseminated Mother and then went walkabout with Lucifer to explore real estate possibilities in the far flung reaches of the galaxy. At first Seth doesn’t believe, who would? But when God calls him on the phone and then continues the conversation through Seth’s peaceful cat, Walter, Seth begins to realise he is the Son of God. After all, Jesus was a Jew. Seth’s sacred duty apparently is to confront the antichrist, Bill in a duel to the death for the salvation of humanity.
Lucifer is a hilariously funny character who actually really wants to be a real father and feels terribly guilty for leaving Bill’s mother years ago, he blames God for keeping him away from Earth for all that time. It gets complicated when Seth meets up with Bill and the two become quite friendly and decide that perhaps they might have more in common than their fathers. Bob Nancy becomes Seth’s right hand man, the Disciple and Maggie becomes his lover. Along the way Seth has to feed the poor with nothing, walk on water, which triggers off a terrorist alert because he was walking towards the mayor’s yacht at the time, as well as keep his sanity.
I won’t go into the rest because you need to read this one for yourself. This is satire on a grand scale with quite a few similarities to the movie, Dogma. Stereotypes are sprinkled throughout the story but they are the bedrock upon which the story is built. Along the way Whitehead pokes fun at the bible passages and Christian themes. The idea of the Virgin staying a virgin after she’s well, brought the son of God into the world puzzles God. Why would people think that was his idea? Similarly the thought that Armageddon has to be a blood-soaked, fire-drenched apocalypse is gut churning to God and Lucifer. Can’t we make Armageddon fun instead? And what’s all this rot about Muslims not sharing heaven with Christians anyway? He candidly admits he didn’t proofread the bible before it went to print and is quite frankly disturbed at some of the passages.
The book is set entirely in New York, apart from a brief scene in heaven where he meets Mother Theresa, who frowns on Seth’s habit of masturbating, Gandhi, who never smiles even when he’s happy, and Joan of Arc who gets about in armour, all the time. I could almost see this becoming a movie at some point in the future because it’s really that funny. Whitehead has risen to new heights with The Reluctant Jesus to show us that in the end we have our very own heaven and hell right here on earth and one shouldn’t take everything literally. It brings me back to my opening statement about being afraid to laugh for fear of offending someone. This book pokes fun at all of those traditions people have held so dear and certainly put a spring in my step every morning. I think if we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves and each other then humanity is doomed.
A well deserved five stars and I’ll definitely read it again.

Written by Alastair Rosie


The Shadow Watcher (Society in the Shadow of Civilization Book 1)
The Shadow Watcher (Society in the Shadow of Civilization Book 1)
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great start to a new series, 20 July 2014
REVIEW OF THE SHADOW WATCHER
BY ROARI BENJAMIN

REVIEWED BY ALASTAIR ROSIE

Many of us have experienced the sensation that we were being watched and that theme has been utilised by countless writers over the centuries. It taps into our fear of the unknown combined with an innate curiosity as to what is out there. Roari Benjamin’s, <i>The Shadow Watcher</i> is one of those classic novels that pops up on the grid now and then. Admittedly there are some flaws in the plot but this is a debut novel from a new writer so I’m overlooking them for the most part.

Samantha Marquet is a quiet, studious young woman who’s been hurt in love and loses herself in writing and her part time job at a bar. We learn that her father died when she was quite young and left her with a fortune, which she tries hard to ignore in an attempt to make it on her own terms. After a violent encounter with another mysterious watcher we are introduced to the main shadow watcher, Michael, an immortal being from the future sent back to watch over her. There is a hint of Terminator here as what Samantha does will impact the future dramatically and the fate of the Flamella tree, a marvellous tree whose fruit gifted future mankind with immortal life. The tree has gone missing and her father’s supporters want to find it again. There are others from the future who also want the tree for their own purposes and therein lies a tale that is part Terminator, part Jumpers with strap on devices that can propel the wearer through time in a frantic race to keep the Flamella tree out of the wrong hands.

