Today, I’m delighted to be hosting Essex Dogs by Dan Jones on the blog #blogtour #newrelease #TheHundredYearsWar

Here’s the blurb:

July 1346. The Hundred Years’ War has begun, and King Edward and his lords are on the march through France. But this war belongs to the men on the ground.

Swept up in the bloody chaos, a tight-knit company from Essex must stay alive long enough to see their home again. With sword, axe and longbow, the Essex Dogs will fight, from the landing beaches of Normandy to the bloodsoaked field of Crécy.

There’s Pismire, small enough to infiltrate enemy camps. Scotsman, strong enough to tear down a wall. Millstone, a stonemason who’ll do anything to protect his men. Father, a priest turned devilish by the horrors of war. Romford, a talented young archer on the run from his past. And Loveday FitzTalbot, their battle-scarred captain, who just wants to get his boys home safe.

Some men fight for glory. Others fight for coin. The Essex Dogs? They fight for each other.

My Review

Essex Dogs by Dan Jones, despite its girth, coming in at nearly 7500 lines on my Kindle and 450 pages in hardback, is a really easy-going read. It has a light writing style, and therefore, it’s not an onerous read for anyone worried that it might just be that little bit longer than they’re used to. (I never used to consider the length of a book, but now I do, when there are so many books to read and so little time).

The opening scene, the landing on the beach for the invasion of France, is very well told, and draws you into the world that the Essex Dogs live within. The action then slightly backs off, as we learn more about the men behind the invasion and the details of what’s planned. And there are many little details that slowly draw the reader into the scenario the Dogs face, as just one of many bands of warriors, commissioned for their 40 days of service, to fight on behalf of a lord, who’s in turn beholden to the king or the prince of Wales.

While the Hundred Years War is not ‘my’ time period, I’m not a stranger to it. If you’ve read other books set in the period, as I have, then this feels very close to those books. In no time at all, I was remembering some of the historical details, and I felt right at home with the ‘Dogs.’

This, as the blurb says, is the story of the Essex Dogs, and not the king and lords. The prince, Northampton and Warwick are the most notable members of the nobility to get a decent-sized portion of the story but only in relation to the way the Essex Dogs’ lives mingle, merge and separate with them. You can almost smell the dust and heat, the stink of the rivers, and not for the first time when I read books like this, I’m left considering why the English king was so determined to claim a province that was so hostile to him.

The story, not without tragedy, slowly builds to an intriguing finale, on the field of Crecy, where we follow the efforts of young Romford as he attempts to stay alive.

There is blood and gore in this book, but not tonnes of the stuff. There is some pretty strong language, but not tonnes of it (if you’ve read my The Last King series, it will feel a little tame). My overwhelming feeling on finishing it is that the games kings play affected the men who fought for them more than them, and I more than imagine that this is what Dan Jones is hoping to make us feel. And so, an engaging and well-told tale, not without moments of tragedy and comedy, and one certainly worthy of picking up and devouring.

About the author

Dan Jones is the Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of ten non-fiction books, including The Templars, The Colour of Time and Powers and Thrones. He is a renowned writer, broadcaster and journalist, and has for many years wanted to write authentic but action-packed historical fiction. His debut novel, Essex Dogs, is the first in a planned trilogy following the fortunes of ten ordinary soldiers in the early years of the Hundred Years’ War. He lives near London with his family.

Purchase link

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3cNE9LN

Follow Dan

Twitter: @dgjones

Instagram: @d_a_n_jones
TikTok: d_a_n_jones

Follow Aries

Twitter: @AriesFiction

Facebook: Aries Fiction

Website: http://www.headofzeus.com

#Jason by Mark Knowles is now available, and so I’m reminding you of my review for #Argo, and giving a shout out for, the #BladesofBronze books

Here’s the blurb

An action-led reimagining of the famous Greek myth, Jason and the Golden Fleece, brilliantly told by classicist Mark Knowles.

He has come to take what is yours…

Iolkos, Thessaly. 1230 BC. King Pelias has grown paranoid, tormented by his murderous past and a prophecy of the man who will one day destroy him.

