William is from Sussex, UK.
He has a passion for literature and enjoys reading all sorts of books. His hobbies are numerous and consist of medieval/viking reenactment, writing, karate and of course reading.
I read Never Die as a judge for the SPFBO finalists. And I LOVED IT. Wonderful characterisation, intriguing plot, masterfully written action sequences and natural dialogue.
“The difference between the rich and the powerful was always made so much clearer by walls. The rich hide behind them, the powerful tore them down.”
Never Die is one of my favourite reads over the last year. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started, but by the end of the first chapter, I was enraptured.
Starting with the prose, Hayes wrote amazing pieces such as…
"Some fight for honour, and some for reward.
Some for glory, and others for a cause.
Some fight for freedom, from tyranny and hate.
And some fight for love, not for a person but a name.
With death as their guide, their companion and goal.
They cross all Hosa, spirit, flesh, and soul.
Hounded by demons, from the pages of lore.
What starts with a whisper, must end with a roar."
And the rest of the time the prose was just as enchanting. Natural, smooth and fluid. It was so easy to just glide from page to page, as is evident due to the fact I finished this in about 36 hours, with a large chunk of that being when I was asleep.
At the core of this story is the awesome idea to bring heroes back from the dead and fight on your side! It just appeals to my interests and passions so much. How cool would it be to have some of the best warriors and heroes in one band? Well, Never Die surpassed my expectations in how EPIC it was to have a group of such people.
The plot was so cool with the growing party of characters who each had a great variety of personalities. There were certainly some huge twists I did not expect that were subtly hinted at. But those of the kind you only piece together when its already happened.
Now onto the action sequences. Simply, they’re brilliant. Instantly immersive and vivid, with no confusion at all about what is actually happening. In most books I get slightly lost in large-scale conflicts, but once again, Never Die is one of those rare novels that succeeds in this element. From small scale duels to epic battles, each was brilliant and masterfully depicted.
"Sometimes peace is no more than oppression in disguise.”
Overall, I think it’s safe to say that I loved this book. Wonderful array of characters, brilliant plot, fantastic core idea and wonderful action sequences. I’m definitely going to read some more Hayes!
I read A Tale of Stars and Shadow as a judge for the SPFBO contest, as it is one of the few finalists.
When I started this book, I felt a bit underwhelmed. It was well written, with solid characters and a clear plot. But there was nothing really unique about it that drove me on.
But then the 50% mark hit, and it just clicked. It wasn’t a gradual change, it was just sudden. One moment I was persevering, the next I was completely immersed and involved in the action. Brilliant second half!
Talyn Dynan is an incredible warrior who has been involved in multiple elite warrior groups, now part of the Kingshield. She is sent to a different county to train a group of warriors to protect a prince. But in very mysterious circumstances…
There are two PoV characters:
- Predominantly the female lead Captain Dynan. She was interesting and pretty cool. Really came into her own in the second half. She is torn between her duty and the horrors of her past. The fear of former mistakes weighing her down every second of consciousness.
- The other part was the Shadowhawk. A kind of Robin Hood type outlaw, who steals from the rich to give to the poor. In the first half, I yearned for more from him, and I gladly received it! A myserious character who hides his face from all, and fights a daily battle to avoid the winged security.
A key element of this story is the social divide. Between the humans and the winged people, who believe themselves superior, and even separate themselves to live in the great raised citadel, almost like another city. Again this was good at first, but became incredibly interesting beyond the halfway mark.
Easily my favourite part of the story was the camaraderie between Captain Dynan’s trainees. She is hindered by the prejudice winged people at every opportunity, hence being given only criminals to pick from to form a guard. But she knows her duty, and attempts what she can. Surprising the group with genuine kindness and dedication, the bonds slowly grow, and by the end I loved the interactions between characters. I laughed along with them. And I experience genuine worry when their lives hung in the air.
If you start this book and feel slightly bored, persevere! It started as a standard book with little to differentiate it from all others. But by the end it formed its own unique style and I loved it!
So I will give this a 7.5/10. Because of the slow start but great ending! I will definitely be reading the second book of this series, as A Tale of Stars and Shadow ended superbly!
After finishing Lancelot, I immediately went onto the audiobook of Blood Eye, also by Giles Kristian, from the recommendation of my brother, Ed. I loved it!
“Even the gods have their pride.”
Blood Eye is a historical fiction novel set in 802AD prom the perspective of a teenage boy whose life is swiftly changed as he enters the life of a Norse band of warriors.
First of all, this book is brilliant! Giles Kristian gave such an authentically grim depiction through magnificent world building that was constructed through the infusion of fascinating details that amounted to a wonderful understanding by the end of the novel.
The prose is slick, smooth and easy to read. Much the same as Lancelot. Fantastic in short. Every page seems to glide from one to the next in such a gripping and immersive manner. Couldn’t ask for more,
Kristian does a superb job with characters. In a short amount of time, he manages to introduce a wide range of characters from the Norse raiding band and make them memorable with unique and varied characteristics. From Sven the Red, to Asgot, to Sigurd. And of course, Raven, who has great character growth in this first book in the trilogy.
Osric, later renamed Raven by his new Norse Jarl, offers the coming of age story and growth from innocence and passion that we all love. He is far from perfect, offering a very interesting insight into this aspect of history as the story is told from his recount and perception of the events that take place.
“Fighting with every searing breath. Not for glory. Not for Wessex. But because a mans life is all he has, and he will not let another take it if he has the strength to fight.”
I experienced some battles and action sequences in Lancelot, but in Blood Eye I received far more. And loved every moment of it. Kristian describes each conflict in differentiating manners, disallowing any chance of repetitiveness. From small skirmishes to night raids to shield-walls, Kristian is a master of it all. I just wanted more and more. Another element that I cannot praise enough.
Overall, I hope you can tell that I loved this opening to the Raven series. I adore this period of history, and this book delivered everything I hoped for, and more. Once again I have to thank my brother for the excellent recommendation. I have already started listening to the sequel on audio, having no doubt that it will match its predecessor.
5/5 STARS - No doubt about it