Review of W&R by San Francisco Book Review

Very nice review of The Wolf and the Raven. It’s a little bit different to the usual reviews, I enjoyed reading it!  I will be doing an interview with them too (an actual recorded interview you can listen to) so watch out for that.

Take a look at the review here:

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“The important point is that this is a story that can and will be enjoyed by all ages, as all good myths (did I say myths?) should.” -SF Book Review

Rise of the Wolf extract

Just a quick update: the next book is more than half finished and I’m hoping to get more time to write now so things can really start to kick on and I can get Rise of the Wolf out within the next few months. In the meantime, here’s a little (un-edited!) snippet featuring the jovial Friar Tuck who’s in a spot of bother:

“What can I do for you, my son?” he asked, smiling deferentially at the little man. “A blessing? Do you seek” –

“Enough, priest,” the robber growled, sidling over and standing to look up at the palfrey whose ears were back as it sensed something was wrong. “We need no blessings in Sherwood. What we need is silver and gold. And food. And judging by the belly you’re carrying around on you, you’ve got enough of everything to share with me and my mates here.” He raised the sword he carried, unusually, in his left hand, brandishing it menacingly, and Tuck noticed the man was missing more than one finger from his right hand. Punishment for being caught stealing before perhaps, although that method of justice had – mostly – been done away with years earlier.

Dangerous, but hopefully stupid.

The friar looked back across his shoulder to see a tall young man holding a longbow aimed directly at him. His hands were steady, but the expression on his face was one of distaste. Not at the clergyman, no…the big man’s eyes flicked to his leader for a moment and Tuck knew the youngster wasn’t happy to be here doing this.

“Aye, he’s got you covered, old man,” the robber leader grinned, showing a mouthful of surprisingly complete teeth. “And the rest of us’ll split you wide open – priest or not – if you don’t hand over what you’ve got. Including that nice horse.”

There was little point denying he was carrying money, Tuck thought. The robbers would know he’d need coin to pay for food and board as he travelled.

“Will you let me be on my way if I give you what I have?” he asked in a trembling voice, moving towards the small man and fumbling in his cassock. As he reached the robber, he smiled, remembering a similar scene a couple of years earlier when he’d first met Robin and the men.

“Here you go, have the lot!”

The two big robbers further back on the road stood in stunned silence for a moment as their leader collapsed in front of them. Tuck had whipped his cudgel up and into the jaw of the robber, then, as the man stumbled backwards, the friar brought it round in an arc into the side of the man’s neck, sending him flying across the road senseless.

Before anyone could react, Tuck jumped forward, ramming the cudgel into the man on the left’s face, feeling teeth crunch as his target reeled back and landed on his backside with a howl of pain.

By now it was obvious this was no normal priest and the final swordsman struck out with the battered old blade he carried.

Tuck had been fast when he was young, but now…he twisted sideways, lashing out with his own weapon which connected with the back of his opponent’s skull sending the man crashing to the hard earth of the road. He let out a breath of relief as he realised his flesh was unbroken – the robber’s blade had only torn his cassock.

The friar glanced back to the bowman and was relieved to see the youngster staring at the scene before him, mouth open in surprise, bowstring not quite fully drawn. Still with one eye on the archer, Tuck moved over to the man with the wounded mouth and kicked out at the side of his head, hard enough to send the man reeling.

“Where are you from, son?”

Look out for Rise of the Wolf, coming soon!

The Holy Lance review

The Holy Lance

by Andrew Latham

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As I’ve noted before, (in my Day of Fire review) being an author has its perks. Sometimes I’m asked to review books before they’re available to buy and it’s really nice to  read something before anyone else gets to see it. Andrew Latham, Professor of Political Science and reader of my own historical novels asked if I’d take a look at his debut The Holy Lance and, if I liked it, share my thoughts and maybe provide a strap-line for the cover.*

Now, it’s very flattering to be asked to critique someone’s work but sometimes it’s poor and it’s a chore to even finish it, never mind come up with an excuse not to review it. I’d rather not say anything than be hurtful after all.
I’m glad to report that, thankfully, Andrew Latham’s The Holy Lance didn’t need any excuses – it’s a damn good read!

A historical fiction adventure very much in the mould of Cornwell, Scarrow, Robyn Young et al, the book centres around a Templar Knight’s quest to retrieve a prized artefact: the titular holy lance. Michael Fitz Alan is an entertaining character, with all the leadership and martial qualities you hope for in a novel like this. Indeed, his violent exploits are often extremely visceral, with much blood spilled as he battles through the Holy Land on this, the first part of his quest.

The battle scenes really do stand out, being superbly written and bringing the action to vivid life in the reader’s imagination, but there’s more to the tale than just violence. Like Lord of the Rings, The Sword of Shannara or Bernard Cornwell’s 1356 our hero is after a powerful artefact that will turn the tide of war in his favour. Yes, it’s a theme that’s been explored many, many times over the years, but that’s because it’s a good theme!

The author doesn’t make everything as black-and-white as Tolkien’s hobbits vs orcs though. This isn’t a straight-forward tale of good versus evil – it’s sympathetic to both sides in the conflict which makes for a realistic and satisfying read.

Latham’s scholarship shines through in every page – indeed, I was writing my own Knight Hospitaller novella at the same time as I read this and I freely admit I learned a lot. Not only is it a great tale, you know the history has been thoroughly researched and, as in any top-class histfic title, it makes the book that much more enjoyable. It’s a balancing act between too much and not enough scholarship in this genre and The Holy Lance straddles the tightrope with ease.

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Andrew Latham

If I have a criticism it’s the fact that the chapters are quite long, with the first being almost 10,000 words. Obviously, this is a matter of personal taste, but I like a short, punchy first chapter that starts things off with a bang and drags the reader in by the short and curlies, whether they like it or not. The Holy Lance doesn’t have that and, I have to be honest, I feared the worst when it took me so long to finish the first few pages. It could easily put readers off which would be a real shame as things picked up after that and I was relieved to find myself really enjoying the story.

I’m probably not the best person to ask for a review if you’re on a timetable as I don’t have much time to read these days, but I finished this in just a few days and am very much looking forward to the next one. Which will probably be strange for Professor Latham to read, given this one isn’t even out yet!

Histfic fans will really enjoy this and I’m proud to have been one of the first people to read it. The future promises much for Andrew Latham…be sure you’re there when his first novel hits the shelves on March 24th this year.

Pre-order your hardback copy here (UK)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Holy-Lance-English-Templars/dp/1910282413

or here (US)

http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Lance-English-Templars/dp/1910282413

Find out more at Andrew’s website:

http://www.aalatham.com/

* “Violent and visceral…. meticulously researched… superbly plotted…. The Holy Lance is historical fiction at its best!”