Menu

travelswithacanadian profile

Place of birth: UK
Now living: UK

travelswithadiplomat - a Brit approaching his fifth decade of life tagging along with his Canadian diplomatic wife: travelswithacanadian.com

3 favourite authors

3 favourite books

3 favourite films

travelswithacanadian's 122 reviews

The Bookseller's Tale by Ann Swinfen (Oxford Medieval Mysteries)

It is inevitable that Ann Swinfen's latest theme – a foray into fourteenth century Oxford murder mysteries – will be compared to the peerless Susanna Gregory. The parallels are clear: University versus townsfolk and a mild-mannered, reluctant sleuth with his wealthier, altruistic sidekick. There is plenty of reference to matters ...

7.0/10

Read our full review

Dragonlance by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (Dragonlance)

Every generation can point to a fantasy book or series that defines their teenage years. Currently, that would likely be Harry Potter; for those now edging towards or into their 40s it would be Dragonlance. Weis & Hickman’s core six books took the 70s and early 80s concept of Dungeons & Dragons and pulled it firmly into the big-hai...

9.5/10

Read our full review

The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett (Long Earth)

The much-missed Terry Pratchett and iconic Stephen Baxter return for the penultimate volume in their oddly misfiring ‘Long Earth’ quintet. In reviews of the first two I observed that the problem with the series is that the scope is potentially sempiternal and thus it would be improbable that, as great as combining the literary prowes...

7.0/10

Read our full review

The Outlaws by Jason Vail (A Stephen Attebrook Mystery)

After four murder mysteries centered around Stephen Attebrook, the author (Jason Vail) steps back one hundred years to what is presumably the lives of Stephen’s great-grandparents. The murders have gone (well, there’s a couple, but not in the mystery sense) and we have a book at least twice as long as the predecessors which is more h...

8.5/10

Read our full review

St Milburga's Bones by Jason Vail (A Stephen Attebrook Mystery)

I confess I find it odd that Jason Vail is publishing these books on Amazon at a pittance; not complaining mind you, because they are a historical murder mystery series at an unbelievable bargain.So, half-foot Sir Stephen Attebrook is back for his fifth outing alongside portly sidekick, Gilbert (a classic Sherlockian character setup in su...

8.5/10

Read our full review

The Girl in the Ice by Jason Vail (A Stephen Attebrook Mystery)

Jason Vail is in danger of transforming from a speculative e-author into a bona fide murder mystery writer. “The Wayward Apprentice” and the next three Stephen Attebrook novels have shown a rapidly maturing writing style, plot complexity, historical understanding, and intriguing sense of mystery. All set in the time of King Henry III...

8.3/10

Read our full review

Baynard's List by Jason Vail (A Stephen Attebrook Mystery)

I must say I am delighted to have found Jason Vail. His opener – “The Wayward Apprentice” – was a well crafted medieval mystery and this sequel is equally as palatable.Following immediately on from the close of the first novel, the list that was key to solving the murder in the opening novel pops up within pages. T...

8.0/10

Read our full review

A Grave Concern by Susanna Gregory (The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew)

Matt and Michael are back in Susanna Gregory’s twenty-second mystery. This time “It is a good time for tomb-makers” as a nefarious crowd of 14th century characters wend their way into Cambridge to disrupt both the University and the town, to the degree that Sheriff Tulyet happily coerces Michael with: “’The Universi...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

Martin Stewart’s first novel is a whale of a fantasy attempt. It is often said that first novels are ‘semi-autobiographical’, that second one's ‘draw on the author’s family’ etc... There is a similar effect with fantasy novels; different in that you can see on whom and from where the author has drawn on hi...

8.7/10

Read our full review

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

Yasunari Kawabata’s prose infiltrates our senses redolent of the delicate memories of tea, drifting with equanimity across the page; there is a languor that lulls us into a dreamlike state full of suggestion, powerfully soporific, quietly calming. ‘Thousand Cranes’, just like ‘Beauty and Sadness’, deals with relatio...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner (The Chronicles of the Exile)

Having thoroughly enjoyed Marc Turner’s epic opener in the ‘Chronicles of the Exile’ I reached for his next with high expectations. It quickly became apparent that the only link to the previous novel is both place and the fact that an ‘exile’ – another Guardian, Senar Sol – is the author’s opening ...

8.4/10

Read our full review

The Chelsea Strangler by Susanna Gregory (The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner)

Susanna Gregory is back with her latest historical mystery featuring Thomas Chaloner. Hannah is dead, struck down by the plague (this is not a spoiler… Gregory tells us this in the opening prologue) and Tom finds himself a widower again with plenty of free time after the Battle of Lowestoft. London has become a ghost town; the King et al....

9.3/10

Read our full review

Nick and the Glimmung by Philip K Dick

Philip K Dick never lived to see “Nick and the Glimmung” published; for this reviewer I can see why. It is an unpolished foray into the world of children’s literature and the prose struggles to rein in Dick’s natural tendency towards philosophy espousing some kind of transcendental exegesis.Dick needed to write nov...

6.0/10

Read our full review

Dreaming the Eagle by MC Scott (Boudica)

Compared to McCullough, this offering from Scott wasn't impressive, but perhaps understandably so. `Boudica' from Manda Scott tends to follow a well-trodden formula in its plot technique. It is a methodology repeated in many current offerings in this rapidly expanding sub genre of historical fiction which, admittedly, has the benefit of ...

