Sunday, 13 October 2013

Agent of Rome, The Imperial Banner, Nick Brown,

Publishers: Hodder

Pages: 421

Main Characters:

Cassius Corbulo, Indavara, Simo

The Imperial Banner is  the second book in Nick Brown's The Agent of Rome series and sees us return to the third century and our inexperienced, unlikely hero Cassius Corbulo. After the events in The SiegeCassius and his manservant Simo have some down time solving some minor crimes which understandably Corbulo enjoys! However, after a long standing conflict between Rome and its greatest rival Persia comes to an end, Corbulo and Simo are called back into action by the Imperial Security Service. As part of the peace treaty between Rome and Persia, a symbolic battle standard know as the Faridun's Banner (or the Derafsh Kaviani) which was captured by the Romans in the war, is agreed to be returned to the Persian Emperor as part of the coming together of the great Empires. The Imperial Security Service is tasked with transporting the standard from Antioch to the peace talks between Rome and Persia. However, when the convoy does not report in several days after its departure, the Service begins to fear the worst and Corbulo is tasked with retrieving the Standard from whomever stole it. Luckily for Corbulo, the Service provides the young officer with a body guard to protect him from the bandits that likely stole the Standard. 

Indavara is a sword for hire and is tasked with protecting Corbulo on his investigation. A freed Gladiator, Indavara is an expert in sword fighting and archery, which is lucky for Corbulo because when Indavara first meets him, he is being attack by three Legionaries! At first Corbulo and the Service expect that the convoy was ambushed by brigands left over from Queen Zenobia's rebellion. However, when clues are unearthed and rumours about Antioch's leading politicians are proved true, Corbulo's belief that the attack on the convoy was an 'inside job' becomes stronger and stronger. Nevertheless, his superiors disagree and are convinced that the Banner was stolen accidentally by opportunistic bandits. With his limited experience, Corbulo is uncertain whether to follow orders or go with his gut instinct,but after a failed assassination attempt on his life, Corbulo is certain that Roman politics and political intrigue is at play and follows his leads to the heart of Antioch's society.

In my review of The Siege I said that I really enjoyed the book because Corbulo was not made out to be a hero, but instead was a scared and inexperienced teenager, which for me made the book more realistic. In The Imperial Banner, Corbulo is still inexperienced teenager but he also becomes a very arrogant and at times, unlikable character. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this factor because again it made the novel and Corbulo seem much more realistic. I could imagine that a rich, aristocratic teenager who has the authority of the Roman Emperor would be arrogant and self-righteous and therefore a little bit unlikable. I don't know if this was intentional but I do really like how Corbulo isn't really the hero that seems to appear in books in this genre. In addition, I found the story behind Faridun's Banner intriguing and thought it was a good mystery for Corbulo to uncover! 

All in all, this was a great historical mystery novel in a very promising series and I can't wait to check out the next novel  The Far Shore. I would suggest this book to fans of other Roman history novels such as Simon Scarrow's Marco and Cato series or Anthony Riches's Empire series. I'd also suggest it to fans of other historical mystery novels such as C. J. Sansom's Shardelake series. 

For author's official website click here.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Strangled Queen, Maurice Druon

Publishers: Harper Collins

Pages: 269

Main Characters:

Louis X, Marguerite, Guccio Baglioni, Robert of Artois

The Strangled Queen is the second book in Maurice Druon's nail-biting The Accursed Kings series. The novel follows on from The Iron King and finds medieval France in turmoil after the death of one of its most successful and respected Kings, Philip the Fair. His son Louis has inherited the Kingdom but does not possess the brilliance of his late father and is easily swayed in making decisions by his bold and charismatic uncle Charles of Valois. Charles is of the old ways of France and hated most of Philip the Fair’s new bureaucratic methods which modernised the Kingdom. In addition, Charles hated the new methods most of all because they raised the middle class into the social elite. He wants France to return to the era of chivalry and the time of powerful nobility. To do this, Charles manipulates his weak nephew by promising him a new marriage after the embarrassment of Marguerite of Burgundy (Louis wife) and Philippe d’Aunay’s affair. However, to achieve his goals Charles must first remove his greatest rival Enguerrand Marigny, the old King’s closet advisor, from the French court.

