ROBERTS GOES ALL TOOTH, NAIL AND RITCHIE WITH THE BLACK PRINCE

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The Black Prince CoverOne of the joys of being English, is whichever foreign country you may be visiting, the urge to apologise on behalf of the actions of your nation is strong. Throughout history we have oppressed, enslaved, conquered, pillaged, waged holy crusades and generally stuck our noses into all manner of societies. Even to this day it provides a rich source of material for various TV  programmes. The History Channel  currently has a lighted-hearted series hosted by the comedian Al Murray entitled, ‘ Why Does Everyone Hate The English?’.A brief look at the history books should enlighten anyone.

I raided my own somewhat spotty knowledge of history when presented with this month’s book for review, its The Black Prince, by Adam Roberts, published by Unbound (www.unbound.com ) on the 4th October and being featured here as part of the Random Things Black Prince blog tour.

Adapted from a screenplay by Anthony Burgess a British comedic author, whose best known work is A Clockwork Orange. Adam Robert’s novel is set during the reign of Edward the Third and part of the Hundred Years War. This isn’t a period I’m familiar with, my school learned history apparently having moved from the Norman conquest directly to Henry the Eighth, so I was interested to learn what I could about the Black Prince and the war for France.

Beginning at Cressy, the book takes the story forward using a large cast of characters. The titular Black Prince, a foot soldier called Black George, priests, clerics, villagers, miners and gentlewomen. Interspersed among the prose are news bulletin style story breaks, poetry and sections described as,’ camera eye’, which I initially took to be part of some kind of news footage but now think is more of a psychic scrying type of phenomenon. Its hard to know where screenplay and novel unite or differ. There are some modern images such as the Pathe cockerel from 20th Century newsreels, which the author refers to. Its all very Guy Ritchie.

Poetry aside, and I know ballads were a form of oral news-feed in medieval times, but I have no time for poetry in novels, and a slight excess of religion which is also to not to my taste; the style changes made it, in my opinion, more appetizing to modern tastes and less of a dry historical account.  Intermittently following the fortunes of characters from differing walks of life gave the story depth, thus you get a glimpse at the events from lots of angles. There were perhaps too many different stories as sometimes the narrative felt in-cohesive and meandering? History very rarely records the stories of the foot soldiers and bit players of life and so it was good to see their short, often brutal, existences detailed.

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Adam Roberts

As for its Brutality, this is not a book for the fainthearted or squeamish. When we talk these days of being chivalrous we think of good manners and kindness. In medieval times it referred to a system of behavior knights and highborn ladies should adhere to.  There was much talk of chivalry in the book but one could be horrified by the wanton cruelty and disregard for life.  No mercy is shown, nor quarter given. To me the characters seemed the opposite of chivalrous. One of the lords says,” A fine word chivalry. It means appropriate to the chevalier. And what is a chevalier? A man on a horse.” Whilst we may have been deluded by accounts of King Arthur and his knights, written as romanticized tales long after the events, I think the level of barbarity and graphic violence may shock some readers.

This the 16th book by English author, academic and critic Adam Roberts (www.adamroberts.com), his others a mix of science fiction, collected short stories, non-fiction, parody and academic works, include the prize winning Glass House (2012). While his most recent novel was The Real Town Murders (2017). He is the professor of 19th Century literature at Royal Holloway, University College London and  currently lives in the South East of England.

The Black Prince of the title, Edward of Woodstock is the is the son of Edward the Third and therefore the Prince of Wales. He never becomes king as he died before his father. He won his spurs in his first battle at the age of 16. Pursuing an English claim to reign over France his army marched across France waging war and laying siege to towns. Known as the Black Prince, his name is linked historically to cruelty. Most notably in his sack of the town of Limoges, where it is said he had the entire population of the city was killed, more than three thousand people. However, recently a letter written by the Prince was discovered in a Spanish archive. It was written three days after the sack of Limoges and details the prisoners taken and reduces the estimated death toll to nearer three hundred. So maybe Edward of Woodstock has undeservedly been cast as an evil figure in history.  Whatever the truth is this novel makes you realise that if war didn’t claim you, plague or poverty may still.