7.0/10

Read our full review

Dreaming the Bull by MC Scott (Boudica)

The second of Manda Scott's Boudica trilogy opens with the somewhat older Breaca (known as `The Boudica', Bringer of Victory) ambushing Romans in modern Wales. Removed from the Eceni, now of Mona, she has a son and a husband, Caradoc whilst on the other side of Britain, Ban, now firmly known as Julius Valerius, a duplicareus, is aiding C...

8.0/10

Read our full review

Beauty and Sadness by Yasunari Kawabata

As a Westerner, coming to great Japanese literature (I was introduced to this work through the living works of Murakami and the classical pen of tenth century Sei Shonagon), means not only savouring and understanding the story, but accepting the culture that drives the precise narrative, the delicate tones, the meticulous imagery. With Kawabata,...

9.0/10

Read our full review

A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening by Mario de Carvalho

Mario de Carvalho's novel, set in the fictional town of Tarcisis during the dying years of Marcus Aurelius reign as Emperor of the Roman Empire, fully deserves the Pegasus Prize for Literature, dealing as it does with a civic leader's attempt, over a six month period, to deal with several fundamental issues, ending with the trial of ferv...

9.5/10

Read our full review

Grendel by John Gardner

Analysis of the 1971 novel by the late American John Gardner often goes hand in hand with an literary need to shape his anthropomorphizing of the monster, Grendel, to the philosophy of Icelandic sagas, Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and any other codex of human thought on the nature of duality where the latter is a battle between ...

9.1/10

Read our full review

Clash of Eagles by Alan Smales (The Clash of Eagles Trilogy)

The opener of Alan Smale’s Hesperian Trilogy has a theme that will be familiar to a generation who have read of Pocahontas (or seen the Disney film); a younger generation will find a more salient comparison to the film “Avatar”. This time, the author retains wholly the Native American setting, but throws in his own ‘twist...

8.5/10

Read our full review

A Maze of Death by Philip K Dick

Philip K Dick may be known for inspiring “Blade Runner’ and ‘Total Recall’ but his corpus of science fiction work is vast and deserves its place in the pantheon of SF Masterworks. For those wishing to delve into Mr Dick’s neurotic psychoses of novels, ‘A Maze of Death’ is a fine place to start as, whilst...

8.5/10

Read our full review

When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner (The Chronicles of the Exile)

...

8.3/10

Read our full review

A Poisonous Plot by Susanna Gregory (The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew)

“You are about to deliver news of an untimely death. Not to mention the fact that the town is on the verge of a riot, you have a murder to solve, and there is a bonfire next to our church that may set it alight at any moment.”Matt and Michael are back in their twenty-first adventure. This time the author’s body count exc...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Cyador’s Heirs by LE Modesitt Jr (The Saga of Recluce)

L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s seventeenth novel of Recluce takes us into a future where Cyador has been swallowed up by the Accursed Forest, destroyed because weakened wards, greed and poor rulership meant that “there was no one to hold back the Accursed Forest when the dark angels called upon it to destroy Cyador”. Now there is only a s...

8.8/10

Read our full review

Eagles at War by Ben Kane (Eagles of Rome)

Ben Kane has turned his attention to the infamous loss of three Roman legions in A.D. 9 in the Teutoburg Forest. Central characters are the Germanic leader, Arminius, his counterpoint, Centurion Tullus, and a series of suppor...

8.0/10

Read our full review

Deadly Election by Lindsey Davis (Falco: The New Generation)

"Titan's tripes! We've got a dead body." Flavia Albia returns for her third adventure in "Deadly Election". It is a vast improvement on her introduction in “The Ides of April”, where the novel suffers so much from a caustic tone. Yet, the sequel “Enemies at Home" made a marked improvement to ret...

8.0/10

Read our full review

Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin

It has taken this reviewer considerable time since setting aside this unfinished book to write a review. The reason is that I found this the perfect literary depiction of evil: Evil in an abstruse manner.It is the first - and only - book in some four decades or more of reading that I have set aside, unfinished, deeply disturbed; feeling I...

8.0/10

Read our full review

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Murakami is unequivocally one of Japan's greatest writers. Our blessing is we get to read and enjoy more books from his pen.Reading this latest, after IQ84, I found it a collaborative set of vignettes rather than a...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Devil in Green by Mark Chadbourn

Humanity has emerged, blinking, from the Age of Misrule into a world substantially changed: cities lie devastated, communications are limited, anarchy rages across the land. Society has been thrown into a new Dark Age where superstition holds sway. The Tuatha De Danaan roam the land once more, their terrible powers dwarfing anything mortals have...

8.5/10

Read our full review

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni’s 1827 “I Promessi Spori” (The Betrothed) is, apparently, mandatory reading in Italian schools. Having come to it some two decades after many of my Italian colleagues I could see why within two chapters. It possesses the linguistic craft of Victor Hugo and the narrative excitement of Alexandre Dumas, with fle...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Cheapside Corpse by Susanna Gregory (The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner)

Tom Chaloner is back from a sojourn in Yorkshire and this time Susanna Gregory has him sleuthing everyone’s current detestable members of society - bankers. More precisely, it is the Goldsmiths of London who are rapidly...

9.5/10

Read our full review

The Very Best of Charles de Lint‏ by Charles de Lint

Charles De Lint is the most rare of authors within the fantasy genre… he is unique. In style, in language, in plot, in the very fabric of his tales which straddle Ottawa and the faerie realm. For this reviewer his pages always bring nostalgic memories of Enid Blyton’s ‘Faraway Tree’; he taps directly into the feather sof...

