I have always loved history, was lucky enough to study it at the highest level, and after teaching for a while have been even luckier to make a living writing non fiction history books. At the same time, I have always loved historical novels. At their best they give a flavour and feel for a place and an era much faster than reading conventional history. So when I came to write historical novels, accuracy was very important to me. A novel will only work if readers get caught up in the plot and want to spend time with the characters, but the world it conjures up has to feel real, at least on its own terms, and that is as true of fantasy or science fiction as it is for stories set in the past. The world of the story has to be convincing enough for readers to visit it in their imagination. Many readers and authors do not care too much if that world bears little or no relation to the reality of the past as long as it is consistent. That is fine, after all, reading should be about pleasure and we all have different tastes. However, I am a professional historian and find it hard to switch off, which makes me an unrepresentative reader, and I only stick with a novel if I feel that the research behind it and the author’s sensitivity for the period are good. Since, like most authors, I write books – whether novels or non fiction – that I would like to read, that is how I try to write my stories. So each novel begins with research. Continue reading
Next week, Head of Zeus is due to published A Time for Swords, a new historical thriller by Matthew Harffy. The publisher was kind enough to provide us with an excerpt to share with CR readers. First, though, here’s the synopsis:
When the Vikings attack, a novice monk’s life is changed forever in Matthew Harffy’s new historical adventure.
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 AD 793, 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.
And now, on with the excerpt…
The seventh book in David Gilman‘s Master of War series, Shadow of the Hawk, is due out next week. Head of Zeus were kind enough to provide an excerpt to share in advance of its release. Here’s the novel’s synopsis:
The King is dead.
Defeated on the field of Poitiers, Jean Le Bon, King of France, honoured his treaty with England until his death. His son and heir, Charles V, has no intention of doing the same. War is coming and the predators are circling.
Sir Thomas Blackstone, Edward III’s Master of War, has been tasked with securing Brittany for England. In the throes of battle, he rescues a young boy, sole witness to the final living breaths of the Queen of Castile. The secret the boy carries is a spark deadly enough to ignite conflict on a new front – a front the English cannot afford to fight on.
So Blackstone is ordered south to Castile, across the mountains to shepherd Don Pedro, King of Castile, to safety. Accompanied only by a small detachment of his men and a band of Moorish cavalrymen loyal to the king, every step takes Blackstone further into uncertain territory, deeper into an unyielding snare.
For the Master of War, the shadow of death is always present.
The excerpt is after the break.
Next week, Head of Zeus is due to publish The Best of World SF, Volume 1 — a collection of science fiction stories by authors from around the world, it was collected and edited (and in some instances, translated) by award-winning author Lavie Tidhar. The publisher has kindly provided me with an excerpt to share. But, first, here’s the synopsis:
Twenty-six new short stories representing the state of the art in international science fiction, selected by Lavie Tidhar.
The Best of World SF draws together stories from across the spectrum of science fiction – expect robots, spaceships and time travel, as well as some really weird stuff – representing twenty-one countries and five continents.
Lavie Tidhar has selected stories that range from never-before-seen originals to award winners; from authors at every stage of their career; and a number of translations, including a story translated from Hebrew by Tidhar himself.
A full Table of Contents can be found at the end of this post — it’s an impressive line-up, too: I’ve already read three of them (de Bodard’s, Tidbeck’s and Moreno-Garcia’s), so if the rest are as good, then this will be an excellent read. Read on for an excerpt taken from the introduction to the collection, by Lavie Tidhar. Continue reading
Ok, this is actually a re-issue, but look at that stunning new cover! Next month, Head of Zeus are due to re-issue Lavie Tidhar‘s provocative award-winning novel A Man Lies Dreaming. This is a great opportunity for people to give this a read if they missed it the first time. Here’s the synopsis:
1939: Adolf Hitler, fallen from power, seeks refuge in a London engulfed in the throes of a very British Fascism. Now eking a miserable living as a down-at-heels private eye and calling himself Wolf, he has no choice but to take on the case of a glamorous Jewish heiress whose sister went missing.
It’s a decision Wolf will very shortly regret.
For in another time and place a man lies dreaming: Shomer, once a Yiddish pulp writer, who dreams lurid tales of revenge in the hell that is Auschwitz.
Prescient, darkly funny and wholly original, the award-winning A Man Lies Dreaming is a modern fable for our time.
Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming is due to be published by Head of Zeus in the UK, on April 15th, 2021. A Man Lies Dreaming is published in North America by Melville House and JABberwocky.) Head of Zeus also publishes Lavie’s superb re-imagining of the King Arthur mythology, By Force Alone (check out my review, here.)
