Book Corner: Interview with Toby Clements

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Kingdom Come, the final book in Toby ClementsKingmaker series. And Toby very kindly agreed to an interview for History…the Interesting Bits. Here it is:

Hi Toby, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview. The last time we chatted was at the Harrogate History Festival a couple of years ago and you had just released your second novel in the Kingmaker series, Broken Faith. Now you’re about to release the fourth in the series, Kingdom Come.  What an amazing achievement. Congratulations!

And so, I was wondering;

Are you still enjoying the writing process? Do you still get that buzz when you type ‘The End’?

I am, but I am enjoying different aspects of the process. My first book – Winter Pilgrims – was a real labour of love, and the second book involved a painfully steep learning curve, but since then I have settled down a bit and I’ve acquired a bit more ‘craft’, if that makes sense. Moving from scene to scene with a single sentence, and that sort of thing. I’m still pretty pleased to be able to type The End, but I’ve learned there’ll be a hundred thousand really boring fiddly bits to address by the time my editors have been through it, so it is more like welcoming the lull before the storm.

How have you changed your writing routine since publishing your first novel?

Not really. I have to do other bits and bobs to earn a living, so the writing fits in around them. It does mean that when I am writing, I am really writing though. I HIGHLY recommend the Freedom App, by the way, which you can tailor to limit your time on the internet. (https://freedom.to/)

Who are your major writing influences?

They are a right old hotch-potch, I have to say. I steal from just about every writer I ever read, but my aim remains to tell a Bernard Cornwell style story in Hilary Mantel prose. Of course it never turns out that way, and if either knew that was my object they’d ban me from reading their books.

What was it about the Wars of the Roses that drew you in to the period?

I was a warlike child, to begin with, and I went to school near Tewkesbury, which we had to visit every school holiday, and we studied the period leading up to it so we could get some idea what we were looking at, but I think the real thing was the sight of the abbey’s sacristy door, reinforced with strips of plate taken from the battlefield. It is an example of the ingenuity of the times and I think its everyday re-application of something so momentous – plate armour in which someone would probably have met their end – being reused as something so ordinary made a clear link between the now and the then, between something I could understand and something I couldn’t. If that makes sense.

How many more stories of Kit and Thomas can we expect to enjoy?

I’m afraid Kingdom Come is the last! Their joints are creaking now they are in their thirties, and they need to rest in peace.

Do you have a story outline for the whole series of books, or do you just go where the story leads you?

One of the real pleasures of writing historical fiction is that the recorded events of the past provide a line of beacons in the darkness for the writer to aim for – more prosaically a series of pegs from which to hang your story – so you just have to come up with a plausible reason to get your character A to place B to meet person C, and have a personal stake D in what then occurs. Filling in the gaps, is how someone described it.

How meticulously is each book planned before you start writing?

Pretty closely, but a random word here or there can throw up all sorts of surprises, and send you in unexpected ways, so that the plot always seems to become more interesting than the synopsis.

Who is the best character you have created, which are you most proud of?

I liked the Pardoner in Winter Pilgrims, and was sorry he had to go, and Walter, also in Winter Pilgrims, while hardly an original sort, was at least reliable. In Kingdom Come, I very much liked scenes in which Wilkes appeared. It is a pleasure to write about someone who knows what they want, and how to go about getting it. Most of my other characters are ditherers, and reflect their creator.

How do you come up with the ideas for characters?

Are they ever someone you know, or pure imagination? I try to get friends in occasionally, and in Kingdom Come I have included four people drawn from the public arena, shall we say. I’d offer a signed copy to the first person who can identify them if that would be fun?

What is the most significant thing you have learned that made you a better writer?

I have learned to just get on with it, for the love of God.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to write their first novel?

I heard a poet talking on the radio the other day saying he learned to write quickly so that he had plenty of stuff to edit. I thought that was a gem: get a lot of stuff down. It doesn’t matter if it is rubbish because you can go through it all and make it better. Also, I’d say that unless they were really lucky, any would-be author should write down the latest date they’d imagine themselves being published, and add three years to it. It takes a long time. Like childbirth, mostly. And get the Freedom App!

After the Kingmaker series, do you have other projects in the pipeline?

I’ve one or two. One I am hopeful for, the other less so but very keen on, and the third I just can’t make work without it being identical to what I’ve already written.

Is there any historic era or topic that you would dearly love to write about?

