Thursday 12 January 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: SCARS FROM THE PAST by Derek Birks

AMAZON UK £3.49    / £11.99
AMAZON US $4.44   / $18.99
AMAZON CA $n.a / $25.03

Family Saga / Military
15th Century / 1481
Series #1

This is the first book in a new series by Derek Birks – but it is loosely built on his previous series, Rebels and Brothers, and I would recommend reading that series for an extensive backstory, albeit that Scars From the Past works well as a stand-alone.

We are in England in 1481, and the young John Elder has had it with living in the shadow of his dead hero father, Ned Elder. So John decides to set off on adventure instead of assuming the responsibilities that come with lordship, and accordingly, off he goes to Flanders and the not-so-fun life of a mercenary. However, prior to leaving, John has earned the undying hatred of bad guy Elias Slade, which will result in even more calamity for the Elder family. 

In turbulent times, villains such as Elias Slade thrive, while God-fearing people suffer and die. With John gone, the Elder family consists of women and children, and as such they are very much at the mercy of Slade. Mind you, formidable Eleanor Elder isn’t about to let a low-life crush her, but still, things don’t look good. At all. Add to this personal mess a very young Prince of Wales living in Ludlow and eager for his own adventures (and I must say it was refreshing to see the future Edward V presented as a hearty, courageous lad, rather than the milksop he is usually depicted as) and you end up with quite an exciting plot.

Mr Birks' familiarity with the period is evident throughout, as is his knowledge of the geographical setting. Medieval Gloucester and Ludlow spring into squalid life, as do stews and inns, 15th century goodwives and whores, mercenaries and thugs. The author also offers quite the cast of characters. Some, like Eleanor Elder, survived the first series and are still going strong in this new story, albeit somewhat more careworn. Others, like the stubborn and resilient little Meg Elder, are delightful new acquaintances. Some, like Elias Slade, have me breaking out in a rash. I fear he will be recurring character going forward, to the detriment of the beleaguered Elder family. 

As to the protagonist, John Elder is obliged to grow up fast to handle the threats to his family. He also learns just how impossible it is to escape your responsibilities – or your fate. Mr Birks presents this restless and somewhat brooding young man with elegance, as he does with Lizzie, John’s childhood sweetheart. I look forward to seeing John grow into full manhood in the following books – but please, Mr Birks, be somewhat less harsh on the poor Elders going forward or they will soon be quite, quite extinct! 

© Anna Belfrage


  1. I'm loving all the Discovered Diamonds, but have one complaint: my TBR pile is in danger of toppling over and killing someone, as I add something new to it almost every day!

    1. Thank you Penwright - my husband worries when he sees me eyeing up a spacein the house, he now automatically says (with alarm) 'No! We can't fit another bookcase in there!'

  2. Thanks for this lovely review, Anna! And don't worry about the Elders becoming extinct; there are plenty more left!

    1. A most enjoyable read, Mr Birks - and I do worry. Your pen has an uncanny likeness to a sword.

    2. I tend to side with Anna on this one... that's a mighty sharp pen you wield!

    3. And I thought that I'd eased up on them a bit in this one...


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