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Review: The Varangian (Book 3) by Bruce MacBain – An Exciting Viking Adventure

Today I have a review The Varangian, which is book three in a great historical fantasy series that I’ve been following (Odd Tangle-Hair Saga). However, it looks like it might end up only a trilogy. It’s so well-done though I can’t help but wish for more. You can also read them stand alone, but you’ll get so much more out of it if you read them all. Don’t forget to check out the giveaway for the book at the end of the post!

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Review –

I really can’t say enough good things about the Odd Tangle-Hair Saga penned by Bruce MacBain. The Varangian is the third, and it seems the final, in the series. You can view my review of the second book, The Ice Queen, HERE, and an interview I had with Bruce HERE. I was first drawn to this series because I love historical books that combine into fantasy, especially if they are dealing with ancient civilizations or Vikings.

Bruce’s story telling ability draws in the readers and often as soon as I start his books I’m completely absorbed into the worlds and legend he has created. Of course, with great anticipation, it was the same with The Varangian. Without being over flowerly or academic or hard to follow, Bruce somehow writes in a way that allows to feel as if we are also privy to the story as if we were in it ourselves. It’s like the long lost story your Viking grandpa would tell if you lived in a more far away time and you  had a Viking grandpa (haha)…but you get my drift.

I couldn’t wait to see what adventure Odd Tangle-Hair became drawn up into and as he venture into Byzantine empire in this book, I was as enthralled by Bruce’s authentic details and descriptions of this time and place as much as his protagonist was in the story. Of course, Odd must have some suspenseful mission up his sleeve as always that will take us through excitement, danger, sadness, and this time, even love. Constantinople is the perfect setting for such deep emotions and Bruce plays into that very well, allowing the reader to be swept away as well.

It’s also very obvious that Bruce is a true historian. He knows the people and places of the ancient worlds like he was living among them. This allows the reader, especially historical lovers, to be immersed even more into the story. A true feeling of place is captured in his dynamic prose.

Book three probably brings us the most compelling and climactic action as Odd finally comes head to head with antagonist Harald, as well as the friction between so many various cultures all coming to a point at this beautiful city of Constantinople. Both Odd and Harald are written with a high level of characterization and depth, but Bruce is also adept at bringing us a strong supporting cast of new characters in each book. They were exceptionally well-done in The Varangian, allowing the time and place to be even more engaing as you can’t have a good story without good characters.

As Odd tells his story, a perfect narrator, I could definitely smell, taste, hear, and see his adventure as if I lived it with him. I’ve completely enjoyed this series and will treasure it for years to come. Very highly recommended.

02_The Varangian.jpgThe Varangian by Bruce MacBain

Publication Date: November 29, 2016
Blank Slate Press
eBook & Print; 341 Pages

Series: Odd Tangle-Hair Saga, Book Three
Genre: Historical Fiction

The third volume of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga finds our hero in Golden Miklagard (Constantinople), posing as an ambassador from the Grand Prince of Rus. But his real mission is to assassinate his former master, Harald the Ruthless, who has now risen high in the Emperor’s Varangian Guard. Odd is dazzled by the brilliance of the Byzantine capital and its beating heart–the Great Palace, with the astonishing Throne of Solomon that levitates above the heads of kneeling courtiers.

Here, Odd will meet Constantine Psellus, an ambitious young bureaucrat who mentors him in the ways of the court. He will be drawn into an intrigue that involves the Empress Zoe, who spends her days brewing vats of perfume, and John the Guardian of Orphans, the powerful and sinister eunuch who schemes to advance his family. And Odd will fall in love with Selene, an alchemist’s daughter, who supports herself by gambling in the waterfront taverns.

Finally, after a hard-fought campaign against the Saracens in Sicily and the overthrow of an Emperor, Odd reaches the pinnacle of power and believes he has vanquished his enemy Harald once and for all.

Then disaster overwhelms him.

