Book Review: The Devil’s Acre by Matthew Plampin

I occasionally try to read out of my comfort zone. Granted, historical fiction is within my comfort zone but only when it’s a period or subject about which I know a lot or have a keen interest in. I can’t say I knew all that much about Samuel Colt when this book came into my possession, but the blurb sounded interesting, promising political intrigue in Victorian London during the period of the gang warfare in the 1850s on the eve of The Crimean War.
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History Boys and Girls – Noteworthy Historical Fiction

Ciaran Hinds as Gaius Julius Caesar in the TV series “Rome”

I talk a lot about science fiction books on here and I realise that despite posting quite a few book reviews on the genre, I’ve neglected discussion of novels set in the past. I have read quite a few set across a diverse range of periods with different approaches and ranging in quality. Continue reading “History Boys and Girls – Noteworthy Historical Fiction”

Book Review: Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Looking back through my reviews, I realised it had been several years since I read the last Saxon Story by Cornwell so I thought I probably ought to get on with the next one!

Uhtred is in Mercia, he still doesn’t have his castle of Bebbanburg (Bamburgh) after attempting to seize it back from his duplicitous uncle. The fragile peace between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and the Vikings who live beyond the Danelaw is holding – but only just. South of the border, both Wessex and Mercia prepare for a war that is inevitable yet rumours about that the sickly King Alfred is on his deathbed. Can the fragile alliance and the expected unity of the two crowns go ahead? Continue reading “Book Review: Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell”

Snippet Sunday 9/2/14

Roman Baths in the city of Bath – my novel is set primarily in Rome

One of the more colourful characters from my current work in progress is the playboy Valens. Rather likeable, but somebody who desperately wants people to like him, he has a reputation as a heartbreaker and these days he might be given labels of “love rat” and “marriage wrecker”. Deep down he is just a boy who hasn’t grown up yet. This is an encounter he has in a bathhouse when a betrayed Patrician husband finds him. Continue reading “Snippet Sunday 9/2/14”

Snippet Sunday 26/1/14

We have ideas that sit in development hell for years. I think around ten years ago, I had another idea for a post-apocalyptic drama. It felt like a good idea at the time but after writing a brief prologue I did nothing else with it. The novel (if it ever gets started let along complete) is set hundreds of years into the future, perhaps as many as 1000 in a kind of Anglo-Saxon / Viking world… full of werewolves. Humans are extinct after a disease in the modern era wipes most of us out and a resurgent werewolf population eventually kills off the rest. Continue reading “Snippet Sunday 26/1/14”

Snippet Sunday 19/1/14

I said before that my muse wakes me up in the early hours with brilliant ideas. Knowing that an attack can strike at any moment, I have a notepad next to my bed. This is what happened about a week before Christmas. She gave me an idea of a blue substance – something like snow – covering everything, and I mean everything. I hastily sat bolt upright, scribbled down a few notes and promptly went back to sleep. Continue reading “Snippet Sunday 19/1/14”

Snippet Sunday 12/1/14

Well, I didn’t get very far way back in September 2012 with Six Sentence Sunday *embarrassed blush* when I promised to post six sentences of something every Sunday – here is my second and last post with that category. I remembered the premise last week for some odd reason and promptly went to the website to see how it is doing. Well, as you can see they have actually closed. But I still like the idea and I will do my best to post something every weekend from now on. It will sometimes be six sentences, sometimes longer and sometimes shorter so for the sake of flexibility, I will call it “Snippet Sunday” Continue reading “Snippet Sunday 12/1/14”

Book Review: Conquest by Stewart Binns

It is 1066 and England is about to undergo the most cataclysmic change of history since the arrival of the Roman legions. On one side, the last Saxon king Harold II. On the other side, William – Duke of Normandy, William the Bastard, William the Conqueror. The story is recreated on the Bayeux Tapestry which despite being a pro-English piece of propaganda, sites in a museum in Normandy. Harold would be killed at that battle and England would once again be ruled by those of Norse descent. The period of Norman Conquest would see a time of bloody battles but also an immense building programme of castles, towns and cities and

In the middle of the two men is a third – Hereward the Bourne. What? Never heard of him? Neither had I and I hang my head in shame – not just at this gap in my own knowledge but also at his omission from the history books. Actually, some people doubt his existence but regardless of this, his story is no less impressive and if he did exist, no less important. Continue reading “Book Review: Conquest by Stewart Binns”

Book Review: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

I tend to get a moment of heart sinking when I pick a book this size off of the shelf in a book shop and will generally put it straight back unless it comes highly recommended. Too many are 200 pages of story and 1200 pages of waffle. Thankfully, that is not an accusation you can level at Pillars of the Earth. It is surprisingly easy on the eye for a doorstep sized novel and after a false start in which I only read the prologue a few weeks back, I was surprised to find I flew through the first 150 pages over the course of about 3 hours or so. So far so good.

So what is it about? A period from England’s history that many people are unfamiliar with. Of course, those with more than a basic level of history will have heard of King Stephen and might know that he was a bit of a shit (Follett supports this popular view which contrasts Ellis Peters’ potrayal). Others with more in depth knowledge might accept him as a great General but a poor monarch. Most might know that he was involved in a civil war that could have ended up with our first Queen – and appointed legitimate heir of King Henry I – Empress Matilda/Maud.

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Book Review: The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth by Stuart Clark

I absolutely love this title, beautifully poetic while presenting the concept behind the science in this book. This is the first in an unusual trilogy that follows some of history’s most famous scientists. This is a series that aims to put the SCIENCE into science fiction and fuse the genre with some of the more complex examples of modern historical fiction. It blends discovery and adventure with high ideals of political power, presenting ideas that go beyond the concepts and highlights the ramifications of the Copernican view in a world sticking to geocentrism.

Europe is at war with itself; it is an ideological war between Catholic and Protestant and between Christians of all denominations and the growing upstarts of science. It is the birth of the Enlightenment and the Reformation has passed meaning that there is a clear division between Christian ideologies on the continent that more often than not spills over into minor violence or all out rioting in the streets. Continue reading “Book Review: The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth by Stuart Clark”