The Wars of the Roses will always be my first love, but there are other moments – or characters – I’m interested in, about which I am hoping to write, as in my last answer.

Have you ever thought of writing non-fiction, if so what would you write about?

I’d like to try, I admit. I think it’d be a whole new grammar though, and I’d miss the little flourishes that enliven fiction. Having said that, one of my favourite sentences ever has to come from Edward Gibbon, who wrote in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – incorrectly, I believe, but irresistibly – of Pope John XXIII that the ‘most scandalous charges (against him) were suppressed; the Vicar of Christ was only accused of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy and incest.’ So there is room for a little extra something.

Thank you so much for answering my questions Toby – it’s always great to welcome you to the blog. Good luck with Kingdom Come – I wish you every success.

No! Thank YOU!

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Kingdom Come and the other 3 books in Toby ClementsKingmaker series; Winter Pilgrims, Broken Faith and Divided Souls can all be found on Amazon.

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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It will be available from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

 

Book Corner: Kingdom Come by Toby Clements

The recent tensions between King Edward and his great ally the Earl of Warwick lie forgotten these past months, but even as winter tightens her grip on the land, the peace is shattered by a vicious attack on one of the King’s allies.

Long buried secrets are brought to the surface, and Thomas and Katherine must finally decide where their loyalties lie and to choose between fight or flight, knowing either choice will incur a terrible price.

From Lincoln to Bruges, from Barnet to the great battle at Tewkesbury, both must play their part in one of the most savage wars in history.

The wars of the roses.

Kingdom Come is the fourth and final instalment of Toby Clements’ Kingmaker series. And what a thrilling finale. The book keeps you on the edge of your seat from the first page to the last. Fast-paced and full of action, it leaves you desperate to get to the end – and yet it is so enjoyable you never want the story to finish.

throughout the series we have followed Katherine (who used to be Kit) and Thomas from their first meeting at the Gilbertine Priory of Haverhurst, in their adventures through the most violent and tumultuous years of the Wars of the Roses, carrying a secret that could bring down the Yorkist cause in a heartbeat. They have leaned towards each side in the conflict, as the winds and fates changed, but Kingdom Come sees their fate firmly tied to that of Edward IV.

The story opens with the Welles raid on Thomas Burgh’s house at Gainsborough – now called Gainsborough Old Hall, but then, of course, it was new. It was a pleasure to read about Thomas and Katherine’s life in Lincolnshire, their travels from Marton to Gainsborough and Lincoln, especially seeing as I did the journey myself the next day. Living just over the river from Gainsborough, I can attest that Toby Clements’ research was impeccable and he describes the Lincolnshire landscape beautifully.

Further on they meet the carrier, coming warily towards them through a long straight stretch of tree-lined road. He will know what is afoot, she thinks, since he travels from Lincoln to Gainsborough and back three or four times a week. He sits in his cart, rather than walks alongside, and behind him, unusually, come three men in helmets, thick jacks, two armed with bills, the other a bow. Up close they look unsure of their own military might, and Katherine supposes they might be recruited from the Watch on one of the city gates, and are more used to leering at nuns and warming their hands over a brazier than fighting off bands of robbers.

‘God give you good speed,’ the carrier greets them when he recognises them, and they return the blessing, and the carrier draws up his mule. Despite his life on the move, he’s a fat man, awkward in his seat, under layers of filthy russet, like a shuffling, shaggy bear that you see in poor fairs. He speaks with a strained three dun-coloured puppies in a wicker cage and a fierce-looking cockerel that hangs by his spurs from the back of the cart. He tells them business is bad, as he always does when you meet him, but that is to be expected at this time of year.

Gainsborough Old Hall

‘Have you heard anything further of the attack on Thomas Burgh’s house?’ Katherine asks.

The man sucks his teeth.

‘A bad business, mistress. A bad business. Though no one killed, praise the Lord, save a servant boy thrown from a window.’

‘Is it known who did it?’

‘It is well known , mistress,’ he says, tipping his head. ‘For the perpetrator never sought to hide his sin, unlike Eve when first she tempted Adam.’

He is that sort of man. He licks his lips and speculates on the costrel of ale on Thomas’s saddle. Thomas sighs and hands it to the man, who takes it with thanks and drinks long. A strong smell emanates from the yeasty folds of his cloth.

‘It was Lord Welles,’ he tells them when he has wiped his lips with the back of his hand. ‘Lord Welles and another gentle who goes by the name of Sir Thomas Dimmock.’

