Clash of Iron

I adored Age of Iron, the first book in this series and was waiting eagerly for this second book to be released. I sometimes have worries about whether a sequel will live up to the first one, but I think because of Watson’s irreverent style of writing, I didn’t worry about this book and I was very happy to be proved right on that score.

Clash of Iron (The Iron Age Trilogy) LEADERS ARE FORGED IN THE FIRES OF WAR

Iron Age warriors Dug and Lowa captured Maidun castle and freed its slaves. But now they have conquered it, they must defend it.

A Roman invasion is coming from Gaul, but rather than uniting to protect their home, the British tribes battle each other – and see Maidun as an easy target.

Meanwhile, Lowa’s spies infiltrate Gaul, discovering the Romans have recruited bloodthirsty British druids, and Maidunite Ragnall finds his loyalties torn when he meets Rome’s charismatic general, Julius Caesar.

War is coming. Who will pay its price?

I adored Age of Iron, the first book in this series and was waiting eagerly for this second book to be released.  I sometimes have worries about whether a sequel will live up to the first one, but I think because of Watson’s irreverent style of writing, I didn’t worry about this book and I was very happy to be proved right on that score.

Clash of Iron turns a few things we thought about certain characters from the first book on its head.  The most notable are Ragnall who takes self-absorption to a new level and becomes one of the enemy, even if it was by accident and a sense of his own self-importance.  The other characters are from the original 50.  Chamanca, who I now think kicks ass in a slightly icky way but she has undeniably won me over; Atlas who is just solid, likeable and is as loyal to Lowa as he was to Zadar; and Carden who can find the humour in any situation.  Those three are just awesome.

Lowa and Spring have grown beyond their experiences in the first book with Lowa learning to be the Queen of Maidun and to not repeat the mistakes Zadar made, while Spring is learning to be the best she can be and looks up to Dug and Lowa.  I keenly felt her frustration with her magic and not being able to understand how it worked, especially when it came to people she cared about.

Dug, thankfully, is just Dug!  Still badger profanity obsessed, solid, dependable but now just wants a quiet life.  I kept rooting for him and Lowa to reconcile as they so clearly wanted to be together but battles, events and timings meant it proved difficult.  I was surprised he managed to keep out of it for as long as he did but I do admit cheering when he entered the fray.

For the bad guys, they are too many to mention in this but oh my goodness, some of them are horrible.  Methods of torture for amusement or questioning is never going to be pretty but the author managed to get pretty damn inventive here.  He also managed to make some of it macabrely amusing.  King Hari the Fister’s trials come to mind there (you will know what I mean when you get there!).

I loved the way Caesar is portrayed, perhaps slightly out of convention with history but it worked very well for me.  His famed journal being an account of what he wanted to show he did rather than being what he actually did and his penchant for referring to himself in the third person was brilliant.

Felix, ahhh, Felix.  You were a surprise and I could quite happily see you go through every one of the torture methods mentioned and not shed a tear.  I really hope you get your comeuppance!

Characters aside, the story is well crafted with Watson’s own take on that period of history and it flows well and kept me reading.  Betrayals, heroism, horror, despair and gory battles are all ingredients for a decent fantasy novel but Angus Watson’s talent for writing those with realism and humour amidst it all is what raises this series from decent to fantastic.

Bonus points for the inclusion of a few famous Gauls.  I utterly, utterly loved that!

Bonus points taken away for making me cry at the end!

Overall this was a brilliant, exciting and engaging second book and I can’t wait for the third now, to see if some things are permanent and if so, how the remaining characters will give Felix and Caesar the punishment they so richly deserve!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Angus Watson
  • Series: The Iron Age Trilogy (2)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Age of Iron

Age of Iron (The Iron Age Trilogy) LEGENDS AREN’T BORN. THEY’RE FORGED.

Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar’s army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people.

First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar’s most fearsome warriors, who’s vowed revenge on the king for her sister’s execution.

Now Dug’s on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that’s going to get them all killed . . .

 It’s a glorious day to die.

Age of Iron was a surprise win for me, all the more so because it wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought I was going to get sweeping epic descriptions of crafts, language, landscape with equally epic drama thrown in.  What I actually got was something that, in terms of genre, kind of fits into the historical fantasy niche, but it is also something that is entirely its own.  The story takes place just before the Roman Occupation of Britain and Angus Watson offers his own take on what happened.  Age of Iron is also very charming, dramatic, evocative and often extremely funny.

The characters are the main draw for this book with the history almost in the background (although it is, of course, partially what drives the characters).  Dug Sealskinner is probably one of my favourite types of character – grumpy, getting on a bit, reluctant to get involved and curses a lot and in the most inventive of ways (and slightly obsessed with badgers).  I wouldn’t even say he’s a reluctant hero – more an accidental hero that ends up doing the logical thing.  That doesn’t mean it’s always the nice thing, but I adore him anyway.

