Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Wednesday Summer Surprises #2

Welcome to my Wednesday feature - Summer Surprises! 

Today, I'm featuring two books I've recently read by Tim Walker- Abandoned and Ambrosius.

The period of the novels is the aftermath of the withdrawal of the Ancient Roman Armies in Britannia. According to the few records available, the 'official' end came around AD 410 when the last of the Roman soldiers of the garrisons in Britannia were recalled back to Rome by the (Western) Emperor Honorius.

Honorius  - Emperor at the age of 8
Wikimedia Commons
In AD 210, the Emperor Honorius was around 26 years of age and had been ruler of the Western Roman Empire since his father's (Theodosius I) death in AD 395, the Eastern Empire being ruled by his brother Arcadius. During this time there were many tribal conflicts across Honorius' western part of the empire and Rome itself was sacked by Alaric of the Visigoths.

By AD 210, the Roman Empire was in disarray and the remote garrisons of Britannia were told to get out/or look after themselves because Rome would provide no more support.

In reality, any legions who fled Britannia were probably deployed elsewhere across the Empire when they quit the shores of Britain- their destinations depending on the allegiances made with other rival Legionary commanders - and never ever set foot in Rome itself.

For me, the interest lies in those who were left to prop up a broken down society. Who continued to live in those garrison forts when the bulk of the armies of Rome left? Were the buildings, by then, already in a sorry state and just left to tumble into ruination because the Roman Empire had been under funding those garrisoned in Britannia for decades?

What was the situation of retired soldiers who had taken up the offer of land as part of their remuneration settlements- were they content to remain and continue their Roman way of life as much as they could? (given that they may have married local 'Celtic' woman and had families) Did these old veterans feel trapped into remaining on their property in Britannia when they would rather have removed themselves along with their fellow soldiers?

Were the patriarchs of the new generations of romanised Britons, formed from marriages or relationships with locals during the centuries of Roman occupation, well accustomed to their 'hybrid' status and content to create new dynasties with mixed religious beliefs and customs?

How much influence did the new versions of Christianity play in the lives of those left living around the abandoned fortresses and forts?

I have many questions but little is written about these times. 

In late 2016, I was delighted to find that my OpenLearn 'Hadrian's Wall' course dealt a little with this turbulent period. I'm also pleased to read the interpretations of authors who write fiction set in these times because their visions often differ from the most recent archaeological, and historical, interpretations. Sometimes the fiction writer's vision is added to by dipping into the legends that probably sprang up at the time, the oral traditions just as clouded in interpretative controversy but which can add colour and intrigue!

In my own historical writing, I try to interpret according to the archaeological and historical record and have, so far, tended to shy clear of the legacy of the legend -  but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy reading a version that merges the fantasy and the history.

It's for these reasons that I'm featuring Tim Walker's writing on this Wednesday Summer Surprises slot. Here are my reasons why I really enjoyed reading the following books...

Britannia lies shocked and exposed by the sudden departure of the Roman legions in the year 410. A hero arises - Marcus Aquilius - to protect the town of Calleva from an invading Saxon army. The townsfolk must decide if their town and way of life is worth fighting for, or if they should flee to the forest and revert to a tribal lifestyle. Marcus knows he must embrace change and makes his own personal journey to emerge as Marcus Pendragon.

Abandoned (Light in the Dark Ages Book 1) by Tim Walker 4*

This was an interesting interpretation of what might have happened in the aftermath of the Roman occupation of Britannia. I love novels set in the era and looked forward to reading this one. I’m sure there would have been some chaos and a lot of societal breakdown after the structure, and strictures, of Roman rule broke down. I can easily imagine scenes where the inhabitants of what would have been a well run fortress were in a state of limbo after the withdrawal of the Roman troops. After some 300 years of Roman rule, those who regarded themselves as natives (non-military) were probably very well integrated with the Roman way of life, especially with the fortress being in southern Britannia. However, the question of how quickly those locals shed off any Romanisation and reverted back to their Celtic inheritance is one that might never be resolved.  The lack of Roman routine in ‘Abandoned’ opens the doors for new invaders and those settler survivors really needed a strong leader like Marcus Aquilius to marshal them into as credible a fighting force as possible. 

Britannia lies open to barbarian invasions as it slowly adjusts to life after Roman rule. Cruel high king Vortigern has seized control and chosen to employ Saxons in his mercenary army. But who is the master and who the puppet?