There are places where I think the plot could have been a bit stronger but this is a debut novel and speaking from experience, hindsight is always twenty twenty. Benjamin however has drawn us into Samantha’s head fairly quickly and we’re content to just ride along to see where we wind up next. Along the way we meet the Society, who support her father and mother, Jayden (Samantha’s best friend), Artemis the cat and a bunch of assassins and adventurers who add colour and tone to the story. The time travel does give you whiplash but she explains where her characters are going before they activate their devices. The world is well designed and she’s stayed away from detailed explanations of fictional technology, which would have been fatal and simply told a story of one woman’s journey to find her place in the world. It’s a classic coming of age even though she’s in her twenties and a woman of the world. That alone is refreshing because I’m getting a little tired of seeing high school kids acting and speaking like adults. I know as a teenager I certainly wasn’t that mature so making Samantha older is a nice touch. Samantha is one of those endearing characters that works her way into your being and you’re cheering her on even when she makes dumb mistakes because she’s so very human.

As a debut novel it works well. It introduces you to a new world and leaves enough strings dangling for a series. The character arc could be a little better as some characters do develop but others seem to stay the same and while they are part of the supporting cast it’s important to make subtle changes to their character as the story progresses. I thought Bailey, her boyfriend was excess baggage and while the love triangle works in many other books, in this one we’ve got enough alpha sex appeal with Michael to comfortably dispatch any rivals for her affections. He seems to pop in to give her a cuddle and then disappear again so one has to ask why he’s there at all. We all know she’s got it bad for Michael and vice versa, Bailey is just there to make up a triangle that shouldn’t exist in the first place to be totally honest.

I’d give this four stars because it really is quite good for a first novel and I look forward to reading a sequel although this book can be read as a stand alone novel.

Written by Alastair Rosie.


Wrong Place Wrong Time
Wrong Place Wrong Time
by David P Perlmutter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cautionary Tale, 15 July 2014
This review is from: Wrong Place Wrong Time (Paperback)
Wrong Place Wrong Time
By David P Perlmutter
Reviewed by Alastair Rosie

Let me begin by stating that I'm not big on True Crime stories, I do have a few books by former cops but it's not a genre that grabs me and I don't know why, it's just the way I am.
Nevertheless this book got my attention because of the way it's written, the language is fairly simple and the descriptions aren't dripping with adjectives but the story pulls you in pretty quickly. It's a true story about a young unemployed Brit who finds himself on the wrong side of the law in Spain. Most of us associate the Costa del Sol with beaches, bars and bikini-clad girls. The worst thing that can happen is a case of sunburn or a trip to the hospital after stepping on broken glass. Perlmutter however winds up accused of arson and manslaughter when a hotel burns down. Thrown into prison he is then brought before a judge without any attempt to question him and is faced with a dire choice when fate intervenes and he is granted bail, to stay and fight his case or run. Alone and isolated in a foreign country the walls start closing in and I'll leave it for you to read the book yourself.
As books go it's actually very well written and he does confess he's not a writer per se but there's a refreshingly simple tone to the book that makes it a very easy read. It's also what I call a cautionary tale of what can happen if you're not careful. Many visitors from Britain, North America and Australia in particular make rather naive assumptions about foreign countries when they get into trouble. They assume that the same Westminster/American justice system exists there as well. One only has to look at the case of Amanda Knox to realise that serious miscarriages of justice do occur. Being aware that 'they' aren't like us isn't racist, it's just plain common sense. The abovementioned case even from a casual reading makes it plain the Italian police screwed up royally and don't want to admit they screwed up.
Another lesson to be learned is the attitudes of the media whenever someone is arrested and charged. The Murdoch papers and their right wing co-conspirators are serial offenders when it comes to trial and sentencing by media. It sells papers and we've all read the sexed up headlines, slaughterhouse to describe a murder scene is just one example. It's lazy, inept journalism and we buy into it when we buy the paper and actually read the article. What Perlmutter has highlighted is that the people who are singled out by these lynch mobs are real people who may actually be innocent. Even if they are found guilty, it's not the job of the media to punish them, that role is filled by the justice system.
In Perlmutter's case he was silly and naive but to be pilloried like this smacks of corruption and graft. I take my hat off to a man who actually managed to get through it and survive with some sense of sanity still intact. To be honest it would make a good movie because it might just bring the debate into the public arena and hopefully we'd see some real changes taking place.
A well deserved five stars.