Meanwhile, Marguerite of Burgundy and her sister Blanche are still been held prisoners by Louis X, whom is awaiting the appointment of a new Pope to divorce his marriage from his adulterous wife. The miserable dark cell is enough to crack the once beautiful and powerful Queen of France and forces her to write a confession that states her marriage was never valid. However, after no news is heard from the King after the departure of the letter, Marguerite’s future looks very bleak and when new condemning evidence is discovered against Marguerite and her protector, Enguerrand Marigny, her future also looks very short…

I found this book much better than The Iron King. Don’t get me wrong, I did really like the first book, I thought as a historical-fiction novel it was probably one of the best I’ve read this year because it was so full of historical detail. However, as a thriller I didn’t think it was that thrilling and thought marketing the novel as ‘the original Game of Thrones’ was very misplaced. The Strangled Queen on the other hand totally fits this bill! It was full of political intrigue, plots and betrayal that I loved and like The Iron King, Druon’s historical detail was top notch. Coupled with the intrigue, Druon successfully and entertainingly shows the weakness of the French crown at the start of the thirteenth century.

This was a great novel and has got me really excited to read the next book in the series The Poisoned Crown, which from the sound of its title already sounds epic! I’d suggest this book to anyone who likes historical-fiction, especially authors such as Bernard Cornwell and his Grail Quest series. I’d also suggest it to fans of Game of Thrones because as George R. R. Martin explains in his Forward note at the start of the book, this novel was the inspiration behind GoT.

For author's official Goodreads page click here.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Daddy was a Punk Rocker, Adam Sharp

Publisher: Adam Sharp

Pages: 132

Main Characters:

Adam, Martine, Colin

Daddy Was a Punk Rocker is the deeply moving memoir written by Adam Sharp, who tells the story of his amazing life, but often difficult and troubled upbringing. Been an unwanted son of a heroin addict mother (Martine) and a punk rock father (Colin), Adam’s young life was plagued with violence and abandonment. In addition, moving from households in Manchester and Newcastle made Adam question who he was as he struggled to create an identity. However, because of his spirit, determination and the belief that his father will always come good, Adam goes on to become a successful but troubled young man.

It’s hard to give a review of what happens in this novel because I don’t want to give too much away. What I think you guys should know is that this book is truly well written and moving. I loved how honest Sharp was in the novel, which must have been really hard because it’s his own life he's talking about! Nevertheless, I think it’s great that he holds nothing back as it makes his story so much more grittier and real. It also makes his memoir extremely sad. This is because throughout his childhood and adolescence, Adam clings to the idea that one day his father will be like any other Dad and return drug free and ready to whisk Adam away to a home where they can listen to punk music together.  To try and speed along this dream, Adam constantly pushes himself to be stronger, smarter or faster in the hope that his personal achievements will impress his father.

However, by putting his Dad on this pedestal, Adam continually sets himself up for a fall when Colin breaks his promises  by not showing up to their meetings or by returning to his drug addiction. I thought this was so sad because in the mind of a child this must be devastating- to do all that you can to impress someone in the hope they will love you and care for you and then to have it totally ignored must have been heart breaking! You can see why Adam does some of things he does in the novel. Of course, there are some happier moments in the novel too but again I don’t want to say too much and spoil anything!

All in all this book was a great read about a father and son who both wanted to share their lives together but unfortunately couldn’t. I got so addicted to Adam’s story that I was reading it on my iPhone at work because I just could not get enough! I’d suggest this book to anyone who wants to read a novel that’s a little bit different but that’s also immensely honest and entertaining to read! Plus, at the minute the e-book is only 79p on Amazon which I think is an absolute bargain so make sure to go and buy it!

P.S. I’d like to say a massive thank you to Adam Sharp for getting in touch with me and introducing me to his amazing work! Thanks Adam!

For author’s official website click here.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

I Haven't Fallen Off the Face of the Earth, I'm Just Travelling Around It!

Hey guys! Just a very quick video to let you know I'll be in Taiwan between July 11th - 2nd August 2013 so there won't be any posts or updates on my blog or Facebook.

P.S. Please excuse the phone bleep!