 

Toby Clements has created wonderful, believable characters who are caught up in some of the most momentous events of English history. Thomas and Katherine are entirely human, a couple who have grown to depend on each other and a close circle of friends, and who have learned the hard way that they can rely on nobody else – particularly the rich and powerful. One theme that has run through all the books, is that the participants of the Wars of the Roses changed sides as often as the wind changes direction, and it is interesting to see yet more divided loyalties raise their heads.

The other participants, from the powerful Edward IV and Lord Hastings, to the lowly companions of Katherine and Thomas, are interesting, colourful characters, each with their own story. A wonderful quirk of the novel is some of the names by which these characters go by, from John-who-was-stabbed-by-his-Priest, Robert-from-the-plague-village and the skinny boy. These characters have their own life experiences, secrets and passions, their own stories interwoven within the great panorama of the larger story.

The different threads of the lives of not only Katherine and Thomas but also the nobles and kings – and the war itself – come together in Kingdom Come, in a thrilling conclusion that sees them again forced to take sides and fighting for survival.

Kingdom Come and the Kingmaker series as one of the best retellings of the Wars of the Roses that I have ever read. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, it draws the reader in from the first page and takes you on a marvellous journey through the most turbulent era of English history. Full of suspense, action and danger it grips you from the first moment, leaving you desperate to read to the end – and yet not wanting this magnificent story to finish.

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Kingdom Come and the other 3 books in Toby ClementsKingmaker series; Winter Pilgrims, Broken Faith and Divided Souls can all be found on Amazon.

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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It will be available from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: The King’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

Today over at The Review, you can read my thoughts on Stephanie Churchill’s fantastic new debut novel, The King’s Daughter, a fabulous adventure story that will leave you wanting more.

And there’s a fabulous giveaway –  a Kindle copy available to one lucky winner.

Here’s a taster:

The King’s Daughter is Stephanie Churchill’s second novel and a ‘sister’ story to her first book, The Scribe’s Daughter. Not exactly a sequel, it tells the parallel story of Irisa, sister of Kasia, the heroine of The Scribe’s Daughter. It is a unique concept and The King’s Daughter pulls it off beautifully. The advantage of such an idea is that, although the books are in a series they are also, each, a standalone. You do not have to have read The Scribe’s Daughter – though I recommend you do – to understand, read and enjoy The King’s Daughter and vice versa.

The basic theme running throughout both books is that two daughters who grew up in poverty and obscurity discover that they are the children of an overthrown king and each makes their own journey to find out who they are and what they should be, with very different outcomes for each of them. The King’s Daughter is a fabulous tale of love and court intrigue ….

 

To read the full review of this fantastic novel – and to enter the prize draw and be in with a chance in this fantastic giveaway, simply visit The Review and leave a comment.

Good luck!

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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It will be available from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: The Black Prince by Michael Jones

As a child he was given his own suit of armour; in 1346, at the age of 16, he helped defeat the French at Crécy; and in 1356 he captured the King of France at Poitiers. For the chronicler Jean Froissart, ‘He was the flower of all chivalry’; for the Chandos Herald, who fought with him, he was ‘the embodiment of all valour’. Edward of Woodstock, eldest son and heir of Edward III of England, better known as ‘the Black Prince’, was England’s pre-eminent military leader during the first phase of the Hundred Years War.

Michael Jones uses contemporary chronicles and documentary material, including the Prince’s own letters and those of his closest followers, to tell the tale of an authentic English hero and to paint a memorable portrait of warfare and society in the tumultuous fourteenth century.

The Black Prince by Michael Jones is a wonderful, comprehensive biography of one of the most controversial chivalric figures of history. At first sight Edward of Woodstock, oldest son of Edward III, appears to have been born for war. His childhood, education and experience were all geared to him following in his father’s footsteps and waging war on France. Michael Jones, however, looks deeper into this enigmatic prince; and finds a prince who did, in fact, build his household, his career, indeed almost every aspect of his life, around success on the battlefield; but he was also a pleasure-loving Prince and one of the few from his time who married for love.

Tomb of the Black Prince, Canterbury Cathedral

This biography is a fascinating read from the very first words. Michael Jones has a knack of drawing the reader in. He is so invested in his subject and has such a natural enthusiasm that it is impossible to put the book down. Every aspect of the Black Prince’s life is discussed, explained and analysed, revealing the Prince, the son, the husband, father and the soldier behind the armour.