My Way: How I took my book to the top of the charts...and how you can too!
My Way: How I took my book to the top of the charts...and how you can too!
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social Media 101 For Writers, 14 July 2014
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Review of My Way
By Dave P. Perlmutter.

Let me start this review by saying that I'm an Internet veteran who cut his teeth on Windows 3.11, cursed his way through Windows 95, skipped 98 and jumped from XP to the Linux (Ubuntu) system without stopping for breath. I can take a webpage into a text editor and fix the HTML, I know my way around the Internet and can hack my own browser to make it behave sensibly. With DTP experience I can create my own ebook. However when it comes to social media I fully admit I've flunked the intro class. I understand what it does and what it's for, posting pictures of cats apparently, but when it comes to actually using social media to promote my own books my brain goes in about ten different directions, and I spend days clicking links and thinking there must be an easy beginners course.
Enter Dave P. Perlmutter's, <i>My Way</i> it's aptly named because as he tells us in the intro this is how he went about marketing his novel, <i>Wrong Place, Wrong Time.</i> That's a refreshing tone because so many writers tend to take to the pulpit to tell us mortals how it's done and while they mean well they're just another voice. A new writer might take it all on board until they download the next writer handbook or social media how to and find the advice is different.
Perlmutter's book is very short and to the point, covering formatting to layout and artwork, (in his case he emailed a friend) and then we get to the guts of the book, the marketing. Here he has laid everything out simply and in some parts it's almost too simple but it is also accessible to most folks. I call it a check list of things to do once you've uploaded your book.
Much of what he talks about isn't new to me, as I mentioned I've been around the Internet for far too long but having it laid out so simply made all the pieces fall into place for me. There are no black arts to learn, it's a simple process that may not give you a bestseller but at least you'll know you've done everything possible to give you a shot at making some money back. You may modify your marketing to accommodate your own book but this gives you a recipe for putting together a good marketing campaign. He's artfully synthesized a lot of information into short simply written chapters and perhaps that's why it made an impact on me. I can flick through his book whenever I need to check something and I'm not wading through a mountain of words. It's the simplicity behind this book that makes it a great resource.
There are books out there that go into the social media phenomenon in greater detail and you may find you need to delve more deeply into it. But with this book you've got a walk up start and for authors struggling to make sense of social media that's got to be a good thing.
A well deserved five stars.


Girl in the Wild
Girl in the Wild
Price: £3.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Big City Publicists, Shallow Men and Walruses., 14 July 2014
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This review is from: Girl in the Wild (Kindle Edition)
GIRL IN THE WILD
BY BETH ORSOFF

