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on 3 October 2016
Great read & read the second book & now on book 3
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Plunged straight into the heart of the action, the reader is carried along with the characters at a breath-taking pace as the story unfolds and keeps pages turning long after lights out time. With it's rich panoply of characters and vividly described scenes, this seems less a novel, more a first hand account. The characters are three dimensional and the emotions described realistic and much research has gone into making the setting true to the era and the historical facts accurate.
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on 3 February 2014
I read a great deal of historical novels and Feud is among one of the best I've read in recent months.I would recommend Feud to any followers of the genre.
Thank you Derek Birks for a truly good read and I look forward to the next instalment in the series.
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on 29 September 2013
a great page turner. can't wait to read the next instalment of Ned's and Will's great adventures in the 15th century. spiel says it comes out end of September 2013. Here we are at 29th September and not a sign or sniff of traitor's gate by author Derek Birks!!
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on 10 December 2015
The Wars of the Roses are a period of British history that I (and I suspect plenty of other people) blithely think they know about, and we’re quite blase about the whole thing. And yet when I think about what I know, all I could really tell you is that it went on for decades and that it ended at Bosworth Field in 1485 with a Welshman with a big nose and a cruel hunchback searching for a horse. Well, a little more than that, obviously, but you get my drift. And I don’t buy into the evil Richard III hunchback myth either, but then I’m a son of the white rose, so that goes without saying.

Feud is the debut novel by Derek Birks and the first in a four book series. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it. Was it going to be a bloody battles historical novel, or a family saga? Well, simply it is both.

The book follows the … well, the feud, obviously… between the Elder family and their neighbours, the Radcliffes. To some extent, the story of the families opened a little fast for me, launching straight into the moment of critical mass in the families’ struggles from the first page without much of a chance to acclimatise to the characters. In retrospect, given the size and scope of the book, I expect Derek took the deliberate decision to cut down on early chaff.

Driven from his lands and with his family dead, captive or scattered, Ned Elders sets off on a mission to put things right in the face of insurmountable odds. And as the story follows his journey, as well as those of his sisters, his friends and his enemies, the tale interweaves with the events of political and military manoeuvering and warfare leading up to the dreadful battle of Towton in 1461.

Firstly, let me say that this novel is an indie published work and is at the very top of the quality scale. It is exceptionally well written and polished. Apart from the fairly precipitous beginning and a perhaps over-complex web of events that led me to regularly think back and work out where everyone was, everything I found about the book was good. The writing is descriptive and immersive, yet driven along by the characters at a surprisingly swift pace. Those characters are well rounded and quite believable. There is nothing superman about them. They are human, with flaws and feelings, and they struggle through bad times. And Derek is not averse to killing important characters, so don’t get too attached to the supporting cast. The battle scenes are bloody and action packed, and the (many) scenes of individual derring-do are excellent.

Moreover, there is a sense that this feud that forms the backbone of the tale is rather unnecessary. The characters are not black and white on the whole, but grey. The Radcliffes actually contain good people in the end, and the actions of the Elders at times can be a little questionable. Although there can be no doubt that Edmund Radcliffe is definitely a slimeball! Nicely done, I’d say.

The landscapes here – and the book stretches from North Yorkshire to Wales, to Shropshire and London, and back north again – are well painted, and some of the area is local to me, so I could visualise the places well.

The first novel deals with the feud and achieves a good, finite ending on that family squabble, yet we are still left with questions about the future of the family during these tumultuous times. And so this book took me to 1461 and left me wanting to read the other three, which I presume will gradually bring me to Bosworth field and the end of the Wars.

In short, an excellent debut with some memorable characters and a good swift pace. Give it a read and you’ll not be disappointed.
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on 10 May 2013
Good historical action novel set against the background of The war of the Roses. Great characters both good and bad.
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on 17 January 2014
Really enjoy historical fiction . And have read many books over the years . This book is a great read and you will be turning the page to find out what happens next . Just enjoy .
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on 28 January 2014
i read historical fiction a lot and this book was straight in the action, i loved it. easy to read and hard to put down,,
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on 24 December 2016
No, no, no, no....
I can forgive being plunged into action if it is well described and well researched. But...
First 5 pages...
Plate harness of the era does not, 'crack' when hit with a sword or, even with an axe. I have a suit of plate armour of the period, it's 14 gauge carbon steel.
2 swords!!! No one fought with two swords at this period of time. Swords, whether 'civilian' or battlefield were long weapons. Thus was the height of the longsword, known to the victorian as the bastard sword. It's 40" long with a 10" handle and a cruciform hit. You can use it 2 handed or, because of the excellent balance, 1 handed. It is a formidable weapon, razor sharp carbon steel. I have several reproduction swords of the period and fence with them. You cannot weild two of them at once, they are too long. You wouldn't last 2 minutes going up against a foe with a sword of this type if you had two short swords. Reach is the problem.
Pole axe. The pole axe is not used from horseback, it is exclusively an infantry weapon, this is because the point of balance is too far forward. Pole axes of the time are 6ft long, an axe blade, a hammer on the other side and a 6" spike sticking out the top. The haft is usually square in profile or perhaps hexagonal to prevent it rotating. It is a two handed weapon and cannot be used single handed.
A war arrow shot at what must be a fairly short range from a longbow into the backside of a horse, would have caused trauma so severe, the horse wouldn't be standing.

