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Nick Britten

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The Wolf's Gold:  Empire V (Empire series)
The Wolf's Gold: Empire V (Empire series)
by Anthony Riches
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 25 Oct. 2012
The Wolf's Gold is the fifth book in Anthony Riches Empire series.

The Tungrian Auxiliary cohorts are recovering after their hard fought victory in Germania. Hoping to be sent home they are disappointed to be sent to Dacia to help defend the Alburnus Major Gold mine from marauding Sarmatae tribesmen who are determined to capture an Empires gold supply.

In a desperate fight to the death, Tribune Scaurus will have to lead his cohorts with all the skill and experience he has, if the Tungrians are to survive the onslaught and see their homes again.

Centurion, Marcus Corvus and his fellow officers not only have to fortify and defend the mine but they also have to deal with truculent mine owners and a new commander who as a political appointment is more of a danger to his men than the enemy.
As the Tungrians Cohorts desperately fight for survival, Centurion Corvus will learn a secret that will open a window onto the men who ordered the death of his entire family but can he survive the battle to seek revenge on them?

Knowing that failure to secure the Mine will bring down the wrath of Emperor Commodos onto them, the men will fight to the death to save the mine and the province of Dacia.

With rampaging barbarians, dubious allies and an incompetent leader, the cohorts face their toughest battle yet.

I have always enjoyed Anthony Riches books (whisper it quietly but I didn't enjoy Leopards Sword as much!) and this book has to be his best book so far. The real joy of this book is the dialogue between the characters. It is so sharp and it flows so easily between the main characters and the banter is some of the best and funniest I have ever read. The infantry song about the cavalry had me spitting me drink all over my desk at work!

The main group of characters are now like old friends which makes reading about them so pleasurable and I like the way some of the group can fade into the background in one book and then be the main character in the next. An example is the use of Dubnus who is one of my favourite characters in the series but is hardly mentioned in this book.

In a year of great books this book has shot to the top of the leader board of my favourites! I really enjoyed it and got through it very quickly, which I always take as a sign of a good book. I don't think I could recommend this book enough. An absolute must for any Roman histfic fan!

This is Anthony Riches at his very best.

Betrayal: Thomas Kydd 13
Betrayal: Thomas Kydd 13
by Julian Stockwin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return to form, 10 Oct. 2012
The year is 1806 and Captain Kydd was just helped capture and defend the Dutch colony of Cape Town (chronicled in Conquest). With the French driven from the seas, the only thing Kydd can look forward to is protecting trade and being forgotten by the Admiralty on a far flung corner of Empire.

Kydd's commanding officer, Admiral Popham has other ideas though. With the forces used to capture Cape Town at his disposal, he proposes an assault on the undefended Spanish possessions in South America. Winning over Kydd to his side, Popham believes that all the English have to do is land on the mainland, capture Buenos Aires and the locals will rise up and throw off the yoke of Spanish rule but can a few hundred British soldiers and sailors really capture the greatest prize of Empire?

As the fleet sets sail, Kydd struggles with the decision to abandon his station and follow a man whose motives seems to become more suspect and actions become more underhand the closer they get to their destination.
As the British task force lands on the Spanish Mainland they must deal with the local Spanish troops as well as belligerent locals but the prize is so great that nothing will stop them in their quest.

With no British warships able to navigate the River Plate, Kydd is tasked with with defending the British force with whatever crafts and men he can muster and as the enemy draw closer, Kydd finds himself increasingly under pressure to hold them back. Kydd knows that if they can't not hold on until reinforcements arrive then they could lose everything they have gained and from being Heroes of Empire they could end up facing a court martial for disobeying orders. Such are the fine margins of high command.
I have been a fan of Julian Stockwin's books since `Kydd' was released in 2001 but as with any long running series I have found myself struggling to enjoy the last couple of books. In a similar vein to the Sharpe novels you sort of feel that you have read the book before and feel a bit stale. Well I'm happy to report that Betrayal is a real return to form.

