Tag Archives: historical fiction

Paper & Fire by Rachel Caine. Review. 

Please be aware that this review while not containing spoilers for this book, will contain spoilers for the first book Ink and Bone. 

Paper and Fire picks up where Ink and Bone left off and it’s a great sequel! Jess and friends are still reeling from the events of Ink and Bone, their friend Thomas was killed, their other friend and sort of Jess’ girlfriend; Morgan has been imprisoned in the Iron Tower of the Obscurists and Jess no longer knows who he can trust. Especially when a routine training excercise of his company in the High Garda turns sour. 


This book is another teaser at what the library may contain, what secrets are hidden inside its walls and what the people at the helm will do to protect it. It is a story of friendship and relationships that are stronger than those of blood. In a world full of secrets it’s impossible to know who can be trusted and who would just as soon Knife you in the back. It’s down to Jess and his friends to fight the library to the bitter end. 


I love that this series is all about books, it’s such a great concept and it’s easy to see that it’s taken some inspiration for the onslaught of ebook readers on the market today. I find the premise incredibly engaging and interesting, sometimes the second book in a trilogy can read like a ‘filler’ and be a bit flat but that is not the case with this one at all. I can’t wait for Ash and Quill now. 

The Strings of Murder by Oscar De Muriel. Review 

I have long been an advocate of the Frey & McGray novels although I have read them all back to front. Despite reading the second and third books already, I have only just read book number 1 The Strings of Murder

Obviously, I knew I was in for a treat having read the other two but it was pleasing to see that the first novel was just as good as the second and third. 

The Strings of Murder is the beginning for Frey and McGray, Frey is sacked from Scotland Yard in London at the same time as his fiancée deserts him for another man. Feeling dejected he agrees to be sent to Edinburgh and be teamed up with the notorious ‘nine nails’ McGray who heads up a police subdivision which focuses on the occult. 


What really makes this series great is the characters. Don’t get me wrong the plot is excellent, the twists fantastic, the historical accuracy on point (to the best of my knowledge) and the plot line is always intriguing making the stories unputdownable. But the relationship between Frey and McGray make it for me. The banter between them has me laughing out loud, from McGray’s insistence on referring to Frey as a ‘lassie’ to Frey’s disgust at everything McGray eats, wears, says or does. It’s just fantastic. If you haven’t read this series already then I suggest you do so as soon as possible! 

Darien: Empire of Salt by CF Iggulden. Review 

CF Iggulden is better known for his historical writing under his real name Conn Iggulden. But this is a historical novel like no other. It blends history with fantasy, the real with the imagined and just a pinch of magic. 


The premise of the story is a city ruled by 12 powerful families with a weak king at their head. Many people out in the surrounding towns and villages, and even inside the city itself want a change. But only a few will act. 

Daw Threefold sees riches and destiny when he meets Nancy, more than just a fumble and a tumble, she has something about her which causes magic objects to fail. Daw has big plans for what they can do with this power but Nancy has plans of her own… revenge. 


Elias Post is an incredible hunter. Because he has a gift of his own. A gift he calls ‘reaching’ but it’s about to get him into trouble when General Justan of the immortal army gets wind of it and decides how he can use it. 


Then there’s Tellius who comes across a small boy who can mimick anything he sees perfectly. Tellius thinks to use him to his own advantage until they get into a scrape and the boy is revealed as not a boy at all but a Golem. 


Overall the novel was fairly fast paced. It changed direction quickly which was sometimes confusing as it switched to the different narratives of all the characters involved. I would have also liked to have seen more world building, other than the name of the city, the fact it has 12 families and that the people worship a goddess not much else was given on the world itself and where it is supposed to be set or even when. We also only meet characters from 3 of the 12 families and I’d have liked to have seen more about them. How did they get into power for example and why are they so important? Just their names would have been nice…

I think this book got off to a great start and I really enjoyed the first 50-65% of it. But as aforementioned it lacked too much in world building and also became very fighting strong. That’s not necessarily a criticism but I’m not that fussed on books with a lot of fighting for like 35% of the story. 

Overall, it was well written and plotted and I think fans of books about action and war with a little magic thrown in would really enjoy it. 

Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott. Review. 

Rotherweird is the debut novel by Andrew Caldecott. A hybrid of historical and science fiction, I was unsure what to expect. My experience of debut’s particularly in the SF or fantasy genre has until now been a mixed bag, leaning mostly towards the poorly written and poorly plotted. Rotherweird however is something else entirely, Andrew Caldecott weaves together a mystical tale of suspense and adventure, mixed in with the macabre and my favourite period in history; Tudor England. 


The opening lines see Mary Queen of Scots, desperate after the loss of a baby who may never have even been a baby at all. It appears at first that this story will focus mainly on this time period, but it is merely setting the scene. The reader is almost immediately whisked away to modern times and the mysterious town of Rotherweird. 