The Prince’s martial exploits were the stuff of legend in his own lifetime. On 26 August 1346, at the age of sixteen, he fought heroically with his father in an army that crushed the French at Crécy. Ten years later, on 19 September 1356, by now a commander in his own right, he turned the tales on his numerically superior opponent, capturing King John II of France in battle at Poitiers, one of the great English victories of the Hundred Years War. In 1362, he became prince of Aquitaine, holding a magnificent court at Bordeaux that mesmerised the brave but unruly Gascon nobility and drew them like moths to the flame of his cause.

Michael Jones has an easy way of writing and addressing his readers without being condescending or too high brow. He presents his subject in a balanced, analytical manner but it is hard not to admire this English prince who became one of his country’s greatest heroes – even in his own lifetime. The author does not shy away, however, from the controversial aspects of the Black Prince’s military career, placing the chevauchée across France firmly in its historical context and presenting the true facts to the sack of Limoges, where he is accused of killing 3,000 citizens, a crime that has been highly exaggerated and which the Black Prince certainly does not deserve to have attached to his name.

The Black Prince is a fascinating insight into the greatest king England never had. It is also a portrait of the times in which he lived. Michael Jones does not present the Prince as living in a bubble and makes certain of highlighting the influences and people around him. These are discussed in great detail, from his loyal retainers, soldiers who were pardoned for crimes in England so they could fight abroad, to his extravagances and money woes. An interesting aspect of the book deals with the extent of his father’s influence on his career and decisions. The Black Prince’s life was, as with most Princes of royal blood, to a great extent dictated by the king, Edward III and the greater needs of England. Thus painting a portrait of a man who was guided by duty and responsibility throughout his life and career.

… in his prime, the Black Prince created a world of heroic enchantment for those around him, one that did not simply depend on personal charm and bravery. He won over the tough and independent-minded, both in Cheshire and in Gascony, not so much by living a chivalric life as by fully embodying it.

Making use of primary sources, Michael Jones has recreated every aspect of the Black Prince’s life – and death – from his early childhood, through his martial training and experiences, his marriage to Joan of Kent, to his not-always-successful rule in Aquitaine, the birth of his sons and campaigns on behalf of Pedro the Cruel in Spain and finally to his tragic early death. This very personal account of the Black Prince’s life and achievements, successes and failures, draws from the great  chroniclers of the day, from the likes of Froissart and the Chandos Herald; giving the reader a full and accurate picture of the Prince and the man, from friends and enemies alike.

The achievements of Edward, the lLack Prince, suspended above his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral

The Black Prince is at its best when presenting the Prince as a man, discussing his reputation as an exemplar of chivalry, a general without peer and, alongside his wife, the most glamorous couple of their time. It paints a picture of a prince who appreciates the value of pomp and ceremony as a diplomatic tool.

In short, this book is a must for any lover of the era or the man. A thorough account of the Black Prince’s life, Michael Jones does not shy away from criticising his subject, but does not attempt to impose 21st century values on a 14th century prince. Enjoyable, entertaining and engaging, this new biography is a wonderful insight into a world now lost and a man who never achieved his destiny – to be king.

“This Prince was one of the greatest and best knights ever seen.”

 

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The Black Prince by Michael Jones is available from Amazon.

Michael Jones is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and member of the British Commission for Military History. He works as a writer, battlefield tour guide and media presenter. He is the author of Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle, 24 Hours at Agincourt and co-author, with Philippa Gregory and David Baldwin, of The Women of the Cousins’ War; and, with Philippa Langley, of The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III. He lives in South London.

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Photos of the Black Prince’s tomb in Canterbury Cathedral ©2015 Sharon Bennett Connolly.

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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It will be available from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: The Woman in the Shadows by Carol McGrath

Today over at The Review, you can read my thoughts on Carol McGrath’s latest novel – out this week – The Woman in the Shadows, a fabulous look into the Tudor world of Thomas Cromwell’s wife Elizabeth.

And there’s a fabulous giveaway –  a paperback copy of this new release.

Here’s a taster:

What a treat!

Carol McGrath’s latest book, The Woman in the Shadows is a fabulous fictional account of the life and times of Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Henry VIII’s famous – some would say notorious – adviser.  It is an enjoyable, thoughtful story which gives the reader an insight into life in Tudor London, in general, and in a Tudor household in particular. Following Elizabeth from the funeral of her first husband, through her widowhood and new love and marriage with Thomas Cromwell, this is not the story of Henry VIII and the Tudor court, but of the ‘ordinary’ people without whom the Tudors would not have been able to sustain their glamorous court.