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Praise for The Varangian

“Thoroughly effective at explaining the intriguing and highly complex circumstances of the time period, Macbain’s (The Ice Queen, 2015, etc.) book shines in a way that only historical fiction can. Who needs King Jon Snow in Game of Thrones when one can get a glimpse of the historically real and undeniably sinister John the Guardian of Orphans? Even the most terrifying dragon pales in comparison to the sheer horror of a society so comfortable with castration. As the story ventures outside of Constantinople, the reader is treated to a plot that can only be described as epic … a highly entertaining Viking adventure.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This is the third and final of Macbain’s Odd Tangle-Hair novels. All three have been spellbinding in their storytelling, though this one may be the best. Odd’s journey takes us around the Mediterranean and eastern European world, and all the way north back to Iceland. The characters are wonderful, the story intriguing, the combat real but never superfluous, and Odd makes for the perfect protagonist. Highly recommended.” – Historical Novel Society

“Written by a historian with deep understanding of the cultures, peoples, and languages of this world, The Varangian speaks with an authoritative and compelling voice that can equally present naval battles decided by Greek Fire and court intrigue culminating in advancement to lucrative rank or in mutilation and blinding. This is a masterfully written and suspenseful tale that weaves fictional characters into the dramatic story of eleventh-century Byzantium and ambitious women and men, some home grown and some drawn from afar, who aimed to profit from an empire of legendary wealth and splendor.” – Emily Albu, Professor of Medieval and Byzantine Studies, UC, Davis

“The Varangian is the third and final volume of Bruce Macbain’s Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga, and like the first two entries, it is as compelling and wild a ride as historical fiction offers. Macbain brilliantly weaves in his vast knowledge of 11th century Viking and Byzantine life with a great storyteller’s ability to drive the plot forward, a plot filled with intrigue, violence, betrayal, and lust.” – Barton Kunstler, author of The Hothouse Effect

“Detailed and vivid writing.” -Albert Noyer, author of the Getorius and Arcadia Mysteries

Author Bruce MacBain, Biography

03_Bruce MacbainBruce MacBain has degrees in Classics and Ancient History and was formerly an Assistant Professor of Classics at Boston University.

He decided to stop writing scholarly articles (which almost no one read) and turn his expertise to fiction—a much more congenial medium.

His previous novels include two mysteries set in ancient Rome (Roman Games, The Bull Slayer) and the first two novels in the Odd Tangle-Hair series (Odin’s Child, The Ice Queen).

For more information, please visit Bruce MacBain’s website. You can also find him on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of The Varangian by Bruce MacBain, please enter via the Gleam form below. Three copies are up for grabs!

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/MTA2D/the-varangian

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Follow along with the tour!

Hashtags: #TheVarangianBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #Historical #Vikings

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @BMacbain

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Review: The Enemies of Versailles Sweeps You Away

Today I have a review of Sally Christie’s The Enemies of Versailles, Book Three in her Mistresses of Versailles series. I love historical fiction based on French history. The more drama and intrigue, the better. Throw in the French Revolution and I start humming music from Les Miserables. Keep scrolling for my review and watch later this month for a guest article from Sally in my Women in History Month series.

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Review –

I love the descriptive writing of historical author Sally Christie! I missed out on reading book one in her Mistresses of Versailles series, but once I read book two last year I was hooked. You can see my past review of The Rivals of Versailles (book two) HERE. I really believe you can read each one as a stand alone, but it’s a great series to read together as well.

Yesterday, March 21, 2017, the third book in her lush French fiction series published. The Enemies of Versailles continued on a tradition of “being seeped in reading” for me last weekend, the sentences so smooth and delicate, yet filled with emotion and substance, that I breezed through it in no time. I needed swept away to another place, no matter how unconventional, for a short time and the novel certiainly gave me that escape. This is a hallmark of quality writing, the type of such I aspire to acheiving.

I love how Sally focuses her novel around protagonists that are female and fiesty, hustling in rags to decadent gowns sometimes to forward their life. The Enemies of Versailles sees Jeanne Becu go from back streets to the palace in eighteenth century France – a France not far from a Revolution.

Sally makes her female characters shine. If you didn’t think you could fall any more in love with the next mistress of the King, you do. Another steals your heart in a way that plausibly you don’t even think should happen. Somehow she endears us as readers to these women by giving them strong, vibrant personalities under a surface innocent-like quality. Sally created Jeanne in a manner in which she blazens up the page with her light-heartedness. It’s apparent Jeanne gave Louis XV a new sense of normalcy to readers that is genuinely lost otherwise, and especially after book two in my opinion, and she remains true to herself even as the people surrounding her at court are nothing less than monsters. However, the intrigue that the book displays as we see the drama unfold creates a desire to turn pages quickly.

