3 April 2020

Blood’s Campaign by Angus Donald

shortlisted for Book of the Month

36146468. sy475

Adventure / Military
#3 of a series

"August 25, 1689 The English Army is besieging Carrickfergus in Ireland. Brilliant but unusual gunner Holcroft Blood of the Royal Train of Artillery is ready to unleash his cannons on the rebellious forces of deposed Catholic monarch James II. But this is more than war for Captain Blood, a lust for private vengeance burns within him. French intelligence agent Henri d'Erloncourt has come across the seas to foment rebellion against William of Orange, the newly installed Dutch ruler of England, Scotland and Ireland. But Henri's true mission is not to aid the suffering of the Irish but to serve the interests of his master, Louis le Grand. Michael 'Galloping' Hogan, brigand, boozer and despoiler of Protestant farms, strives to defend his native land - and make a little profit on the side. But when he takes the Frenchman's gold, he suspects deep in his freedom-loving heart, that he has merely swapped one foreign overlord for another.
July 1, 1690 On the banks of the River Boyne, on a fateful, scorching hot day, two armies clash in bloody battle - Protestant against Catholic - in an epic struggle for mastery of Ireland. And, when the slaughter is over and the smoke finally clears, for these three men, nothing will ever be the same again . . ."

Action adventure at its best. I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the first in this series, somehow managed to miss out on Book Two, but picked up the thread of the delightful Captain Holcroft Blood (who is the son of Colonel Blood, the chap who stole the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London) and his companions quite easily. 

Captain Blood as a character  is a joy to meet. He is a complex, multi-dimensional person full of his own quirks - today he would be placed on the Autistic Spectrum. He is a stickler for the right way to do things, and often obsessed, which means sometimes you want to shake him, and sometimes you just want to hug him. 

The supporting characters of the devious Henri d’Erloncourt,  known as Narrey, a Frenchman and spy for King Louis XIV, and Michael Hogan who may just as well be an outlaw, are equally as well drawn and interesting as Blood himself. Blood is out for Narrey's blood (excuse the slight pun) and his desire for vengeance results in trouble because Holcroft is not one for respecting orders. Victory at the Battle of the Boyne is not his priority. Killing the spy is.

The author is very clever in that he portrays this infamous battle from both sides of the conflict and blends in the little details that bring his characters alive: Holcroft enjoys his job, loves the big guns he is in charge of as much as his wonderful Lorenzoni repeating rifle and his splendid uniform. The historical research is immaculate, the writing superb and the entire novel an absolute delight. 

Note, however for the squeamish: this is a novel based on historical fact, and it does have vivid military scenes of skirmishes and battles which have a violent and bloody tone. Battles were not nice places to be.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 
© Helen Hollick
 e-version reviewed

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2 April 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of We All Fall Down by Various Authors

We All Fall Down - Stories of Plague and Resilience

Authors: Jean Gill, Lisa J Yarde, Jessica Knauss, Deborah Swift, 

Kristin Gleeson, Laura Morelli, Katherine Pym, David Blixt, 
Melodie Winawr

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU

short stories
various eras
various locations

"Plague has no favorites. In this anthology, USA Today, international bestselling, and award-winning authors imagine a world where anyone—rich, poor, young, old—might be well in the morning and dead by sundown. Readers will follow in the footsteps of those who fought to rebuild shattered lives as the plague left desolation in its wake.
* An Irish woman tends her dying father while the Normans threaten her life and property—
* A Hispano-Muslim doctor fights the authorities to stem the spread of the deadly pestilence at great personal cost—
* A Tuscan street hawker and a fresco painter watch citizens perish all around them even as they paint a better future—
* A Spanish noblewoman lives at the mercy of a jealous queen after plague kills the king—
* The Black Death leaves an uncertain legacy to Dante’s son—
* In Venice, the artist Titian agonizes over a death in obscurity—
* A Scottish thief loses everything to plague and repents in the hope of preventing more losses—
* Two teenagers from 2020 time-travel to plague-stricken London and are forever changed—
* And when death rules in Ottoman-occupied Greece, a Turk decides his own fate.  Nine tales bound together by humanity’s fortitude in the face of despair: a powerful collection of stories for our own time. In dark and deadly times, love and courage shine bright."

Somewhat topical - how did the authors know? The subject - the pandemics of Plague - might not appeal to everyone given the surreal circumstances of life world-wide at the moment ... on the other hand many readers might find the topic highly fascinating. Plague (or in our present case Coronavirus Covid 19) is nothing new...

As with all anthologies, some of the included stories appeal, others not so much; it is all a matter of personal taste and preference. Some stories in a collection are memorable or leave you thinking while some, for various reasons, do not linger in the mind quite as much - but I was delighted to discover that the former of these observations is true for the majority of stories in this intelligent creation with the general theme of 'plague'. 

We All Fall Down  is a collection that is perhaps particularly relevant with the current (early 2020) concern over the spread of the Corona Virus, and indeed, the alarming rise of Mumps and Measles because children have not been vaccinated. Even Polio is having a slight re-resurgence in some countries. All the stories leave you thinking 'thank goodness I live now, not then'!

I did enjoy all the stories to varying degrees, although I must admit that some were better than others and a couple left me feeling a little depressed - which, actually, is no reflection on the stories but on the skill of the writers who brought home the general feeling of hopeless tragedy that those poor people of the past had to endure when Plague struck a community, town or country. The fortitude, the despair, the hope, the tragedy all come over in every story to catch at your heart, and at the end of each either bring a sigh of relief or a surreptitious tear. 

I think most of us are familiar with the Great Plague of 1665 which struck London (partly remembered well because of the Great Fire of the following year) but it was highly interesting to read about different people, in different locations, in different eras, all with the common denominator of having to deal with a similar problem or situation. And of trying to survive.

A very interesting read by a host of very good authors.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Anne Holt
 e-version reviewed

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