This book will be a good read for those who like their historical fiction raw in tooth and claw or grew up on the children’s books “Horrible Hostories”, personally I don’t see it being a recommended text for schools however!

Reviewed By Georgina Murphy

To see what the other reviewers thought of the book, find their websites on the poster below and go and visit them.

Black Prince Blog Tour poster

BEECH PROVES THERE’S NO TAMING THIS LITERARY LIONESS

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thumbnail_Lion Tamer front cover finalWishes are an amazing facet of life. They help us get through tough times, allowing is to believe in and live for something in the future that will make us happier. There are different ways of wishing, some people wish upon a star, others make one on blowing out a candle or pulling apart the  wishbone of a chicken.

It is often said; be careful what you wish for. As we found out last week. For a couple of months now myself and my wife have played with an idea about adding to our furry four-legged brood, by getting another cat. Well a month ago, we found one and it arrived last week. Now we have a fur ball  lightning bolt who seems to have been crossed with a free runner and a football hooligan. This month’s book also features cats, big ones and a story about  long held wishes and what can happen when they eventually come true. The book is “The Lion Tamer Who Lost” by Louise Beech, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk), on the 30th September.

Ben and Andrew meet by chance in the local library. Ben is there to write an essay for university and Andrew is doing research for his book. What follows is an intense relationship which takes over both their lives, but no sooner has it begun then Andrew is struck down by Leukemia and a simple blood test reveals more than just love and lust between the two men. Because of this they part company and Ben, driven by the bigoted views and the wandering crotch of his old man, follows a promise he made to his dying mum to go to Africa to help at a lion reserve. Andrew also made a wish when his was a young boy and keeps it in a silver box. Despite the miles between them and Ben’s relationships with a lioness called Lucy and Esther a fellow volunteer, he can’t forget his feelings for Andrew. Six months on Ben and Esther’s relationship forces them home to where they must make some life choices together. But what of Andrew? has he moved on? Will he be happy to see Ben and can Ben also be upfront with Esther  and his family about his sexuality?

This is the second of Louise’s books that I’ve read, the other being her debut novel, How To Be Brave. What I realised having read both, is that she has this amazing power to take simple stories and make them into heart-warming, emotionally driven tales that stay with the reader well after you’ve put down the book.

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Louise Beech

Whether she’s describing the view of witnessing an African sunrise or the disparity between different generations of working-class English families, every character and scene is so vivid and believable you can’t but feel you are there or say to yourself, “yes, I’ve been in a situation like that.”

A prime example can be found in her first book, which had an annoying little child as the main character in it. You do eventually warm to her character and to the difficulties she was facing, as she comes to terms with a diabetes diagnosis. This is thanks to Louise’s talent which proves she is a writer with immense skill far beyond the four books she has produced.

Diabetes is also a theme running through this book, with Andrew being the one dealing with his body’s wayward sugar levels. This comes down to the fact that Louise’s own daughter is a diabetic and her experiences come through n both books, having not read the others I can’t say if its a theme in all her books. In the Lion Tamer Who Lost, she gives you two strong males who are very much in love and weaves an emotional story of the bond between two gay men and shows no matter how hard you try, once you’ve met your destined mate, nothing is going to come between you. Well almost nothing…

Yes, like her debut novel, this book, really tugged at my heart strings and I dare any male out there, not to feel some twinges while reading it.

As for its length, at a tad over three hundred pages, it’s light and easy to read, although some of the chapters could be a bit confusing as they jump back and forth between the main characters and various times. There is a lot going on in the book: gay love, heterosexual relations and inter family relationships. At times, it does come across like a bit of a kitchen sink drama, with shades of an episode of Channel Fours “Queer As Folk”, but Beech never lets it get too in your face.

This is English Author Louise Beech’s (www.louisebeech.co.uk) fourth book, her othersLioness being How To Be Brave (2015), The Mountain In My Shoe (2016) and Maria In The Moon (2017). She lives In Hull with her family and when she’s not writing, she can be found working front of house at The Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play “Afloat” was performed in 2012.