Madame du Barry is the focus of the book, but this time around, Sally does juxtapose chapters between her and Adelaide, the daughter of King Louise XV. I suppose that Adelaide is the villan in that she persecutes du Barry in her mind as well as outwardly. We see a poor woman’s rise to court paralled with a woman who has known luxury throughout her life. We see the extravagent nature of this time, spiraling in increasing fashion out of control, and why it led to the horrific revolution. We even get to see Marie Antoinette in this book, and I was thrilled, as she’s one of my favorite historical people to read about. The reasons for the uprising, even though we all know them, are made evident in this novel, and we see the desecration of the royal family. However, this happens all the while as we still focus on the emotions and action of the female characters at the heart of the story.

In the spirit of author Juliet Grey/Leslie Carroll, Sally Christie has brought readers an excellent series of historical fiction sprinkled with beautiful sentences and scenes ripe with descriptions so as if you are living right there in the moment. The Enemies of Versailles is the best of the three. I can’t wait to see what else she writes in the future. I’ll be one of the first in line. Highly recommended!

02_The Enemies of VersaillesThe Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Atria Books
eBook & Paperback; 416 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles, Book Three

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Kobo

Praise for The Sisters of Versailles

“Such an extraordinary tale makes for compelling reading and, as the lead book in a planned trilogy, will draw in readers who are interested in royal lives before the French Revolution….historical fiction fans, unfamiliar with the history of the Nesle sisters, will be intrigued.” (Library Journal)

“Sally Christie’s The Sisters of Versailles is an intriguing romp through Louis XV’s France. Filled with lush backdrops, rich detail, and colorful characters, fans of historical fiction will enjoy this glimpse into the lost golden era of the French monarchy.” (Allison Pataki, author of THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS )

“A stunning breadth of period detail, offered in a fresh, contemporary voice.” (Juliet Grey, author of the acclaimed Marie Antoinette trilogy )

“Tantalizing descriptions and cliff-hangers will leave the reader rapidly turning the pages in anticipation… A wickedly delightful read.” (New York Daily News)

03_Sally Christie_AuthorSally Christie, Biography

Sally Christie is the author of The Sisters of VersaillesThe Rivals of Versailles, and The Enemies of Versailles. She was born in England and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three different languages. She spent most of her career working in international development and currently lives in Toronto.

Visit SallyChristieAuthor.com to find out more about Sally and the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy.

You can also find her on FacebookGoodreads, and Amazon.

Giveaway!!!

Five copies of The Enemies of Versailles are up for grabs during the blog tour! To enter, please see the Gleam form below:

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/ZjDGW/enemies-of-versailles

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Hashtags: #EnemiesofVersaillesBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #Giveaway

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @AtriaBooks

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Daughter of a Thousand Years Gave Me My Thought-Provoking Viking Fix!

Out today (Feb. 21, 2017) is Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella! Check out the synopsis below and then stay to read my release day review! I really enjoyed this book!

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Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella

Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Lake Union Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 442 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Medieval Romance

Greenland, AD 1000

More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband.

New Hampshire, 2016

Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon.

In a dramatic, sweeping dual narrative that spans a millennium, two women struggle against communities determined to silence them, but neither Freydís nor Emma intends to give up without a fight.

I loved Amalia’s former Helen of Sparta series and you’ll find reviews for those books and an inteview with Amalia on my site already. However, when I heard Amalia would be publishing a book featuring one of my top favorite topics, and I’m not shy about this one – VIKINGS – I was all in! I have to say that in looking forward to it so much when I actually found time to squeeze in reading it, I was captivated.

Amalia writes Daughter of a Thousand Years in dual time periods and with two female protagonists. Emma is in the modern age of 2016, the daughter of a politician and a Catholic, and Freydis, living a thousand years earlier, is a pagan, a Thor worshipper, and the daughter of the infamous Eric the Red.