9.1/10

Read our full review

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F Hamilton

I love to curl up with Peter F Hamilton's space operas so I'm going to take a deep breath and say this isn't his finest effort. I imagine that I've come to wholly appreciate the deftness with which this author handles the vastness of his science fiction, the impressive story-telling, the ability to not just weave but adroitly han...

7.0/10

Read our full review

Lamentation by CJ Sansom

Sansom’s latest Shardlake novel is a peach of delight. I like an author who evolves his or her writing style of the course of a series. In fact, in this case, I’d almost suspect Sansom’s has either been reading or conversing with one Susanna Gregory because Matthew Shardlake is getting closer and closer to Thomas Chaloner. For ...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The War at Troy by Lindsay Clarke

When I was a child my father used to enthral me with Bullfinch’s Mythology, a book that brought together all the Greek myths (among others) and they became my night-time reading stories. Heroes and Gods abounded, romance and war filled the childish imagination and it was a delight to hear. What Lindsay Duncan has done is tantamount to the ...

9.2/10

Read our full review

The Gathering Storm by Kate Elliott (Crown of Stars)

The fifth volume in the ‘Crown of Stars’ saga, The Gathering Storm, has been a long time coming (duly noted by the apologetic author) but the delay has been worth it. We find ourselves trailing two Eagles, Hanna and Hathui, the former riding to join Sanglant and Sapientia who have gone to Jinn trailing Bulkezu as their prisoner, the ...

9.3/10

Read our full review

High Rise by JG Ballard

One of Ballard's finest dystopian novels, High-Rise, takes a community of a forty floor apartment block and narrates the collapse of its middle-class British social ethics and morality, evolving into a renascent primal violence fuelled both by the sub-conscious urge to destroy all trappings of modern civilization and create a protectionist, ...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Crystal World by JG Ballard

The front jacket of the Fourth Estate 2014 version has the Guardian claiming "something magical and not to be missed". Now, it's not often I agree with the vapid sound bite blurb on a cover but, in this case, it's pretty much an accurate summary. Having read Ballard's "The Drowned World", I moved swiftly onto this...

9.5/10

Read our full review

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (Long Earth)

The third “Long” novel from this collaboration is an improvement on the second effort. The content and style of it seems to be more Baxter than Pratchett – the latter’s hand is clear in the Lobsang episodes but it seems the waning powers of the author have meant Baxter has taken a lead on this latest effort. It is heavier...

8.5/10

Read our full review

The Seven Hills by John Maddox Roberts (Hannibal's Children)

JMR's second installment of his alternative history of the Roman Republic unfortunately tends to wander off into the hot and humid distance with no discernible oasis in sight. Much is given over to Titus Norbanus' anabasis and growing ego-eccentricity whilst Scipio pouts and postures in Alexandria playing with his new-fangled toys genera...

7.0/10

Read our full review

Treason Keep by Jennifer Fallon (The Demon Child Trilogy)

Jennifer Fallon's second novel is sparkling and engenders the kind of excitement that Eddings did with the Belgariad. Utterly gripping with the kind of plausible characters that you want to follow avidly, with clean plotlines and plausible action, Treason Keep confirms Fallon's status as a realistic quality fantasy author. Here is none o...

9.3/10

Read our full review

Meadowland by Tom Holt

Tom Holt's latest foray into historical fantasy is as classy as the previous efforts. He has a somewhat unique premise that runs through all his historical novels - namely to prove that history is just a consequence of arbitrary discussions by the main protagonists. So, for example, in the book, ‘Alexander at the World's End’...

8.7/10

Read our full review

A Gladiator Dies Only Once by Stephen Saylor

Saylor's second release of Gordianus short stories are as delightful as those in the `House of Vestals'. In chronological order he opens with The Consul's Wife, a quick story of newspaper cryptic messages and a paranoid consul with a beautiful and independent young wife who's not adverse to backing a quick sesterce at the races. ...

8.9/10

Read our full review

The Language of Stones by Robert Carter (The Language of Stones Trilogy)

The Realm is poised for war. Its weak king – Hal, grandson of a usurper – is dominated by his beautiful wife and her lover. Against them stands Duke Richard of Ebor and his allies. The two sides are set on a bloody collision course…Gwydion is watching over the Realm. He has walked the land since before the time of the d...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Giant's Dance by Robert Carter (The Language of Stones Trilogy)

Carter's sequel to `The Language of Stones' is as stunning as his first. From the eccentrically brilliant quarter turn of the British Isles map to the continuous warping of actual history and names this is one intellectually startling alternative history fantasy novel.The sequel takes place two years after Willand's apparent d...

8.9/10

Read our full review

Dreaming the Serpent Spear by MC Scott (Boudica)

So, we have arrived at the final climatic novel of Scott's series. Having started with a touch too much fantasy in the opener the previous two efforts have been high quality and gripping. The pace, characterisation and emotive response doesn't let up in this final novel as we follow Breaca to her inexorable destiny at the hands of the Au...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Krondor: The Assassins by Raymond E Feist (The Riftwar Legacy)

Fresh back from the front, another foe defeated, Prince Arutha arrives to find all is not well in Krondor. A series of apparently random murders has brought an eerie quiet to the city. Where normally the streets are bustling with merchants and tricksters, good life and night life, now there seems to be a self-imposed curfew at sundown.Mut...

7.5/10

Read our full review

The Shadow of the Lords by Simon Levack (An Aztec Mystery)

Levack returns us to the world of the Aztec a day after his compelling opener finished to find our much put upon and beaten slave sleuth, Yaotl, Nimble's father, stumbling around on a mission to locate the missing emperor's stolen raiment of Quetzalcoatl and find out who killed it's artist, Skinny. Under the ever threatening gaze of ...