So, if you are looking for loving crafted,  heart-warming and page turning read to welcome in the darkening evenings of the approaching winter, go pick up a copy  at your local book shop or download a copy. Then afterwards read Louise’s other books and prepare to be taken on a magical tour through the wonderful imagination and writings of one the North of England’s rising literary stars.

 

This book was reviewed as part of a Random Things blog tour, see the poster below for the other reviewers and visit their blogs to see what they thought.

The Lion Tamer Blog Tour Poster Final

SYMON AND SHEPHARD SET TO GATHER A NEW FLOCK IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE

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Overkill CoverWhile preparing to write this month’s third book review, I discovered that the New Zealand National Badminton team were once called “The Black Cock’s” but had to change the name after a year due to complaints. It also reminded me that I start my new badminton season this week, after the summer break.

But it’s the fine women of New Zealand that we look to in this review. They were the first females in the world to get the vote in 1893, while it is still the only country in the world where all the highest positions in government have been held by women simultaneously, in 2006. This month’s book features another determined and resilient antipodean woman, her name is Sam Shephard and she’s the protagonist in a new series of books (to be published outside New Zealand) by Vanda Symon. The first one is Overkill published by Orenda books (www.orendabooks.co.uk )  on the 30th August.

Sam Shephard is the solitary local constable in the small town of Matuara on the South Island. It’s a peaceful one-horse town, where the biggest problem crime wise is speeding. That is, until local woman Gaby Knowes goes missing leaving her young daughter home alone. When her husband Lockie discovers her missing and then finds a suicide note and pills in the kitchen sink, he calls the police.  From the outset Sam knows there’s a possible conflict of interest involving her and Gaby’s husband, she was his last serious relationship before he married Gaby and their split wasn’t exactly harmonious.

Whilst the missing woman’s family vehemently insist that she had no reason to take her own life, Sam must follow the clues and treat it as a suicide.  A search of the area surrounding the rural property provides no sign of Gaby, until late into the night when a team of local volunteers searching the nearby Mataura river find a body. By the time Sam realizes that it isn’t a suicide as the family have claimed but something more sinister, most of the crime scene evidence in the house has been compromised by Gaby’s well-meaning mother and her over-zealous use of a hoover and duster. As Sam calls in the reinforcements from the nearby town of Gore, her previous history with Lockie gets her suspended and marked up as a suspect. Of course, as with any good heroine, this doesn’t deter her from seeking the truth behind the overzealous act of violence and this puts her on a direct collision course with her superiors as well as the locals and jeopardises her career. Can she find the killer, before he strikes again, and get to the bottom of the murder in this quiet little back water of New Zealand?

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Vanda Symon

From the outset, this book had me intrigued, the title itself is a fine marketing ploy that will allow this new female crime stopper to stand cover to cover with her fellow counterparts and fight equally for shelf space with the seasoned pro’s from around the world.

Overkill!!! The word itself fires the imagination, making any casual peruser wonder as to what the story could be about and the mysteries lying within the darkly obscure covers and spine. What we get is a down to earth plain Jane copper whose hasn’t got all the answers but is believable and is no Lara Croft. No, she’s a real girl next door, who sounds like any half decent female police officer you might find on a dark windy rain swept night in any part of the world, just doing her job. Whose night, at any moment, could go from the mundane to the adrenaline pumping.

The story its self is excellently written and superbly plotted with enough misdirects and twists, to keep new fans happy. Especially rewarding is the reason for the murder, which comes out of left field and almost had me applauding its simplicity along with its potentially far reaching consequences.

 

The descriptive writing of Symon is fantastic too and having only ever been as far as MatauraMelbourne myself, New Zealand is somewhere I want to visit, and this book paints a picture far more beautiful and tranquil than the west of Ireland and Yorkshire moors at times. In Overkill, Symon has proved she can create more terror in this little piece of heaven, then the all to often relied upon back drops of bustling American or international cities.

