Review of Stormbird (Wars of the Roses) by Conn Iggulden

Stormbird Wars of the Roses by Conn IgguldenThere is no romance at the heart of war. Conn Iggulden captures this sentiment perfectly in his latest novel, Stormbird (Wars of the Roses). The medieval period is often glamorized as a period of chivalry and romance in many films and novels, so I was relieved when Iggulden did not fall into this typical cliche. His writing is more in the vein of Bernard Cornwell with a gritty, realistic approach to what it was actually like to live through this turbulent period of English history. Granted he does take some liberalities with the history, but remember this is historical fiction not a biography, and he does point out these areas in the historical note.

Stormbird is the first novel in a new series planned by Iggulden. The book opens with a marriage alliance between King Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou, a young French noblewoman, in hopes of easing the hostilities between England and France. As part of the alliance, England agrees to return a portion of territories captured back to France. This agreement is manipulated by Henry’s closest advisers, Derry Brewer the spymaster (a fictional character) and Duke William of Suffolk. This truce enrages many of the powerful English nobles, including Richard, Duke of York, and they plot to overthrow the timid Henry from his throne. Also beneath this chaos grows the seeds of rebellion from the lower class who are tired of the nobility suppressing their freedoms. The leader of this rebellion is Jack Cade, and he has plans to march on London.

Chaos. Betrayal. Corruption. Tactical diplomacy. War. These are the words that best describe England and France during the medieval period, and Iggulden does not fail to deliver. It was a brutal period of history in which to live, and it is felt in the setting that the author depicts. Iggulden does a nice job moving between the various plot points and points of view. The pacing is good. I do wish the characters were a little more fleshed out, but hopefully that will come in the subsequent books. Though it would not have been historical accurate, it would have added some additional tension to have William of Suffolk and Margaret of Anjou in a secret relationship, as there seemed to be something there between them when they first met. Since the relationship between Margaret and King Henry was rather bland, this element — though I admit may be cliche and falls risk to romanticizing the period if done incorrectly — could have created an extra layer for readers that seemed to be missing.

Overall, I’d rate Stormbird 4 out of 5 stars. I hope to see a return of many of these characters in the next novel.

About the author:

Conn Iggulden is one of the most successful authors of historical fiction writing today. His previous series, on Julius Caesar and on the Mongol Khans of Central Asia, describe the founding of two of the greatest empires in history. Now, with Stormbird, he plunges readers into one of the most bloody and brutal periods in history, when two rival branches of one royal English family threw their country into a devastating, decades-long civil war. Iggulden lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and children.

What’s next?

Within the week, I should be offering a book giveaway for one free copy of Stormbird. Details to come later, so check back with my site soon. Also, I plan to post a Q&A interview from the author later in the week.

The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell
Series: Saxon Tales
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (January 7, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0061969702

New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell returns to his epic Saxon Tales saga with The Pagan Lord, a dramatic story of divided loyalties, bloody battles, and the struggle to unite Britain.

At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.

In The Pagan Lord, loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.

Rating on Amazon: 4.5 stars

Read my reviews on the other novels in the Saxon Tales:

Once I read The Pagan Lord, I will post my review of it as well.

Dinsdale Imber Literary Agency

For those searching for agencies that specialize in fantasy and historical fiction, you might take a look at Dinsdale Imber. They do accept and encourage submissions from new authors.

Dinsdale Imber is a dedicated independent literary agency, specializing in the best of genre writing: historical fiction, thrillers, fantasy, science-fiction and horror.

It works in association with AM Heath & Co Ltd, one of the world’s leading literary agencies.

Dinsdale Imber’s clients are represented by Robert Dinsdale, formerly of AM Heath and the HHB Agency, and supported through all stages of the editorial process by the agency’s editor, Kirstie Imber.

A while back, I also posted another list of agencies you might consider. Or this one.

Hope this helps.