8.5/10

Read our full review

Dragons of a Vanished Moon by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (Dragonlance)

War of Souls Trilogy #3The flames of war devour Ansalon. The army of dead souls marches toward conquest, led by the mystical warrior Mina, who serves the powerful One God.A small band of heroes, driven to desperate measures, leads the fight against overwhelming odds.Two unlikely protagonists emerge. One is a dragon...

9.5/10

Read our full review

The Family Trade by Charles Stross

Miriam Beckstein, a successful reporter for a hi-tech magazine in Boston, finds iron-clad evidence of a money-laundering scheme. But when she takes it to her editor, she's fired on the spot and gets a death threat from the criminals she has uncovered.Before the day is over, she's received a locket left by the mother she never knew...

7.5/10

Read our full review

Rides a Dread Legion by Raymond E Feist (The Demonwar Saga)

A lost race of elves, the taredhel or 'people of the stars', have found a way across the universe to reach Midkemia. On their current home world, these elves are hard pressed by a ravaging demon horde, and what was once a huge empire has been reduced to a handful of survivors. The cornerstone of taredhel lore is the tale of their lost or...

8.7/10

Read our full review

In the Ruins by Kate Elliott (Crown of Stars)

The world of Liath and Alain is breaking apart as King Henry's kingdom is savaged by earthly and supernatural forces, which they alone have the power to understand. The Eika warriors thirst for the King's land and power, their enmity sealed by generations of blood. Bitter in-fighting within King Henry's court and the ceaseless attrit...

9.3/10

Read our full review

Boudica: Dreaming the Hound by MC Scott (Boudica)

It's volume three of Manda Scott's hugely successful fantasy about one of Britain's most famous warriors. Breaca, known as the Boudica, is back in Britain killing Romans and spending months agonising over her destiny at the head of the Eceni. In isolated tow is her younger brother, Ban, now known as Valerius, a deserter from the army...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Naked God by Peter F Hamilton (The Night's Dawn Trilogy)

Having read all three parts to this sci-fi trilogy over the course of a single week it left me breathless with the sheer scale of the author's achievement. Epic in scale, thought-provoking in content, operatic in its stage, this is a trilogy that rightly lays claim to Peter F Hamilton's being cited as Britain's best sci-fi writer....

9.5/10

Read our full review

Demon of the Air by Simon Levack (An Aztec Mystery)

Simon Levack's first novel takes the ancient murder mysteries across the Atlantic into the world of the Aztecs and promptly opens with the inevitable human sacrifice that was so integral to their religion. What's good is that he gives us an explanation of why through a detailed recount of the Aztec origins of the world mythology before o...

8.5/10

Read our full review

The Portable Door by Tom Holt

The Portable Door opens with the two unlikeliest of clerk candidates landing a position at the JW Wells company of 22 St Mary Axe. Our lead character, Paul Carpenter, is drifting through life with no particular family ties and his female interest, Sophie, is a hard-nosed, idealistic character whose outward treatment of people masks a reluctance ...

8.7/10

Read our full review

Dragons of a Lost Star by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (Dragonlance)

The War of Souls #2The second volume in Weis & Hickman's newest pure Dragonlance trilogy, The War of Souls, finds us deep in Silvanesti, Qualinesti, the Citadel and Solanthus as we follow the four plot threads. By the end more and more reader suspicions are clarified as the authors begin let us understand what is ...

9.2/10

Read our full review

Harshini by Jennifer Fallon (The Demon Child Trilogy)

Jennifer Fallon concludes her stunning trilogy with Harshini, a series that is as grandiose as Eddings in characterisation and as crafted as Feist in its plot. Amongst the recent mediocrity in fantasy publications this stands out as a shining example of quality authorship that harks back to the genre’s pinnacle years of the late eighties....

9.5/10

Read our full review

Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind (The Sword of Truth Series)

Goodkind’s ‘Faith of the Fallen’ follows effortlessly from the previous ‘Soul of the Fire' where both Richard and Kahlan have banished the Chimes from the world, thus restoring magic. However, not without price, as the first two hundred pages are given over to Kahlan’s rehabilitation (she conveniently can’...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Death of a Scholar by Susanna Gregory (The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew)

Gregory’s twentieth Matthew Bartholomew mystery is titled “Death of a Scholar” but it might be better to call it “Death by cake” given the pastry murders that abound her. She has us back in Cambridge in the autumn of 1358. A triple prologue gives us the death of Matt’s brother-in-law, Oswald Stanmore; the rapi...

9.5/10

Read our full review

Wizard's Funeral by Kim Hunter (The Red Pavilions)

Having bought all three of Kim Hunter's ‘The Red Pavilions’ trilogy, I confess I struggled through the opener and found myself delaying a read of `Wizard's Funeral'. However, when I got round to it one rainy day, I found it a vast improvement on the opener. Primarily because there was a single plot line that runs througho...

7.5/10

Read our full review

Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell (Heirs of the Demon King)

Sarah Cawkwell’s first full length novel is somewhat safe, ticking all the boxes for a middle-of-the-road, well-paced fantasy story. It’s got the hero and his beautiful girlfriend; it’s got a “Fellowship” on a quest; it’s got the 'all-powerful-until-the-denouement' evil characters; it’s got light...

8.0/10

Read our full review

Enemies at Home by Lindsey Davis (Falco: The New Generation)

Flavia Albia returns for her second adventure. This time the meiosis and tapinosis of her vernacular has gone, to be replaced with a more wry, intelligent assessment of her Roman city folk. Which is a vast improvement on her introduction in “The Ides of April” where the novel suffers so much from a caustic tone that I very nearly did...