Lowa Flynn is an extremely gifted archer but she took a bit of warming up to because of where she starts from, but she eventually became a character I definitely wanted to root for.  She’s feisty, sarcastic and practical, even when slightly unhinged with her need for vengeance.  An Amazon with wit and attitude.

Spring makes up the major cast, a young girl whose age seems to vary depending on who you ask and who both is precocious and strange.  She could so easily have been a major stumbling block for this book but Watson manages to make her intriguing, appealing and funny. Yes, she has her frustrating moments, but there is usually a good reason why.

The bad guys – Zadar, Felix and the 50 – were pretty much very bad.  It goes along with the gory side of the book and you learn very quickly that there is nothing redeeming about them, even if Zadar thinks he is right.  One of that side I do have to mention is Weylin.  Poor, poor Weylin.  If there was a more unlucky fellow who just tries to do the bad thing, I don’t know of him.  He’s horrible though so you can’t like him but… poor Weylin.

There is magic present and the druids who use it are a rather interesting bunch.  Felix is a completely evil psychopath, whereas Drustan seems to be on the right side…  Ragnall is naive and a bit dodgy (but that might be because he’s a bit young) and the rest of the druids seem to be raving lunatics… perhaps too many herbs?

The plot is very simple but that simplicity doesn’t take away anything from the enjoyment of Age of Iron, if anything it enhances it.  The pace of the story unfolds very well and I think it’s well judged, flowing nicely without mad rushes and then periods of not much happening.

All in all Age of Iron is a compelling, entertaining and funny read but with enough gore and sombreness to balance it out.  Trust me, this book is not what you expect – and that is a very good thing!

Age of Iron by Angus Watson (Orbit) is now available as a paperback and eBook.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Angus Watson
  • Series: The Iron Age Trilogy (1)
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The Sum of all kisses

The Sum of All Kisses: Number 3 in series (Smythe-Smith Quartet) Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she’s long since tossed them out the window. Besides, a reckless duel has left this brilliant mathematician with a ruined leg, and now he could never court a woman like Sarah, much less dream of marrying her.

This is the third novel in the Smythe-Smith quartet and another great book from Ms. Quinn. Something I always love about her work is the way she wraps romance and humour around a great story-line.

The prologue refers to the same event as the prologue in the previous book but it’s told from the other point of view, and the fall out from that comes to a head towards the end of this book in a dramatic fashion.

Sarah is a complete drama queen and does everything in the most dramatic fashion possible, Hugh is a bit of a nerd and the sparks that fly when they interact are anything but boring. Hugh has a damaged leg and emotional scars but an imperfect man is always more loveable!

Of course no book in this series would be complete without the usual references to the annual musicale and it’s hilarious watching Sarah and her cousin Iris trying to dissuade Daisy from performing an impromptu performance.

The minor characters in this book are as great as the protagonists, in particular Sarah’s youngest sister Frances who steals the show at times.

Overall a great book with equal parts humour and romance, a must for fans of Julia Quinn.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Julia Quinn
  • Series: Smythe-Smith Quartet (3)
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Bitten & Smitten

Sarah’s blind date was going from bad to worse – it turns out he is a vampire and to top it off he bites her. Before she can get used to her situation she finds herself being chased by vampire hunters who refuse to believe she is not evil incarnate. Things start to look up however  when she meets sexy Thierry de Bennicour who happens to be 600 years old and looking mighty fine with it!

This book was humorous and enjoyable with the plot being simple and easy to follow but did lack a bit of substance, I do not feel that very much happened. The romance aspect of the story was very minimal and definitely took a back seat to the humour, even the ending seemed a bit rushed.

Our heroine Sarah did annoy me at times with how stupid she seemed to be – no common sense, although as the story developed she did grow a set as it were! Thierry is the strong silent type which is all well and good but really he was a very minor character in this book after the first few pages – too silent and uninvolved!

I enjoyed it while reading, but after finishing it I struggled to remember exactly what happened in any great detail, probably because there is no great detail in the book. If you are looking for a light-hearted read, which will not twist your brain into knots trying to work out what is going on, this book is for you.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Michelle Rowen
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Look Back In Hunger

I don’t often read non-fiction books and its even more rare for me to read an autobiography.  A couple have caught my eye and I’ve thought ‘yes, I’d like to read that’ but not gone any further. I’m not sure why I find them so hard to get in to but then everyone’s interests are different and my taste mainly runs to fiction.