Girl in the Wild is a romance novel that takes place on Wilde Island off the Alaskan coast. The protagonist, Sydney Green is dispatched by her boss to the island to produce a short documentary on walruses with her client, Hollywood heartthrob, Blake McKinley as the face and voice that will open pockets and hopefully salvage his bad boy reputation. One of the flies in the ointment is her relationship with Blake, to the outside world she's his publicist but behind closed doors the two are rather more intimately involved although I would hesitate to call it love, more like friends with benefits. Of course once she gets to the island and finds out that there's only satelite internet it starts going downhill and the fact that the lead authority on walruses, Ethan is also devilishly handsome and moody has our heroine's head in a whirl. I won't give out any spoilers but it's a classic love triangle that sees her bouncing between two men and trying to shoot a documentary when both men see each other as rivals.
I think the LA and Alaskan settings are well researched, I certainly learned a lot about the Arctic and the pressures brought to bear by mining companies and well-intentioned human interference but I think the sheer volume of information can be a bit overwhelming at times. Dan Brown does something similar with his books where he deviates to expound upon a particular work of art or artifact. Orsoff does much the same with the Arctic landscape in particular. It's all good information don't get me wrong, but I'm not sure we want to know that much about walruses for example. We do want to see some fairly plausible character development and a good character arc that sees the cast, for want of a better word, either grow through their shared experiences or crash and burn.
Sydney's character arc is well plotted and she shows a depth and strength as she overcomes the primitive situation to produce this video that will draw her closer to Blake. However her choice is men is abysmal, between Blake and Ethan there's not much difference. One's rich and arrogant, the other is poor and arrogant and why she seems to come unstuck whenever she comes up against them baffled me. Likewise the 'forced' kiss where she resists the kiss and then gives in. If I tried that in the real world I'd be up on charges of sexual assault but it is fiction so I'll let it go. Suffice it to say that the two main men are flat and two dimensional cardboard cut outs. There are times I want to see them actually move on and come to some new understanding but then they revert to type and you think why does she bother?
Overall it's not a bad book but with a little more attention to character building it could have been much better, the potential is there because as a romance novel it ticks all the right boxes.
I've given it four stars.
NB I see this book was previously published as How I Learned to Love the Walrus


MURDERED (Click Your Poison Book 2)
MURDERED (Click Your Poison Book 2)
Price: £2.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Choose your ending., 14 July 2014
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I remember many many years ago, when I was young, reading a book that had multiple endings and you had the option of choosing different paths for a totally different result. As I recall that book was a murder story as well although I can't recall the title of the book. Thus when I saw this book and read the synopsis and a couple of reviews I was intrigued and bought it on a whim.
I wasn't disappointed at all. This is one of those books that utilises modern technology to provide a seamless reading experience. Simply clicking on one of the links at the end of each scene will take you somewhere else and if you're not careful you could wind up dead in a very short time. We start in Rio when our hero, that's you by the way, stumbles across a still warm body, a gun and the fleeting glimpse of someone who might be the murderer. As you make your selections you're introduced to investigators from the US embassy who're keen to catch the murderer. You are also a suspect in the murder too so be careful with those links. If you wind up dead or charged with murder you can always go back and start again. I managed to get all the way through and am going to start again one rainy and make different choices.
The book is simply written with sparse descriptions but that doesn't take away from it at all because you're following links and hoping you make it through the scene in one piece, more or less.
A wall deserved five stars.


CyberStorm
CyberStorm
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Cautionary Tale, 14 July 2014
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This review is from: CyberStorm (Kindle Edition)
What would you do if Facebook and Twitter went down, and stayed down? You'd do one of two things, pick up the phone and call your real friends or keep checking to see if they were up and running again. But what if the Internet collapsed? Combine that with the entire Eastern Seaboard being blacked out, a series of killer blizzards, an outbreak of bird flu and you have the plot for Matthew Mather's Cyberstorm.
It makes for impressive reading and with a background in cyber security he's probably writing about possible scenarios and the scariest part of this book is I can imagine it happening for real.
When rogue foreign agents insert a cyberbomb into the system that begins to shut down power grids no one thinks it's going to last long but when a killer snowstorm blankets New York, shutting it off from the outside world. China and American are facing off against each other in the Pacific and rumours of a bird flu epidemic stretch the emergency services to their utmost. Civilisation begins to fracture as the normally stubborn New Yorkers become more desperate and then the horror begins to manifest itself as looting gives way to murder and cannibalism.
We see this through the eyes of Mark Mitchell who is only trying to keep his wife and young son alive until the cavalry arrives. In this he is helped by his next door neighbour and best friend, Chuck and his wife, the Borodins, Russian emigres and a small band of brothers and sisters. The story itself is excrutiatingly slow as they forage for food and discuss how this could have happened to us here in America, but the slow pace just draws you deeper and deeper into the story until you feel as if you are right there. When they make a break for it and head across the river for safety they jump from the frying pan into the fire. The ending will leave you with a sense of relief and perhaps you might think to stock up on basic survival food and gear, and do a little homework on how to hack cell phones.
He's done his homework and there's something of the lecturer coming through in the conversations the characters have as they wait for the cavalry that never comes but I didn't feel that slowed the story down, rather it gave you time to draw breath until the next daring exploit. This is a cautionary tale about the thin veneer of civilisation and the rapid descent from civilised man to wild animal. We think we are so clever with our smart tvs, iPhones, tablets, refrigerators that can send emails and computers that can pilot a spaceship all the way to Mars. But in the majesty of our cleverness lies the seeds of our destruction because most of the vital infrastructure depends to a large extent on computers. Technology has enriched our lives but over reliance on technology can lead to our destruction.
Cyberstorm is a story that should be read by anyone involved in cyber security or essential infrastructure because it could happen. A well deserved five stars for a good page turner.