I am not the type of editoral reviewer that rehashes plots, but in this book, Amalia explores religions of the different time periods and how the women, and their family structures, dealt with them. Emma has always been interested in Viking history, but as her family expects (in most ways) perfection, Emma finally finds the courage to be true to herself when she wishes to explore the pagan religion of Thor. As Catholics, of course, her parents aren’t pleased, so she’s brave to stand up for herself. Meanwhile, a thousand years earlier, Freydis struggles to stay true to her own pagan religion and family as the wave of Christianity and converstions begins in society. Of course, we’ve read or seen these themes before…well, I have since I seek out books like this out of interest, and of course, we’ve seen this juxtaposition in history between Viking pagans and English Christianity as the Vikings began their exploring (which is viewable even on the show “Vikings,” but for some reason, it’s not getting old yet. There are still stories to be told that speak to the bravery and courage of those who believe in their own spiritual depths, as well as those who choose to align with another. Isn’t this even a common theme in society today, that people need to understand each other, and religions, to make peace with each other? I think the dual storylines really showed the fact that this issue is still strong today.

I also thought that Amalia did a wonderful job of featuring two strong and fiesty women that have many similarities even if they lived so far removed. Of course, the history section was a favorite, as it’s my first love, and she has superb historical writing. There was more background and research, and as times were tougher, I think it only served that Freydis would be a bit more animated and have more to fight through in an actual action sort of way. But I thought she wrote Emma just as well for our time period, and growing up in the now, is quite different than then! She was strong in forging her own way, even if countries and treasures and survival didn’t depend on it. Possibly her family felt their careers depended on it, but really that is nothing to what they endured so long ago. Emma showed great fortitude in becoming her own original person and not fitting the mold, which does still take bravery, especially when it means stading up to one’s parents.

As always, Amalia’s writing is beautiful and captivating. Her dialogue and character development, which her books show she always has worked hard on, continue to improve. We can see the locations, feel the characters emotions, and cheer them on in our own ways. As I mentioned her settings and descriptions are wonderful to read. I do believe the historical lean that Amalia puts on her books, as opposed to strictly historical romance, make books like Daughter of a Thousand Years stand out.

If you like to be swept away in a good historical fiction read, and like memorable reads with strong female characters, this is a good book for you to dive into eyes first. Pick this up as one of your highlights of th first half of 2017. Fans of “Vikings” should like the themes in this book and get a more unique look at women of that time period. Contemporary readers may even find their foray into historical fiction. Highly recommend – I give it 4 stars in hopes that she keeps challenging her prose.

Purchase –

Amazon

About Amalia Carosella –

03_Amalia Carosella Author (1).jpgAmalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). For more information, visit her blog at www.amaliacarosella.com.

She also writes myth-steeped fantasy and paranormal romance under the name Amalia Dillin. Learn more about her other works at www.amaliadillin.com.

You can connect with Amalia Carosella on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and Google+. Sign up for her newsletter, The Amaliad, for news and updates.

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Review: YA Mystery/Thriller Dead Girls Society a Hit with My Teen and I

Today I have a review of a teen novel! I am getting into trying more of these out with my middle daughter as she has finally reached the age of being a teen and is reading quite a bit. We’ve read Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys and you can see our thoughts below. Stay tuned for another day sometime soon for an exclusive interview with Michelle as well.

A girl accepts a mysterious invitation to play a deadly game in this suspense-filled thriller from the author of HEXED—perfect for fans of NERVE by Jeanne Ryan and Lauren Oliver’s PANIC.

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Dead Girls Society, by Michelle Krys, Review –

Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys is a new teen novel that Penguin Random House Delacorte Press published with advertising of for ages level of 12 – 99. I agree this is a book my 13-year-old daughter and I both enjoyed! I had a feeling with her love of the mystery within TV shows such as Pretty Little Liars, and her penchant for reading books that feature the popular “game play with humans/humanity plots” such as Hunger Games or The Maze Runner, or even more recently, in her reading of The Giver and subsequent books in the series, that she might really enjoy this. Of course this book is not really dystopian in nature as the books I listed, but was instead a more modern take on  games and dares in which teens are engaged in as a result of issues in their lives. It’s our culture today as opposed to a future humanity or made up society, which leans it all the more authentic. The suspense and mysterious aura of the novel made it quite a page tuner and is what reminded me of one of our favorite teen television shows!

When I’m not reading for content or copy editing, I breeze through reading very, very quickly. This YA plot allowed me the comfort awhile back of an enjoyable evening of entertainment. My daughter likes to be captivated by her books, and she too, had no trouble staying up to turn the pages.

