#BookReview The Silver Wolf by J. C. Harvey @AllenAndUnwinUK @ReadersFirst1

The Silver WolfAbout the Book

The extraordinarily rich, dark, panoramic tale of an orphaned boy’s quest for truth and then for vengeance as war rages across 17th-century Europe.

Amidst the chaos of the Thirty Years’ War, Jack Fiskardo embarks upon a quest that will carry him inexorably from France to Amsterdam and then onto the battlefields of Germany. As he grows to manhood will he be able to unravel the mystery of his father’s death? Or will his father’s killers find him first?

Format: Hardback (560 pages)          Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 3rd February 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

The Silver Wolf is the first book in a planned trilogy featuring the feisty and resourceful Jack Fiskardo. He’s on a mission of vengeance and, as soon becomes apparent, it’s best not to get in his way. For those like me who’ve heard of the Thirty Years War but must have been asleep the day it was covered in their history class, the author provides a useful introduction to the political situation at the time. And, joy of joys, there’s a map as well showing Europe looking very different from the way it does today.

At first I wasn’t sure about the non-chronological structure of the book, which is divided into three parts, but it soon made sense. It’s May 1619 when the reader is first introduced to Jack. He’s a waif and stray, alone in the world but evidently capable of looking after himself if needed.  In part two, the reader is taken back in time, finding out more about Jack’s childhood and the events that shaped him. These include the origin of his proficiency with a sword or knife, and his natural horsemanship. We also learn about the events that will fuel his relentless quest for revenge, a quest that will take him across the war-torn continent of Europe.

There’s a picaresque quality to the novel with Jack encountering many colourful characters during his adventures. Some of my favourites were tavern owner Magda and her partner Paola, or to address her by her full name, Paola di Benedetta di Silvia. ‘Woman soldier. Hippolyte. Battle-bitch. Freak.’ An elite swordswoman herself, Paola plays an important role in honing Jack’s swordsmanship, building on the natural talent that is already evident. She provides him with some life lessons as well.

The Silver Wolf positively oozes period atmosphere such as this description of the cosmopolitan clientele of The Carpenter’s Hat inn. ‘As they make their way across the room the two men pass a game of dice, another of backgammon, a dinner-party of Venetian merchants crooning madrigals a cappella, a pedlar attempting to sell the dinner-party a tiny trembling monkey in a tasselled bolero’ as well as the innkeeper’s daughter with her ‘face bright with fiery rouge’ and ‘breasts bared almost to the nipple’.

The third and final part of the book, set between the years 1623 and 1630, picks up the story from the end of part one. Having attached himself to a company in the army of General Tilly, commander of the Catholic League’s forces, Jack has his first experience of battle, and a bloody business it is too. The author conjures up the sights and sounds of the battlefield through the eyes of army sutler (victualler), Cyrius.

‘Nothing of it is as he had expected…. These roiling clouds of grey and white. These whirling clots and straggling lines of men. The appalling lightning-like flashes in the smoke. The riderless horses, seeming in their terror not even to know to put the battlefield behind them. The cannon, there on the bald rise, hurling their shot overhead; the crowd at the battlefield’s edge, God above, as if this was a prize-fight at a fair; and all about him, everywhere, this terrible noise, which is both one sound and has somehow distinguishable within it every scream and detonation of which it is made up… This is hell, Cyrius thinks. This is what it sounds like down in hell.’

In the years that follow, Jack’s prowess on the battlefield, in hand-to-hand combat and his seeming invincibility earn him a fearsome reputation as a so-called ‘hard out man’, marked by the silver pendant he wears around his neck. The desire to avenge his father spurs him on, determined that nothing or no-one will stop him, even if it takes years. He has a job to do and, have no doubt, he’s going to do it.

The Silver Wolf is a rip-roaring adventure story with a fabulous central character who, with his facility for getting himself out of tight spots, is a sort of 17th century James Bond. The book is jam-packed with historical detail, has some lively touches of humour and a compelling plot. At over 500 pages, it’s a chunky read but well worth the time investment as far as I’m concerned. I shall be eagerly awaiting the next instalment, an extract from which is included at the end of the book and which has the brilliant first line ‘Now – where were we?’

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin via Readers First.

In three words: Action-packed, lively, dramatic

Try something similar: Master of War by David Gilman

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Jacky Colliss HarveyAbout the Author

J. C. Harvey is the fiction pen-name for best-selling non-fiction author Jacky Colliss Harvey. After studying English at Cambridge, and History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Jacky worked in museum publishing for twenty years, first at the National Portrait Gallery and then at the Royal Collection Trust, where she set up the Trust’s first commercial publishing programme.

The extraordinary history of the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and of 17th-century Europe has been an obsession of hers for as long as she can remember, and was the inspiration behind the Fiskardo’s War series, which begins now with The Silver Wolf, marking her fiction debut.