Made to Forget (Nepherium Novella Series Book 1)
Made to Forget (Nepherium Novella Series Book 1)
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Has me wondering what happens next, 1 Jan. 2014
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Made To Forget
By Samantha LaFantasie
The title almost sums up the plot of this novella. When Elsabetha Ellery wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the transporter crash that nearly killed her she finds herself `befriended' by two people who would do anything to keep her from discovering the truth but more importantly, they want to find out what she knows.
Set in the twenty fifth century the world is a very different place with the arrival of an alien race, the Nepherium and dark tales of the Aagrarians, another alien race with their own imperial designs on planet Earth. What ensues between Elsabetha waking up and the dramatic confrontation in Alexander's luxurious mansion keeps you on your toes. Each scene flows seamlessly from one to the other and the only criticism I've got is that the climax could have been a little longer but the tale is to be continued so I'll bide my time and await the next instalment.
LaFantasie has done a superb job of explaining the technological advances hundreds of years in the future without making it read like a science manual. Likewise her description of a typical Midwest town is also mercifully free of excess adjectives. Elsabetha is one of those focused well-rounded heroines who draws you into the story. I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened next and that's the mark of a good storyteller, maintaining enough tension to keep you turning the pages. It also feels like the start of something much bigger, it has a prequel feel to it.
A well written piece and one that has me wondering what happens next?
Five well deserved stars.
Written by Alastair Rosie


Unknown (The Elements Trilogy Book 1)
Unknown (The Elements Trilogy Book 1)
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unknown ticks all the boxes in epic fantasy, 7 Dec. 2013
A staggeringly good read from Melissa Pearl, Unknown ticks all the boxes in epic fantasy with magic, gods, swordplay, heroes and heroines. The heroine, Kyla is a strong-willed teenager who refuses to stay in her safe little world. When she is unwittingly exposed to material from a falling star and marked as one of the Seekers it seems to confirm her deepest suspicion that she is meant for more than pretty dresses and a life as the wife of Athra, her betrothed.
Jethro, the second Seeker is a good match for headstrong Kyla and I would suspect that these two hit it off on a much deeper level in subsequent books. Sent out by Mordekai to find the Elements and bring Oron back from the void these two young adults will have to overcome their traditional prejudices and work together to meet these Elements. They will have to outsmart the troops of King Ashan who has conquered Taramon and extracts tribute from its queen, Elaina.
I won't give much more away there but this book was a pleasure to read. It keeps you turning page after page after page. The scene breaks where we return to Athra and his attempts to convince the queen to raise an army to stand against the empire are seamless and move the story forward. Her descriptions of this world are very colourful and you can almost see it in your mind's eye. The action scenes are well choreographed and believable. In short it is a great first book for what looks to be a fantastic trilogy, I'm already looking forward to reading the second book and feel as if these characters have become part of my world. And that I believe is the mark of a truly great writer when the imaginary people they have created become part of your world.
A well deserved five stars.
Written by Alastair Rosie


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