This is a cracking story and I think using a little known episode of the Napoleonic wars gives it freshness that has been missing from the last couple of books. One of the joys of the whole series has been seeing Kydd grow from a pressed landman into a full post-Captain and learning the ropes of command as he goes along. In Betrayal he really comes into his own as he commands the ad-hoc naval forces and is tasked with opening up Buenos Aires to trade.

Stockwin captures the dilemmas of men in high command in the age of the sail, months away from political and military chiefs they must make decisions on the spur of the moment that could bring greater glory to the Empire or just as easily see them disgraced and dismissed from service.

I raced though this book and as always Stockwin's writing style is easy to read and has a nice pace to the story and in all Stockwin's books the naval details are spot on without being over technical thus slowing the story down. This is a very good book and I highly recommend!

The First Anglo-Sikh War
The First Anglo-Sikh War
by Amarpal Singh
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great new history, 13 Sept. 2012
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As a self confessed 'Empire' addict to get a new history of the 1st Sikh war is always welcome.I have read lots of histories on the Sikh wars and inevitably they are most written from the British point of view, the wonderful thing about this book is that it comes from a much more Sikh point of view. This gives the book a freshness that has been missing form a lot of the histories I have read before.

The author gives a nice brief description of the background to the cause of the war but the real strength of his book is the chapters outlining each major battle.

For each battle the author gives us an overview of the battles context within the war, a nice break down of the forces involved, a good narrative of the actual battle and then the aftermath of the battle and where this leaves us within the wider war.

The best thing about each chapter is the maps. The author uses modern maps but overlays them with older maps so you can see where the battle and incidents happened within the landscape (if I ever get to see the battle landscapes then this is the book I'm taking!)

This is a well written and researched book that is useful for people who have only just started reading about the Sikh Wars but also bring new insights which would interest the more experienced reader.

This is a wonderful history of the 1st Sikh war and I highly recommend it to anyone with a passing history of the Formation of the British Raj and the Bravery of the Sikh Armies.

The Stockholm Octavo
The Stockholm Octavo
by Karen Engelmann
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit off the pace, 13 Sept. 2012
This review is from: The Stockholm Octavo (Hardcover)
I must say this was a very strange book for me. First off I won't say too much about the plot because I don't want any spoilers.

Suffice to say, Card playing, Divination, Conspiracy, Courtly love and suspense feature quite a lot.
The positives were that, it is very well written, the story is intelligent and engaging and the plot is well worked. The characters bring a lot of emotion to the story and being set in late 18th Century Stockholm is a nice change to what I usually read.

Mt only gripe with the book is that it is so slow...the build up to anything took pages and pages of description, of playing cards or using fans. The strange thing was that as I was moaning about it being slow paced I couldn't put it down. The story had enough twist and turns to keep me engaged and wanting to find out what happened.

As someone has already said, if you're after an action book then this isn't for you but if you are looking for a book with an intelligent plot with some great characters in a unusually setting then this is the book for you.

Spartacus: Rebellion: (Spartacus 2)
Spartacus: Rebellion: (Spartacus 2)
by Ben Kane
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous Finale!, 9 Sept. 2012
Spartacus Rebellion is the final book in Ben Kane's Spartacus series. In this book we find Spartacus commanding a massive slave army. Since escaping from the lupus with Crixus, Carbo and the rest of the gladiators, Spartacus has defeated every force the Romans have sent against him. With slaves flocking from all over Italy to join his army the Romans know that they have to destroy this ragtag slave army before it gets too powerful.