Featured Historical Fiction Novel

Historical Fiction - Silver’s Odyssey - Henry C Duggan IIISilver’s Odyssey by Henry C. Duggan III

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: AuthorHouse (May 29, 2012)
ISBN-10: 146858734X

Book Description:

Motivated by his family’s military heritage and his reading of Don Quixote, our protagonist is spurred on to pursue a trip to the New World aboard a military galleon in 1622. Though his heart is wrenched to leave his bethrothed, one can feel the excitement that eventually builds as he sets sail. Albeit, serving the king honorably is soon forgotten as his silver-laden ship sinks in a hurricane on the return.

Cast ashore and made to endure Indian slavery humbles him, and he inwardly becomes obsessed with escape. It comes, but with a price, paid by the death and torment of fellow escapees. Given a few pieces of eight, or pesos, on the ship, he carefully guards them on his trek, until he begins to resent both the monarchy and the coins for his plight. This consternation sets him on a dangerous mission that almost takes his life.

His suffers further grief, both in a village and in St. Augustine’s jail, but with dignity and honor, he is persistent in returning to Spain. His trials are many, both physical and emotional, but in the end is triumph.

Average customer review on Amazon: 5 stars (30 reviews)

Mongoliad: Book Three

Mongoliad Book Three, Foreworld Saga, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Medieval, Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo47North
For Immediate Release

Elena Stokes, Wunderkind PR
elena@wunderkind-pr.com, 917.887.0784
Justin Golenbock, 47North
golenboc@amazon.com, 646-753-5768

47North Celebrates the Publication of THE MONGOLIAD: BOOK THREE by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, and Cooper Moo

New York, NY:   In 2012, fans of Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear were introduced to The Mongoliad: Book One and The Mongoliad: Book Two, the first two installments in the Foreworld Saga, a collaborative series unlike any other that has enthralled fans of fantasy, martial arts, and historical fiction. io9 raved has raved about the series : “This off-beat alternate history of Eurasia could be your new obsession.” Readers can now conclude this extraordinary journey this February with the final leg of the Foreworld journey, THE MONGOLIAD: BOOK THREE.

The Foreworld medieval adventure saga was actually born out of swordfighting.  Stephenson and his fellow authors are avid practitioners of Western martial arts and they are part of an enthusiastic study group in Seattle.  When Stephenson realized that the descriptions of swordfighting in his novels would have been much better with contributions from people with fighting expertise, the idea for a saga about the complex, bloody history of Western martial arts was born, featuring Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Joseph Brassey, Erik Bear, and Cooper Moo.

THE MONGOLIAD: BOOK THREE (47North, February 26, 2013; $14.95 trade paperback, $9.99 digital) is the riveting third and final installment in this epic tale.

The shadow of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II hangs over the shattered Holy Roman Church as the cardinals remain deadlocked, unable to choose a new pope. Only the Binders and a mad priest have a hope of uniting the Church against the invading Mongols. An untested band of young warriors stands against the dissolute Khan, Onghwe, fighting for glory and freedom in the Khan’s sadistic circus of swords, and the brave band of Shield-Brethren who set out to stop the Mongol threat single-handedly race against their nemesis before he can raise the entire empire against them. Veteran knight Feronantus, haunted by his life in exile, leads the dwindling company of Shield-Brethren to their final battle, molding them into a team that will outlast him. No good hero lives forever…or fights alone.

In this third and final book of the Mongoliad trilogy from Neal Stephenson and company, the gripping personal stories of medieval freedom fighters form an epic, imaginative recounting of a moment in history when a world in peril relied solely on the courage of its people.

About the authors:

  • Neal Stephenson is a New York Times bestselling author and has received numerous awards including the Hugo and the Nebula for his works in speculative fiction. His more popular books include Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle, Anathem, and Reamde.