I first read Smith’s work when I was an intern at a publisher (way back in 2012), and I read his debut that had been submitted: I was immediately struck by how well he writes, and he became an author to watch. This year, A. J. Smith returns with The Sword Falls — the second novel in his Form & Void fantasy series. Due to be published by Head of Zeus, the publisher has kindly provided an excerpt to share with CR’s readers. First, here’s the synopsis:
A MAN OF THE DAWN CLAW WILL BE THE ALWAYS KING.
It will ever be so. They will always rule… but they will not always lead.
Prince Oliver Dawn Claw, heir to the Kingdom of the Four Claws, is thrust into a world he doesn’t understand as he waits for his father to die. Away from home, with few allies – and too many enemies – he faces a new and otherworldly threat from beneath the sea. Alliances break and masks fall, as the Dark Brethren reveal their true master.
Meanwhile, Adeline Brand – called the Alpha Wolf – refuses to wait, and becomes the edge of the sword that swings back at the Dreaming God. Assembling allies and crushing resistance, she enters a fight she doesn’t know if she can win, as the sea begins to rise.
And now, on with the excerpt…!
I already wrote about Lavie Tidhar‘s upcoming The Escapement, earlier today, but it turns out he has two novels out in October 2021! The other is The Hood, the second novel in the author’s Anti-Matter of Britain Quartet. The Hood is a “viscerally entertaining, ominously subversive and poetically profane remixing” of the Robin Hood myth in a similar style to By Force Alone — the author’s superb retelling/remix of the King Arthur myth. Check out the synopsis:
God bless you, England, on this glorious Year of Our Lord, 1145.
Don’t cross the Templars. Everybody knows that. But Will Scarlet, back from the crusades, hopped up on khat and cider, did. Stabbed thrice in the belly but somehow still alive, he’s heading home to Nottingham.
And things are not right in Nottingham.
It’s the wood, you see. Sherwood. Ice-age ancient, impenetrable, hiding a dark and secret heart. As the ancient sages say, If you go into the woods today, you may not come out tomorrow, and the person who comes out may not be you…
The Hood is Lavie Tidhar’s narcotic remix of an ancient English myth, a tale knotted from legends lost to time, shredded and restitched for each passing century. A tale for today.
The Hood is due to be published by Head of Zeus in the UK, on October 7th, 2021. (At the time of writing, I couldn’t find any information about a North American release.)
Today, we have an excerpt from Terry Goodkind’s final novel, The Children of D’Hara. (Goodkind passed away in September 2020.) The novel, originally published in serialized fashion, picks up right after the conclusion of the author’s Sword of Truth series. Due to be published by Head of Zeus this week, here’s the synopsis:
Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell confront an apocalyptic nightmare…
The insatiable hunger of the Golden Goddess…
The irresistible power of a Witch’s Oath…
A fracture in the world of life…
An opening in the world of death…
Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell face the perfect storm.
Today, Head of Zeus has provided us with an excerpt from Spoils of the Dead, the fifth book in Dana Stabenow‘s Liam Campbell series. Due out next week, let’s start with the synopsis:
It’s Labor Day in Blewestown, Alaska, and it seems most of the town’s thirty-five hundred residents have turned out to celebrate – or to cause trouble. Not Liam Campbell, though. He’s checking out the local watering hole in his new town. He’s finally made it out of Newenham and is ready for a quiet life with his wife.
He’s been in town for about a week when an archaeologist invites him out to his dig site outside of town. He’s on the verge of a momentous discovery, one he says will be worth the State Trooper’s time.
Two days later, the archaeologist is dead, murdered on his own dig site. And Liam Campbell is about to learn that he’s traded one troubled bush town for another.
Now, on with the excerpt!
Next week (February 4th), Head of Zeus are due to publish the latest novel from Sebastian Fitzek in the UK: The Package.
Fitzek is one of Germany’s most successful and popular thriller/suspense novelists, with a growing fanbase around the world. This latest novel, translated by Jamie Bulloch, sounds particularly interesting and chilling. Here’s the synopsis:
All you’ve done is taken in a parcel for a neighbour. You have no idea what you’ve let into your home.
Emma’s the one that got away.
The only survivor of a killer known in the tabloids as ‘the barber’ – because of the trophies he takes from his victims.
Or she thinks she was.
The police aren’t convinced. Nor is her husband. She never even saw her tormentor properly, but now she recognises him in every man.
Questioning her sanity, she gives up her job as a doctor in the local hospital and retreats from the world. It is better to stay at home. Quiet. Anonymous. Safe. He won’t find her here.
And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.
She has no idea what she’s let into her home.
The Package is due to be published by Head of Zeus on February 4th in the UK. The excerpt begins after the jump.