Please remember to comment, rate and subscribe.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Agent of Rome, The Siege, Nick Brown

Publishers: Hodder

Pages: 383

Main Characters:

Cassius Corbulo, Strabo, Crispus,

The Siege is the first book in Nick Brown’s debut the Agent of Rome series and tells the tale of Cassius Corbulo, a young Roman aristocrat who after too much boozing and womanizing is forced to join the army by his Senator father. Luckily because of his standing in Roman society, Corbulo manages to gain a place in the Imperial Security Service, which in normal circumstances would handle administration within the army such as gaining food and supplies and not really fight on the front line with normal Legionaries. 

However, when Queen Zenobia of Palmyra throws off the shackles of Rome and revolts in 270 AD, Corbulo finds himself been the highest ranking officer on the Syrian boundary and is tasked with holding an important fort called Alauran on the Roman supply line. Been a fresh recruit and only just passing his officer training, Corbulo is uneasy about taking a posting as the commander of the fort and when he learns that the cohort which is guarding Alauran are veterans from the Third Legion, Corbulo’s insecurity is made much worse.

When Corbulo arrives at Alauran he finds the fort in a state of severe disrepair and with the death of their commander, the Legionaries of the defences have become lazy and ill disciplined. Nevertheless, Corbulo has to find a way to repair the fort and get the Legionaries on his side as news arrives that a Palmyran force has been dispatched to attack and capture Alauran. Lacking in leadership skills, Corbulo uses other methods such as bribes to gain the support of the fort’s most influential officers and manages to motivate the men and their allies to fight and repair the defences with the promise of a relief column arriving within the next week (which Corbulo is not 100% sure will arrive!). However, this may not be enough as the unexplained murder of one of Corbulo’s best men reveals that there is a traitor in the camp. In addition, the sheer number of Palmyran forces which arrives to siege Alauran means Corbulo will have to use all of his limited knowledge of soldiering and the experience of his officers to stem the tide of the Syrian conquest of Roman land!

As a debut novel this book was extremely well written and thought out and different to any other Roman novels I have read. Yes, like Scarrow’s Cato and Riches’s Corvus, the main character was an inexperienced young aristocrat who is thrown into leadership and has to make the best of a bad situation. But what I really enjoyed about this book and what I thought made it refreshing to this genre, is that whereas Cato and Corvus evolve into great leaders charging into battle and killing numerous foes, in this book at least, Corbulo doesn’t. He is still nervous and confused about what he has to do as a leader and often times would rather let others tell him what to do instead of the other way round. I thought this was a great factor because it made the book seem much more realistic because I know if I was thrown into that situation, I’d have no clue what to do! I also think this factor helps portray the situation the Roman Empire was in in 270 AD as they would fast track young aristocrats into leadership roles because they had no other experienced men to fill them. I don’t know, maybe in the later books Corbulo will evolve into a great leader but in this first novel I’m glad Brown made him the nervous young man I think he should have been.

I’d suggest this book to anyone who enjoys Roman historical novels and authors such as Simon Scarrow, Anthony Riches, Ben Kane and Gordon Doherty. I’d also suggest it to anyone who is looking for a great historical fiction novel because this book was brilliant and I’m sure is going to be a part of an amazing series. By the way, I’d like to say a massive thank you to Nick Brown for getting in touch and introducing me to his work- look out for his new novel Agent of Rome, The Far Shore which will be released on July 18th!

For author’s official website click here.

P.S. Don't forget to enter my Book of the Month Competition for a chance to win a FREE copy of The Hundred Year-Old-Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and The Iron King by Maurice Druon. To enter this great competition just follow the instructions on this link.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Inferno, Dan Brown

Publishers: Bantam Press

Pages: 463

Main Characters:

Robert Langdon, Sienna Brooks, Elizabeth Sinskey

Inferno is the fourth book in Dan Brown's truly captivating Robert Langdon series and the novel finds our favourite art historian in the beautiful and historic city of Florence to solve his next art puzzle and mystery. After waking up in a hospital bed, Langdon has no recollection of how he got there or where he is! It isn’t until his Doctor (Sienna Brooks) informs him that he has been shot in the head with minor amnesia and that he is currently in Florence. 