I know it’s hard to write in first person, but I loved the main character Hope so much that I feel it was the perfect tense in which to write it. Her development of Hope (and such a great name for a girl with a life-threatening illness) was so layered and emotional. I felt connected with her from the start. She was a firecracker and a fighter. I admire that. Growing up with bad lungs myself, and having a son who struggles with it on and off, I was so proud of the author for choosing someone with cystic fibrosis to be the main character. People don’t realize how much people (and especially teens) have to overcome when they have breathing issues, but also with the right personality, how they can seem to sometimes overcome more odds that those who breathe well. Hope is vibrant and smart and not defined by her disease. Her strength is a great personality trait that young girls can admire. It was easy for me to see the care and concern of Hope’s mom in myself.

Of course when Hope meets the other cast of cliche-type characters (as the author humorously writes – a throw back to The Breakfast Club) she realizes that people are trapped and unhappy for a myriad of reasons. That’s an important lesson for teenagers, and maybe even adults, to learn. Our life is what we make of it and we shouldn’t be confined by any constraints. The game and the interactions made this full of twists and turns and created a gothic-type of mystery thriller perfect for a puzzle lover like myself, but yet youthful enough to be enjoyed as well by my teenager. There are some bleak moments that will delight the teen readers with a pull toward the darker themes of life and how they can be endured.

I am not much for reading romance, so while I thought the subplot romance between Hope and her best friend Ethan a way to bring light during some of the heavier times, it wasn’t what sold me on the novel; however, my daughter absolutely loves romance – the more torturous they are and can make her cry, the better. She loved the the added bit of romance to balance out the mystery.

As for Michelle’s writing, she’s a lovely writer with lots of descriptive details that make you feel like you are within the settings whether in close quarters of a bedroom or out in New Orleans. Her words flow with ease and easily help you be able to quickly move forward in the book.

Overall, this was an exciting mystery thriller to curl up with on a weekend night. Teenagers and their moms will both be enamored by a courageous character, a secret society of dark games and dares, and an ending you might not see coming.

The way the book ends, we are hoping that Michelle will be writing another book in this series, and if so, we look forward to it. 4.5 stars.

*I was given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

dead-girls

Dead Girls Society, Synopsis –

You are cordially invited to participate in a game of thrills and dares. Tell no one, and come alone. If you dare.

Hope is sick of everyone treating her like she’s breakable. Sure, she has cystic fibrosis (basically really bad lungs), but she’s tired of being babied by her mom and her overprotective best friend, Ethan, not to mention worrying about paying for her expensive medication and how she’s going to afford college.And she’s bored with life in her run-down New Orleans suburb.

When an invitation arrives from a mysterious group that calls itself the Society, Hope jumps at the chance for some excitement. This could be her ticket out. All she has to do is complete a few dares and she just might win some real money.

But the Society isn’t all that it seems… and soon Hope finds that playing the game isn’t a choice—it’s a requirement.

Praise for Dead Girls Society

“Dark, twisty, and thrilling.” —Danielle Paige, New York Times best-selling author of Dorothy Must Die

“A delicious and fast-paced read! This one kept me up way past my bedtime!” —Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’

Purchase

Amazon

Michelle Krys, Author Biography

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MICHELLE KRYS is the author of Hexed, Charmed, and Dead Girls Society. When she’s not writing books for teens, Michelle moonlights as a NICU nurse.

Michelle is probably not a witch, though she did belong to a witchcraft club in the fifth grade and “levitated” people in her bedroom, so that may be up for debate.

She lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, with her family.

Find more at: michellekrys.com

Follow Michelle on Facebook and Twitter.

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Review: A Song of War is Excellent Epic Collaboration of Troy

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Review –

One of my favorite historical and mythical places to read, watch, and learn about is Troy. Of course, I was quite pleased when the H Team collection of stellar historical authors, several of whom are already some of my favorite authors, decided to make it their focus for their next continuity anthology called A Song of War: A Novel of Troy! It’s quite a large book so I was happy I had the time to read and savor each section over a few months. Different than many anthologies, except the other great ones by the H Team, it takes a time period and place with each author identifying with a person and featuring them with similar supporting characters. The book as a whole then intertwines all the stories, even with the authors showcasing snippets of a previous author’s character in the interactions with their character, and creates a whole over arching view, which in this collection spans over a decade. To me, it’s clever and such an interesting way to read a story.