Standing alone amidst the rest of the UK, Rotherweird is a town where everyone is smart, particularly when it comes to science, nobody really leaves and it is rare that outsiders come in, other than to teach, trade or perform at one of Rotherweird’s many fairs. Enter four new players; The Actress set to play Lady Slickstone, the mysterious and sinister Sir Virgil Slickstone, their faux son and finally the new history teacher Mr Jonah Oblong. 


It becomes immediately obvious to the newcomers that things in Rotherweird Are more than just a little… weird (pun fully intended). For Mr Oblong especially, despite being the history teacher, he is neither allowed to know or to teach any of Rotherweird’s history, nor any general history before the Cusp of the 19th century. Because Rotherweird has a secret that it doesn’t want anyone to find out for fear that the bad things that happened which forced Elizabeth II to cast it adrift, might happen again. 


The characters in this book, are incredibly well written, from Orelia Roc, part owner of the antique shop Baubles and Relics to Hayman Salt the resident outsider and horticulturists. All of them have motives but the imminent threat of destruction brings them all together. 

Andrew Caldecott’s ability to create and shape worlds and the characters in them,  draws the reader into an intense narrative of plot and subtext that keeps you guessing until the very end. You don’t even know you have suspicions until the answer is revealed. 

Enchanting and beautifully written, I can only hope that there is going to be a Rotherweird II and SOON! 

The Girl in the Glass Tower by Elizabeth Fremantle. Review 

It’s a little known fact that I have a deep love for historical fiction particularly about the Tudors. 


The Girl in the Glass Tower is about a little known woman of history, often referred to as the ‘lost queen’. Arbelle Stuart is heir to Elizabeth Tudor’s throne. Living between Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall, her grandmother Bess of Hardwick prepares her to be a Queen. 

But things don’t always go to plan, religious conflict is rife and not everyone is happy when Elizabeth I changes her mind and names James Stuart of Scotland her heir. 


The story juxtaposes between that of Arbelle in the past and that of of Aemilia Lanyer someone Arbelle once considered a friend. 

Now fallen from grace Ami has been banished from James I court and is living with her illegitimate son Hal in an unsavoury part of town. As she reads Arbelle’s discovered diary she begins to recall their friendship and the events which led to her friend’s death. 


The stories weave well together creating a build up of suspense and intrigue. Living in Derbyshire I’ve always been interested in Bess of Hardwick and this was a very different perspective of her. Although not that different considering she has always been known to be ambitious. 

I found the story to be very engaging and interesting, I’ve definitely garnered an interest in Arbelle and I’ll be looking up her biography to get more information about the ‘lost queen’. 

If you have a love of books by authors like Philippa Gregory or just a general interest in the lost names of history, then you should definitely read this! 

Author Interview &a Giveaway – Chris Brookes 

I first met Chris at my book club around 3-4 years ago when he had just published his first book Entanglement of Fate. I went on to become his BETA reader for his next two books in the Elliott’s Register Mysteries Entanglement of Revenge and Entanglement of Deceit. 

Chris has very kindly offered my readers the opportunity to win a signed copy of the first book in the series Entanglement of Fate. All you have to do is follow me: @lifehasafunnywy and Chris @chrisbrookes2 and retweet the pinned tweet on my twitter page containing this interview. A winner will then be randomly selected on the 19th December. 

Read on for reviews of all three of Chris’ books along with a fantastic interview with the man himself. 

 

 

Entanglement of Fate is Chris’ first book inspired by the true story of Walter Stanford. Set in Sheffield in the 1900s the novel opens with an exciting police chase across the rooftops. The opening chapter is deliciously descriptive truly bringing the readers senses to life. The intial few chapters were quite hard to get into but they soon speeded up as the plot took many unexpected twists and turns. Pretty soon I couldn’t put it down! Wonderfully written and imaginative this is a story of dark crime and horror mingled in with drugs, prostitution and secrets. The subplot was very imaginative as well involving trips f far off countries, a struggle, out of body experiences and dabbles in the spirit world. In the end despite the many different layers of the story it was all brought together perfectly and despite its complex nature it was very easy to follow. I recommend this book to anyone who loves Historical Fiction, crime fiction or supernatural genres.

 

 

Funnily enough, this book actually has my face on the front! This was the first book I read as a BETA reader for Chris and I guess for my own reasons its my favourite of the trilogy. In EoR we return to Sheffield this time to 1916 and a pit disaster. Following a harrowing night, the next morning a seemingly ‘mad’ woman is found on a colliery spoil heap. Elliott and Tom feature once more as they explore the world and the power of the very rich and uncover a years old mystery and a world of hidden secrets and revenge. Just like in EoF there are many twists and turns to the plot and what you think you know is usually the opposite. But just like in the first book everything comes together in the end and leaves you reeling.