This is New Zealand Author and radio host Vanda Symons (www.vandasymon.com) fifth book. Four of which feature her heroine Sam Shephard, which have all reached number one in the New Zealand bestseller lists. Overkill was first published in New Zealand in 2007, The others which hopefully Orenda won’t be too long in publishing are, Ringmaster (2008), Containment (2009) and Bound (2011) and her fifth book (not featuring Shephard) is the stand-alone psychological thriller The Faceless (2012). When not writing, Symon can be found gardening in her home in Dunedin or talking part locally and nationally in her lifelong hobby of fencing.

Overkill is what Symon has managed to avoid by delivering a concise and well-paced crime novel in no more than two hundred and seventy pages. For less than the standard over hyped big-name bestsellers, which seem to play more on substance than style. So, if you want a bright, funny and down to earth fresh faced detective to get behind as the nights start drawing in, then get down to your local book shop or download a copy.

 

To see what the rest of the bloggers thought of this book, check the poster below and over the next four weeks visit their sites to find out.

Overkill Blog Tour Poster

YOU’LL NEED MORE THAN A FEW FAMILIAR FACES TO GET OUT OF BELLEVUE SQUARE

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Bellevue Square CoverFor centuries we have been fascinated by the idea of there being a double of ourselves out roaming  the world somewhere. More recently we have attributed the German word Doppelganger and attached a supernatural element to the phenomenon. Your biologically unrelated twin, previously referred to as a ‘fetch’ is also sometimes referred to as your ‘evil twin’. Nowadays with the advances in technology, it is possible to use facial recognition software to search the internet for your ‘twin stranger’ as websites such as http://www.twinstrangers.net refers to it. This site alone has claimed numerous successful searches for twin strangers, including finding three twins for its founder!!!

Twins, Twin Strangers, Doppelgangers or more than   just uncanny biological likenesses play a part in this months second book, its Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill and published by No Exit Press (www.noexit.co.uk) on the 15th August.

Jean Mason, is a happily married Torontonian bookseller, with  two children, an interfering Jewish mother-in-law, oh, and a  doppelganger. Curious about reports of her double is living locally, Jean sets out to search for her. Having found a name and the locale for her double, she goes and lurks in areas where her twin has been spotted. There she meets and befriends a witness, Katerina who tells her a tale of an evil twin who steals a woman’s child. Jean starts to hang out in a local park, the titular Bellevue Square, where she befriends the local homeless population and bribes them for sightings of her double, which of course they are only too happy to supply. As the obsession with locating and meeting her twin takes over,  it starts to have an effect on  her business and personal life. At this point Jeans behaviour becomes obsessive and it all gets a bit surreal. When Katerina is murdered and Jean is found at the scene she identifies herself by her double’s name. It’s here we discover there is a medical condition called Autoscopy from the Greek for ‘self’ and ‘watching’ , where the sufferer don’t recognize themselves i.e their reflection in a mirror or window but believe it to be another person. Is her twin all in Jean’s head? Is Jean all in someone else’s head?

I was intrigued by the back cover blurb of Bellevue Square when I was sent it by the publisher to review for this ten day blog tour. Having an interest in thrillers and the paranormal, I was looking forward to this read. However, here I met the first of many obstacles to my understanding and appreciation of this book. Firstly, Jean uses technology all the time. She messages and calls people and uses Skype to call her sick sister. But, when searching for this mysterious lookalike, she goes all old school and prowls the neighbourhood, yes using technology would have made it a very short book, but in this day and age it felt a little strange.

Michael Redhill

Michael Redhill

Then  Jean starts using her twin’s name at the scene of Katerina’s murder. Here we go, I thought. She’s going to be implicated in the killing. I couldn’t have been more wrong, instead the novel veers off in another tangent and starts to delve  into the treatment of mental health problems and from here it all gets seriously existential. What is real? What is in our heads? My thoughts were drawn to films such as  Being John Malkovich and Shutter Island for parallels.

 

This is multi-award winning Canadian author, Poet and playwright Michael Redhill’s (michaelredhill.wordpress.com) ninth book, his other books include Martin Sloane (2001), Fidelity (2003), Consalation(2006), Saving Houdini(2014). He’s also written  four books under the pseudonym Inger Ashe Wolfe, featuring the detective Hazel Micallef, they include The Taken(2007), The Calling (2008), The Night Bell(2015) and The Door In The River(2012), he lives with his family in Toronto.

