Book Review: Days of Sun and Glory by Anna Belfrage

 

daysofsunetc

In this second book in her King’s Greatest Enemy series, Anna Belfrage builds on the excellent set of characters introduced to us in In The Shadow of the Storm.

The new novel concentrates once again on the exploits of the knight, Adam de Guirande, and his wife, Kit.

In this sequel we see much more of the king, his queen – the she-wolf – and other members of the royal court, not forgetting the villains of the piece: the offensively indispensible Despensers. Adam finds his support for the exiled Roger Mortimer sorely tested and is forced to choose where his true loyalty lies.

I really like the characterisation of Prince Edward, where the author shows a typically sensitive appreciation of both the youth and his predicament. For the prince spends the entire book between the proverbial rock and a hard place: i.e. his dreadful father and his impossible mother.

The relationship between the two main characters, Adam and Kit, provides the core of the story and, as the political tension builds, along with their anxiety for their children’s safety, that relationship is sorely tested. I enjoyed how we see the pair develop as we experience the upheaval at the centre of power through their own personal turmoil and heartbreak. The sexual chemistry between the two is described beautifully though, for me, perhaps a little too frequently – I guess I would have preferred a little less sex and a bit more violence!

The  story, the locations and the people have an authentic feel to them, giving this well- crafted book some weight and substance. Anna Belfrage has the knack of being able to breathe life into the political events of this period and I am very much looking forward to the next part of the story.

I would heartily recommend this series to historical fiction lovers. I had little detailed knowledge of this period of history yet I found both books easy to follow because the author tells the tale with just the right amount of history to guide the reader.

 

 

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Historical Fiction Cover of the Year – the Winner!

Lots of votes! Thank you very m1066uch to all who took part.

As last year, we have a runaway winner!

This time it is 1066 Turned Upside Down that has carried all before it and probably rightly so. It is a very effective cover indeed.

The clear runner-up is Blood and Blade, so well done to the creative team there too.

Mentions in despatches also go to: Iron and Rust, The North Water and The Autumn Throne.

As I said back in December [!] I shall not be doing any regular cover of the month posts in the coming year as I want to concentrate more on 15th century history posts. So, many thanks to those who have followed the cover selections over the past 18 months.

 

 

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Historical Fiction Cover of the Year Award – the Contest!

I have selected a baker’s dozen of covers for you to consider in this year’s contest – one from each month, except for July, but to compensate I’ve included two from April plus one suggested by you in your comments.

My selections reflect my own personal preferences – so you’re stuck with that but you now have until midnight on New Year’s Eve – UK time – to vote for your winner.

Since I won’t be continuing my monthly feature on covers in 2017, this is my last cover post for a while.

Here are the contenders:

All you have to do is write a comment on this post saying which one you want to win. Comments already posted will count.

The winner will be revealed on New Year’s Day.

 

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Christmas Bloghop!

So, the Best Supporting Role Bloghop comes to a fitting end with Helen Hollick’s character from the Sea Witch stories: Claude de la Rue. http://ow.ly/If7v307dn4M

Check out the other characters below:

supportingrole

The Bloghop is hosted by the marvellous Helen Hollick.

Join Helen and a selection of other fabulous authors and their Supporting Role Characters. Each author has chosen one of the supporting cast from their books rather than the main protagonists – a new direction and a different introduction to books.

Click on the image to go to the site.

Each day I’ll add a direct link here to a new post!

First up for December 6th is author, Inge H Borg http://ow.ly/n7wn306R6NX

For December 7th we have Matt Harffy’s supporting role: http://ow.ly/qmet306TiHV

December 8th already and we meet Alison Morton’s Lurio from her Roma Nova series. It’s great to see him again because he’s a quirky character I really like: http://ow.ly/xPbI306VA2c

It’s December 9th so it must be Regina Jeffers’ Viscount Stafford – fascinating character who seems to pop up regularly.  http://ow.ly/fgNL306XJDn

And on December 10th the array of interesting supporting role characters continues to grow with Anna Belfrage’s Luke Graham. http://ow.ly/YzFe306ZMMi

Sunday 11th and the supporting role bandwagon hurtles onwards to meet Christoph Fischer’s character, the Countess. https://t.co/mHomwXvU6Q

The second week of the supporting role bloghop begins with Pauline Barclay’s Zilda Gilespie. http://ow.ly/I5Zc3072as7

Today Antoine Vanner introduces his supporting role character. http://ow.ly/lBT330769dZ

December 14th brings Annie Whitehead’s Queen Alfreda to the fore in a supporting role. http://ow.ly/z9f63077aIy

And today, it’s my unsung hero, Hal, who steps up in a supporting role. http://ow.ly/9IiQ3079bGP

December 16th brings us Carolyn Hughes’ character, Matilda http://ow.ly/U1tH307dmXN

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Scars From The Past Goes Paperback

Tomorrow, December 1st, Scars From The Past, is out in paperback.

scarsfromthepast

It’s the first of a new Wars of the Roses series set during the 1480s. The Elder family are still the focus of the story and much of the action takes place in Ludlow, where the young Edward, Prince of Wales, is based.

At the heart of this tale there is also a love story – a troubled love. John Elder, son of Yorkist legend, Ned Elder, brings a whole new generation of characters into play. There are also some old friends that readers of the Rebels and Brothers series will remember. But this is a fresh start, so you don’t need to have read a word of the previous series to enjoy this one.