In the Roman senate, Crassus is determined to seize control of the Republic's armies and defeat the slaves himself. He believes that when he crushes Spartacus and his army, he will be the most powerful man in Rome and be able to establish himself as sole ruler of the Roman Empire. With his vast wealth and the incompetent performance of the Roman commanders so far, Crassus believes he is a step closer to fulfilling this dream but first he must destroy Spartacus before he becomes a danger to Rome itself.
Meanwhile all is not well within Spartacus's army. Crixus's defection with his men has highlighted the tensions that have surfaced in the slave army. While Spartacus has led them from one victory to another he struggles to keep his army together. His dream of leading his army to safety across the Alps isn't shared by all.

They wonder why they are running from the Romans, have they not defeated every army sent against them and why would they leave when they have unfettered access to the riches of Central Italy.

Spartacus knows that what ever happens, he will need every man he can find if he is to stand a chance against the Roman war machine, which will not stop until Spartacus and his army have been wiped from the face of the earth.
It must be extremely intimidating to take on one of the most famous stories, starring some of the most famous men in history and one that is so closely associated with the film starring Kirk Douglas but the author in my humble opinion has not only taken it on but has improved it!

The character of Spartacus is a complicated one, over the intervening years he has become everything from a freedom fighter, brigand to an early communist!! The author has written what feels like a more genuine version of Spartacus. The Spartacus we meet is a general who is a genius at the art of war, he can inspire a disparate group of men to achieve results that rocked the ancient world. Utterly ruthless he has no qualms about ordering the deaths of people who get in his way. He also inspires unwavering loyalty in his close followers and they will give up their lives to protect him.

I also got the impression that Spartacus and Crassus were not so different. Both men craved and enjoyed ultimate power and having control over so many lives and were quite happy to use force to keep that power.

The author also handles the enigmas of the Spartacus story, such as why did he turn back from the alps, why did the pirates not turn up to transport him safety and the end of the Spartacus story with what feels like a realistic and plausible reasons.

While the story of Spartacus is well known this is without doubt Ben Kane's Spartacus. You get the feeling that the author has really enjoyed writing these books and I must warn you that the final climatic battle and harrowing walk along the Via Appia is one of the most emotional scenes I have ever read. I cannot recommend this book enough, it is a fabulous ending to the series.

Avenger of Rome (Gaius Valerius Verrens 3)
Avenger of Rome (Gaius Valerius Verrens 3)
by Douglas Jackson
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book, 5 Sept. 2012
Avenger of Rome is the third book in Doug Jackson's series to feature the hero Gaius Valerius Verrens.

The Eastern Empire is in flames, Judea as risen up in rebellion and slaughtered its Roman garrison and the Parthian Empire, sensing Roman weakness has set it sights on placing its own puppet ruler on the buffer state of Armenia. Only one man can stop the Parthians, General Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo. Adored by his legions he has a plan to smash the power of Parthia once and for all. If he fails then the whole of the Eastern Empire could be lost.

In Rome, Corbulo is viewed with suspicion by the Nero and his court. He is too popular with the people and too powerful with the legions at his back, will he make an attempt for the throne? With Nero descending into madness and paranoia the Emperor needs someone to spy on and report back any treacherous actions or thoughts by Corbulo and his officers, that man is Gaius Valerius Verrens the Hero of Rome.

Valerius, our reluctant spy is sent out to the east as Corbulo's second in command. With his mission compromised before he even leaves Rome, Valerius must contend with Pirate attacks, shipwreaks, Mutiny, hostile officers and the beautiful Domitia, Corbulo's headstrong daughter. If he survives all that is thrown at him then he still has to survive Corbulo's plan to defeat Parthia and the paranoia of Nero and his cronies.

I have to say right off that I am a huge fan of Doug Jackson's Valerius series and this is the best of the series so far. After the more political settings of Defender of Rome it is good to see Valerius back where he belongs, leading troops and fighting Rome's enemies. This isn't to say that Jackson has completely jettisoned the political story. Between battles and fights we follow Nero and his court as fear and suspicion leads Nero to ever more brutal methods to maintain his tenuous grip on power and as madness grips him even his closest advisers start looking over their shoulders.