8.0/10

Read our full review

Dreamwalker by JD Oswald (The Ballad of Sir Benfro)

J. D. Oswald’s opening novel of ‘The Ballard of Sir Benfro’ sits nicely in the comfortable median of fantasy novels. Linguistically it is straightforward, the prose moves along with a gentle pace, the plotlines are familiar to those immersed in the culture of fantasy novels, and the characters are drawn from a common pool of fa...

8.7/10

Read our full review

Son of the Morning by Mark Alder

Mark Alder’s lengthy opener in what looks like a trilogy is really rather good. It’s unique, wryly humorous in its prose, affably accurate in its historical timeline, prosaically fluent, and a darn good story to boot.The story opens in 1330 with an explanation of the hierarchy of heaven and hell: that God is named Itheketer an...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Havens of Pompeii by Nicole Louw

This novel by Nicole Louw improved with the turn of every page. I'll admit I was a bit put off when we plunged fairly quickly into the boorish slave markets of Neapolis to meet our hero, Valerus Claudius Cascus, a young son of a good Roman household. Valerus is a man who is both an injured ex gladiator and a hot-headed, morally ignorant fool...

8.7/10

Read our full review

A Dreadful Penance by Jason Vail (A Stephen Attebrook Mystery)

Well, I have to say I got to the end of this and I am still having trouble finding out what the dreadful penance was that caused the author to title this book. Still...I like Jason Vail. I am going to cautiously compare him to the peerless Ellis Peters. The reason for this is that I like the simplicity of his narrative, the tidiness of hi...

8.0/10

Read our full review

The Cyclops Case by Alan Scribner (A Judge Marcus Flavius Severus Mystery in Ancient Rome)

I am pleased to say this second effort of Scribner's is better than his first. I rather enjoyed the mystery here, not "guessing/deducing" the culprit before the denouement at Judge Severus' final gathering in Baiae.The story concerns the murder in Rome's seaside resort of two people. A curiosi (read "Secret Serv...

7.5/10

Read our full review

Mars the Avenger by Alan Scribner (A Judge Marcus Flavius Severus Mystery in Ancient Rome)

Alan Scribner's first effort almost lost me but it was saved with some neat action and some interesting sidekick personalities - namely ex-Centurion Vulso and Greek slave Straton. I say this because the main character, Judge Severus, is especially boring. He spends all his time educating the reader in a manner that is slightly patronising. A...

6.0/10

Read our full review

OrderMaster by LE Modesitt Jr (The Saga of Recluce)

Modesitt's sequel involving Kharl the cooper, turns ship's carpenter, turned mage, turned Lord of Austra is as equally brilliant as the opener. But that's not unexpected from Modesitt who has proven time and time again with his Saga of Recluce that, not only has he the ability to weave an astonishingly complete world picking his stor...

8.9/10

Read our full review

Flight of the Nighthawks by Raymond E Feist (The Darkwar Saga)

After bringing us the opening three novels concerning Tal Hawkins and Kaspar, Duke of Olasko, Feist opens his third great Midkemia series, The Darkwar Saga, by expanding on the discovery of the Dasati and their automaton army, the Talnoy. It is the greatest danger to face the conclave since Pug's involvement in the Serpent War and finds us d...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Wellspring of Chaos by LE Modesitt Jr (The Saga of Recluce)

Modesitt Jr's 'Wellspring of Chaos' takes us to Nordla, thence to the town of Brysta to the home of a middle aged cooper named Kharl whose aptitude for woodcraft is quietly pushed along in his cooperage. He suffers from all the usual problems of a well settled man, teenage sons with issues, a wife pushing him along to improve the bus...

8.8/10

Read our full review

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett (The Discworld Series)

Pratchett's ‘Monstrous Regiment’ takes us into a parody of regimented life in the army as we follow Sir Samuel Vimes, hot off the press from Night Watch, as he resumes his ambassadorial role. This time we move to the land of Borogravia, constantly at war with the Zlobenians and follow the story of Polly Perks who has learned how ...

9.2/10

Read our full review

The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

I have really enjoyed Matthew Reilly's novels over the past few years: his over-the-top mix of adventure, action, one-liners, one-dimensional characters... it is a brilliant formula for anyone with a few boring hours to while away on a plane, train or "other" long journey.The novels always reminded me of Schwarzenegger in &q...

3.0/10

Read our full review

The Drowned World by JG Ballard

This science fiction novel may be over fifty years old but it retains its neurotic potency even today with the descent into archeo-psychic madness of its few protagonists during fateful months in the Triassic neo-world of a submerged London.It is a novel where every word seeks to counter the titular sea; where the “colossal fireball...

9.5/10

Read our full review

Murder on High Holborn by Susanna Gregory (The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner)

At the heart of this latest Chaloner mystery is the idiom: "the love of money is the root of all evil"; throw in a lot of superstitious ghostly stories around Holborn coupled with a charlatan "warlock", a few ridiculous plots by the Fifth Monarchists, some inept spies and a mighty fine cake maker and you've got all the ne...

9.5/10

Read our full review

The Crown of Stars by Kate Elliott (Crown of Stars)

King Henry's kingdom has been ravaged by internecine warfare, in a conflict that has been both long and bloody. Furthermore, the spell holding the exiled Ashioi from the world has failed, and the land, ravaged by the fury of their return, is only now showing signs of recovery.Sanglant is struggling to legitimise his leadership as the ...