 

Entanglement of Deceit is the third and most recent of the Elliott’s Register Mysteries and this time juxtaposes between Sheffield and London where the Sharpe’s are now living. It’s been a year since the events in Entanglement of Revenge and the characters are in the throws of the First World War. Once more the characters are plunged into the middle of a mystery but this time espionage is the order of the day. With Chris’ usual cryptic style the book starts with a devestating twist and then goes back in time leaving you with no choice but to race through to the end to find out the truth. It’s a story of obsessive love and dangerous alliances. Engaging and interesting throughout. It’s a killer of a novel.

 

 

I caught up with Chris recently to see how things are now that book 3 is complete. The biggest question on my mind being whether this is the end or will we be seeing Elliott and Tom again?

 

So Chris, before we get to the burning questions. Why don’t you fill us in on your background and how you got into writing?

I started working as a theatre production manager in the 1980s and from there went on to produce many touring shows. Working in that environment brought me into contact with many talented and creative people, some of whom I ultimately got the chance to work with on a regular basis. One such person was director Mark Kenyon, who was also a screen writer and was responsible for feling my interest in writing. He taught me all the basics, and more, of character development, effective description and how to thread plots with anticipation and create cliff hangers. All of Mark’s teaching I still use today in my writing.

 

What are your ambitions for your writing?

Obviously I would be lying if I said I didn’t want my writing to bring me fame and fortune. But my many years in the industry have taught me that only the lucky few ever achieve anything beyond being recognised in their local village fete. As for being rich from writing – how much disappointment do you want? No, seriously my ambitions for writing are merely to continue to publish stories and scripts that I want to write and that people enjoy reading. I consider myself a storyteller more than a writer, if that makes sense. Long ago I learnt that my writing wasn’t about to dance in literary circles. There isn’t language with deep philosophical passages or hidden messages in my prose. When I sit down to write I do so with the aim of entertaining through strong characters engaged in twisting plots with differing layers of complexity, and often with an unexpected conclusion.

 

Which writers inspire you?

I admire many writers for the way they can craft their stories and draw the reader in. From the old school there is obviously Agatha Christie or Dorothy L Sayers, further back still, I love to read the Jacques Futrelle mysteries. I also have an affection for John Buchan’s work. Modern day authors I will happily read, include the likes of Stephen King, James Herbett, John Grisham and James Patterson.

 

How did you come up with the ideas for the Elliott’s Register Mysteries? What was your inspiration?

The idea actually found me – I think! About ten years ago my father-in-law Bill, then a church warden recounted a story to me about a couple who had approached him looking for the gravestone of a local man called Walter Greenway, a character who had supposedly led a most adventurous life during WW1. For reasons that later became obvious Walter’s grave couldn’t be found. However, Bill continued to do some research and, sure enough, he unearthed the tale of a most fascinating person along with sketchy events of his life. I was absolutely hooked and began doing my own research. The more I did the more I became immersed and wanted to tell Walter’s story. The by chance I came across the writings of Robert Holmes, who had written about his time spent as a police court missionary. I was amazed and delighted when I found references dedicated to detailling his actual encounter with Walter.

The mystery of both Walter and Robert Holmes consumed me and I found myself entangling facts with fiction. Suddenly, my idea born – to create a police court missionary character and write entanglement stories based on the experiences of people listed in his registers. And what better place to start than with Walter – this most intriguing man whose experiences stretched from Sheffield to the war zones of Mesopotamia and included many acts of heroism.

 

So the big question! What are you working on at the moment?

All sorts – from theatre scripts and script editing to a fourth story in the Entanglement series, which has a working title of Entanglement of Consequence. I am also wanting to write some more modern stores of suspense which have been swilling around in my head for a while. I have lots on my ‘to do’ writing list, but true to John Lennon’s words, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”. Thankfully these days I tend to be able to just go with the flow.

 

Which of the three boks is your favourite? Was it harder or easier to write?

Good question! I guess the truth is that each book was my favourite at the time of writing it. They have all brought me very different emotions. Fate was my first novel so obviously holds a special place in my heart, Revenge I certainly enjoyed writing the most, Deceit was definitely the hardest to write and the most difficult to pull together at the end.

 

Who is your favourite characer from the books?

I’m fickle so it keeps changing. Sometimes, when I have a need to go back read passages from my books, I think yes, Elliott’s my favourite, but then another day I fall in love with Mary or Louise all over again and they become my favourites. Other days I want to have the sophistication of Tom or perhaps the daring and charm of Walter. One thing I can tell you you is that writing about the nastier more harrowing characters I find easiest to do. Probably because they are usually fairly one dimensional in their feelings.