The main strength of this book are the battles scenes, Jackson writes them on an epic scale and the battle between Rome and Parthia is no exception. Throughout the book, the battles scenes are written with a pace and a realism and makes them very enjoyable to read. Valerius is a great character and he has a great supporting cast and I'm hoping Domitia is a character that sticks around.

This is a seriously good book and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series and as we edge ever closer to 69AD and the year of the 4 Emperors. It will be interesting to see where the author takes Valerius in this troubling time.

Renegade: Insurrection Trilogy Book 2
Renegade: Insurrection Trilogy Book 2
by Robyn Young
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff, 30 Aug. 2012
Renegade is the second book of Robyn's Insurrection Trilogy.

We find Robert Bruce in Ireland after resigning the Guardianship of Scotland. He is a traitor to the English crown and has betrayed his friends and fellow Knights of the Dragon. He is searching for the last mythical treasure of Britain, The Staff of Jesus. If he can find it before the English he believes he can use it as a bargaining tool in his dealing with Edward I but European politics intervene and threaten to place his old enemy John Balliol back on the throne of Scotland.

If this happens Bruce knows he will lose everything, so he has to make a tough decision. To survive, he has to turn his back on everything he holds dear and betray his friends and allies by entering the camp of Scotland's greatest enemy. As Scotland desperately fights for its life against the invading English, Bruce must bide his time and survive the suspicions of the English and the enmity of his follow Scots in his bid for the throne of Scotland.

I have to admit that I didn't know a lot about this period of history and as a diehard Englishman, Bruce isn't one of my favourite people but Robyn has woven a excellent story and it held my attention from page one.

One of the great strengths of this book is the great list of characters. It is quite hard to admire many of the men from this period, they were obsessed with their estates and wealth and would sacrifice their ideals and oaths to preserve them but Young's Edward I is majestic and terrifying in equal measure. The rebel leader William Wallace is a man of honour and a devil on the battlefield and even Bruce, the breaker of oaths is written with great sympathy. The supporting cast of scheming Earls, Royal princesses, ambitious knights and meddling churchman all bring extra depth to the story.

This is a story of ambition, betrayal, intrigue and war and Young brings to life the uncertainty of the time. The nobles are desperately trying to choose the right side and to increase their lands, peasants are just trying to survive the marauding armies ravaging the land and the King is trying to assert his believed rightful place as King of Britain. Bruce is ultimately betraying two kings in his quest for the throne. In stopping Balliol from returning, to trying to thwart Edward's bid for the crown he is walking a fine line that could end either with the crown of Scotland or the headsman's block.

I have always enjoyed Robyn's books, her Brethren series was excellent but this Insurrection trilogy in my opinion is a step up in her writing. The books has a great pace and she weaves together the different strands of the story so that it flows and is easy to read and in Bruce she has a great character who I look forward to seeing attempt to take the Throne of Scotland.

The Bleeding Land (Bleeding Land Trilogy 1)
The Bleeding Land (Bleeding Land Trilogy 1)
by Giles Kristian
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!, 27 Aug. 2012
I'm always a bit wary when one of my favourite authors decides to start a new project, especially when that author is Mr Viking himself, Giles Kristian. His Raven series of books have been some of my favourite books of the last few years, so when I heard he was starting a new series set during the English civil war my heart sank. The English Civil war is my least favourite period in history, as a secret Royalist I hate the fact that the dour and miserable Parliamentarians won and the religious intensity of the time puts me off as well. With this in mind I approached this book with not a little trepidation.
The story is set in 1642 and covers the build up to the first major battle of the war, Edgehill. We follow the fortunes of three siblings of the Rivers Family, Mun the eldest brother whose loyalty to his family and the cause of his king is unshakeable. Tom, a man driven by revenge who forsakes the protection of his family to stand alongside Parliament and finally Bess, their sister, who must watch the war rip her family apart while at the same time worrying about the future of her unborn baby.