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#BlogTour #BookReview Betrayal by David Gilman @HoZ_Books @DavidGilmanUK

Gilman_BETRAYAL_Blog tour banner (1)-2Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Betrayal by David Gilman. My thanks to Sophie at Ransom PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Head of Zeus for my review copy. Do check out the review by my tour buddy for today, Jo at Murder, Jo Wrote.

BetrayalAbout the Book

Someone’s trying to start a war. And Raglan’s just walked into the kill zone.

It has been many years since Dan Raglan served in the French Foreign Legion, but the bonds forged in adversity are unbreakable and when one of his comrades calls for help, Raglan is duty-bound to answer. An ex-legionnaire, now an intelligence officer at the Pentagon, disappears. He leaves only this message: should he ever go missing, contact Raglan. But Raglan’s not the only one looking for the missing man.

From the backstreets of Marseilles, Raglan finds himself following a trail of death that will lead him to Florida, to the camaraderie of a Vietnam vet in Washington D.C., and into the heart of a bitter battle in the upper echelons of the US intelligence community.

Pursued by both the CIA and a rogue female FBI agent, Raglan’s search will place him in the cross hairs of an altogether more lethal organisation. Tracking his old comrade, he finds himself in the midst of deadly conspiracy, and on a journey to a fatal confrontation deep in the Honduran rainforest

Format: Hardcover (544 pages)       Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 6th January 2022 Genre: Thriller

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My Review

I absolutely loved The Englishman, the book that first introduced the world to ex-French Foreign Legion soldier and all-round action man, Dan Raglan, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned that a follow-up was on the way.

The description of Betrayal as a ‘high-octane international thriller’ is spot-on. The action comes thick and fast. If Raglan’s not engaged in deadly combat, he’s either preparing for it or recovering from it.  Raglan is seemingly indomitable; the ‘kill zone’ being a place he knows all too well.  As one character remarks to him, ‘Dead people appear on a regular basis when you’re around’. He’s also clever, tech-savvy, super-fit, has eyes in the back of his head and is adept at using any sort of weaponry you care to imagine. A man of many talents, he can pilot a plane, speak any number of languages, spot a security camera a mile off, find his way through a crocodile-infested mangrove swamp and even perform minor surgery on himself.  And who else do you know who stores bullet fragments in his tooth mug?

In the hands of the author, Raglan is not some sort of robotic killing machine. He’s also mortal and carries traumatic memories of things he’s seen – and done.  He’s a steadfast friend and demonstrates an unbreakable loyalty to the comrades who served alongside him in the French Foreign Legion. As he says, ‘the Legion was family’ and their motto ‘the mission is sacred’ is one he lives by. There are occasional glimpses of a softer side too even if he admits ‘I don’t have anybody tearing themselves apart over me’.

At this point I have a confession to make: I’ve developed rather a crush on Raglan. I know it’s unlikely, and I’m aware I might have formidable competition, but if there’s ever a vacancy for a Mrs. Raglan, count me in. (I hope my husband isn’t reading this.) Apart from anything else, I’d make sure he had a good supply of his favourite dark blue T-shirts and I’d even tend to a wound on his upper thigh. (I really hope my husband isn’t reading this.)

The pace of the book is intense and, despite being over 500 pages, the short chapters help the story move along like a whirlwind. A plot that involves people in positions of power engaging in activity that circumvents government oversight in order to achieve their own political ends, well that could never happen could it? Although, wait a minute… And don’t worry if you don’t know your DIA from your FBI or your CIA, all you really need to know is that there are bad guys out there – really, really bad guys – planning to do all sorts of unspeakable things and Raglan is out to stop them.

Those not completely obsessed by the thought of Raglan stripped to the waist or all sweaty after a punishing two mile run (I know, divorce papers arriving in the post any day) need not worry, your thirst for all-out action scenes will be fully quenched. The author serves up one bone-crunching, brutal and bloody scene after another making you wonder just how Raglan has survived so long. But has he met his match when he encounters a deadly opponent just as driven and ruthless as he is? I’m afraid you’re going to have to read the book to find out.

If you’ve survived reading this Raglan love-fest, I think it will be apparent that I absolutely loved Betrayal. To my mind, it’s everything you could wish for in an action thriller.  (By the way, check out the author’s website to see a photograph taken during a private tour of the Pentagon that formed part of his research for the book.)

In three words: Gripping, action-packed, pacy

Try something similarNo Way To Die by Tony Kent

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David GilmanAbout the Author

David Gilman has enjoyed many careers  – including firefighter, being in the Paras and as a photographer – before turning to writing full-time. He is an award-winning author, is published in several languages and was also the screenwriter for A Touch of Frost.

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