Poor Langdon has no idea why he is in Florence but more importantly, why someone would want to shoot him. All he does know is that the weird and demonic visions which keep coming to him of a grey haired woman telling him to ‘seek and ye shall find’ seem more and more real, but Langdon has no idea what they mean! However, Langdon’s ponderings and confusion is soon ended as a blonde spiked haired woman wearing black motor cycling leathers, bursts into his hospital room and tries to shoot him! Luckily, his quick thinking doctor manages to whisk Robert away to the safety of her flat and tries to explain what is going on, revealing to Langdon that when he arrived at the hospital he was carrying a very peculiar object with him.

The object is a long metallic tube with a biohazard symbol on it that looks like it will only open with the use of a specific person’s fingerprint. Again, Langdon has no idea how he got it, however, when he places his finger on the device it opens. Luckily the item inside is not radioactive but is instead a small projector which when turned on, projects one of the most famous images of the Renaissance era, the La Mappa dell’Inferno by Sandro Botticelli. After this revelation, Langdon and Sienna are taken on a journey through Dante’s Inferno and discover that the person behind the projector and the reason for Langdon’s presence in Florence, is an extremely rich and powerful biogenetic scientist who believes that the human population needs to be culled for it to further evolve. Langdon and Sienna must work out the mad-scientist’s riddles and puzzles to discover where he has hidden his ‘solution’ to the problem of overpopulation and prevent it from been released to the world!

Botticelli's La Mappa

Once again Dan Brown has produced an astounding, bum on the end of your seat thriller! I’m always amazed at how he manages to consistently produce a remarkable plot but at the same time fill his books with so much historical detail, which I think Inferno has the most of. Brown’s understanding of Dante’s Divine Comedy is apparent throughout the novel but I really like how he manages to convey the information and story and twist it to his own plot.

Overall this was a great book and I’d suggest it to anyone who likes Brown’s other novels or to anyone who just wants to read a great novel!

For author’s official website click here.

P.S. Don't forget to enter my Book of the Month Competition for a chance to win a FREE copy of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson or The Iron King by Maurice Druon. To enter this great competition just follow the instructions on this link

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Book of the Month Competition- June

It’s back, yay!

That’s right my Book of the Month Competition is back and this month I’ve not got one but TWO great books to giveaway to make up for the last two months absence! The reason there has been no competition during April and May is because I had to write my dissertation and revise for my exams and didn’t want the added work of running a competition on top of that. But now I’ve finished university I can restart the competition and give you guys an opportunity to win some great books!

So what are these great books you may ask? Well, the first novel is The Iron King by Maurice Druon. George R. R. Martin called this book one of the biggest influences behind A Game of Thrones. The novel is based in 13th Century France and tells the tale of the decline of the Capet dynasty over a seven book series. The Iron King is the first book in the series and well worth entering my competition to win!

The second novel is The Hundred-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared and is based around the adventures of Allan Karlsson, a hundred-year-old man who wants some action in his life and climbs out of his retirement home window to find it! Again, this is a great novel so why not enter the competition to try and win it? There will be two winners (one for each book) however if you have a preference of the book you’d like to win(maybe because you’ve already read the other one) then feel free to send me an e-mail at and I’ll make sure you get that book if you win :) 

So, if you’d like a chance to win these two great novels, all you have to do is click on this link to my Facebook page, ‘like’ my page and then write a comment saying you would like to enter the competition. If you are not on Facebook but are a member of Blogger, you can enter the competition by following my Blog directly through Blogger, by clicking on the ‘join this site’ button on the right hand side of the page. You can also enter by subscribing to my Youtube page by clicking on this link here. If you're already a member of one of my various social media sites, all you have to do is leave me a comment on one of them saying you'd like to enter- it's that easy!

Remember it’s FREE to enter and it will not cost you a penny to get the book in the post. So why not have a go? You could win one of these excellent novels for absolutely FREE!

Good luck to everyone that enters, I hope you’ll have as much fun with the competition as I will.

I'll be choosing the winner on the 30th June. For further details on the competition, such as how the winner will be chosen and how the winner will be announced please click here

Also don't forget to check out my Youtube video for more info!

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