Written in colourful, vivid language that draws you in from the first page, The Woman in the Shadows is a wonderful novel, full of life and imagery. …

 

To read the full review of this fantastic novel – and to enter the prize draw and be in with a chance in this fantastic giveaway, simply visit The Review and leave a comment.

Good luck!

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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: Warriors and Kings by Martin Wall

For centuries, the Celtic peoples of Britain stood fast against invasion and oppression. Theirs is a fascinating and exciting story that includes the deeds of some of the most tenacious and heroic leaders in history – from Caratacus and Boudicca to William Wallace, Owain Glyndwr and the legendary King Arthur. What was it that gave first the Britons, and then the Welsh, this fanatical will to hold out against overwhelming odds through so many centuries?

Martin Wall explores the mythology and psychology of this unyielding and insular people; their devotion to charismatic leaders they believed to be sent from God, and their stubborn determination ‘ne’er to yield’ to oppression and injustice, whether Roman, Saxon, Norman, Viking, or later, the ravages of industrialisation. This fascinating book explores Celtic Britain from before the onslaught of the Roman Empire, through rebellion and open war, to the Act of Union passed under the Tudors and on to the Victorian era.

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain is a treasure trove of information on the history  of the Celts. Charting their progress, trials and tribulations from the time of the Romans, it provides a unique, in-depth biography of the race that once occupied Britain.

Boadicea Haranguing The Britons by John Opie.

Opening with the first Roman invasion of Britain, Martin Wall takes the reader on a journey through England through the eyes of the Celts, providing a detailed and interesting analysis of their way of life, their culture and beliefs and the key points in the history of the Celtic peoples and – by extension – Britain itself. Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain gives us insight into the key characters of Celtic Britain, the heroes and the villains.

Using and analysing contemporary sources Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain tells the fascinating story of Boudicca’s – ultimately doomed – rebellion. The book also discusses the existence – or not – of King Arthur, offering theories and ideas as to his identity; while leaving the reader to decide for themselves who he may have been.

The real problem which has bedevilled researchers into a ‘factual’ Arthur is that his rise to power coincided with the collapse of Roman Britain and the re-emergence or revival of Celtic culture – combined with a barbarian onslaught of unprecedented intensity from the Saxons. In times so troubled few contemporary records were kept up, but a little later, after the events but close enough to them to be reliably informed, Gildas wrote his De Excidio et conquestu Britanniae, his ‘complaining book’, about the ‘ruination of Britain’

Martin Wall has produced a book that is both enjoyable and informative, providing balanced argument and analysis of all the major events and figures of Celtic Britain. Making good use of contemporary and near-contemporary literature and archaeology, the story is re-told in a fascinating chronological narrative. Drawing on historians from earliest times, such as Tacitus and Gildas, all the way to the most recent studies, Martin Wall pulls everything together in order to tell the story.

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain charts the 1500-year-long struggle for supremacy over the island of Britain, showing how the Celts have been faced with one invasion after another. Using the battles, conflicts and invasions, we follow the fate of the Celts from the Romans, through the Dark Ages and in to the reign of King Alfred. The wonderful Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia, and her struggle with the Vikings leads into the Norman Conquest and further erosion of Celtic traditions, with the invaders pushing inexorably westwards. There are some fascinating insights into Celtic culture and history; for example, did you know that small enclaves of Celts existed in Mercia during the 5th and 6th centuries?

By the late 570s it was clear that several powerful Anglo-Saxon kings were poised ready to move westwards. In the north, King Aethelric of Deira commenced hostilities with Rheged. A bold Anglian attack thrust right over the Pennines and at Argoed Llyfein, the forest of Leven in Cumbria, Aethelric, nicknamed the ‘Flame-bearer’ by the Celtic bards (perhaps his army had marched through the mountain passes in a night attack), was confronted on a bleak Saturday morning by the mighty Urien. The Angles were soundly beaten and Urien became a legendary Brythonic hero. This did not end the war, but intensified it until it became an epic conflict – truly worthy of poetry and legend, a contest between ‘Dark Age’ super-powers.

