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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Stronghold (Tomes of the Dead)
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VINE VOICEon 13 August 2010
Set during the reign of Edward (Longshanks) the first of England, this offering takes the reader to a time where warfare was fought as savegly against the people as it was against the invaders in this offering from Paul Finch. He gets the feel right for the time period and with characters who are as much villain as hero it sets a tone for a war of attrition that no side can afford. Add to the mix zombies and a siege and you know that its something that is quite cinematic. It's well written, it's got crisp description and it's a stand alone title that makes it easy for people to dip into. Whilst this won't be for all fans of Urban Fantasy it's a title that will please a lot of readers who enjoy a dip into Historical Fiction alongside their zombies. An offering I really enjoyed.
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on 30 October 2010
The Tomes of The Dead series from Abbadon books may have a classic pulp sensibility but it uses some of the strongest horror writers around to deliver its smorgasbord of zombie goodness. Writers like Gary McMahon, Simon Bestwick and Weston Ochse have all delivered highly entertaining books in the series so far and now they are joined by one of my favourite horror writers, Paul Finch.

Stronghold takes us far back into late 13th Century Wales where those pesky English are cutting a swathe of violence through the indigenous population. The taking of Grogen Castle and the subsequent physical and sexual abuse of the lady of the Castle, Countess Madalyn and her daughter Gwendolyn are the final straws. With her daughter held prisoner Madalyn seeks help from the practitioners of the old magic, the fabled Welsh Druids, and it's not long before armies of the dead are rising up to reclaim the castle.

What follows is a gruesome account of the battle for Grogen Castle between the English defenders and the newly risen Welsh zombie army. It's a veritable dictionary of anatomical terms as body parts are skewered, severed, chewed and burnt in increasingly bizarre ways.

Paul Finch utilises his excellent skill to weave historical detail into a horrific storyline. So not only do you get a full biology lesson but a thorough understanding of 13th century siege methods. It's all excellent fun delivered in the worst possible taste fitting the series mentality perfectly.

My only criticism is that with such a broad canvas of the Welsh/English conflict the possibilities of extending the zombie battle onto a larger battlefield existed. Instead we are faced with a fairly small and claustrophobic encounter that feels like it should be part of a bigger campaign. I would also have liked to focus more on the druids and the "old magic" as this felt like it only skimmed the surface of what Finch could be capable of in that area. The mystical druidic tradition of Wales has huge potential in the hands of a writer of Paul Finch's ability but maybe he is saving that for another day.

None of which matters at all of course as this series is about excitement, the thrill of the chase and zombies and on those fronts the book delivers perfectly. So for history lovers with a thirst for some zombie carnage this is highly recommended.
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on 2 March 2011
Paul Finch's entry into the Tomes of the Dead series takes place in the bloodthirsty 13th century. The Welsh and the English are at war and doing their best to extermine one another from the land.

After an English lord commits a particularly brutal spate of atrocities, the now-despoted Welsh Countess responds by turning to a forbidden power - the druids and their black cauldron (make no mistake, this has nothing else in common with Disney!). The English soon find themselves pinned down in a remote fortress with legions of the undead on the move...

There's not much more to this book. There's a wee drop of character development and an equally miniscule bit of plot - but, hopefully, that's not the reason you're looking to this book anyway. Stronghold is fantasy military zombie porn - page after page of lavish description of the gruesome undead inflicting & receiving gruesome wounds. Often with war machines. Mr. Finch has a loving attention to detail and his well-researched setting proves a great home for his wild imagination. This book is shameless fun.
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on 13 February 2014
It is 1295 A.D., and there are rebellions to be put down in Wales, and Coroctocus la Hors, a marcher Baron and Earl of Clun is just the human monster to do it. He has convinced the beautiful Countess Madalyn of Lyr to talk the locals into putting down their arms and surrendering. Unfortunately, she's been played, she's betrayed and the defeated peasant army is slaughtered down to the last man, and then she and her daughter Gwendolyn, are then beaten and gang raped.

Coroctocus then "frees" Madalyn and informs her that she should make sure that she puts to rest all further rebellions, and if she does, her daughter will only become the plaything of one of his henchmen. Unfortunately for Coroctocus Madalyn knows powerful people in low places. So she heads off to see Gwyddon, a powerful Druid that up until recently had been Madalyn's nemesis, and who is as evil as Coroctocus. By the novel's ending, this is a move that will end well for nobody.

After letting the ravaged Countess Madalyn go, Coroctocus decides to march to the Castle Grogen, and to destroy, rape, pillage, murder, and torture everything and everybody that he encounters along the way.

As the novel progresses we meet the principals of this novel, including Navarre, Coroctocus's second-in-command, stalwart warrior Ulbert FitzObern and his son Ranulf, the young knight who will serve as a form of moral center and commentator of the novel and on the things that Coroctocus does throughout this novel. Both are disgusted by Coroctocus's deeds, but are pretty powerless to do anything about them.

There is also Garbofasse, a huge brutish psychopath, an anti-Conan, who heads a troupe of mercenaries, and Zacharius, a doctor, who despite his flaws, and he has plenty, who takes his doctoring seriously and is dedicated to saving as many lives as possible, and who was certainly worth more pages than he was given. In fact, Finch is pretty good at his characterizations, with Coroctocus as the Dick Cheney of the novel, Ranulf, and Madalyn, who realizes that she has put into motion events that are more destructive than Coroctocus himself, are all standouts.

When Coroctocus arrives at the seemingly impregnable Grogen, he finds it totally deserted. Then as Coroctocus's army gets settled, the Countess shows up with HER new army and the siege begins, in what will soon be an all-out siege based action novel in which no quarter is asked, and none will be given.

Finch clearly has a knack for action, and at times, this book reads like a Warhammer novel, but with zombies, and set during 1200's. And that leads us to the type of zombies here. The 'Tombs of the Dead' series never really played it conservatively with their zombies. They are not the ramshackle and shambling cannibals that Romero and Russo gave us; these monsters are just so much nastier. They are the true walking dead, invulnerable to any amount of destruction that is rained down upon them. Not even headshots or decapitations slow them down, and they don't just want to eat you, they also want to tear you apart. NO death is easy, you will all die screaming, and then you will arise again, to kill all those you have left behind. Imagine a historical action/horror novel that is channeling a Warhammer novel as written by Shaun Hudson who is working from a story by Lucio Fulchi, and you'll come pretty close to what Paul Finch gives us in "Stronghold".

The problem, for me, is that this is a novel in desperate need of a Glossary. There is tons of mid-evil weaponry used here, and while some is described, although a lot is not, but even when described, it was often vaguely, and I was still pretty much left in the dust. Maybe for the British audience, that this novel was originally written for, this stuff was more understandable, but for this Yank, I was soon lost. Not that this held me back much, as Finch usually concentrates on the personal, and the hand-to-hand destruction that is occurring, and the internecine warfare that occurs between both sides of the combaters, and make no mistake, disagreements will get bloody.

The irony here is that Coroctocus has all the latest in weapons of mass destruction technology to back him up, but as the dead rise, and then march on him, his own technology is used against him. And as he has killed, and destroyed, to cause fear, and to break the rebellious, it is these very victims, the men, women, children, and soldiers that he willingly sacrificed, that will come back to destroy him and all he will have worked for.

You just gotta love the irony the whole novel is drenched in. "Stronghold" is a novel that deromanticizes everything that most of us here in American have ever heard, or learned, about knighthood and its practitioners, and if some real money where thrown behind it, would make a helluva movie.

One last note, I loved the cover that the American paperback came wrapped in, a true Lucio Fulchi crossed with Richard Powers nightmare.
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on 16 September 2010
This is the second book from the Tomes of The Dead that i have read. Both while different from my normal zombie fare they have been absolute crackers.
This story is based in 1295AD, so it is a bit of a historical tale but very loosley based on characters of the time. It also takes in Celtic mthyology and some Welsh as well. It all adds to the story which is very well writen.
There is no let up in the action from the initial slaughter that starts the story, to the siege of the castle, it is 100mph reading. The characters are fleshed out as the tale goe's on so there are no boring sections to detract from the action.
The author has obviously researched this period as the weapons and tactics are spot on and believable.
This is a book i would throughly recomend and the twist at the end is a cracker.Tomes of the Dead: The Words of their Roaring
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on 21 August 2011
This is a fantastic read - the right mix of excitement and horror, with a splash of military history added for good measure. It is an action-packed yarn that would make an absolutely amazing film. Think Braveheart battle scenes mixed with super speedy and dexterous zombies and you have got the general gist.

The hero is not perfect and the victims are far from innocent and at times, you are not sure who you are willing on to succeed. Not being all that clued up on castle architecture, I found the castle diagram at the beginning really useful and I often flicked back to it when different parts of the castle were mentioned. It added another dimension and really helped you to imagine what was happening at the same time as reading it.

It definitely passed the time and now all I want to know is...when is the film coming out!
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on 24 May 2012
Can't remember how I stumbled across this book but I'm glad I did.

If you're tired of the usual zombie style books, where man grabs gun and food and run to the Hill killing zombies all the way, then this book is definitely for you.

The scene is set in Medieval time, in that timeframe people were used to Gore and the characters in this book would definitely the definition of that timeframe, this book will make you feel hopeless and drag you within the characters of the book.
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on 22 April 2014
A zombie book with a difference,set in days of old,medieval times,a very gory and bloody book,well worth the price highly recommend
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