We generally know about the Trojan War and don’t always realize the entire story of the Iliad’s cast of characters. This book allowed them to be expanded on and shone in various ways that me, and maybe other readers, might not have ever thought of before.

I really enjoyed how when Kate Quinn started off the series, she was able to set it up to show us that many different types of cultures and people lived in Troy and interacted together. She showed us that there was some prejudices toward people based on skin color and I felt it was a good mirror for the current issues that lie today in the U.S., in which some don’t want to accept our melting pot.She also was able to write Helen of Troy as the strong willed, if not a little jilted, woman I had come to love myself, gaining some momentum in her section as far as character development by juxtaposing Helen’s personality and relationship situation against that of  Andromache, who is clever and witty. I did see Helen as somewhat more settled or resigned in her situation with her husband, King Menelaus, than I normally thought her to be, but it worked with Kate’s story. I loved her characterization of Andromache especially – I found her inquisitive, funny, and smart. The various discussions and thoughts between the other characters in each section of her portion were intriguing and made me very interested to read the rest of the stories. She has, as always, a knack for dialogue and humor.

Stephanie Thornton’s second song, or story, featured Cassandra, the biracial twin of Hellenus. Her careful display of Hellenus, and her frustrations, are touching and poignant. Exploring the dark regions of her character’s mind invoked me into the inner realm of Troy; the part that lies within these characters who are experiencing such turmoil and confusion. Her steady pace and intuitive prose was like a drum beat of war, pacing the tension as the book started to deeply unfold. As Kate introduced the concept that people in Troy where of all mingling races, Stephanie extends that as well into her story, allowing these two stories to complement each other so very well and get the book off to an outstanding start in its first 100 pages. Of course Stephanie is a beautiful writer, amazingly descriptive and she really sets the scenes before our eyes.

Each of the authors brought a specific need and voice to the body of work. Russell Whitfield is an author I didn’t really know previously, but he’s certainly caught my eye. His writing style is somewhat different, maybe it’s the sentence structure, but it created a flow for me while I read and a desire to know, to understand, and to empathize with his characters. It’s not easy being the author who has to write about a character like Agamemnon, that generally most people don’t like and that history has showcased as being a harsh commander of war (AKA King of Argos). But Russell writes with compassion, with feeling, and with a depth and talent. He gives to us the story of a man who really hasn’t been able to tell his story yet, and he accomplished it very well.

Christian Cameron is another author I had heard of, but never read. He writes in a more old-fashioned style, which is quite fine, it’s just that he gets to his point with precision and doesn’t embellish. I tend to like a little more breathing room within my sentences. He wrote the story of a female character, Briseis, which is actually one of my personal favorite characters. She was a slave to Agamenmon. I am not sure, since I haven’t read him previously, if he would normally write a woman with a more matter-of-fact personality, or this is just what he planned for Briseis, but either way, he gave her a different persona than what I had in my head previously. It took a minute to get used to it, but I can value his style and perceptions. He is excellent in terms of action writing and has a great style for war and military action. He presented Achilles rather well I’d say. I would have preferred he’d softened Briseis and his dialogue to a degree, but his story fit in nicely with all the rest and helped to complete the package and fit more pieces of the puzzle together.

Libbie Hawker is one of those authors that I know of her work but have not had the time yet to read so I didn’t know what  to expect. Her story focused mainly on Philoctetes, who comes to Troy without the war baggage of the rest of the stories. He pines for Achilles and feels this loss, just as he also carried the weight of the word “hero” on his shoulders. He possesses Heracles bow, and with it, to many, power. It was wonderful to see Libbie write this tale of a gay man with such emotion and delicacy, letting us see his inner strength of mind and purpose. I love the interaction between Achilles and Philoctetes once they meet up again – their friendship and understanding was touching. Achilles has war fatigue which was evident and the hope that Philoctetes reverberated, his intent to save him after receiving an omen, is striking. She seemed to hone home about them being ordinary men, which I suppose we could think historically they were, but as a person who really loves the mythology of it all, it did set me back a bit. However, I suppose that is what makes you think. The final battles between characters at the end of her story – I don’t want to give any spoilers – were tragic and swift and left me somewhat in tears. I enjoyed her story overall and we still get wonderful glimpses and nuggets of the other characters from throughout the book.