  • Greg Bear is the author of more than thirty books, spanning the thriller, science fiction, and fantasy genres, including Blood Music, Eon, The Forge of God, Darwin’s Radio, City at the End of Time, and Hull Zero Three. His books have won numerous international prizes, have been translated into more than twenty-two languages, and have sold millions of copies worldwide.

  • Nicole Galland studied comparative religion and theatre at Harvard University and believes they are pretty much the same thing. She is the author of The Fool’s Tale and I, Iago and has written under various pseudonyms, including E.D. deBirmingham, much to the dismay of her mother, who wishes hers was a household name. She lives in rural Massachusetts with her husband and the world’s best dog.

  • Mark Teppo is the author of the Codex of Souls urban fantasy series as well as the hypertext dream narrative The Potemkin Mosaic.

  • Joseph Brassey lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two cats. He teaches medieval fighting techniques to members of the armed forces. The Mongoliad is his first published fiction.

  • Erik Bear lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. He has written for a bestselling video game and is currently working on several comic book series.

  • Cooper Moo spent five minutes in Mongolia in 1986 before he had to get back on the train—he never expected to be channeling Mongolian warriors. In 2007 Cooper fought a Chinese long-sword instructor on a Hong Kong rooftop—he never thought the experience would help him write battle scenes. In addition to being a member of The Mongoliad writing team, Cooper has written articles for various magazines including Seattle Weekly. He lives in Issaquah, Washington, with his wife, three children, and numerous bladed weapons.

#######

THE MONGOLIAD: BOOK THREE

By Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Joseph Brassey, Erik Bear & Cooper Moo

On-sale: February 26, 2013, 47North

ISBN-13: 978-1612182384, ISBN-10: 1612182380

$14.95 trade paperback; $9.99 digital

Chapter 1 Excerpt:

1241

Veturnætur

CHAPTER 1:

Leaving Finn

The Shield-Brethren buried Finn on the hill where they had set up camp. “It is not as grand as one of those burial mounds—the kurgans—we have seen,” Raphael pointed out to Feronantus, “but it has a view of where we came from, and the sun will always warm the ground.” Given the choice, Finn had always preferred to sleep outside, where the sun could find him and warm his bones in the morning. Finn may not have been a sworn member of the Shield-Brethren, but he was a feral brother to many of them.

One by one the members of the Shield-Brethren attacked the rocky ground of the hilltop. Without coming out and saying as much, they all wanted to be the one to dig Finn’s grave, as if the backbreaking labor would somehow assuage their individual guilt. It was not that they valued Finn above their other fallen comrades—the loss of any brother was equally horrific—but each was racked with a sense of responsibility for the circumstances of the hunter’s death.

As he prepared Finn’s body for burial, Raphael tried not to let his thoughts dwell on other members of their company whom they had lost. Or even his own role in the deaths of those dear friends. With Vera’s assistance, he laid the small man’s body on Percival’s cloak—the knight refused to hear otherwise—and arranged Finn’s limbs as best he could. The stiffness that creeps into a man’s body in the wake of death had filled Finn, and one of his arms resisted Raphael’s efforts. His face, once it had been tenderly washed by Vera, was surprisingly boyish. Raphael felt the weight of his years when he saw the delicate lashes and the unlined swath of forehead clearly for the first time. Too young, he thought, to die so far from home.

And he realized how little he knew of Finn. How little any of them knew.

“Wait,” he said to Vera as she made to cover Finn’s face with Percival’s cloak. He strode to his bags and dug out his worn journal and his writing instruments. With the sun peering over his shoulder, he sat and carefully sketched Finn’s face on a blank page.

There will be a record, he promised his dead friend. You will not be forgotten.

Praise for the Foreworld Saga

The Mongoliad: Book One & The Mongoliad: Book Two

“Stephenson’s knack for dense historical detail combines with lots of sword-swinging adventure…As it stands, the book itself is a romp through this thinly fictional historic period, one that is full of well-described swordplay and richly imagined characters. The transitions between the voices of Bear, Teppo, deBirmingham, Bear (again), Brassey, and Moo is seamless. The Mongoliad: Book One feels like the start of a truly epic adventure.”