The first review of Scars From the Past says:

“Derek Birks has taken his usual high standard of storytelling to a whole new level. Scars From the Past is impossible to put down… I defy you to enjoy this book and not want to go back to Feud, where it all started.”

The Review. See the rest of the review here

You can order the paperback from Waterstones, Blackwells, Foyles – indeed, as they say, from all good bookstores – though it appears to me that Blackwells is £1 cheaper – and, of course, Amazon…

Scars From The Past – ISBN: 978-1-910944-23-3

Here’s what it says on the back of the book:

An unwelcome legacy. An impossible love. A relentless enemy.

By 1481, England has been free from civil war for ten years.
The Elder family have discovered a fragile peace in the lands they fought to win back, yet scars from the past remain with them all.
Given time, they might heal, but when did the Elders ever have enough time? And close to home in Ludlow, trouble is stirring.

Born out of the bloody devastation of the Wars of the Roses, young John Elder is now the heir to his father’s legacy, but he finds it a poisonous one. Driven from the woman he loves by a duty he fears, John abandons his legacy and flees the country to become a mercenary in Flanders.

In his absence, stalked by a ruthless outlaw, the Elder family must face a deadly storm of blood and chaos. When the young heir to the throne, Edward, Prince of Wales, is caught up in their bitter struggle, the future appears bleak.
Only if the Elders can put the scars from the past behind them, is there any hope of survival.

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Book Reviews: Alison Morton’s Roma Nova

When Alison Morton asked me to take a look at her new book, Insurrectio, a few months ago, my first reaction was guilt because I’d been meaning to read her previous four books for ages. Like the rest of us, my pile of books to be read is very daunting but now I had the opportunity, so I dived in and I was very glad I did!

By starting with Insurrectio, I was sort of starting in the wrong place really, but I found that this was by no means a problem. It was easy to get into the book, into the story and – just as importantly – into the alternative world of Roma Nova which is a sort of modern day remnant of the Roman Empire.

insurrectio

Insurrectio is a fast moving, political thriller with plenty of action thrown in. It was especially interesting for me because it takes place in a different world which Alison has created very skilfully. I read both modern thrillers and historical fiction and, of course, this book does not quite fit into either category because it is alternative history. That aspect somehow made it even more interesting.

Overall, I was very impressed with both the story and the world in which it is set.

inceptio

 

Having read and enjoyed Insurrectio, I intended to read the rest of the Roma Nova stories. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a copy of Alison’s first book, Inceptio, when I was in London at a ‘do’ organised by the Society of Authors. Since I’d been intending to read it for ages, it seemed like kismet. I was not disappointed.

Inceptio is an exciting and absorbing story but with a difference. I already knew about Roma Nova, of course, but in this book – the first one of the series – I saw it emerge through the experiences of the main character. Where Alison succeeds brilliantly, in my view, is in describing this new world to the reader by drip-feeding elements of it to our heroine, Karen Brown, who lives in New York. The reader, like Karen, explores Roma Nova, at first with a little bewilderment, but then with more confidence, as the nature of the place and its customs are cleverly revealed.

We are rooting for Karen Brown within a few lines of her introduction but there is plenty of mystery and suspense along the way as the story unfolds. The leading characters are well drawn and they ring true, despite populating an imaginary world!

I really enjoyed Inceptio and will certainly be reading the sequels.

You can find out more about Alison Morton’s Roma Nova books by visiting her website: http://alison-morton.com

 

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Historical Fiction Cover of the Month for November

November already, eh? Where did the year go? Never mind, there’ll be another one along shortly. In the meantime, what covers have caught my eye this month?

scarsfromthepast

Well, one cover in particular has caught my eye for months, but it’s not going to be eligible for consideration although it comes out this month. Here it is. Nuff said.

invictus

Moving on to this month’s contenders…

First up is Simon Scarrow’s new Roman offering: Invictus. It must be impossible by now to come up with something new that features a Roman legionary. We’ve seen it all before: headless, bodyless, with and without helmet or armour, in deserts, in forests – in fact, in everything. So I’m not going to find a new and unique cover out there.

I’ve included this one because I like it and I think it does its job pretty well. There’s a certain grim tone to it – at least I think so from the half face that we can see. The colours are suitably martial reds, yellows and browns and the landscape looks pretty bleak.

As always, I would take issue with the (very common) habit of just chucking the words on top of the image. I prefer to see some coherent approach to title text and image, because let’s face it, when you look at this cover all you see at first glimpse is the text.

endofdays

My second choice is James Wilde’s Hereward: End of Days. It too suffers a little from the above mentioned fault, but the white text works better here because it suits the dark blue and white colour palette of the image.

It has a grainy, actually quite depressing, look to it. The figure – Hereward, one supposes – looks seriously dangerous and pretty grumpy as well – love the fur though. The whole cover manages to convey a fair bit of dark menace.

 

liberation

 

So, cover of the month is this one – a bit different from the others: Kate Furnivall’s The Liberation.

This is simple enough but I think quite evocative with the woman running from the shadows towards the light. The narrow street with its crumbling buildings conveys the sense of decay or destruction There’s a hint of period with the style of the buildings, but only a hint.

The text colours work well and the title is intelligently positioned. When I saw it as a thumbnail image, my eye was drawn to the light and the image was quite clear. I wanted to look more closely so I clicked on the thumbnail – job done from the cover designer’s point of view.

Here’s a heads up for December. In next month’s COTM post I shall be asking for suggestions for best HF cover of the year, so start thinking. Then we’ll have a popular vote on HF Cover of the year in late December when everyone’s still comatose from Christmas.

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