Vicky Alvear Shecter writes the second to the last story of Odysseus. It’s a short piece but one that’s needed as she shows a war torn Troy- a place in need of this war to end. Her ingenuity in her interpretation and re-telling of the legend of the Trojan Horse was astoundingly good and I would have never seen it coming. I’m already a huge fan of Vicky and as always her characterization is excellent and her writing good, but it’s her idea and take on this old myth that left me speechless. She’s stellar in the way that she can tell a story in less pages than most and have as much or more impact as the others. I loved how she tied up quickly lots of scenes within the other stories, as well as tightened the overall arc, before setting it up in priceless fashion and letting the reader head into the final story by SJA Turney.

SJA is another writer again that I’ve not read (even though I should as he writes Roman novels), but to be given the task of writing the last story in the book, I knew he had to be trusted enough to be able to pull it all together in a way that would give the book a lasting legacy. Now, after reading his story of Aeneas, I can see why he had to write this last song or story. To allow us a glimpse into this finale of Troy. In a quick lesson, Aeneas was a character of Homer (related to some of the other characters in  A Song of War) that migrates from there to Italy and ties in as an ancestor of Rome by the time Virgil takes over for Homer. It’s in this way that Aeneas is so important to the everything. SJA writes this last story so phenomenally well; with grace and emotion, with fortitude to write something so dire and sad, and with eloquence and emotion. I am a new fan of SJA and will be seeking out his other works. I really loved his writing style. In wrapping up A Song of War, he really did an amazing job of pulling all the strings together and leaving us with closure and hope.

Overall, this epic story of Troy was a huge undertaking by this group of authors that surpassed my expectations. I could tell not only did they each write a story, but they worked with each other on all the stories to make sure characters lined up as far as plot and personality, calling on each other’s strengths, and really made it all look rather seamless so that it appeared almost if they wrote a novel together instead of separate stories.

A Song of War is one of the best books you’ll ever find to read surrounding Troy, and if you love Homer’s Iliad, you’ll certainly want to take a closer look at all the characters you love and hate by reading this collection. Love, greed, war, myth, humanity, passion, sacrifice, jealously, intrigue – A Song of War has it all. College English and history classes won’t be teaching only the Iliad anymore, they’ll be reaching for A Song a War to accompany it. It was a pleasure to read and is the perfect book for any history or myth lover and well worth investing in this bookshelf keepsake. It’s one to be read more than once to really appreciate its depth.

02_a-song-of-warA Song of War: A Novel of Troy

by Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield
Foreward by Glyn Iliffe

Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Knight Media, LLC
eBook & Paperback; 483 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Ancient History/Anthology

Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy’s gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

A goddess’ son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

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About the Authors

CHRISTIAN CAMERON was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa,Christian Cameron and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age four. And a half.

LIBBIE HAWKER was born in Rexburg, Idaho and divided her childhood between Eastern Idaho’s rural environs and the greater Seattle area. She presently lives in Seattle, but has also been a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah; Bellingham, Washington; and Tacoma, Washington. She loves to write about character and place, and is inspired by the bleak natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain region and by the fascinating history of the Puget Sound.

After three years of trying to break into the publishing industry with her various books under two different pen names, Libbie finally turned her back on the mainstream publishing industry and embraced independent publishing. She now writes her self-published fiction full-time, and enjoys the fact that the writing career she always dreamed of having is fully under her own control.

KATE QUINN is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. The LA Times calls Cleopatra’s Moon, “magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” The Wall Street Journal called it “absorbing.”

STEPHANIE THORNTON is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

Her novels, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, and The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great, tell the stories of history’s forgotten women.

SJA TURNEY lives with his wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire.

Marius’ Mules was his first full length novel. Being a fan of Roman history, SJA decided to combine his love of writing and love of the classical world. Marius’ Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum – an attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome.

These have been followed by numerous sequels, with three books in the fantasy ‘Tales of the Empire’ series and five in the bestselling ‘Marius’ Mules’ one. 2013 has seen the first book in a 15th century trilogy – ‘The Thief’s Tale’ – and will also witness several side projects seeing the light of day.

RUSSELL WHITFIELD was born in Shepherds Bush in 1971. An only child, he was raised in Hounslow, West London, but has since escaped to Ham in Surrey.

Gladiatrix was Russ’s first novel, published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continues the adventures Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix, and a third book, Imperatrix, sees Lysandra stepping out of the arena and onto the field of battle.

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