 

What genre would you describe your books as belonging too?

I really wish I could give you a definite answer, it would save me a lot of time too when target marketing my audience. My books are being branded as historical mysteries, but they do have more than an element of romance running through them, as well as elements of adventure, suspense and usually a harrowing crime. Once a reviewer said of my books that they had an identity crisis. ‘It’s a mystery, no wait, I am a paranormal book.. no, I am a WWI drama… I’m the English patient… oh I am a mystery.’ Probably a fair assessment.

 

How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes?

Unless its script work, which is done to deadlines I usually write in phases. Sometimes I’m constantly on the keyboard and in the zone, which can result in around 50k words over a month. Other times, I lose interest and get easily distracted by just about everything. Setting myself a word target is akin to ignoring a cheesecake on the table in front of me – it doesn’t happen!

 

Why did you choose the self-publishing route and would you recommend it to other writers?

I’ve done both and they each have their merits. Ultimately though, as an unknown writer my experience of traditional publishers was that very little was actually delivered, so I still had to do most of my own publicity. Sales were also generally disappointing. That said, if one of my books had the commerical appeal of ‘The Girl on the Train’, I dare say it might have been different. In reality, most new authors will not get the opportunity to have a publisher anyway, therefore, they will be forced to go self published. This is no bad thing for the ones who are switched on and can work in co-operatives with other athors. There is a lot to be said for having total control over your books – setting your own pricing, cover design, exclusivity, etc. is quite liberating.

 

How do you market your books/ What have been your marketing successes and failures?

If you’re serious about writing, becoming your sole source of income, you need to learn fast how to market your book in a very competitive space. There are two self-publishing guru’s out there offering courses that I trust. Nick Stepehenson and Mark Dawsnon. The amount of knowlesge and proven techniques to sell your books in their courses and closed facebook groups is invaluable. However, it is not cheap at about $397 per course, but they are certainly worth considering. Marketing is all about learning from your peers what is and isn’t working. Personally, I am always trying multiple marketing techniques, I advocate making your first book free or creating a short story as your reader magnet for people to join your mailing list, then market your list once you’ve established trust and value. I also advertise with targeted facebook ads, do cross newsletter promotions with similar autors, do joint giveaways, to name but a few. The truth is, when it comes to getting your books discovered and selling them, it is a constant learning curve. Be prepared to be inventive.

 

If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why?

I guess I would have liked to have written The Birds by Frank Baker. Although it was Daphne Du Maurier’s 1952 short story that was officially adapted for the screen, it is felt that Baker’s novel more closely resembles Hitchcock’s movie. In particular I like the complexity of a fantasty where creatures are sent to deal with ‘marred’ humanity. Perhaps my biggest wish though would be to have been able to collaborate with the genius of Bernstein, Sondheim, Laurents and Robbins on the musical West Side Story.

 

What are your views on bad reviews?

Get used to them because you’ll always get a few. Of course it’s never nice to hear stinging critique of your ork but everybody has a right to express their views on your work if entered into the public domain. I do have a problem though, with the so called trolls who operate and leave bad reviews for the sheer hell of it. But my advice is to simply report it and then move on. Life is too short!

If you’d like to know more about Chris and his series of books you can reach him on the following social media sites: 

Website: http://www.chrisbrookes.info/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrisBrookes2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Chris-Brookes-244234299051020/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7246479.Chris_Brookes

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chris-Brookes/e/B00EV6FSRE

 

A Pilgrimage to Murder, Paul Doherty. Review 

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and author for my ARC. 
I’m not really a big one for medieval books I’ll be honest. However this piqued my interest as a book which focused on crime/thriller but within not only a medieval but religious setting. 
I’m really glad I decided to do that. The book follows Brother Athelstan a monk/friar of the Dominican order. It is actually one of a series but it was easy to pick up and can be read as a standalone without any issues. 

As well as being a priest, Athelstan works as a secretary or rather assistant to the coroner and assists him in the case of murders. It’s a time of unrest as the child King Richard sits on the throne and his Regent wields power both in England and Spain. When a murderer by the name of Azrael begins garrotting members of the regents secret chancery, Athelstan and co are on the case. 

Although one plot makes up the main body of the story there are several interesting sub plots running as well which keep the story interesting. Also, what really sold it to me was that despite staying true and authentic to the period, the author keeps the language simple enough for the modern reader to understand and enjoy. I think that’s really important when writing historical fiction. It stops it from feeling like you’re reading Dickens. 

It crossed my mind who the murderer was about 3/4 of the way through but all I’ll say is that I wasn’t ‘exactly’ right. 

All in all a surprisingly enjoyable book for a genre I didn’t think I’d like!