The more I read of the book, the less I cared about Jean and was starting to lose interest in the story. I would’ve liked to have learned more about the pre twin Jean before the story began to unfold further. But maybe there was no pre twin Jean? It kind of felt like Redhill couldn’t make his mind up either. As this is part of a triptych, perhaps I would be able make more sense of things after reading the other two books?

Its certainly an interesting concept. I did like the way he described characters of the

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Al Waxman Statue in Bellevue Park

homeless in Bellevue Square, although I felt sometimes like he was writing a political statement regarding current problems with homelessness and the provision of mental health services. Redhill constantly turns the tables in this novel, altering your understanding of what you read a few pages before and took as real and now making it a lie. I was beginning to “doubt my own mind” a little by the end!

As for the title of the book, there is actually a Bellevue square in Toronto, it’s a small park in the heart of Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood. Among its many talking points, is a life size bronze statue of Toronto-born actor and director Al Waxman, best known for his role as Larry King in the television series “King of Kensington”.

All In all, this was a thought provoking read. One for the deep thinkers amongst you but not for lovers of paranormal or mystery stories or,  it seemed, me.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

Don’t forget to read what the other reviewers on this blog tour thought by visiting their sites listed below.

Bellevue Square Blog Tour poster

BOUCHARD’S SALT OF THE SEA FLOWS SMOOTHLY WITH A CREW OF MEMORABLE CHARACTERS.

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We Are Salt Of Sea CvrAccording to the Canadian author John Ralston Saul, “In European tradition, rivers are seen as divisions between peoples. But in Aboriginal tradition, rivers are seen as the glue, the highway, the linkeage between people, not the separation. And that’s the history of Canada: our rivers and lakes were our highways…”.  Without Rivers and lakes, Canadians would never have found the sea and what lies beyond the horizons, or for that matter, the beautiful Gaspe Penisula on the southern shores of the St. Laurence river.

The author of this months book discovered the peninsula  ten years ago when she took up sailing. It’s where  this month’s book is set and all but one of the characters come and go by water to it. The book is “We Were The Salt Of The  Sea” by Roxanne Bouchard, published by Orenda Books (www.Orendabooks.co.uk) Last April.

Montreal woman Catherine Day is advised by her doctor to take some much needed time out, so she packs her bags, boards her beloved boat and sets sail up the coast to Caplan on the Gaspe Peninsula. There, according a letter posted in  Key West, she’ll find her lost mother, the woman who gave her up for adoption thirty years ago.  Shortly after she arrives in the remote fishing village, a body of is found tangled in fishing nets off the coast. It’s Marie Garant, her birth mother. The local police launch an investigation headed by newly arrived former Quebec detective Joaquim Morales, who’s moved to the area at the behest of his artist wife, believing their struggling marriage needs nurturing in the quiet and relaxed tempo of life on the peninsula. But poor Joaquim has literally no time to enjoy the surroundings or sedate pace of life, let alone unpack. As, he is thrust headlong into the investigation to find the cause of Marie Garant’s death, a woman who was even more mysterious in life than in death. As the search for answers by both parties moves forward, helped and hindered by the local characters, Catherine tries to find out more about her mother and where she went on her regular voyages from the safe-haven of Caplan’s harbour and about the identity of her father. Morales like Catherine, is also on a journey of personal discovery . Can they find the answers to their own personal quests and will new love and new starts be the answers?

Numerous other readers have praised Bouchard’s poetic style of writing, and this style is very much apparent from the opening page. I felt it wasn’t so much poetic, but smooth flowing prose like the current of a river, that gradually takes the reader on a journey from start to finish.

On top of that, credit must surely go to David Warriner’s translation, without whose excellent skill, the afore mention flowing prose would have been lost in translation and left the book high and dry on this side of the Atlantic.  I did wonder after finishing it – if the characters were actually speaking French or English but written by a francaphone author, as it never says in the book, but assumes the reader automatically knows. According to Wikipedia, French is the primary language of the region, so that answers that.