—Locus Magazine on The Mongoliad: Book One

“This off-beat alternate history of Eurasia could be your new obsession.”

—io9 on The Mongoliad: Book One

“The pacing is taut throughout..the fight scenes in particular are written exceptionally well, with a clarity and subtlety missing from just about every other representation of medieval warfare in prose or on film. The authors have clearly done their homework on the period, but they wear their collective education lightly; the result is a world with depth and texture, not a history textbook. Fans of Brian Wood’s Viking comic Northlanders, for instance, will find a lot to like here; The Mongoliad has a similar blend of action, period detail, and modern vernacular that somehow doesn’t feel out of place.”

—Tor.com on The Mongoliad: Book One

“Multiple battles, torture, betrayal scenes, and more fill these pages…one gets a surface glimpse into the prevailing culture in Northern Asia and Europe at the time.”

—Historical Novel Review on The Mongoliad: Book Two

“Suggestions of revelations to come combine with expertly crafted fight sequences and immensely enjoyable characters to hold the reader’s interest.”

—Publishers Weekly on The Mongoliad: Book Two

Featured Medieval Historical Fiction Novel

Blood and Honour - John Lincoln - Historical Fiction - Medieval History - Middle Ages History - Anglo Saxon EnglandBlood and Honour – The Battle for Saxony
By John Lincoln
Kindle Edition

Description:

Europe, in the year of the Lord 772

Like a bloody storm, Charlemagne’s armies ravage early medieval Europe, leaving devastation and misery in their wake. They have subdued the kingdom of the Langobards, defeated the duchy of Bavaria; they threaten the Moors in the west and, in the south, the pope in Rome.

Yet Charlemagne has even more ambitious plans: he covets the Saxon territories in the north. The Saxons put up an unexpectedly fierce resistance. When Charlemagne’s troops destroy the Irminsul shrine, the Saxon holy of holies, there ensues a struggle to the death. Led by the legendary Duke Widukind, for decades the Saxons fight savagely for their beliefs and their independence. And they will have their revenge…

The Duke and the Kings will transport the reader right into this legend-shrouded part of the Early Middle Ages. With his story, John Lincoln has woven a rich, dark tapestry of one of the pivotal periods in medieval European history. His historically accurate descriptions rich in authentic detail bring this remote, mysterious world to life again before your very eyes.

So stoke the fire, draw your armchair closer and dive into this wonderful historical novel full of the love, the intrigue, the warriors and the battles of a bygone Europe…

Average customer review on Amazon: 4 stars (34 reviews)

Featured Medieval Historical Fiction Novel

Swords of Artaius
High adventure in Celtic Europe

By William H Russeth

Newly released by Wings-Press (Sept 2012), Swords of Artaius is the third novel penned by William Russeth. Set in ancient Gaul 200 years before the Roman conquest. “Swords of Artaius” is a thrilling, fast moving adventure with mythological overtones and a strong element of romance. The fates of two desperate souls collide and they find themselves clinging together in the face of a massive invasion of barbarous Germanic tribes led by the dreadful chieftain, Morga Raven Wings.

Artaius and Lughin run for their lives, watching the invading horde sweep through Celtica, scourging the land, and ravaging the impregnable fortress, Lugdunum. Believing each night together will be their last, they find solace in each other’s arms. Trapped in a mountain top stockade, the last bastion of protection, they make their stand. Their only hope is the rage and sword of Artaius the Bear.

William Russeth’s tale is a blend of fictional and historical settings in Europe prior to the Roman occupation, an era not exploited by many authors.