When a stranger arrives to compete in the Games of Poseidon, Pelias is horried, for this young man should never have grown to manhood. He is Jason, Pelias’ nephew, who survived his uncle’s assassins as a child. Now Jason wants his revenge – and the kingdom.

But Pelias is cunning as well as powerful. He gives his foe an impossible challenge: to claim the throne, Jason must first steal the fabled Golden Fleece of Colchis.

Jason assembles a band of Greece’s finest warriors. They are the Argonauts, named for their trusty ship. But even with these mighty allies, Jason will have to overcome the brutal challenges hurled his way. His mission and many lives depend on his wits – and his sword.

PRAISE FOR ARGO AND MARK KNOWLES:

‘Mark Knowles has taken the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece, and stripped it down to its bare bones… What is left is a deeply researched historical epic, so brilliantly brought to life I could taste the salt air on my tongue… Epic battles, well- rounded characters sailing through a brilliantly described world’ Adam Lofthouse, author of The Centurion’s Son

‘What a spectacular triumph! Knowles has taken a reassuringly familiar legend and elevated it into a new, realistic and engrossing story’ Sam Taw

‘[Knowles] has teamed his love of learning classics and childhood love of sword-and- sandals epics to accomplish something remarkable’ Boarding Schools’ Association

Review

The legends of Greece don’t often cross my mind when I’m thinking of stories to read, but I read a wonderful retelling of the legend of Troy last year, and so I was really intrigued to be invited to read Argo by Mark Knowles. And I’m so pleased I did.

Argo is a rich retelling of the journey to retrieve the Golden Fleece, populated with a cast of characters with names even I recognised. Some of them leap from the page more clearly than others, as is to be expected with such a large cast, and the ship, Argo itself, is one of the clearest, for even someone such as me to imagine. Reading the author’s bio, it’s easy to see why the ship is such an important part of the story.

I was swept away by the tale, and intrigued to know how it would all end. I should probably have known, but I didn’t.

The story is rich in detail, the journey told in great detail, as are the stops along the way, and the people the Argonauts interact with. It certainly builds in tension so that the last quarter of the book went by in a flash. This truly is a wonderful reimagining of the legends of Jason, the Argonauts and of course, Argo.

I’m lucky to have been given an advanced copy of the sequel Jason, and I’m powering my way through the book now, which, luckily, starts exactly where Argo stops, and I was so pleased I had book 2 straight to hand. Do check back for me review.

Curious? Here’s a link for Argo.

https://amzn.to/3Ltsqx8

Just to reassure everyone, there is a fab map!

Meet the author

Mark Knowles took degrees in Classics and Management Studies at Downing College, Cambridge. After a decade working as a frontline officer and supervisor within the Metropolitan Police Service, he became Head of Classics at a school in Harrogate. He is a particular fan of experimental archaeology and rowed on the reconstructed ancient Athenian trireme Olympias during its last sea trials in Greece in 1994.

If you missed the introduction to Jason from Mark Knowles on Monday, here it is again.

Introduction to Jason by Mark Knowles

Getting Argo home in the process of writing JASON was great fun. In fact, once I’d got the route straight in my head, it gave me the most joy I’ll probably ever have in writing a story. It presented an opportunity to weave together as many strands of myth as I could without – I hope – stretching credibility. And what more could an unashamed Classics geek want? JASON features an all-star ancient Greek cast: Circe, Talos, the Sirens, King Minos, Ariadne, the Minotaur, and the Oracle, ranging over a vast landscape from as far north as the Danube to Crete in the south. 

‘Sprouting wings and flying home would have been a more useful suggestion!’ So says Idas, a thorn in Jason’s side, as options are discussed to outwit the ships blockading the Black Sea straits. His comments are apposite when looking at the wackier ancient suggestions for the return leg of Jason’s voyage. In one surviving version of the myth, we see Argo traversing the Sahara; in another, sailing to Greece via Scandinavia. Needless to say, all these routes (but one) are physically impossible. But what an opportunity for a writer to stretch the imagination!