Enter Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Roman tribune on a secret mission to Britannia. He is returning to the land where, as a child, he witnessed the murder of his noble father and grew up under the watchful eyes of an adoptive family in the town of Calleva Atrebatum. He is thrown into the politics of the time, as tribal chiefs eye each other with suspicion whilst kept at heel by the high king.

Ambrosius finds that the influence of Rome is fast becoming a distant memory, as Britannia reverts to its Celtic tribal roots. He joins forces with his adoptive brother, Uther Pendragon, and they are guided by their shrewd father, Marcus, as he senses his destiny is to lead the Britons to a more secure future.

Ambrosius: Last of the Romans is an historical fiction novel set in the early Dark Ages, a time of myths and legends that builds to the greatest legend of all – King Arthur and his knights.

Ambrosius: Last of the Romans – by Tim Walker 4*

I really look forward to reading novels set in Roman Britain, the era being of particular interest to me. It’s such a hard period to research, there being very little written evidence available for the author to use as authentic background so I think the author has written an engrossing tale which blends some known historical and archaeological evidence with the fantasy of the oral tradition handed down to us in the form of legends. Just as the historians and archaeologists put forward their interpretation of evidence, Tim Walker has created a credible cast of characters with very human traits to fit the turbulent times that came after the withdrawal of the Roman Armies a little short of 400 A.D.

My best wishes to Tim Walker for great sales of the above and thank you for allowing me to feature them today. 

I'll be back soon with more of my recently read novels.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Recent Reads in April and May #2

Tuesday Tale

I'm continuing my intention to post short reviews of books I've read recently. Today's one was by fellow Crooked Cat Books author, Ailsa Abraham. I've enjoyed reading Ailsa's writing already and like myself she writes in different genres. The book I'm featuring today is one that she came to feature a few months ago, when it was launched.  Attention to Death is a contemporary crime novel, not one of her fantasies.

In thought this to be a 5* read!

Attention to Death by Ailsa Abraham

After hours…and keeping secrets.

This was an excellent read from start to finish covering tricky themes of murder within a tight knit group of British Army soldiers, and a still frowned upon sexual relationship between the two very likeable main male characters. There are other strands tackled as well as homophobia- there's racial and religious prejudice to contend with, too.

The pace is fast, the writing is crisp and the whole read compelling. The two specialist Military Police Officers have a particularly violent murder to solve while attempting to ignore an inevitable attraction. Love isn’t always easy but it’s heartening that Angus and Raff find a way.

There are gruesomely explicit details to work through; murder in most forms being violent, but the author has skilfully interwoven those horrors, balancing them with the tenderness of a new relationship.

Some aspects of the gay relationship in the novel may not be to everyone's taste but the novel isn't explicit, just sufficient to engage the reader as the both the romantic relationship and the details of the murder unfold.


Monday, 22 May 2017

Monday Moments-Books read #1

Welcome to my Monday Moments slot! 

During the past weekend, I've been out selling my novels at a FOCUS Craft Fair in Aboyne on Royal Deeside but I've also been catching up with writing short reviews for novels I've personally read during April and May. Similar reviews to what's on this blog have been posted on Amazon UK and Goodreads for the authors since I know how useful it is to have reviews for helping to raise the book's ratings.

To kick off a series of reviews that will appear on this blog this week, here's a 5 * read that I really enjoyed:

Dirty Weekend by Deirdre Palmer

What people say and what they don’t tell…

This was a very enjoyable and, at times, an amusing read though the themes running though it are not so funny at all. Hearkening back to 1966, the author tackles what would have been a very difficult subject to mention to anyone. I found the character of Jeanette a bit undeveloped at first, her loyalty to her friend Carol-Anne a little ambivalent but she changed towards the end as her 'horror' was revealed. I imagine a real victim (as in what Jeanette suffered) during the 1960s would have ended up keeping their own counsel, if there was limited parental support involved.

The four main characters are well portrayed with realistic, likeable characteristics that ring true for the era. The ‘Swinging Sixties’ are successfully evoked in all the little details mentioned by the author, some of which made me smile and others laugh outright! Particulars are remembered by readers who lived through the 1960s but there's social information included in the text which would also be valuable for a younger reader interested in learning more about the times.

A very enjoyable read which I can easily recommend.

Click the link above if you'd like more information from Amazon, or to buy.