Background:
Before Romans conquered Europe, the people that lived in Northern Italy and most of Europe were known as the Keltoi to the Greeks and the Gauls to the Romans. Hundreds of fiercely independent tribes populated this area. Celtic languages were spoken from Asia Minor to Spain and from Spain to Great Britain. While they had no written word, their culture was highly advanced. They forged durable iron weapons, wove fine woolen cloth, raised hearty crops, and traded beer for wine with the Romans. Mystical druids, not only acted as judges in their complicated legal system, but also served as doctors, seers, bards, and religious leaders. Fierce chieftains and an elite warrior class ruled the tribes. Romans feared the Celtic tribes and respected them as great warriors. In 387 BCE a famous Celtic chief, Brennus, attacked Rome and exacted a huge ransom in return for not burning the city.

Other novels by William H Russeth:
Cult of Camulos, Wings Press, 2010
Fires of Belenus, Wings Press, 2007
Novels of High Adventure in Ancient Celtica

Available in trade paperback and ebook formats:
Wings-Press:
http://www.wings-press.com/, (Lowest Pricing)
Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Swords+of+Artaius
Barnes & Noble:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Swords-of-Artaius?keyword=Swords+of+Artaius&store=allproducts&iehack=%E2%98%A0
Trade Paperback and all popular Ebook formats.

More information and excerpts at :
Google Blogspot:  http://whrusseth.blogspot.com/

For information and excerpts visit William’s website at:
http://mysite.verizon.net/resr5omo/whrhomepage/

The White Hawk: Part One: Revenge by David Pilling

White Hawk - David Pilling - Wars of the Roses - Historical Fiction - Medieval HistoryA Bolton, a Bolton! The White Hawk!

Steven has kindly allowed me a guest spot to talk about Book One of The White Hawk, my new series of novels set during The Wars of the Roses. This period, with its murderous dynastic feuding between the rival Houses of York and Lancaster, is perhaps the most fascinating of the entire medieval period in England. Having lost the Hundred Years War, the English nobility turned on each other in a bitter struggle for the crown, resulting in a spate of beheadings, battles, murders and Gangland-style politics that lasted some thirty years.

Apart from the savage doings of aristocrats, the wars affected people on the lower rungs of society. One minor gentry family in particular, the Pastons of Norfolk, suffered greatly in their attempts to survive and thrive in the feral environment of the late 15th century. They left an invaluable chronicle in their archive of family correspondence, the famous Paston Letters.

The letters provide us with a snapshot of the trials endured by middle-ranking families like the Pastons, and of the measures they took to defend their property from greedy neighbours. One such extract is a frantic plea from the matriarch of the clan, Margaret Paston, begging her son John to return from London:

“I greet you well, letting you know that your brother and his fellowship stand in great jeopardy at Caister… Daubney and Berney are dead and others badly hurt, and gunpowder and arrows are lacking. The place is badly broken down by the guns of the other party, so that unless they have hasty help, they are likely to lose both their lives and the place, which will be the greatest rebuke to you that ever came to any gentleman. For every man in this country marvels greatly that you suffer them to be for so long in great jeopardy without help or other remedy…”

The Paston Letters, together with my general fascination for the era, were the inspiration for The White Hawk. Planned as a series of three novels, TWH will follow the fortunes of a fictional Staffordshire family, the Boltons, from the beginning to the very end of The Wars of the Roses. Unquenchably loyal to the House of Lancaster, their loyalty will have dire consequences for them as law and order breaks down and the kingdom slides into civil war. The ‘white hawk’ of the title is the sigil of the Boltons, and will fly over many a blood-stained battlefield.

In the following excerpt, one of the protagonists is introduced to his first taste of real combat at the Battle of Northampton:

“The Lancastrians still had their archers, and the unseasonal rain had turned the ground between the two armies into a quagmire. Geoffrey lost a shoe in the soft, sucking mud, and cursed as he was forced to hobble onward with one naked foot.

Then the skies darkened, and the man beside him squealed and went down with an arrow protruding from the eye-piece of his sallet. Geoffrey lowered his head and stumbled on, gagging at the stench of excrement and split gut that filled his nostrils as more arrows strafed Fauconberg’s division, cutting men down and breaking up their carefully ordered ranks.