I even discovered a lost island when researching the route. An old map of the Anatolian coastline based on a Roman geographer’s work showed an island just off the Thracian coast (modern day Bulgaria), which some natural disaster or other seems to have swallowed in the Middle Ages. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it for Circe’s mysterious island of Aea. This sums up the spirit in which JASON was written. I hope, in joining this epic voyage, you make some discoveries of your own.

Preorder Jason here.

https://amzn.to/3PvpuTV

It’s my turn on the #Argo by Mark Knowles blog tour #BladesofBronze

Here’s the blurb

An action-led reimagining of the famous Greek myth, Jason and the Golden Fleece, brilliantly told by classicist Mark Knowles.

He has come to take what is yours…

Iolkos, Thessaly. 1230 BC. King Pelias has grown paranoid, tormented by his murderous past and a prophecy of the man who will one day destroy him.

When a stranger arrives to compete in the Games of Poseidon, Pelias is horried, for this young man should never have grown to manhood. He is Jason, Pelias’ nephew, who survived his uncle’s assassins as a child. Now Jason wants his revenge – and the kingdom.

But Pelias is cunning as well as powerful. He gives his foe an impossible challenge: to claim the throne, Jason must first steal the fabled Golden Fleece of Colchis.

Jason assembles a band of Greece’s finest warriors. They are the Argonauts, named for their trusty ship. But even with these mighty allies, Jason will have to overcome the brutal challenges hurled his way. His mission and many lives depend on his wits – and his sword.

PRAISE FOR ARGO AND MARK KNOWLES:

‘Mark Knowles has taken the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece, and stripped it down to its bare bones… What is left is a deeply researched historical epic, so brilliantly brought to life I could taste the salt air on my tongue… Epic battles, well- rounded characters sailing through a brilliantly described world’ Adam Lofthouse, author of The Centurion’s Son

‘What a spectacular triumph! Knowles has taken a reassuringly familiar legend and elevated it into a new, realistic and engrossing story’ Sam Taw

‘[Knowles] has teamed his love of learning classics and childhood love of sword-and- sandals epics to accomplish something remarkable’ Boarding Schools’ Association

Review

The legends of Greece don’t often cross my mind when I’m thinking of stories to read, but I read a wonderful retelling of the legend of Troy last year, and so I was really intrigued to be invited to read Argo by Mark Knowles. And I’m so pleased I did.

Argo is a rich retelling of the journey to retrieve the Golden Fleece, populated with a cast of characters with names even I recognised. Some of them leap from the page more clearly than others, as is to be expected with such a large cast, and the ship, Argo itself, is one of the clearest, for even someone such as me to imagine. Reading the author’s bio, it’s easy to see why the ship is such an important part of the story.

I was swept away by the tale, and intrigued to know how it would all end. I should probably have known, but I didn’t.

The story is rich in detail, the journey told in great detail, as are the stops along the way, and the people the Argonauts interact with. It certainly builds in tension so that the last quarter of the book went by in a flash. This truly is a wonderful reimagining of the legends of Jason, the Argonauts and of course, Argo.

I’m lucky to have been given an advanced copy of the sequel Jason, and I’m powering my way through the book now, which, luckily, starts exactly where Argo stops, and I was so pleased I had book 2 straight to hand. Do check back for me review.

Curious? Here’s a link for Argo.

https://amzn.to/3Ltsqx8

Just to reassure everyone, there is a fab map!

Meet the author

Mark Knowles took degrees in Classics and Management Studies at Downing College, Cambridge. After a decade working as a frontline officer and supervisor within the Metropolitan Police Service, he became Head of Classics at a school in Harrogate. He is a particular fan of experimental archaeology and rowed on the reconstructed ancient Athenian trireme Olympias during its last sea trials in Greece in 1994.

If you missed the introduction to Jason from Mark Knowles on Monday, here it is again.

Introduction to Jason by Mark Knowles

Getting Argo home in the process of writing JASON was great fun. In fact, once I’d got the route straight in my head, it gave me the most joy I’ll probably ever have in writing a story. It presented an opportunity to weave together as many strands of myth as I could without – I hope – stretching credibility. And what more could an unashamed Classics geek want? JASON features an all-star ancient Greek cast: Circe, Talos, the Sirens, King Minos, Ariadne, the Minotaur, and the Oracle, ranging over a vast landscape from as far north as the Danube to Crete in the south. 

‘Sprouting wings and flying home would have been a more useful suggestion!’ So says Idas, a thorn in Jason’s side, as options are discussed to outwit the ships blockading the Black Sea straits. His comments are apposite when looking at the wackier ancient suggestions for the return leg of Jason’s voyage. In one surviving version of the myth, we see Argo traversing the Sahara; in another, sailing to Greece via Scandinavia. Needless to say, all these routes (but one) are physically impossible. But what an opportunity for a writer to stretch the imagination!

I even discovered a lost island when researching the route. An old map of the Anatolian coastline based on a Roman geographer’s work showed an island just off the Thracian coast (modern day Bulgaria), which some natural disaster or other seems to have swallowed in the Middle Ages. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it for Circe’s mysterious island of Aea. This sums up the spirit in which JASON was written. I hope, in joining this epic voyage, you make some discoveries of your own.

Preorder Jason here.

https://amzn.to/3PvpuTV

It’s my turn on the new release blog tour for The Capsarius by Simon Turney #AriesFiction #BlogTour

Here’s the blurb:

Warrior and combat medic, Titus Cervianus, must lead a legion and quell the uprisings in Egypt in a new Roman adventure from Simon Turney.
Egypt. 25 BC.

Titus Cervianus and the Twenty Second Deiotariana have been sent to deal with uprisings and chaos in Egypt. Yet the Twenty Second is no ordinary legion. Founded as the private royal army of one of Rome’s most devoted allies, the king of Galatia, their ways are not the same as the other legions, a factor that sets them apart and causes friction with their fellow soldiers.

Cervianus is no ordinary soldier, either. A former surgeon from the city of Ancyra, he’s now a capsarius – a combat medic. Cervianus is a pragmatist, a scientist, and truly unpopular with his legion.

Marching into the unknown, Cervianus will find unexpected allies in a local cavalryman and a troublesome lunatic. Both will be of critical importance as the young medic marches into the searing sands of the south, finding forbidden temples, dark assassins, vicious crocodiles, and worst of all, the warrior queen of Kush…

Amazon Link:

Review

I really enjoyed The Capsarius. I’ve read some of Simon Turney’s Roman fiction in the past, but this book, without its focus on Roman Rome, is a little different, and very enjoyable.

I didn’t read this book quickly – rather I enjoyed it slowly, taking delight in reading a small amount each day over an extended period. It’s a story rich with detail, as our main character, The Capsarius, travels through a land he is clearly excited to visit, being so very strange to his birth lands, and yet one he understands is filled with danger. The heat, the lack of water, and the need to stay close to the great river Nile, bring into play some very dangerous enemies, the crocodiles of the delta.

The Capsarius is not your usual Roman warrior. He’s a skilled and widely read individual, keen to hold on to the ideals he has as a medic in the Roman army, even though he’s pitted against just about everyone in the legion, and his superiors really don’t seem to like him a great deal – not that it worries him. He’s a man of reason, and yet one who’s thrust into a strange land, with even stranger gods, and gods who seem to speak to him. The interplay between the reasoned man forced to question his beliefs because of the pervading Egyptian religion is skillfully drawn.

This is a slow burn, which rewards the reader with two really quite different battle scenes in the second half of the book when our Roman hero finally encounters his elusive enemy, and I’m already looking forward to book 2.

A wonderful read – with just the right amount of humour and peril – set in a wonderfully drawn land of intrigue and danger.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy, and for inviting me onto the new release blog tour.

Meet the author

Simon Turney is from Yorkshire and, having spent much of his childhood visiting historic sites, fell in love with the Roman heritage of the region. His fascination with the ancient world snowballed from there with great interest in Rome, Egypt, Greece and Byzantium. His works include the Marius’ Mules and Praetorian series, the Tales of the Empire and The Damned Emperor series, and the Rise of Emperors books with Gordon Doherty.

Follow Simon
Twitter: @SJATurney
Instagram: @simonturney_aka_sjaturney

Website: http://simonturney.com/

Don’t forget to stop by the other reviewers on The Capsarius new release blog tour.

headofzeus.com@AriesFiction

Not convinced yet? Do check out my other reviews for Simon Turney’s Roman era books. Commodus, Sons of Rome, Masters of Rome, Emperors of Rome.

Today, I’m reviewing A Night of Flames by Matthew Harffy as part of the new release #Blog Tour #Aries

Here’s the blurb

In the wild lands of Norway, Hunlaf must quell a vicious slave uprising in Matthew Harffy’s new historical adventure.

A wild land. A lethal fanatic. A violent revolt.

Northumbria, AD 794. Those who rule the seas, rule the land. None know the truth of this more than the Vikings. To compete with the seafaring raiders, the king of Northumbria orders the construction of his own longships under the command of oath-sworn Norseman, Runolf.

When the Vikings attack again, the king sends cleric turned warrior, Hunlaf, on a mission to persuade the king of Rogaland into an alliance. But Hunlaf and Runolf have other plans; kin to seek out, old scores to settle, and a heretical tome to find in the wild lands of the Norse.

Their voyage takes them into the centre of a violent uprising. A slave has broken free of his captors and, with religious fervour, is leading his fanatical followers on a rampage – burning all in his path. Hunlaf must brave the Norse wilderness, and overcome deadly foes, to stop this madman. Can he prevent a night of flames and slaughter?

Review

A Night of Flames returns fans to the world of Hunlaf and Runolf. While book 1 focused on the initial raids against Lindisfarne, book 2, eventually, takes the reader further away to seek out the home of the Raiders. An intriguing idea, and an interesting way of keeping with the same characters, when there’s such a huge historical gap between those first raids, and the later, more sustained ones.

Throughout the book, Hunlaf constantly questions himself – is he a warrior or is he a man of God? There are some illusions, through foreshadowing in the narrative, to possible future adventures for Hunlaf, far from the shores of Northumbria. But for now, we have Hunlaf’s accounting of the building of a ship to brave the Whale Road, and the journey he subsequently takes, via Orkney to Norway. It’s a slow burner. Not until nearly halfway through the book does Hunlaf reach his destination. And even there, his journey isn’t at an end, and nor are the perils he must face.

The author, admits, in the endnotes, that this book is big on the fiction. This is understandable. There’s so little information about events at this time, and I confess to feeling a little sorry for him having to pick a new thread for this story of the late eighth century. It would be ‘easier’ to choose a later period when more is known, and yet, equally, it allows for much wider scope. Hunlaf and his fellow warriors aren’t constrained by history to perform certain tasks.

Fans of the author are sure to enjoy book 2 in Hunlaf’s story. Book 3 promises to take readers even further afield, and I look forward to it.

A Night of Flames is released tomorrow, March 3rd 2022. Preorder now. Unless you’re reading this after March 3rd and then it will be available anyway:)

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. 

Pre-order links

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3sOTmAe

Follow Matthew

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Website: www.matthewharffy.com

Follow Aries

Twitter: @AriesFiction

Facebook: Aries Fiction

Website: http://www.headofzeus.com

Welcome to today’s stop on the new release blog tour for The Serpent King by Tim Hodkinson

Here’s the blurb:

The fight for vengeance has no victors…

AD 936

The great warrior, Einar Unnsson, wants revenge. His mother’s assassin has stolen her severed head and Einar is hungry for his blood. Only one thing holds him back. He is a newly sworn in Wolf Coat, and must accompany them on their latest quest.

The Wolf Coats are a band of fearsome bloodthirsty warriors, who roam the seas, killing any enemies who get in their way. Now they’re determined to destroy their biggest enemy, King Eirik, as he attempts to take the throne of Norway.

Yet, for Einar, the urge to return to Iceland is growing every day. Only there, in his homeland, can he avenge his mother and salve his grief. But what Einar doesn’t know is that this is where an old enemy lurks, and his thirst for vengeance equals Einar’s…

Read Tim Hodkinson’s newest epic Viking adventure.

Here’s my review

The Serpent King by Tim Hodkinson is the fourth instalment in The Whale Road Chronicles, reuniting readers with Einar and the rest of the Wolf Coats.

It is an energetic and fast-paced jaunt through the sea kingdoms of Norway, the Scottish islands, and Iceland, and although we don’t go to Ireland, it’s never far from the characters’ thoughts.

I love this series because the author twists his story through the ‘known facts’ of the time period. I know what’s coming, and many others will also know what’s coming in future books, but the joy is in how we get there.

About the author

Tim Hodkinson was born in 1971 in Northern Ireland. He studied Medieval English and Old Norse Literature at University with a subsidiary in Medieval European History. He has been writing all his life and has a strong interest in the historical, the mystical and the mysterious. After spending several happy years living in New Hampshire, USA, he has now returned to life in Northern Ireland with his wife Trudy and three lovely daughters in a village called Moira.

Tim is currently working on a series of viking novels for Ares Fiction, an imprint of Head of Zeus.

Buy links:

AmazonKoboGoogle Play: iBooks:

Follow Tim:

Twitter: 

Follow Aries:

Twitter: @AriesFiction  Facebook: @AriesFiction. Website:

Don’t forget to stop by the other stops on The Serpent King Blog Tour.

Welcome to the blog tour for Matthew Harffy’s new release, A Time for Swords

Here’s the blurb;

“Lindisfarne, AD793. The life of a novice monk will be changed forever when the Vikings attack in a new historical adventure from Matthew Harffy.

There had been portents – famine, whirlwinds, lightning from clear skies, serpents seen flying through the air. But when the raiders came, no one was prepared.

They came from the North, their dragon-prowed longships gliding out of the dawn mist as they descended on the kingdom’s most sacred site.

It is 8th June AD793, and with the pillage of the monastery on Lindisfarne, the Viking Age has begun.

While his fellow monks flee before the Norse onslaught, one young novice stands his ground. He has been taught to turn the other cheek, but faced with the slaughter of his brothers and the pagan desecration of his church, forgiveness is impossible.

Hunlaf soon learns that there is a time for faith and prayer… and there is a time for swords.”

REVIEW

A Time for Swords is an attempt to retell the story of England’s first recorded Raider (Viking) attack on Lindisfarne which is confidently dated to AD793.

It is an event that demands to be written about, and the beginning of A Time For Swords, which recounts the attack, is thrilling. Our young hero, Hunlaf, is caught up in the attack, but lives to see another day. Others are not as fortunate.

The story progresses at a steady pace, as the shock waves of the attack begin to be felt throughout the kingdom of Northumbria, and people react to the news in different ways. The addition of a captured Norse Raider, Runolf, with his strict code of honour, adds an intriguing dimension to the story, allowing the author to confidently state that the attack on Lindisfarne will not be a singular occurrence, and that the people of Northumbria need to be prepared for such.

Much of the action takes place not at Lindisfarne, but rather at Werceworthe, (Warkworth) which happens to be about 5 miles down the road from where I live. This made the story feel immediate, perhaps helped by a long-ago Sunday afternoon row down the Cocueda (Coquet) River.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Time For Swords. The opening scenes are particularly well told, and the eventual battle, when it comes, makes clever use of the physical landscape of Warkworth.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy.

A Time for Swords is now available in ebook format, and is available from here. (Isn’t the cover fantastic?)

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. 

Connect with Matthew here: Twitter, Website

And check out reviews of previous books by Matthew Harffy here.

The Wolf of Wessex

Fortress of Fury

Follow Aries

Twitter: @AriesFiction

Facebook: Aries Fiction

Website: http://www.headofzeus.com