9.3/10

Read our full review

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (The Discworld Series)

"If you can't trust governments, whom can you trust?" - good to see Pratchett has decided to try and answer the unfathomable in his latest Discworld novel. For an author whose powers must be declining due to his unfortunate health issues, every novel that comes from his prolific pen becomes even more of a treasure. There are quite ...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

It is not often I indulge in a Booker Prize winner yet the theme of this caught my eye and a few pages in I realised it was a mystery, bound in an enigma, caught in a puzzle. Those readers who love a good "whodunit", then this is of that ilk; yet, with that plot it is written in a manner that has echoes of Arthur Conan Doyle, it naviga...

9.5/10

Read our full review

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (The Gentleman Bastard Sequence)

Well, given it only took six years to produce the third novel in a planned set of seven, we might be having to settle in for a long one here. At this rate it'll be 2037 before we know what happens. I'd like the author to speed things up a little if he can. Maybe one a year?Anyway, Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen are back after their ...

9.3/10

Read our full review

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Apparently, Kurt Vonnegut regarded this work as a failure. It's also listed in the top one hundred science fiction books one ought to have read.Well, I have read it now and whilst I don't perhaps consider it a a failure, it is neither science fiction nor a classic novel. In fact, I got to the end wondering when it would start. So ...

7.0/10

Read our full review

The Weavers of Saramyr by Chris Wooding (The Braided Path)

Chris Wooding's fully fledged trilogy opener, The Weavers of Saramyr, trumpets a stunning talent on the fantasy stage from a young author. It is a tale woven with skill and deft characterisation with its oriental backdrop of a emperor nation that lives on the fear of Aberrants so expertly controlled by the sickeningly evil Weavers, represent...

8.8/10

Read our full review

The Dreaming Void by Peter F Hamilton (The Void Trilogy)

The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime. Now an even greater danger has surfaced: a threat to the existence of the universe itself. At the very heart of the galaxy is the Void, a self-contained microuniverse that cannot be breached, cannot be destroyed,...

8.9/10

Read our full review

The Long War by Terry Pratchett (Long Earth)

The problem with creating a science fiction "opportunity" such as the one The Long Earth presents is that you need a space opera to do it justice. When The Long Earth came out with its Pratchett notion of a potato inspired device (quickly forgotten in this latest because it was a tad too ridiculous) that gave rise to an infinite series...

5.5/10

Read our full review

The Lost Abbot by Susanna Gregory (The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew)

This latest installment by the ever-superb Susanna Gregory has Matt and Michael hotfooting (or, perhaps, waddling quickly in the latter's case) out of Cambridge on a seven day mission to locate Abbot Robert who's been missing for a month with the town's only physician Pyk. The deadline has been arbitrarily imposed because Michael fee...

9.2/10

Read our full review

A Conspiracy of Violence by Susanna Gregory (The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner)

Pseudonymous Susanna Gregory finally takes the step of having a new character and a new setting. However, it is the familiar gripping plots, eloquent style and descriptive powers, taut narrative and fine characterization that remain. Her Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles are a fine example of the medieval murder mystery and it is fair to say she ra...

9.1/10

Read our full review

Magician's End by Raymond E Feist (The Chaoswar Saga)

So, what started with "Magician" twenty five-odd years ago reaches its "End". The journey of Pug and Tomas concludes with a host of characters making an appearance from all the series. Those appearances are either in the thoughts and words of those who have made it to this last novel or actually feature in a series of small v...

7.5/10

Read our full review

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami

I was handed the single volume binding of this trilogy by a friend and delved into it with curiosity as I had never read anything from Haruki Murakami. The ability of the author is plain to see; even if he indulges in a bit of narcissistic lecturing on what it takes to be an author, I feel he's earned the right to comment given his technical...

9.0/10

Read our full review

A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E Feist (The Chaoswar Saga)

The Darkness is coming… The Kingdom is plagued by rumour and instability. Kingdom spies in Kesh have been disappearing - either murdered, or turned to the enemy side. Information has become scant and unreliable; but one thing appears clear. Dark forces are on the move… Since Pug and the Conclave of Shadows enforced peace after the ...

8.9/10

Read our full review

The High King of Montival by SM Stirling

Having followed the novels of "The Change" since the brilliant opening trilogy it is fair to say that S. M. Stirling deserves every accolade spewed liberally on the ROC jacket. His simple post-apocalyptic vision that has Nantucket returned to an early Bronze Age earth and the subsequent impact on the current timeline of the remainder o...

8.8/10

Read our full review

The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis (Falco: The New Generation)

Flavia Albia is the adopted daughter of a famous investigating family. In defiance of tradition, she lives alone on the colourful Aventine Hill, and battles out a solo career in a male-dominated world. As a woman and an outsider, Albia has special insight into the best, and worst, of life in ancient Rome.I've looked at all the 5 star ...

4.0/10

Read our full review

The Art of War by MC Scott (Rome)

Manda Scott's latest installment of the covert life of Sebastos Pantera demonstrates her growing skills in presenting a story through many narrators. The action of the novel is told through the eyes of both sides as the race either to retain Vitellius as Emperor of Rome, or have Vespasian rise to secure the Purple reaches its climatic denoue...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead (The Pendragon Cycle)

The first of Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle, Taliesin, was written in 1987, a time when the fantasy genre was exploding into the public consciousness with the likes of Eddings, Weis & Hickman, Feist. This attempted to bridge the gap to romantic fantasy led by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Jack Vance with Lawhead weaving together the myths...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Death in St James's Park by Susanna Gregory (The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner)

Five years after Charles II's triumphant return to London there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials - and when a cart laden with gunpowder explodes outside the General Letter Office, it is immediately clear that such an act is more than an expression of outrage at the inefficiency of the postal ...

