Monday, 9 April 2018

REVIEW: DAUGHTER OF WAR by Simon Turney

Daughter of War (Knights Templar #1)Daughter of War by S.J.A. Turney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having conquered ancient Rome, Simon Turney turns his hand to medieval Spain.

Daughter of War is set in 1198. It is a period of upheaval and violence, a time of bloody reconquest, as Christians battle Moors to reclaim the kingdoms of Iberia. In this tumultuous time there are several factions, each vying for power, land and wealth and not all followers of Christ are friends of the Knights Templar. Against this canvas of intrigue, greed and uneasy alliances, Turney brings us the gripping tale of Arnau de Vallbona, a young knight, who finds himself thrust into conflict with a ruthless noble. Along with the lady he is sworn to protect, the honourable Arnau joins the "Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon" where he learns there is great strength in giving oneself over to higher causes. And victory can come from placing one's faith not only in God, but in his new brothers and sisters of the Temple.

Turney is a master-storyteller and this is a classic, epic adventure that hurtles headlong like a galloping destrier. With prose and plotting as polished and sharp as a Templar's longsword, Simon Turney propels the reader into the turbulent time of twelfth century Spain.

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Sunday, 1 April 2018

WARRIOR OF WODEN is out NOW!

It feels like it's been a long time coming, but finally the day is here for book five of The Bernicia Chronicles, WARRIOR OF WODEN, to be unleashed on the world! If you pre-ordered, it should have already appeared magically on your e-book reader. If you didn't pre-order, what are you waiting for?!


I hope you enjoy the book, and please leave a review on your online site of choice once you are finished reading it. As writers are so fond of saying, reviews really do help others to find books and to take a chance on a new author.

WARRIOR OF WODEN is currently available as en e-book and print on demand paperback. It will be available soon as an audiobook (date TBD) and in other print formats (hardback and mass market paperback) next year.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

On the release of WARRIOR OF WODEN and writing a series of books

Seventh century Britain was a time of great conflict and turmoil. Peoples and religions clashed, vying for supremacy over the kingdoms and fertile lands of the island also known as Albion. This dark age is the time of the Bernicia Chronicles, a series of action-packed thrillers that centre on the character of Beobrand, a young man who is thrust into battle, discovers he is a natural warrior and eventually enters the service of the lords and kings of Britain’s distant past.

By the time we reach WARRIOR OF WODEN, book five and the latest novel in the series, Beobrand’s life has been filled with excitement, intrigue and more than its share of tragedy. At only twenty-six, he has long since transformed from a naive farm boy into a ruthless warlord. He has stood in shieldwalls, slaying the enemies of his king and been rewarded with land and riches. He has found love, and lost it all too quickly. He has travelled from the southern kingdom of his homeland of Cantware (Kent) all the way into the northern realm of Dál Riata to the isle of Hii (Iona). Beobrand has witnessed the resurgence of the religion of the Christ, and he has even stood against the dark power of the old gods, wielded at the hands of a cunning woman seeking revenge against him.


Beobrand’s world is one of violence and vengeance, but in WARRIOR OF WODEN, he is no longer free to pursue his own quests against those who have wronged him. Time has passed and after the resolution of many story lines in the fourth book, KILLER OF KINGS, Beobrand is now oath-sworn and bound by his words and promises more strongly than any ropes or chains ever could.

It has been six years since the action in the last book and eight years since Oswald took the throne, aided by Beobrand. Elevated by the king to thegn as reward for his fealty, Beobrand is now a wealthy warlord, with a sizable warband. But battle is once again brewing on the borders of Northumbria, Beobrand’s adopted kingdom. Penda of Mercia, the great killer of kings himself is planning to invade and Beobrand is called upon to stand in an epic battle where the blood of many will be shed in defence of the kingdom.


Writing a novel is a unique challenge. Writing a series of books comes with an extra set of difficulties. Readers expect a certain flavour they have come to recognise. They wish to revisit the same characters they have grown to love, or hate. They want some familiarity, but at the same time, they do not wish to be bored. Readers want to be thrilled and excited by new, fresh twists, not to have the same old stories repeated. And then there is the issue of new readers. It is always in my mind that a reader might come to the Bernicia Chronicles at any point and so each novel must stand on its own merit, providing a satisfying read as well as adding to the overall series.

In WARRIOR OF WODEN, Beobrand has grown as a leader of men and as a man. His friendships from previous stories have matured and he has less self-doubt. He has more wealth and is now secure in his position. But with that position comes greater responsibility and in this story Beobrand sees his prowess in battle tested more than ever and his oaths and loyalties stretched to the limit. He leads his friends into the bloodiest battle he has faced yet and, as with all warfare, not everyone returns alive and nobody escapes unscathed.


The passage of time since the action of the previous book has allowed me to start afresh, creating new backstory, adding new characters, both friend and foe, and providing even more depth to the world Beobrand inhabits.

Whether you have already enjoyed the other books, or choose WARRIOR OF WODEN as the first book in the series to read, follow Beobrand on a breakneck ride of an adventure as he stands in the climactic clash between the pagan Penda and the Christian Oswald. In this battle, which is one of the most important in the history of the island, there is much more at stake than sovereignty. This is a battle for the very souls of the people of Albion.

WARRIOR OF WODEN is published on 1st April.

The digital boxset of the first three novels of The Bernicia Chronicles is currently available at a reduced price. BUY IT HERE.

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This blog post originally appeared on the Aria Fiction blog.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

KILLER OF KINGS gets a review from a great author!