King Arthur and his Knights have a vision of the Holy Grail a by Evrard d’Espinques

 

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain demonstrates that, despite its name, ‘Dark Age’ Britain is anything but the unknown entity as previously thought. We have a wealth of information on people and events and Martin Wall has brought all the disparate sources – legends, chronicles and poems – together to recreate and enlighten a hitherto underexposed era of British history.

The author’s analysis is clear, concise and informative. He makes it clear where his own theories and those of other historians either agree or digress, while always being respectful. There are no footnotes, but references are included as part of the text, with a bibliography at the back of the book. The sources are assessed on an individual basis, with Martin Wall giving clear views on their veracity, bias and – sometimes – exaggeration.

For fans of Bernard Cornwell, Matthew Harffy and Annie Whitehead, this book gives the historical background to their fabulous novels, explaining the origins and times of Uhtred, Beobrand and Aethelflaed (even if Uhtred and Beobrand are fictional).

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain examines every aspect of Celitc history; their language, literature, religion and, even, warfare. It charts their story through the centuries and provides some explanation of how they disappeared into legend, their enclaves getting smaller and smaller as other tribes grew in power and influence over Britain. The book is a pleasure to read and a useful addition to any book shelf – be it a fan of King Arthur, a lover of Boudicca or a general history lover.

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Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain by Martin Wall is available from Amberley Publishing and Amazon.

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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

 

 

Book Corner: The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

Today over at The Review, you can read my thoughts on Stephanie Churchill’s fantastic new debut novel, The Scribe’s Daughter, a fabulous adventure story that will leave you wanting more.

And there’s a fabulous giveaway –  two Kindle copies available to 2 lucky winners.

Here’s a taster:

My first thought after finishing The Scribe’s Daughter was ‘Wow!’ It is hard to believe this is a debut novel. It is so polished and intelligently written, having none of the naivety that can be found in, even, the best debut novels. I found myself picking up the book at any opportunity – every spare five minutes were spent in the world Stephanie Churchill has created. I was often reading late into the night, just to devour that little bit more of the story.
The author draws you into her world, building cities, towns, palaces and swamps from her imagination and setting them down in a medieval atmosphere from which it is impossible for the reader to escape. The language, descriptive expertise, attention to detail and wonderful use of imagery helps to create a world that surrounds and embraces the reader.

 

To read the full review of this fantastic novel – and to enter the prize draw and be in with a chance in this fantastic giveaway, simply visit The Review and leave a comment.

Good luck!

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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: Half Sick of Shadows by Richard Abbott

Today over at The Review, you can read my thoughts on Richard Abbott’s fantastic new historical fantasy novel, Half Sick of Shadows, a fabulous re-imagining of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Sahlott.

And there’s a fabulous giveaway! With one signed paperback copy going to a winner in the UK, or and ebook to anywhere else in the world.

Here’s a taster:

There is one great advantage to being a book reviewer; every now and then you get to read a gem of a book, one that you may never have discovered had you relied on Amazon’s reading recommendations. Half Sick of Shadows is one such treasure. This novel, inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem The Lady of Shalott, is unique and engrossing from the very first page.

When trying to think of a single word that could be used to describe this novel, the only one that seemed to fit was ‘mesmerising‘.

The reader is instantly drawn into the world of the Lady, who can watch the lives and interactions of the people in the world only through the guide of a mirror. She can see the world, but is apart from it, safe in her own keep…..

 

To read the full review of this fantastic novel – and to enter the prize draw and be in with a chance in this fantastic giveaway, simply visit The Review and leave a comment.

Good luck!

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Looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, Sharon’s book, Heroines of the Medieval World, will be published by Amberley later this year and is now available for pre-order from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

 

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©Sharon Bennett Connolly 2017

Book Corner: Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy

AD 636. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the fourth instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Beobrand has land, men and riches. He should be content. And yet he cannot find peace until his enemies are food for the ravens. But before Beobrand can embark on his bloodfeud, King Oswald orders him southward, to escort holy men bearing sacred relics.

When Penda of Mercia marches a warhost into the southern kingdoms, Beobrand and his men are thrown into the midst of the conflict. Beobrand soon finds himself fighting for his life and his honour.

In the chaos that grips the south, dark secrets are exposed, bringing into question much that Beobrand had believed true. Can he unearth the answers and exact the vengeance he craves? Or will the blood-price prove too high, even for a warrior of his battle-fame and skill?

This series just gets better and better!

Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy is the 4th instalment in the Bernicia Chronicles, telling the story of Beobrand Half-Hand, a young Northumbrian thegn skilled in war. And, as readers have come to expect of the author, the novel has a strong, engaging story, that sees the hero travelling the length and breadth of Saxon England, fueled by duty to his king and a desire for revenge against the man who violated his wife and has, as yet, escaped retribution. Set in East Anglia, Kent, Mercia and Northumbria (Bernicia), we see Beobrand facing enemies, both old and new.

Matthew Harffy is a great story-teller. The Bernicia Chronicles are a must-read for anyone with a love of Anglo-Saxon England. The story is fast-paced and impossible to put down. Keeping you on the edge of your seat from the opening chapter, a desperation to know what happens next will keep you reading into the early hours.

Beobrand is developing into a wonderful character; a hero always questioning himself and other people’s perceptions of him. He has a growing sense of responsibility towards his duties, his men and their families, who rely on him for protection and patronage. In Killer of Kings we see Beobrand’s past and present collide; the mysteries of his childhood are revealed, tying up some loose ends, while at the same time helping to set his course in the present and, maybe, the future.

One last look at the other woman and then Edmonda grasped his hand. Beobrand pulled her up behind him with ease.

“God bless you all,” she said, sobbing.

“Hold on to me, girl,” said Beobrand. “Tight, mind, or you’ll fall when we start to ride.”

She did not reply, but her slim arms encircled his waist.

Swinging Sceadugenga’s head around, he turned to the mounted Waelisc warrior in the white cloak.

“You say you know me,” said Beobrand. “And yet, I know you not. What is your name, Waelisc?”

The man offered him a broad smile.

“I am Gwalchmei ap Gwyar. And you have now stolen two things of mine.”

The name meant nothing to Beobrand.

“What two things? What riddle is this?” How he would love to ride the man off his horse and smash that smile from his face.

“Well, now there is that girl. But she is nothing. That however,” he said, indicating Sceadugenga, “is another matter.”

What was the man speaking of? He made no sense.

“What do you mean?” Beobrand asked, his words as sharp and cold as shards of iron.

“That fine stallion you are riding,” said Gwalchmei, “is my horse.”

The storyline follows two interesting opposing paths. With one strand being Beobrand’s mission and his return face the demons of his past. While the other follows those left behind; Rheagan, the freed slave who is his current love interest, and those left to protect and maintain Beobrand’s manor of Ubbanford … who find themselves with their own enemy to face. The contrast between the struggles of those who left to fight, and of those left at home, is stark. It serves to offer a new insight into the intertwined fates of the warriors and their families, the worries of each for the other and their interdependency.

Whether it is setting the scene in a king’s hall, a simple cottage or on a battlefield, Matthew Harffy transports the reader so that the sights, sounds and smells are so vivid it’s hard to believe they’re not real. His attention to detail serves to  paint the picture in the reader’s mind’s eye. The horrors of the battlefield are described with care and attention, with individual fights contrasting with the greater battle and individual, heroic deaths contrasting with the devastation once the battle has ended, leaving the reader exhilarated and bereft at the same time. It is not all about battles, however; even though he is a warrior, past experience has made Beobrand all-too-aware of the political consequences of war and the machinations of kings.

The Bernicia Chronicles are set in the Seventh Century, telling the story of a time even before King Alfred, when Anglo-Saxon England was made up of a number of disparate kingdoms, with kings fighting for supremacy over each other. With his exceptional knowledge of the time, Matthew Harrfy transports the reader back to this period, using his research to vividly recreate the people, buildings and landscape of the time.

Matthew Harffy has a knack of developing characters who are at once vivid, flawed, heroic and human. Each book sees Beobrand grow and mature, and carrying more scars from his experiences. The strong story lines and interesting personalities make Matthew Harffy one of the best authors of Dark Ages historical fiction of today. He is one of those authors I do not hesitate to recommend – and often. His books are fabulous, enjoyable, entertaining and true to the history of the period. The author’s descriptive skills and lively dialogue will draw you in and keep you captivated to the very end – and beyond.

 

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About the author: Matthew Harffy grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

Killer of Kings, Book 4 in the Bernicia Chronicles, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, ibooks and Google Play.

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My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: Mansfield Parsonage by Kyra C Kramer

Fans of Jane Austen will recognise the players and the setting – Mansfield Park has been telling the story of Fanny Price and her happily ever after for more than 200 years. But behind the scenes of Mansfield Park, there’s another story to be told.