Geoffrey was breathing hard, his limbs seized with weariness as he laboured through the mud. His heart rattled like a drum. The Yorkists were being murdered by the arrows, and still had to cross a deep ditch, defended by a wall of stakes and thousands of determined, well-fed and rested Lancastrian infantry. They would surely be repelled, panic would set in, and men would start to run. Then the Lancastrian knights would mount their destriers, and the real killing would begin as they pursued their beaten foes across miles of open ground.

Geoffrey’s courage and desire for vengeance shriveled inside him. He desperately wanted to turn and run, but the press of men forced him on, towards the bristling line of stakes. He glanced ahead, and saw that March’s division had stormed right up to the barricades on the right flank of the Lancastrian position. These were defended by men wearing badges displaying a black ragged staff. He recognised the livery as that of Lord Grey of Ruthin, a powerful Welsh Marcher lord.

He expected March’s advance to grind to a halt as his men came up against the stakes and Grey’s well-armed infantry, but then something extraordinary happened. The men wearing the badge of the ragged staff laid down their weapons and stood aside, allowing the Yorkists to pass through their lines. Some even stooped to help their supposed enemies over the ditch.

Lord Grey had turned traitor. Geoffrey had no idea why or how it had been arranged, being too unimportant to be made privy to such deals, but his heart sang at the result. That one act of treachery would surely reverse the tide of battle. The Lancastrians were doomed, trapped like rats inside their improvised fortress. More to the point, Geoffrey’s chances of survival had just improved dramatically…”

If all this whets your appetite, then please check out the paperback and Kindle versions of Book One below…

The White Hawk – paperback version

Kindle version

1356 by Bernard Cornwell

1356 - Bernard Cornwell - Battle of Poitiers - Historical Fiction - Hundred Years War - Medieval History - Middle Ages HistoryThomas of Hookton from Cornwell’s Grail Quest Series returns in a stand-alone novel, 1356, about the Battle of Poitiers. The release date is set for January 8, 2013.

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Harper (January 8, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0061969672

Description:

“The most prolific and successful historical novelist in the world today” (Wall Street Journal) has delivered another blockbuster with this thrilling tale of peril and conquest at the Battle of Poitiers.

September 1356. All over France, towns are closing their gates. Crops are burning, and through-out the countryside people are on the alert for danger. The English army—led by the heir to the throne, the Black Prince—is set to invade, while the French, along with their Scottish allies, are ready to hunt them down.

But what if there was a weapon that could decide the outcome of the imminent war?

Thomas of Hookton, known as le Batard, has orders to uncover the lost sword of Saint Peter, a blade with mystical powers said to grant certain victory to whoever possesses her. The French seek the weapon, too, and so Thomas’s quest will be thwarted at every turn by battle and betrayal, by promises made and oaths broken. As the outnumbered English army becomes trapped near Poitiers, Thomas, his troop of archers and men-at-arms, his enemies, and the fate of the sword converge in a maelstrom of violence, action, and heroism.

Rich with colorful characters, great adventure, and thrilling conflict, 1356 is a magnificent tale of how the quest for a holy relic with the power to change history may culminate in an epic struggle.

Featured medeival historical fiction novel

Crown in the Heather - N Gemini SassonThe Crown in the Heather
by N Gemini Sasson

Paperback: 298 pages
Publisher: Cader Idris Press (June 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0982715803

The first novel in the The Bruce Trilogy, The Crown in the Heather is set in the 1290s in Scotland, at the time when the Bruce and Balliol families are vieing for the throne. Some of the historical figures present in the novel include: Robert the Bruce, Edward I (Longshanks), Edward II (Longhsank’s son), Elizabeth de Burgh, and James Douglas.

Rating on Amazon: 4 stars (36 reviews)