It is always great to read a positive review of my books. But it is even better than normal, when the reviewer is a talented author of historical fiction whom I admire. This is the case with Jemahl Evans, whose Blandford Candy series of novels set in the English Civil War is brilliant.
Jemahl Evans' review of KILLER OF KINGS is below, but to sum up: "bloody brilliant! Matthew Harffy just gets better and better"


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

REVIEW: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"How is it that you haven't read this before now?" I hear you cry.

Basically, I think the success of the HBO series put me off. In a strange way it seemed over-hyped and the more publicity the TV series got, the more it seemed like the success of the books must be hype too. Oh, how wrong I was. This is fantasy writing at its very best. Hell, it's page-turning writing at its best. There is no need to go into details of the plot and characters, as anyone who is interested can find out all they want to know with a quick Google search.

But suffice it to say that the characterization is so well done that you feel for each of the diverse players in the great game of thrones being played out in a fantasy world every bit as rich and detailed as any real historical setting. Martin has breathed life into a world with its own history, myths, religions and peoples, in what must be, after Tolkien, one of the most spectacular examples of fantasy world building of the twentieth century.

The book is long, but it is gripping, and written in short chapters, each of which focuses on a different character from the select group of "Point Of View" characters. These include members of all the major factions involved in the brewing war for the crown of the seven kingdoms. Each chapter drives the plot forward and none of them is superfluous.

If you like fantasy, or just well written epics with strong characters and a gripping plot, do yourself a favour and read this book. You will not be disappointed.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Happy Yule and thank you!


It's that time of year again, when the days are at their shortest and from this day forth we will be moving inexorably closer to spring and summer with each passing day. It is a time for family and friends to celebrate and also a moment to reflect on the year gone by.

I'm not going to dwell on all the political upheavals of the year here, but I know that for many, 2017 has not been a good year. I share much of that feeling of unease and sadness at world events, but from a writing perspective 2017 has been an exciting and fulfilling year. Thanks for sharing it with me.

I released the novella, KIN OF CAIN and the novel, KILLER OF KINGS, book four of the Bernicia Chronicles, to overwhelmingly positive reviews.

For the first time, my books have been available in high street bookshops and both the hardbacks and paperbacks that the team at Aria and Head of Zeus have put together are amazing. There is nothing quite like seeing the books on shelves in high street shops.

I also talked and signed books at libraries and bookshop events for the first time, which was nerve-racking, but rewarding and exciting.

I saw my first book translated into a foreign language (Russian!), which was weird, but very cool. I hope there are plenty more translations on the way. Not only because they pay me, but I like to see what different countries do with covers!

I finished book five of the Bernicia Chronicles, WARRIOR OF WODEN, which my agent says is the best in the series yet! And I am already 30,000 words into the first draft of book 6 (as yet untitled).

2017 has also been the year when I have seen my books go over the 100,000 sales mark, which I think is a pretty amazing milestone.

None of the above would be possible without the support of many people, both professionally and personally. But above all, none of this would be possible or worthwhile without great readers to enjoy the novels and to spread the word about them. So, THANK YOU, for buying my stories and making my dreams a reality. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas (or your festival of choice) and a peaceful and prosperous New Year in which you will join me again for more tales of Beobrand. May you get all the gifts you wish for, and if you are wondering what you can get me (or any other author!), you can never go wrong with a review on Amazon or Goodreads! :-)

See you in 2018!

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Friday, 15 December 2017

What Mark Noce Learnt When Writing About Medieval Wales


Today I am pleased to welcome to my blog, Mark Noce, author of the Queen Branwen Series. Mark was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is an avid traveler and backpacker. By day, he works as a Technical Writer, having spent much of his career at places like Google and Facebook. When not reading or writing, he's probably listening to U2, sailing his dad's boat, or gardening with his family.


What Mark Noce Learnt When Writing About Medieval Wales

Thanks for having me here today and giving me an opportunity to talk about my latest novel, Dark Winds Rising! Set in early medieval Wales, Dark Winds Rising is the sequel to Between Two Fires and the latest in the Queen Branwen Series that chronicles the life of a young Welsh queen who must confront Saxon and Pict invaders in order to save her people and her family.


As a historical fiction author, I’ve been fascinated by all eras of history and enthralling real life stories from the myths and legends accompanying them. Along with my degrees in Literature and History, I’ve always found that research goes beyond merely reading the available “facts” of an era. Two invaluable aspects that inform my writing are what I consider a hands on approach and a hypothetical approach. Hands on basically means that if I write about my character growing wheat, then I research what type of wheat was grown and actually grow it in my own yard, harvest it and mill it by hand (yes, I’ve actually done this). Little things like this really give me details I couldn’t find anywhere else and also brings up emotions that are quite useful – such as what it feels like if a wild animal eats the wheat you’ve spent three months raising!

The hypothetical approach involves using myths and legends for information. What is a myth? Even though it may be “untrue,” it’s basically a hypothetical situation that lets you know what a historical people thought was correct and what was not. It tells you what they valued, what they would do, and wouldn’t do. Medieval Wales is certainly rich in legend and myth, from Arthurian to the Mabinogion.


These types of approaches were invaluable to me when researching early medieval Wales, because very little has actually survived from the period. The longest piece of surviving text comes from St. Gildas, and it’s less than 30 pages. That gives you an idea of the stress society underwent at the time. The archaeology bears out large scale destruction and few preserved remains. However, common sense also tells us that the Welsh people clearly endured, survived, and continued to persevere because they are alive and well today. These were some of the salient facts that informed me when putting together the historical backstory for Queen Branwen’s plight. Even though Branwen herself is an amalgamation of historical characters, she is very real in her situation and is both a creation of history and the heart.


Buy Between Two Fires
Buy Dark Winds Rising

Connect with Mark Noce

Marknoce.com