With the country convulsed by religious conflict and arguments between the king and parliament it's time for men to pick sides. As war creeps ever closer the Rivers men ride off to war, leaving the women to protect Shear House, little realizing that the women would have to fight just as hard as the men.

I have to say right off that I loved this book, the one thing you can say about Mr Kristian is that he is a storyteller and in The Bleeding Land he tells a cracking story. He weaves the different strands of the Rivers story together and while in a book about war it would be very easy to concentrate on the men, he has created two great women characters in Lady Rivers and Bess. The great thing is that I never took sides, I liked Tom and Mun equally and even though I will always be a Royalist, I enjoyed reading about the Parliament's point of view. A great supporting cast gives the story its depth, with Prince Rupert and his devil dog a brilliant double act.

The battle scenes are suitable gory with plenty of blood and flying limbs and split open heads which is a bit of a Giles trademark. There are not many better writers of the joy and despair of battle and also he is brilliant at bringing the noise and sounds of battle alive.

"A Stuttering volley of Pistol and carbine fire spat at them and Mun felt the thrum of lead ripping though the air but nothing hit him and he raced on, Hector matching the Prince's mare for speed, his hooves adding to the rolling thunder, flinging mud."

I'm very much looking forward to the next two books and it will be interesting to see how Giles handles a character who inspires equal amounts of love and loathing in Oliver Cromwell.

With Bleeding Land Giles has proved that he isn't just a great writer of Historical fiction he is a great writer full stop.

Hereward: The Devil's Army: (Hereward 2)
Hereward: The Devil's Army: (Hereward 2)
by James Wilde
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book, 7 Aug. 2012
This is the second book in the Hereward series and in this book we see the English desperately trying to resist King William and his ruthless Norman nobles. Hereward and his small army have retreated to the Fens of Ely. Here they can strike out against William's agents and still be hidden by the waterways and marshes of the Fens. As more and more people join the rebellion Hereward must deal with the multiple problems of feeding and housing them and also keeping the disgruntled inhabitants of Ely happy.

As Hereward tries to assemble an army that can challenge William's grip on the country, he must deal with treachery from within his own camp, the hatred of his own father and the ever present threat of a Norman attack. With the help and advice from Alric and his brother Redwald he must come up with a plan of attack that will drive William from the throne of England.
I really enjoyed this book, it is a cracking story with a some very interesting threads though it. We see Hereward move from just being a war leader to a man weighed down by the responsibility of civilian leadership. Another separate thread is the story of the English nobles who have thrown their lot in with William and their struggle with their conscience and the desire to maintain their position.

It has a great cast of characters and Wilde has written two very interesting main characters. Hereward is the `hero' but is struggling to be that hero the English want and need. The inner demon that drives his anger and bloodlust is constantly trying to get out and as Hereward realizes that to defeat William he has to be like him even the priest Alric struggles to control him. The second character is the Viking Harard Redteeth. He is the `enemy' who fights for William and has sworn to kill Hereward but is a man of honour who abhors the Norman way of fighting. It is a strange combination because at times you dislike the `hero' and really like the `enemy'
This is a cracking story and is set in an interesting period of time. It is a time were we are taught that the English accepted the rule of the new rulers and William brought law and order to the country. As James Wilde's books show, The English fought the Normans for many years after the Conquest and I eagerly await the next book in the saga.

Price: £1.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 4 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Untruths (Kindle Edition)
I have to say this isn't my normal reading material. I'm not a fan of horror or dark Sci-Fi but this collectiopn of short stories may of changed my mind. It starts strongly with 'A Love Story' a futuristic look at medical use of biotech and what would drive a man to under go the procedure. There are lots of stories on serial Killers, medical horrors and Apocalypse futures.
My favourite stories are Saint Charlie, The Hereafter, and then I woke up.
I really hope the author expands some of these stories in the future.

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