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Roxanne Bouchard (Le Devoir)

One of the best things about this book is its characters. If the prose is the current moving the story forward, then the characters are the boats on which the reader is transported. I’ve read numerous books where the story is told by stereotypical cardboard cutout characters, that any writer can half-heartedly fit into the story like a jigsaw piece. But a true storyteller uses unique standout characters who embrace you from your first meeting till your last and this is what you get with the plethora of individual characters in We We The Salt Of The Sea.

As for the two lead characters there are some stereo typical sides to them, Morales, theGaspe Peninsula middle aged detective attempting to deal with  his mid-life crisis , marital problems and the investigation. He’s unique in that one really wonders how many Mexican cops there are in Montreal? I did feel for him and the way he was treated by the locals. He also, it appears, will be a recurring character. Maybe he’s supposed to be the main one in this book, although this isn’t really clear. But I understand Bouchard is working on her next book which will also be set is the Gaspie Region and will also feature Morales.

As for Catherine, we see characters like hers popping up regularly in literature. A mid thirties woman ,discovering their wanderlust and the truth behind her estranged mother – is a theme in  many books these days. But the real characters are the local fishermen and townsfolk, each one is unique in their own way.

This is Canadian Author Roxanne Bouchard’s (www.roxannebouchard.com) fifth book and the first to be translated into English – her others include Whiskey And Parables, The Slap and Crematorium Circus. She’s also written two essays on Canadian Military and a love monologue for the theatre. She’s a graduate of the University of Montreal and has been teaching literature at Cegep De Jliette a college in the Lanaudiere region of Canada since 1994. Inspiration for the book came ten years ago when Bouchard decided to find her sea legs and learned to sail on the St. Laurence and then the open waters off the Gaspe Peninsula.

So if you are looking for a heart warming book, full of well rounded and loveable characters, then this is the book to upload on your kindle or stow in your carry-on luggage for a great summer read.

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Sorry if we’ve been a bit quite at the Library Door for the past month, but we suffered a technical issue behind the door (The Laptop Died). We’re back now and normal service has resumed, with book reviews and blog tours winging their way to you over next couple of months.

Adrian

 

FERNLEY’S SECOND NOVEL LEAVES ME IN A STATE OF FLUX AND CAPACITY FOR AN ENDING

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Uber Alles coverWhen H.G. Wells published his novella The Time Machine in 1836, time travel was still in the realms of fantasy. With the development of nuclear and quantum physics over the past one hundred and eighty years, the idea of travelling back and forward in time is perceived to be closer than ever. If, it hasn’t already been achieved in some small aspect, by a government or corporation.

In literature we’ve certainly seen authors grasp the theory and run with it, considering the likes of Michael Crichton’s 1999 time travel adventure Timeline and more recently Audrey Niffeneggers’s 2003 book, the Time Traveler’s Wife. As with most things, there are good and bad uses for scientific advances; take Crichton’s other big literary and film success Jurassic Park and it’s print sequel Jurassic World. This month’s book explores the idea of what would happen if a group of Hitler’s most trusted military leaders got their hands on time travel. Its America Uber Alles by Jack Fernley and is published by Unbound (www.unbound.com)  on the 3rd May 2018.

Its 1945 in Berlin and the Allies and Russians are closing in on the city. Hitler and his  generals are facing defeat. General Robert Ritter Von Griem and Flying Ace, Hanna Reitsch are summoned to Hitler’s bunker. There, they are ordered to proceed to a facility on the outskirts of the city where a group of highly skilled Stormtroopers, Historians and Engineers are waiting. Their mission is to travel back in time and change history by making one of the allies a German state, founded on the beliefs of the Third Reich. In December 1776, George Washington and his army are struggling to overcome mounting losses, low morale  and defeat  at the hands of the British in the American War of Independence, aided by a large force of German mercenaries, led by the mysterious Baron Von Steuben aka Ritter Von Griem and Hanna Reitsch. When one of Washington’s most trusted lieutenants Edward Hand, an Irish Doctor is kidnapped, he is asked by Von Steuben to introduce him to Washington and through their knowledge of American history Von Stuben and his troops start  to turn the tide of the war against the British. But as the German influence over the Americans becomes all encompassing, Edward Hand witnesses first hand their barbarity and has grave doubts about the Germans. Can he convince the fledgling congress and his own leaders and friends of the danger they are in? Or will Von Stueben and Reitsch and their ever growing support achieve their sole objective of changing the future?