10.0/10

Read our full review

Wool by Hugh Howey (Wool Trilogy)

I kindled this based on a BBC web article about the author who wrote a dystopian short story, conversed with his wife after seeing it pass a 1000 purchases on Amazon, and then decided to write a full blown novel, with a second and third to come. One of those "electronic self publish" happy stories where skill at writing fiction shone p...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks (Lightbringer)

The Blinding Knife delivers more flashes of magic and storytelling brilliance making for a solid second instalment in the Lightbringer Series.Gavin’s journey continues to surprise me. His actions have taken a darker turn as he has become more and more desperate to find a resolution t...

9.1/10

Read our full review

Dragon Age: Asunder by David Gaider

Asunder is an atypical fantasy novel set around the premise of a quest (necessary for the fantasy video game genre it is targeting) which means an eclectic group of people travelling out from the Orlaian city of Val Royeaux, with its magisterial White Spire, into the wastelands of the Fade in order to save a mage who has become an Abomination. T...

6.5/10

Read our full review

The Mystic Rose by Stephen Lawhead (The Celtic Crusades)

Duncan has returned with his new wife to the fastness of Banvard, to continue his father Murdo’s good work in building a powerful and devout community. Even more precious a gift than his wife, though, is the other item that Duncan has brought to the Scottish clan: the Black Rood, the holy Cross of the Crucifixion that Duncan rescued from t...

5.5/10

Read our full review

The Skystone by Jack Whyte (The Camulod Chronicles)

My father bought me this book when it was published back in 96 and it delighted me at the time. Ever since it has burgeoned into an entirely credible explanation of the Aurthur myth. Indeed, the mutation of the Roman town of Camulodunum to Camulod, to Camelot is, despite it fictional setting, one of the potentially better explanations for the hi...

9.1/10

Read our full review

Murder by the Book by Susanna Gregory (The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew)

Matt and Michael are back in a tale that continues the theme of Anglo-French scheming on a grand scale. For the first time, Gregory moves us into a period directly connected to the Battle of Poitiers in 1346 by giving us a concise description of the battle, the capture of King Jean, and the vows of Sire de Rouge before driving us firmly back to ...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett (Long Earth)

As I read this collaboration between Pratchett and Baxter I found myself drawing comparison with the marvellous “Eon” by Greg Bear and anything written by S M Stirling. Both of these authors produced excellent novels, the former dealing with the now-fairly-common theme of multiple human worlds/time threads being on a linear “co...

8.8/10

Read our full review

Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan

Azazeel is a novel infused with history, theology, the desire for power, intellectualism, and an inner struggle for answers that means every reader can find a thread that will strike chords both sonorous and discordant. It has taken three years for Youssef Ziedan’s International Prize winning novel to be translated into English by Jonathan...

9.4/10

Read our full review

The Vestal Vanishes by Rosemary Rowe (Libertus)

"...whatever Lavinius might or might not know, one cannot keep this kind of secret from the gods."It is these words, spoken by Secunda in a poor farmstead that prove the key to Rosemary Rowe's theme in this latest Libertus mystery.The story revolves around the impending marriage of Publius Martinus at the end of an au...

8.2/10

Read our full review

The Piccadilly Plot by Susanna Gregory (The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner)

Susanna Gregory prologues her seventh Thomas Chaloner murder mystery in Tangiers with the fateful charge of Colonel Teviot up a hill that leads to the death of five hundred of England’s finest. Problem is, the charge wasn’t quite so fateful given the false scouting information given by Harley, Newell and Reyner – members of the...

9.0/10

Read our full review

The Fifth Sorceress by Robert Newcomb (Chronicles of Blood and Stone)

It has been some ten years since this novel was published, some ten years long it has lain hidden on a bookshelf. Added to it have been the remainder of the trilogy as they came out; yet, such has been the glut of high fantasy in recent years – Elliott, Canavan, Weeks, McKenna, to name but a few maestros of the genre – that Robert Ne...

6.0/10

Read our full review

Mystery in the Minster by Susanna Gregory (The Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew)

Susanna Gregory opens her latest Matthew Bartholomew mystery at the deathbed of Archbishop Zouche in July 1352. He is commending his soul to God and his affairs to nine executors who are commissioned both to say obits to lessen his time in Purgatory and build a Chapel for him. Scamper forward nearly six years and we meet a new Michaelhouse tutor...

9.5/10

Read our full review

Praetorian by Simon Scarrow (The Eagle Series)

Cato and Macro are back! It is A.D. 51 and, fresh from their last adventure in Egypt, we open with the treacherous murder of Balbus on the Appian Way and the stealing of two million sesterces that was bound for the pay chests of the imperial legions. It is the motive behind the theft that has Narcissus, the freedman of Claudius and one of the mo...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray (Cleopatra�s Daughter)

Stephanie Dray’s ‘Song of the Nile’ opens immediately where ‘Lily of the Nile’ left us. The wedding of Selene to Juba gives our strong heroine a chance to push at Augustus once more; a chance to remind him again of her mother Cleopatra. A dangerous game to engage in, yet necessary for Selene to advance her position ...

8.5/10

Read our full review

Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray (Cleopatra's Daughter)

“Where Egypt fed the world, Rome tamed it. Where Egypt fostered, Rome disciplined. Egypt was as seductive as a temptress, nurturing as a mother, and wise as a crone. To me, Rome’s spirit was all male.” So speaks Selene Ptolemy, daughter of Anthony and Cleopatra, from her gilded cage in the house of Octavia in Rome. So speaks th...

