Audiobook reviews and an Event

First off, I have been asked by Amazon KDP if I’d like to be part of their forthcoming event in Edinburgh on May 23rd, to which I of course said, “I’d LOVE it!” I might have picked them up wrong but it seems they want me to be part of a panel giving advice to aspiring authors, rather like I did with them at the London Book Fair in 2014 (read about that incredible, and often humourous experience HERE). So, if you are in Scotland and can make it to the EICC on May 23rd, please come along and say hello – I will be taking copies of one of my books to sign and give away to interested parties!

Some more info HERE – I believe you need to sign up but tickets are free.

Right, enough of that. Onto some reviews of my latest Audible purchases….


I was a spotty teenager when I first discovered The Sword of Shannara more than 25 years ago. My friend was given it as a birthday gift and oh, how I laughed at him for being a geeky nerd twat!

Until he let me borrow it and I thought it was just the best book anyone had ever written.

It was my gateway into fantasy and, although now I can see it’s basically a total rip-off of Lord of the Rings, it’s still an excellent read/listen. The parallels with JRR Tolkien’s masterpiece are blatant and legion (Flick & Shea = Frodo & Sam, Gimli = Hendel, Aragorn = Balinor, Gandalf =Allanon, Nazgul =Skull Bearers etc etc), but Brooks is, or at least was, a fantastic writer and I highly recommend this to everyone. My only reservation is the bizarre amount of times he describes characters as “lean”. It seems everyone that populates this world, from the giant druid Allanon to the lowliest goblin, is “lean”. They have lean frames, lean faces, lean figures…They could all do with a good feed from the sounds of them.

But I digress, it matters little to the overall experience, and this is one of the most enjoyable audiobooks I’ve listened to so far. Scott Brick isn’t perfect for fantasy narration – I liked him way better in Asimov’s sci-fi Foundation series – but he does a fine job here, even if his pronunciation of “Shannara” is irritating at first and he sometimes gives Flick a weird Dick Van Dyke-style cockney accent.

It’s a really long book so it represents great value for your monthly credit!

My rating – 5 / 5, easy!


Writing Great Fiction – The Great Courses

I enjoy listening to lectures for some reason and this seemed like it would be an ideal way for me to learn a few new tricks while I drive around at work.

To be honest, and I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, I think this is probably aimed more at real beginners who’ve yet to pen a novel or publish even a short story. I found the lectures interesting although I’m unfamiliar with the vast majority of the books the professor uses as examples. They’re mostly all classics but I grew up on fantasy and sci-fi and now concentrate on historical fiction so I’ve not read The Maltese Falcon or Dickens or Melville but it doesn’t matter, you get the point of the lectures regardless.

The overall theme seems to be: “I’m not saying this is the right way or the wrong way to write because different authors forge their own path.” In other words, there might be rules most authors will stick to but they’re there to be bent and broken so, do what you like.

If you’re looking for some concrete ways to write a best-seller this isn’t for you. It IS, however, an interesting and entertaining listen and I’ve enjoyed it so give it a shot.

Rating – 3.5 / 5

That’s it for now I’m afraid. I have a few other new books in my library including the next two in the Dune series, a history of the decline of the Roman Empire, and an Aleister Crowley biography but I’ve either not finished those or not started them yet. I’ve been listening to too much AC/DC recently after buying myself a Gibson SG Standard and rediscovering my once-favourite band!

Keep it tuned here for more audiobook reviews and news on the release date of my final Forest Lord novella, The Abbey of Death which is all finished….


The Holy Lance review

The Holy Lance

by Andrew Latham

holy lance cover

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.


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)

or here (US)

Find out more at Andrew’s website:

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