Mary Crawford’s story.

When her widowed uncle made her home untenable, Mary made the best of things by going to live with her elder sister, Mrs Grant, in a parson’s house the country. Mansfield Parsonage was more than Mary had expected and better than she could have hoped. Gregarious and personable, Mary also embraced the inhabitants of the nearby Mansfield Park, watching the ladies set their caps for her dashing brother, Henry Crawford, and developing an attachment to Edmund Bertram and a profound affection for his cousin, Fanny Price.

Mansfield Parsonage retells the story of Mansfield Park from the perspective of Mary Crawford’s hopes and aspirations and shows how Fanny Price’s happily-ever-after came at Mary’s expense.

When I was told about the book Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel by Kyra C Kramer, I remember thinking ‘how brave’. Kyra Kramer has rewritten Jane Austen’s novel, Mansfield Park, but from the point of view of a different character; that of Mary Crawford as oppose to the original heroine, Fanny Price. The idea was an interesting one, but could it work?

Having opened the book with some trepidation – after all, Jane Austen is a difficult act to follow – I soon found myself drawn into this alternate view of Mansfield Park. I quickly discovered that Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel is an absolute delight to read. Written in the spirit of Jane Austen, Kyra Kramer; has managed to emulate the language, storyline and even the subtle nuances of the great novelist.

If you haven’t read Mansfield Park, do not worry; Kyra Kramer has cleverly blended the original novel into her new adaptation, including the politics of the time, such as war with Napoleon, the Whig and Tory parties of British politics and the slave trade. The father of Mary’s love interest, Edmund, is a slave owner in the West Indies and it is interesting to see how Mary Crawford, an opponent to slavery, reconciles her own interests in Edmund against her abhorrence of slavery.

Looking at the story from Mary Crawford’s point of view makes an interesting turnaround and provides a new and exciting story for avid Jane Austen fans. This is not a rewrite of Mansfield Park, but rather and alternative look at the same story. Mary Crawford is viewed much more sympathetically than in the original book. She comes across as  a generous, forthright girl, unaware of Fanny Price’s designs on her own love interest, Edmund, or her consequent animosity towards Miss Crawford. Indeed, Mary acts as Fanny’s champion on several occasions, much to Miss Price’s ingratitude and chagrin.

“Your cousin is very generous and tolerant of discourtesy; I am thoroughly ashamed of myself for monopolising her horse,” Mary said, as she and Edmund walked through the park toward the Grant’s home.

“If there is any creature alive who could be less offended than my cousin, I would be surprised; I am sure Miss Price does not begrudge you a loan of the mare,” Edmund assured her.

“Nevertheless, her difficulty to offend does not give me license for offence. I must be more careful to end my lesson with alacrity. It does not do to become habituated to getting one’s own way simply because someone else is too sweet natured to think ill of you for it. That is how one becomes Russian.”

Edmund laughed. “Is my cousin Poland, then?”

“I hope not. To be a battleground between Napoleon and Czar Alexander is no place for a nice young lady like Miss Price.”

“Miss Price is stronger than she appears, and more resolute than one would suspect with such a yielding temper. If she is to be Poland then she would be Poniatowski; earning admiration and respect regardless of her subjugation to France,” Edmund argues.

“That is easy for the french to say,” Miss Crawford gave Edmund a pointed look.

Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel is full of wonderful, vivid characters, their stories told in the best tradition of Jane Austen herself. The relationship between Mary Crawford, her brother Henry and sister Mrs Grant, is wonderfully told and their interactions are a delight to read. The central story, of Mary and Edmund’s relationship, is beautifully re-told; the little allusions to Fanny’s jealousy providing a new insight into the original heroine.

Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel provides us with an excellent opportunity to look at a beloved and familiar story from the viewpoint of an alternative protagonist, while not taking away from any of the major events and personalities of the original story and characters. You really feel that the author put herself into the head of Jane Austen when writing. On every page she has emulated the words and actions of the original characters with stunning accuracy.

Fans of Jane Austen can surely find nothing but pleasure in reading this wonderful novel.

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Kyra Kramer is a medical anthropologist. historian and devoted bibliophile who lives just outside Cardiff, Wales, with her husband and three young daughters. She has a deep – nearly obsessive – love for Regency Period romances in general and Jane Austen’s work in particular. Ms Kramer has authored several history books, including The Jezebel Effect and academic essays, but  Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel is her first foray into fiction.

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 My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

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©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly