#BlogTour A Sacred Storm by Theodore Brun

I do love a bit of well-written historical fiction, so it is an absolute delight to take part in the BlogTour for A Sacred Storm by Theodore Brun. It’s the second part in the fantastic The Wanderer Chronicles by Brun. If you haven’t read the first part A Mighty Dawn yet, I highly recommend you do. This series is historical fiction par excellence.

About the Author

Theodore Brun studied Dark Age archaeology at Cambridge, where he graduated with a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MPhil in History.  He also rowed in the Boat Race for the university.  Professionally, Theodore qualified and worked as an arbitration lawyer, in London, Moscow, Paris and finally Hong Kong.  In 2010, he quit his job in Hong Kong and cycled 10,000 miles across the whole of Asia and Europe (crossing 20 countries) to his home in Norfolk. Theodore is a third generation Viking immigrant – his Danish grandfather having settled in England in 1932. He is married and divides his time between London and Norfolk. A Sacred Storm is his second novel.

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Buy A Sacred Storm

About the book

8th Century Sweden: Erlan Aurvandil, a Viking outlander, has pledged his sword to Sviggar Ivarsson, King of the Sveärs, and sworn enemy of the Danish King Harald Wartooth. But Wartooth, hungry for power, is stirring violence in the borderlands. As the fires of this ancient feud are reignited Erlan is bound by honour and oath to stand with King Sviggar.

But, unbeknownst to the old King, his daughter, Princess Lilla, has fallen under Erlan’s spell. As the armies gather Erlan and Lilla must choose between their duty to Sviggar and their love for each other.

Blooded young, betrayed often, Erlan is no stranger to battle. And hidden in the shadows, there are always those determined to bring about the maelstrom of war…

Review

This is the second book in The Wanderer Chronicles series, and although A Sacred Storm can be read as a standalone novel, I would recommend reading the first part A Mighty Dawn. You don’t need it to catch up on the story, but you’re missing out on one heck of a read.

This book takes place in 8th century Sweden and features Erlan Aurvandil as the somewhat unwitting accidental main character. He is favoured by King Sviggar for saving his daughter, however he is ridiculed and hated in equal measures for being an outsider and a cripple. What is more worrying is the fact he has caught the eye of the queen, a woman who will do anything to get what she wants. A woman with ancient skills and a taste for violence, blood and pain. Saldas is certainly a force to be reckoned with, as she moves her pieces strategically across the board of this game of war.

I liked the fact Erlan isn’t your typical vision of brawn, beauty and perfection. He keeps his tragic past to himself, and is used to being the focus of negative attention. The only chinks in his armour are his almost fatherly affection for Kai and his bond with Lilla.

His confusion when it comes to lust, love and physical attraction is right on the money. More in keeping with a young man with a weakness for a pretty woman and pumped up with battle fuelled adrenaline, as opposed to a lovesick puppy.

Be prepared for murders, false accusations, the questioning of allegiances and for oaths to be broken in this fast-paced brutal story. Reading this makes you wonder how any people were left at all in the Scandinavian countries. Talk about bloodthirsty and vicious, but hey it does make for a fantastic story.

This an excellent piece of historical fiction. It is filled with betrayal, intrigue, passion and savage battle scenes. Brun plots with precision, and that meticulous plotting is strengthened by the riveting characters and on point dialogues. It’s an outstanding read.

Buy A Sacred Storm at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Kindle pub date 7 June 2018 Hardcover pub date 7 June 2018

Buy A Mighty Dawn (The Wanderer Chronicles #1)

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Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien

queenof the northThere are few ways of approaching a story that ventures into historical fiction, stories with the odd bit of history thrown in for good luck or to validate a time period, fiction that imagines a different narrative of history and stories with inaccurate historical facts.

Then you have the authors, who like Anne O’Brien, incorporate their story within the confines of accurate historical narratives, obviously with a wee bit of artistic licence here and there, thereby making it more than just a read. It is an experience of culture, learning and history.

In Queen of the North O’Brien takes the reader to the events in 1399, and although they aren’t given as much attention as the events that unfold a few decades later, they are pivotal to said events. They are the seeds that are sown, which bring about the later catalyst and murderous power struggles between the York and Lancaster cousins of the Plantagenet house.

From the very beginning one thing is clear about Elizabeth, she will never forget the fact she is a Mortimer or the legitimacy of their claim to the throne. Her loyalty to the name comes before any loyalty towards her husband, the Percy family and even her own children.

In fact I would go so far as to claim hypocrisy, because the political power plays and machinations of the men she is surrounded by are no different to her own secret plans and ploys. Fluttering eyelashes, sweet voices and wiles of a woman, all in the name of her own agenda. Elizabeth has to take a step back and consider her own portion of guilt in regards to her husband, his untimely death and the desecration of his corpse.

Along with her propensity for elaborate prose and descriptive writing, O’Brien’s powerful characters are what I enjoy the most about her books. She is in a class of her own, and in my personal opinion belongs up there with the best.

Buy Queen of the North at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

the stry keeperFolklore is a way of passing on the stories of a people and their culture. It is also a way of passing on mythology and fairy-tales to the next generations. Folklore fuels fear, paranoia and mistrust, but it can also be conducive to bonding, feeling safe and a sense of community, especially on an isolated island.

Audrey has taken a job on the remote island of Skye in order to connect with her past and escape from the present. She has been employed to collect the stories of the islanders, the tales of the fae folk. The stories that can compel people to set fire to young girls or bury babies alive, in order to keep the fae happy.

They aren’t the cute tiny magical beings of fairy tales changed to be more kid friendly, they are the creatures of nightmares and shadows of daymares. This is what the islanders believe, and also the reason every single possible crime and odd event is automatically blamed on the fae.

When young girls start going missing and one of them turns up dead the rumours are clear, the fae have reason to be displeased and are taking the girls. Audrey thinks there is a more human element to the situation, but is distracted and blocked at every turn of her attempt to gain clarity. It isn’t long before the fae start to show her the error of her ways.

I really enjoyed the way the author hid a crime story in the middle of this tale of folklore, magic and paranoia. Mazzola hits the nail on the head when it comes to the seclusion of the population and the almost hermit-like behaviour of the majority of the population. She doesn’t neglect the reasons for the hunger, despair and cruelty, which drives many of them into an early grave or on to supposedly greener pastures.

Mazzola gives the reader a combination of an old school classic vibe with a contemporary feel to it. A sort of Jane Eyre meets Christie, and a wee gothic atmosphere mixed in to boot.

Buy The Story Keeper at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Kindle Pub. Date 31st May 2018, Hardcover 26 July 2018 (Tinder Press)

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

tattooistTaking into consideration that this is an eyewitness narrative, which I find preferable when it comes to Holocaust themed books, and an important historical account, I do wonder if Lale Solokov subconsciously or inadvertently romanticized the more uplifting parts of his story.

Memory is a tricky thing at the best of times, recalling memories made under extreme duress and/or trauma can sometimes interfere with the way we interpret memories.

I believe he made life seem simpler and less traumatic than it was. His relationship and encounters with Gita read like a complicated romance novel, and because of that some of the scenarios seem improbable.

When he or rather the author, relates the more brutal and heinous events there seems to be a reluctance to be cruel and honest. There is no such thing as gratuitous when it comes to laying bare the crimes of the Holocaust.

Again I am not sure whether that was Lale or the author changing the narrative just slightly to make the romance pop more or if it was just easier to focus on a more pleasant scenario. To remember the positive of meeting her instead of the negative of fearing she would die.

Like many survivors, Lale sat on his story for many decades. It wasn’t until Gita died that he decided the world needed to know his story. I can imagine he felt terrible survivor’s guilt and guilt in general for perhaps feeling like he contributed to the demise of many victims. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to see the physical proof of his personal trauma on real people. Being responsible for marking his fellow humans like cattle.To him it would have been irrelevant that he had no choice. Survival is an instinct, and I am glad a lot of survivors lived to tell the world about the heinous crimes of the Holocaust.

As I said before, the stories of survivors need to be told, without them there is more chance we will repeat the past. Morris does that in a sensitive way, and she brings a little lightness to a very dark story.

Buy The Tattooist of Auschwitz at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

girl in the towerI adore this series. Arden is an incredible writer and possesses the ability to recreate the feeling of an old Russian master with the flair of a nouveau writer.

The author combines the magic and essence of Russian folktales with the creativity of high fantasy, and lets the reader experience the darkness of old tales told in front of fires and the power of ancient myths.