At this point I gave up. I'm sure the plot is decent but the author should familiarize himself with the combat techniques of the day rather than the tedium of Hollywood medieval 'fighting:' readers are too savvy these days, it's not enough to churn out the old rumpty tumpty. It's not about being a purist, it's about being credible combat if the day was lethal, terrifying and carried out with weapons at the pinnacle of their technical development, at the dawn of gunpowder. Those who used them were not brutal savages thumping each other with club like devices, they were highly trained martial artists who practiced disciplines as complex and subtle as any from the far east.
The default battlefield killer was the spike, either in the form of a rounded dagger, sharply tapered sword, the spike on a war hammer or pole axe or bill. It would be applied to areas where plate did not protect and which were covered with maille with or without the very effective padding of a gambeson.

Please, authors, you have to start to get this right. This stuff in this book is so far from the mark it's like a Jack Chan movie.
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on 25 May 2014
Feud is one of those books that makes reading (and reviewing) so worthwhile and downright enjoyable. From the striking cover that hints at what lies within, to the last cliffhanger of a sentence, the reader is taken on an enthralling, action-packed and absolutely riveting adventure.

A violent, emotional and long-standing argument between two land-owning families against the backdrop of the opening era of the Wars of the Roses, Feud gives us an insight to how life must have been. Survival of the fittest - both in mind and body - was the key. The opening paragraph in this book is where the action starts; no build-up, no hint of what’s coming just boom! And the reader is in the thick of it. The author cleverly portrays the transition of the feud from fathers to sons within these opening paragraphs whilst maintaining the constant environment of the war. It is at this point so early on in the novel, that I must say this book is not for the squeamish. The reader is never allowed to forget the era, the trials and tribulations and the constant struggles faced by the characters.

There is a good supporting cast to protagonist and antagonist. In fact, neither character would have been so real, so believable and so dimensional without the other characters. This was another talent by the author - keeping the characters consistent whilst having their own battles. Not once are they over-played, misplaced or unnecessary. They don’t fade out at all, not once was I left wondering what they were up to as they popped up at the right moments! Each play their own role and there are mini-adventures within the main story and it works. Very well. The only thing I feel may throw a reader in the beginning are the chapters defined by a timeline that jumps back and forth a tad. This does, however, settle down and it becomes easier to understand where you are.

The ‘darker’ characters portray the violence, the lack of conscience and the greed that must have abounded during these times and the thread that these characters weave throughout the book are what keeps the reader on his toes!

You will find yourself rooting for the good guys (corny, I know, but you will!) at every plot twist and turn. Again, a warning - the tale is written in all its’ bloody glory and there are war injuries galore. I could almost smell the camp fires, the stench and fear of the armies preparing to fight. The scenes are described with clarity yet not over-described and yes, you really do feel you are there.

The author of Feud most certainly shows his knowledge of real battles, weaponry and medieval war plans; it’s almost like he’s had a previous life as a medieval knight. The author is also very good at conveying the camaraderie of knights together, forging bonds in preparation of the fighting ahead. Medieval soldiers most certainly didn’t need any ‘team bonding exercises’! In this instance, I’m reminded of Helen Hollick’s ‘Harold’ and Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Uhtred’ series - whilst the stories are set quite a few hundred years apart, the finite detail of warfare and its’ horrors are conveyed with aplomb by these authors.

As for the hero, Ned Elder, don’t expect a strikingly handsome ‘knight in shining armour’ winning all and trotting off into the sunset. In fact, ‘hero’ doesn’t really cut it either. This is a man fighting for survival, his birthright and his kin. He has failures, faults and he is bloodied and wrecked - he is real. This is what I really enjoyed about the book; even the scenes with Edward IV are written with simplistic style. The reader is made aware that although Edward is obviously a king, with his stature, his charisma and his leadership being more than evident, you are also reminded he is but a young man, with the same fears and worries as Ned. The first scene he is in, when Ned is unaware whom he has come across in the forest, is memorable indeed. It is two young men, ravaged by the what is happening in their land, bouncing their fears and anger off eachother. Marvellous writing.

There are also some strong female characters intertwined with the leads. For lovers of historical fiction, you just know women like this existed; they had to be tougher than the men in many aspects. The Elders are certainly made of strong stuff.

This is a fabulous journey of a book. From the opening scene until the last paragraph, the action never stops. Quite literally. There is an Author’s Note which I feel adds value to historical fiction, especially when you want to research times, places and battles yourself. If you’re not cheering on Ned Elder in his fights, you’re praying for his family, hiding behind cushions in the battles and despairing when the story takes a turn you didn’t expect or want. The book actually finishes on a cliffhanger, there is no happy ending here just yet and I was very relieved the sequel is already published. And I cannot wait to start it!
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