However, Jo Brand is one of my all time favourite comedians, I love her dry sense of humour and honest observations about life, and have been a fan for many years.  Look back in Hunger has just come out in paperback and all my excuses were out of the window (these days I can’t afford to buy many hardbacks and then there are the space issues which are a completely different consideraton).  I started reading yesterday morning and could not put it down.  I finished it last night and was struck by just how well her sense of humour translates into writing.

She’s led an amazing life by all standards and some of the trials of growing up she talks about are just laugh out loud funny.  As a Psychiatric Nurse for many years, she has a lot of insight into serious mental health issues that aren’t commonly talked about but she delivers her experiences of them with an up front, no nonsense attitude with a twist of that dry humour.  The other thing I love about her and it comes across well in the book is her sense of style and her weight.  She makes no apology for who she is or how she looks and has never compromised that.  In short, the woman has balls!  And I love her for that.

If you are a fan of Jo Brand, this is a must read.  If you like funny, thoughtful, insightful biographies, this is a must read.

Just read it 😉

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jo Brand
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Fearless Fourteen

A usual day in the Burg for Stephanie Plum, finding a body in Morelli’s basement, taking care of the teenager of a missing woman who seems to be connected with the body and then there is the missing nine million dollars who everyone wants to find.  Only everyone thinks it’s buried somewhere on Morelli’s property and wants to find it… including Grandma Mazur.  Throw in working for Ranger on a security detail for an ageing singer, Stephanie is up to her eyeballs in trouble and the eye twitch is out in full force.

I’m not sure if this book was better than they have been recently or if having a bit of a break from the series and reading other stuff allowed the magic to return.  Either way, it was a really good read with all the usual suspects leading to a  funny, frantic story with all of Stephanie’s charm and haplessness in full force.  Joe and Ranger were as macho and funny as ever and I love their interactions, even by proxy through Stephanie.  Although Ranger didn’t feature that much, he was his usual hot self when he was around.  Joe just had me laughing at every turn, as he deals with the fallout of the missing money rumours, Stephanie’s ability to find corpses and also her working with Ranger.  I think if his blood pressure goes up any more, he might pop!

I don’t know how Janet Evanovich comes up with all the situations she gets Stephanie into but they are hysterical.  The blue dye moment was just inspired and had me laughing every time it came up.  I also can’t wait to see where Lula’s cornering of Tank takes them, definitely an explosion waiting to happen.

Fearless Fourteen is a great addition to the series and highly recommended if you want to head back to the Burg and Stephanie Plum.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Janet Evanovich
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rachel Gibson

About Rachel Gibson

When not writing she can be found shoe shopping, boating with her husband or trying to love an ungrateful cat (I know that feeling!).  With numerous awards and fifteen books under her belt, she has become one of America’s (and quite a few brits too!) best loved romance authors.

http://www.rachelgibson.com/

My Comments

The first book I read was Simply Irresistible and it couldn’t have been more perfectly titled because it really was.  I think it was one of my first brushes with the romance genre, having had trouble finding sci-fi and fantasy to read.  It wasn’t at all what I expected.  It was funny, touching and extremely engaging.  While it was also good and steamy in places, it was also really well written and brought the characters to life in a way that made you love and care about them from the start.

Now, having devoured everything else she has written I can say that stays true in all of them.  There is not a bad book in the set and they are all very entertaining.

Bibliography

Jill Mansell

About Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell is a full time writer (when she’s not procrastinating) and lives in Bristol with her family. With 20 books all still in print, and over a decade of experience, she is one of Britain’s best loved writers of romantic comedy.

http://www.jillmansell.co.uk/index.html

My comments

Perfect Timing was the first book I read by Jill Mansell, and I loved it so much I had to read it again straight away. My only experience of humourous romance up til then had been Jilly Cooper and it was a revelation to find someone who also created larger than life characters who were funny, charming, witty, and above all, very human. I regularly re-read them and I am always entertained and get very excited when she has a new book published.

Bibliography

The Other Side of the Story

Jojo, Gemma and Lily are three very different women who are linked together through love, life and publishing. Gemma and Lily used to be best friends until Lily stole Anton from Gemma. Then Lily has the audacity to have a book published which was also Gemma’s dream. Jojo is the literary agent who works with both of them and has her own problems with love. Sleeping with the boss is definately not the best way to get ahead in publishing.

I think it’s the characters that make this book the funny, touching story it is. The plot is fairly negligible and predictable but with three very strong female characters, it almost has to be that way. You switch between loving and hating each girl as they go through their individual tales, but overall it is a very humerous look at the publishing industry. The book is in sections as the focus switches between characters, and it’s interesting to see shared events from different perspectives. I enjoyed it a lot.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Marian Keyes
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)