At the end of the first part of the trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale, we left Vasya grieving for her father and protected by Morozko. In this second part she decides she wants to travel the world, to discover things beyond her village. Thanks to the new local priest everyone thinks she is a witch, which means she is a pariah and in danger.

So begins her venture into a world of rules, fear and cruelty. One Morozko would rather she didn’t experience at all, even if she has been gifted with a magical stallion, who will protect her. He struggles with his emotions towards Vasja and the inevitability of their separation.

In both books the author has made a point of shedding a light on the inequality between men and women, and how it impacts those who are deemed to be less equal than others. Part of Vasja’s drive to be free is connected to the limitations she experiences as a woman. The title is very apt in that sense. There is no freedom, but plenty of restrictions, and any deviation from the rules can ruin a reputation.

Once again Arden balances the mystical with exceptional storytelling and leaves the reader with the feeling of reading a Russian classic. It feels timeless and ancient.

I am really looking forward to The Winter of the Witch, the third part of this trilogy. Katherine Arden has proven herself to be a writer and storyteller of great skill, and I wager a few decades from now her Winternight trilogy will receive the recognition it truly deserves.

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Buy The Girl in the Tower at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read The Bear and the Nightingale Winternight #1

Coming August 2018 the conclusion to the Winternight Trology The Winter of the Witch

 

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

beneathThere are events in history that tend to take second or third place in importance and narrative, mainly because there are so many atrocious events that tend to take precedence. Understandably so, however it doesn’t make the pain and suffering of others less worthy of retelling. In this case the bombing of Milan and the invasion of Italy by the Germans.

The story of Pino Lella is one of many, there are a lot of forgotten heroes around us. The men and women who have made their niche in history with acts of great bravery, and yet their voices are never heard. The author was inspired to bring this true story of Pino’s courageous actions to others, and I am glad he did.

Pino’s parents insist he join the German military forces in an attempt to keep him safe. As a parent I can understand the convoluted logic, however this choice places him in the awful position of being one of the enemy. At the time there was no way his parents could have known what this association might entail in the years after the war. Any hint of collaboration often meant the difference between life and death, and being shunned by his fellow countrymen. His choice creates a chasm between himself and his best friend, but at the same time Pino has the opportunity to help bring the enemy down.

The chapters on the escape route through the mountains create vivid imagery. I am sure Pino’s description of the climbs were almost blasé, despite the danger and the incredible skill he acquired to help Jewish people flee. This nonchalance is mirrored in the writing.

In a way Sullivan pays tribute to all the unknown Pino’s of the world, and to all the stories we will never get the opportunity to hear. Reminding us of parts of history that slide into obscurity.

Buy Beneath a Scarlet Sky at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin

the wicked comethThere is a lot of waxing lyrical, which leads to the assumption that the story is leading in a completely different direction to the one it actually takes.

The procrastination, albeit very beautiful procrastination, makes the first half of the book appear to be a lot slower and the second half of the book is faster paced, and the plot is focused in another direction.

Not that I think it was Carlin’s intention for the beginning of the book to sound like a ghoulish mystery with a Gothic vibe, which then turns into a Burke and Hare venture with an underlying romantic connection.

I think the intention was for the relationship between Hester and Rebekah to always be at the centre of the story, regardless of what happens around them. Their blossoming friendship, sisterhood and finally the twinkle of something more. The discovery of their feelings, the confusion and acknowledgement of said feelings, and the realisation that society will never accept it, would have been sufficient as a storyline. The second half of the book, which ventures more into the deep dark secrets of Rebekah’s family could have been an entirely new novel.

It felt a little like Holmes battling Moriarty, while Hetty Feather struggles to survive on the streets, with a modern twist on romance thrown in for good measure. I would really like to see Carlin follow through with the relaxed beautiful style of the first half of the book. Both styles have their merits, just not when fused together as one.

Leaving all that aside for a moment, I enjoyed the friendship and emerging romance between the two of them. Neither of them willing to admit the attraction is there and perhaps not even fully comprehending what it is they are feeling, because it goes against all the conventions they know. Carlin also describes the worlds between the classes well and the invisible wall keeping them apart. The stark reality of poverty and the rules of the streets the poor have to abide by to survive.

I certainly wouldn’t be averse to seeing Rebekah and Hester teaming up together again.

Buy The Wicked Cometh at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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