When I first heard the title of this book, I thought it was about Uber and modern America. What a surprise I got when I read the blurb and it dawned on me what a coincidence its publication was, considering the  social and political change sweeping America at this time under Trump.

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Jack Fernley (AKA Wayne Garvie)

 

What Fernley gives us in this book is a historical conspiracy thriller that will have readers chomping at the bit from the first page to find the answer to the huge “Will they won’t they” conundrum at the heart of this book. The main thing we take from reading  this book, is the vast amount historical research that Fernley has put into this work. When you add his edgy and engrossing story telling, you realize how on the mark he is. As a result the reader is drawn into a parallel world where modern ideals and warfare clash with old world thinking and technologies.

I did like this book and found it a real page turner, but there are a couple things that are a big let down. For one there is no apparent protagonist in the book, it’s only midway through it that I started to get a feeling I should be rooting for Edward Hand, but he disappears for a good bit of the book and really only comes to the fore at the end. So in a sense, its like watching a big Premiership football match  with a lot of well constructed characters up against each other.

The second and biggest problem lies in the fact that there’s no ending. From page one you are on a vehicle which moves at speed to one of two conclusions, either the Germans succeed or Edward Hand and the few friends he has left, thwart their mission. But after three hundred and forty nine pages the whole thing falls off a cliff and stops dead. There is no outcome and the reader is left wondering what happens next.

The last chapter sees George Washington, Edward Hand and Thomas Jefferson meeting a groupH.G.Wells Time Machine Cvr of Native Americans to try raise a new American army, but nothing is mentioned of whether they succeed or if Von Stueben and the Nazi’s do. I can only assume Fernely is planning a second book, with a conclusion where a new America under German rule is formed and the outcome of World War Two is altered or maybe he’ll introduce another group of time travelers from the future lead by the allies. These I would look forward to, but if there is no such thing then I’m very disappointed.

This is English Author Jack Fernley’s (@thejackfernely) second historical thriller, his first was, The Babylon Revelation published in 2013. Jack Fernley is actually the pen name of Wayne Garvie a leading British television executive whose worked on such programes as Strictly Come Dancing, Top Gear and The Crown.

So, if you are looking for a great read with the plotting and pace of any of Robert Harris or Bernard Cornwell’s books then jump in your Delorean and drive to your local bookshop or download a copy, but be warned the ending is a big let down and needs the reader to decide the outcome.

KRISTIAN AND LANCELOT BRING ARTHURIAN LEGEND TO THE GoT GENERATION

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Lancelot CovrIn twenty-four hours’ time, my husband Adrian and I, will be on the road heading for Devon, in the South west of England. It’s the home of cream teas and the accompanying fiercely fought battle of cream on jam or jam on cream? This part of England is also steeped in Arthurian legend. Our base for our annual wedding anniversary break is Ilfracombe, an hour or so’s drive up the coast from Tintagel Castle, the reputed birthplace of King Arthur, he of the the knights of the round table legend. Which is quite apt as this month’s book is about one of the most famous knights of the round table. The book is Lancelot, by Giles Kristian, published by Bantam Press (www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/publishers/transworld/bantam-press)  on the 31st May.

Lancelot and Guinevere first appeared as an Arthurian legend in the French poem, Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart by Chretien De Troyes in the 12th Century. Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table appear in French romances in the same period. While The exact site of Camelot has been disputed over the years, as either somewhere in Wales, near Winchester or as far north as Carlisle! I was familiar with the Hollywood stories of Arthur’s Camelot as a child, my interest fuelled by the legend of Robin Hood in my native Nottinghamshire, combined with an interest in Greek Mythology and the supernatural. In my youth, the well-known tales were often regaled and consumed as historical fact. Its interesting that we still know so little of what happened during the ‘Dark Ages’, the period following Roman withdrawal from Britain, and its this vacuum which has encouraged tales to be woven by storytellers throughout the ages since to plug the gap.

