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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 August 2013
Author Bio (in his own words)

I live with my wife, my crazed lunatic son and very vocal baby daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire, where my wife and I both grew up, surrounded by friends and family. A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of country, I cannot envisage spending my life anywhere else, though my anchor is sometimes tested as the wanderlust hits and we travel wherever I can find the breathtaking remains of the classical world. I have a love of travel and history, architecture and writing and those four interact well enough to keep me almost permanently busy.

Since leaving school and University, I have tried a great number of careers, including car sales, insurance, software engineering, computer network management, civil service and even painting and decorating sales. I have lived in four counties and travelled as widely as time and budget allowed and find myself, on the cusp of my fortieth year, back where I began and finally doing something I love.

Having written a number of unpublished short stories in my early days, I decided back in 2003 to try and write a full length novel. That was the start of Marius' Mules. Being a lover of Roman history, I decided to combine my love of writing and my love of classical history. Marius' Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum, my attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome. Since then, the success and popularity of both have inflated my head so that I can no longer comfortably fit through doors, and has spawned sequels to each work, with a third in the fantasy series and the fourth Marius' Mules now complete.

I maintain another website detailing the Roman sites I visit and photograph here, and write a blog you can find here. Find me on twitter as @sjaturney. I am an almost terminally chatty person. That's just a due warning if you feel like contacting me (on the left hand menu.) I am always happy to speak to people and have just put together an FAQ gathered together from things I have been asked previously.

Author Web site

Description

Crete, 1492.

After a sojourn of more than a year on the Venetian-controlled island , Skiouros has learned the art of the sword, the languages of his peers and his enemies and everything he believes he needs to know in order to begin his great quest: to seek the death of the one remaining conspirator in the plot responsible for his brother's death. Circumstances collide, forcing the former thief to set forth on his journey, with the aid of his old friends Parmenio and Nicolo.

Meanwhile, far across the Mediterranean, a small fleet of Turkish galleys is engaged in a last desperate attempt to preserve Islamic influence in the Iberian Peninsula. While the great naval commander Kemal Reis battles to save a lost people, his subordinate burns to sack, destroy and murder every hint of Christian life in the west.

When the Isabella, complete with the three companions and a young Italian nobleman, cross paths with the violent Ottoman would-be pirate, things turn sour and Skiouros finds himself driven ever further from his goal, bringing him to face some harsh and unsettling personal truths. Skiouros is about to be tested to the limits of his endurance, with his very life at stake.

Priests Tale Review

Reading this book was a very interesting experience.

Firstly because Simon Turney is such an excellent writer. Every book leaves me astounded that he still self publishes. But that self publishing seems to give him a freedom of style and expression as well as release schedule.

What I expected from Priests Tale was a book packed full of vengeance, action and adventure, of Skiouros next trials in seeking the revenge for the death of his brother Lykaion. (in Thiefs Tale)

This to some degree is what I got, the book is indeed packed with action, adventure and a thirst for vengeance. Only the vengeful beast we see isn't Skiouros, it is Etci Hassan the dark brooding captain of a Turkish ship, a man burning with the flames of Jihad against the Christian nations. This hatred brings him in direct conflict with Skiouros, Captain Parmenio, Nicolo and a wonderful new character Master Cesare Orsini.

The conversational interplay between these characters is so natural so charismatic it draws the reader into the plot, wraps them in the intrigue and comradeship and takes them on a journey through the world of slavery and Tunis.

What I had expected to be a story of all out action, in fact turned out to be a story of comrades, of men finding out who they are deep down, when push came to shove would they run or would they stand, what does a friend truly mean, how much would you give up for them, how much can comradeship and friendship change a persons soul. All these things and more are explored and covered either overtly or covertly within the text.

When you combine this level of skilful writing with the fun and adventure that Simon imbues the story, you end up with a top class book, one that thrills form the first page to the last.

From a personal extra enjoyment I know that Simon has named some of the main characters for some friends (for which I am personally honoured with Captain Parmenio). Its something that will always bring a smile to my face (and at the same time would not influence my view of the book). What did surprise me, in a good way, was how little traits, personality idiosyncrasies had also crept in. (and I don't just mean Nicolo's love of the grape). I'm sure some of this is deliberate, but i do wonder if some also crept in subconsciously, Does the author realise how much of himself is in Skiouros? All of this does however give an extra depth to the story.

This is a must buy, because we should support great writing, and because its a fantastic book

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Other titles (Visit Simon's web site and book store)
Marius' Mules
1. The Conquest of Gaul (2009)
aka The Invasion of Gaul
2. The Belgae (2010)
3. Gallia Invicta (2011)
4. Conspiracy of Eagles (2012)
5. Hades' Gate (2013)

Tales of the Empire

1. Interregnum (2009)
2. Ironroot (2010)
3. Dark Empress (2011)

Ottoman Cycle

1. The Thief's Tale
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on 26 August 2013
I have a slight quirk in my reading habit in which I occasionally have to stop and put the book down just before something harrowing, exciting or pivotal is about to happen. I don't do it all the time but while I was reading The Priest's Tale by S.J.A.Turney I found myself doing it often. This, the second volume of The Ottoman Cycle, continues the tale of Skiouros who is now on Crete, leaving Istanbul behind at the end of volume one disguised as an Orthodox Christian priest. The year is 1492 and Skiouros has been preparing himself to deal with the one person left responsible for the death of his brother. Deeming the time to be right he leaves Crete and is headed to Rome where his foe is a prisoner/guest of Pope Innocent VIII. The trials and tribulations of what should have been an easy voyage are the focus of this exciting story.

Hassan Ecti, captain of an Ottoman war ship has his own mission, albeit an over zealous one as he is determined to destroy any vestige of Christianity in lands that are now being taken away from the Muslim faithful in the West, lands that they have been settled in for seven centuries are now under control of the hated Pope. The clash between Hassan and Skiouros and his friends is full of the blind bigotry brought on when religions collide, a violent collision that continues today.

Mr. Turney has given us a tale that is full of suspense, full of surprises, full of the turmoil inherent in any good book. Skiouros has grown in character and we are able to see and feel the anguish he encounters in his bid for vengeance. The supporting cast are also well written, good guys and the never ending supply of baddies. I read a lot of historical fiction and it is the baddies that make these tales interesting and hard to put down. Hassan Ecti rates as one of top five baddies I've encountered.

Descriptive and full of intrigue and surprises, The Priest's Tale takes the reader on a wonderful ride with a host of great characters and a most entertaining ending that leads into volume three, The Assassin's Tale. The author has, in my own humble opinion, created yet another masterful, hard to put down glimpse into the past. Well done, Mr. Turney, keep on writing as I am not yet sated.
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on 17 July 2015
When I started reading The Ottoman Cycle I imagined, in my immense naivety, that the action will take place on the background of the new Istanbul, making the series an immense fresco of the city and the time. While this is certainly true for the first book, The Priest's Tale sees our hero, Skiouros, away from the capital of the empire, on an adventure that starts is Crete and ends... very far away from it. Saying the end is unexpected is an understatement, but I'll try not to give anything away as potential readers might want to discover where it ends for themselves. But the richest of the rewards in this book, like a lot of the times, lays a lot more with the journey than with the destination.

Skiouros goes half-circle around the Mediterranean, by sea and by land, and encounters trouble wherever, without particularly looking for it. The end of the previous book has introduced us to two characters, captain Parmenio and Nicolo, but gave no clue as to how important they will become in the story. Together with a rather mysterious Italian nobleman they will form Skiouros' posse, an adventurous gang of friends that makes the novel smell like bromance at times, another innovation to what was largely an individual story in the first book.

The Mediterranean world in the late 15th century is a very interesting place, a mixture of civilizations that clash, collide, live side by side and influence each other over a flurry of material for the interested historians and anthropologists. And we encounter all of these civilizations here: the Ottoman Turks who took over the ruins of Byzantium, the shrinking Arab world of North Africa, the Berber nomads roaming free across the ruins of the Phoenician empire, the Egypt of Mamluks and the warring Catholic states of Western Europe. And like all Simon's books, real history goes closely along the personal stories, making his books a history lesson delivered in the form of an action novel. Which is the ideal recipe for children books, really, the structure of most books I grew up with.

Religion being the important social element that it is in this era, is an unavoidable aspect as Skiouros' story too. And in this an author cannot but betray his own beliefs, siding automatically and unconsciously with whatever faith is closer to his convictions. There is no secret that Simon's values are mostly secular ones and as such , the more pervasive a certain faith will be, the less virtuous it will be deemed. To that end, the biggest villain in the book is the most fanatical believer: Etci Hassan, the Ottoman pirate, is by far the best villain in any of Simon's books I read so far and an all-round great villain by any measure. It does have an element of Jafar and it does echo of the Islamic fanaticism of which we see far too much today, but this Turkish pirate is a man of his age and it made me understand better how the interest of the Italian city-states at sea have collided with the Ottoman ones and led to the great naval battle of Lepanto.

Speaking of Hassan's vengeful quest, I did wonder at times if his resolve could not have been put to better use, if his chase of a Greek fugitive is not too insignificant a goal for a commander of the Ottoman fleet. And this is one point in which maybe the reader is required to suspend his belief here and there: is Skiouros' quest really worth it? Is his ultimate target really that guilty for the crime he is chased for to be deserving of that much hateful determination? And could his friends not divert him to better causes rather than getting whirled in this personal story of revenge?

And Skiouros does seem to be more and more of a conflicted character and this development does make for a better book, though the inflexibility of his ultimate goals bring some predictability that might not be necessary.

Two great pluses to compensate for this slight drawback: first, this is an action novel. The twists and turns, the fights and chases come thick and fast and I usually found it hard to put the book down as I would want to see which way an action scene is gonna go; only for it to be followed by another action scene and before you know it, the hours have flown by.

The second plus is a gallery of secondary characters, of which I would have liked to see more of: Don Diego de Teba, a Zorro avant-la-lettre, the fighting priest in Tunis, the gypsy traveler, Kemal Reis, the good Muslim and most of all, the Caravan lady, an absolutely delightful character that unfortunately disappears from the story way too quickly for my liking.

I will end my review with a quote that is becoming recurrent, as it appears at least twice in the third book of the cycle as well: "Vengeance is hollow victory, and as oft destroys its perpetrator as its target", Cesare Orsini tells Skiouros, and in the light of this wise words I am very curious to see if and how the young Greek's vengeance will be carried to an end. I am a book and a half away.
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on 13 April 2015
Excellent second episode in the series. This quite an unusual series, in that each volume could easily be read alone, but read in order, they mean so much more. They follow the adventures of one individual, but in some ways, he is a completely different person in each episode, as what happens in each book completely changes him as an individual.
The author certainly know how to tell a story; readable, well-paced, subtle characters, interesting places. Everything, in fact, I look for in historical fiction.
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on 6 September 2013
The second part of the Ottoman cycle did not disappoint, with plenty of action, adventure narrow escapes and a ripping good yarn to boot. The characters especially Skurious continue to develop and mature and you feel that you are joining him on his journey and not just reading about it. Can't wait for the next chapter. If you like historical fiction I can't recommend Simon Turney's books enough. Go on have a read.
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on 26 August 2013
What Can I say, when the first episode of Skiouros (A Thiefs Tale) exploded into print and we followed the adventures of Skiouros and his brother to an amazing series of adventures, A Priests Tale carries these adventures onward as Skiouros, tries to reach Rome and is prevented in so many wild adventures that keep the reader turning pages with a rapidity so far unknown.Buchery,Slavery, Pederasty, it is all here.
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on 6 October 2013
Since coming across the authors Roman stories, I have read hos books with much enjoyment. This does not disappoint, and it is good to see that the original story is now being turned into a short series. It helps that it is set at a time I am personally not wholly familiar with
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on 30 April 2015
In the second volume of The Ottoman Cycle, Skiouros, determined to avenge the death of his brother, with his nautical friends Parmenio and Nicolo, determined to get seriously rich, set sail in the caravel ‘Isabella’ from Crete only to be captured by the sadistic captain of a Turkish galley. Skiouros adopts the guise of a priest to save his life and one adventure follows another until our heroes, with the help of a new friend, finally triumph. The prolific S.J.A.Turney has created another winner that may be a serious rival for Marius' Mules.
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on 12 September 2013
Wow what an adventure, Simon has excelled with the second adventure of Skiouros, Lots of twists and turns and I can't wait for what happens next!
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on 20 November 2013
Excellent read could not put it down recommend it to everyone who enjoys historical novels.mr turney should be proud he has surpassed himself.
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