8.0/10

Read our full review

Dangerous Waters by Juliet E McKenna (The Hadrumal Crisis)

I've managed to conduct an experiment here by deliberately making this the first Juliet McKenna book I've read (for some reason I have most of her novels on that "must read sometime shelf at home). I have to say that you can get away with not having read the previous series but it made it a trifle difficult. I had a disquieting sens...

8.4/10

Read our full review

The Killing Way by Anthony Hays

It is impossible to criticise a novel of Arthurian Britain for historical inaccuracy given the man himself has come down to us wreathed in the mists of myth and legend; much of that through Mallory and Taliesin. This, coupled with the Author's Note, means that any indignation at the portrayal of Camelot, Arthur, his Knights and the surroundi...

7.2/10

Read our full review

Silk Road by Colin Falconer

The year is 1260A.D. and Colin Falconer's "Silk Road" commences at a key moment in Mongol history. News of the death of Mongke Khan in August 1259 reaches Qaidu, Khan of the Tatars living in the Fergana Valley. Against the shifting politics of the Mongolian Empire we are introduced to his wilful, headstrong and spirited daughter, K...

7.0/10

Read our full review

Perfect Shadow by Brent Weeks (A Night Angel Novella)

"My way is hard, but I serve unbroken. In ignobility, nobility. In shame, honor. In darkness, light. I will do justice and love mercy."So speaks the Night Angel, Durzo Blint, as he heads towards a meeting of the Nine to set Gwinvere Kirena as Shinga.In this novella Brent Weeks takes us back several years to when Durzo - a...

8.0/10

Read our full review

The Crown in the Heather by N Gemini Sasson (Bruce Trilogy)

This novel is a fictional retelling of the story of Robert the Bruce (b.1274 – d.1329)It is 1306. The novel opens at the end of the story. Robert the Bruce and James Douglas trudge wearily away with their followers to escape Longshanks' - Edward I of England - decree that they are traitors. By the close of the book Robert is str...

8.8/10

Read our full review

The Wayward Apprentice by Jason Vail (A Stephen Attebrook Mystery)

Jason Vail's first novel, "The Wayward Apprentice", introduces us to one Sir Stephen Attebrook. An ex-soldier and a lacklustre lawyer, Stephen resides in Ludford at the tavern owned by his clerk, Gilbert Wistwoode, and is the Crown deputy coroner. We open with his being called away from a meal of mutton to the body of one Patrick C...

7.0/10

Read our full review

Walls of Jericho by Jonathan Hornblower

If you are a fan of Forrester's Hornblower, Cornwall's Sharpe or Fraser's Flashman then you will find Jonathan Hopkins' `Walls of Jericho'" an enjoyable read.The story is atypical of the genre.We have two boys: one the son of dead Cavalry hero, heir to estates, an aristocrat in breeding; the other is a vill...

8.7/10

Read our full review

The Coming of the King by MC Scott (Rome)

Two years have passed. Math and Hannah are gone. The Leopard, Sebastos Abdes Pantera, remains. Rome is a distant memory and the heat of Rome's Eastern Empire shimmers with deadly allurement over the fate of our spy, warrior, kingmaker.It is A.D.66, a summer ripe with rebellion. The burning of Rome is done and Saulos Herodian recuperat...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian C Esslemont (A Novel of the Malazan Empire)

This book simply is an extra volume of the Malazan series. Originally, when I heard that I.C.E. was going to write some companion books to Mr. Erikson's, I was expecting them to be more of a set of histories akin to Lost Tales or something, explaining all those little things that were only alluded to and have started many a good debate. Like...

8.0/10

Read our full review

Always Forever by Mark Chadbourn (Age of Misrule)

Chadbourn's final book in "The Age of Misrule' is a sparkling read where the Quincunx of Church, Shavi, Veitch, Laura and Ruth lead the Tuatha De'Danaan into battle against the Fomorri and Balor. Ruth and Church are on the Waverunner, a magical ship-Tardis where they save and gain the respect of the Danaan. Church and Baccharus ...

9.3/10

Read our full review

Darkest Hour by Mark Chadbourn (Age of Misrule)

The Eternal Conflict between the Light and the Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. On one side: the Tuatha De Danaan, golden-skinned and beautiful, filled with the might of the angels. On the other: the Fomorii, monstrous devils hellbent on destroying all human existence. In the middle: five Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, ...

9.0/10

Read our full review

World's End by Mark Chadbourn (Age of Misrule)

When Jack Churchill and Ruth Gallagher encounter a terrifying, misshapen giant beneath a London bridge they are plunged into a mystery which portends the end of the world as we know it. All over the country, the ancient gods of Celtic myth are returning to the land from which they were banished millennia ago. Following in their footsteps are cre...

9.0/10

Read our full review

Imager by LE Modesitt Jr (Imager Portfolio)

I've always like Modesitt's books. The Recluce Saga, The Spellsong Saga, and The Corean Chronicles have always stood out as unique in their style of fantasy writing compared to contemporary authors like Feist, Eddings, Wurts, Donaldson etc.… The reason for this is that each book has been strongly imbued with social and political p...

7.6/10

Read our full review

Night of Knives by Ian C Esslemont (A Novel of the Malazan Empire)

Well... I'd claim to be a prolific fantasy book reader... yet I am one who, for some reason, has never read Steven Erikson. In my defence I do have the series on a shelf but just never quite got round to reading them.So... a reviewer who has not read anything of the Mazalan Empire starting with Canadian author, Ian C Esselemont. Given...

7.8/10

Read our full review