When you mention King Arthur most people will remember the love story between

lancelot-and-guinevere-painting

Lancelot & Guinevere (WCDF-France,com)

Lancelot and Guinevere, resulting in their betrayal of Arthur and the downfall of Camelot. Lancelot is often seen as a dishonourable man, a poor friend and a traitor. In this version, Giles Kristian sets out to flesh out the story of Lancelot, to make him a complete person and to renew the legend of Arthur and Camelot through the eyes and voice of a new ‘witness’. We first meet Lancelot as his family are driven from their home and his father’s reign as King of Benoic is overthrown. They escape and take refuge with a neighbouring tribe but are betrayed. Lancelot is rescued by the Lady Nimue and taken to her island fortress. Here he spends his childhood as an orphan and as apprentice to the island guard. Spotting a ship sinking off the island during a storm, he swims out in the hope of rescuing some of the crew and finds Guinevere in the water. She was being sent to the island to be cared for by Lady Nimue. From this moment on their fates are intertwined.

Kristian’s book,  portrays Britain is a fractured land of many kingdoms, under attack from both invading Saxons from across the channel and the Picts in the North. Lancelot is taken across to the mainland to Tintagel to pay respects to the dying King Uther Pendragon. Merlin, the king’s advisor encourages him to pledge an oath of allegiance to Uther’s son Arthur. Arthur must prove his right to be the next overall King, subduing unrest and counterclaim from his fellow kings and driving back the Saxons in an attempt to unite the peoples of Britain behind him. They battle together and build Camelot but Lancelot is dismayed to find that Arthurs queen, when she arrives at court, is no other than Guinevere his long lost love.

Giles Kristian uses elements of the original Arthurian legends to anchor his story. For example, legend tells that Arthur is the illegitimate son of Uther and Igraine, conceived after Uther obtained an enchantment to make him appear to be Igraine’s husband. Weaving Lancelot’s story around these already familiar events and characters hooks the reader immediately into the story. In previous interviews, Kristan admits that he is not fond of research and because he is using events not recorded in history he can go his own way.

Lancelot is the tenth book (he co-wrote Golden Lion with Wilbur Smith) by English author Giles Kristian (www.gileskristian.com), who has led a rather varied life up to now, having been the lead singer with a pop band in the 90’s, worked as a model on various TV adverts, produced music videos  as well as a copywriter for an advertising agency in New York, he now lives in Leicestershire.

Giles Kristian (c) Nigel Edgecombe

Giles Kristian ((C) Nigel Edgecombe)

His Norwegian ancestory along with Previous experience gained writing the Viking era based ‘Raven’ and the ‘Rise of Sigurd’ trilogies has honed his obvious talent for creating a moment in time, a history and a world that seems entirely real. His descriptions of everyday life and battles feel realistic and whilst there is a magical element to the story, we had no dragons or invisibility cloaks. Merlin was not the white bearded wizard of Disney but a squat, cunning, tattooed Druid and you often felt he achieved more by reading people than enchanting them.

Lancelot wins us over with his sense of duty and honour. The scenes with his sparrow hawk at the start of the novel, revealed the type of man he would become. I liked him. I hoped for him. This is very much a novel for the Game of Thrones generation. As a fan of Harry Potter, the Hunger Games and the Maze Runner, this felt very much like the old orphan learns amazing skills and overcomes his enemies in a noble way story, that I loved so much about those young adult books. It’s totally absorbing, gritty and moving. I couldn’t wait to pick it up again.

This may be a book for the adult me, but adult or not, you may still find me charging around Tintagel Castle, shouting ‘For Arthur’ and wielding a pretend sword. But in your case, you can charge down to your local bookshop for a copy or magically download it online.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy