Monday 9 February 2015

Potential cover reveal: THE SERPENT SWORD

As I said last month, I have made great progress getting THE SERPENT SWORD ready for publication. Along with the quotes I've got from excellent historical fiction authors, I've also put together a potential cover. I say 'potential', because if my agent sells the novel to a publisher, an in-house designer would create a new cover.

The cover, which I've put together using only free software, features an original photo of authentic war gear by the talented, Matt Bunker, from the living history group Wulfheodenas.

Check out the cover and let me know what you think in the comments.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Review of The Wolf and the Raven by Steven A. McKay

I recently received a review copy of the audio book of Steven A. McKay's second novel, "The Wolf and the Raven" that is now available on Audible.


The blurb on the book is as follows:
In the aftermath of a violent rebellion Robin Hood and his men must fight for survival with an enemy deadlier than any they've faced before... 1322. England is in disarray and Sir Guy of Gisbourne, the king's own bounty hunter, stalks the greenwood, bringing bloody justice to the outlaws and rebels who hide there. When things begin to go horribly wrong self-pity, grief and despair threaten to overwhelm the young wolf's head who will need the support of his friends and family now more than ever.
As with all of McKay's writing it is action-packed, with strong characters fighting for their lives and the survival of their loved ones. Danger and peril lurk around every corner and there is never a dull moment. Robin faces the reality that he is to be a father and is also now the leader of a group of men who are being tracked by the villainous Sir Guy of Gisbourne, a dastardly bounty hunter out to destroy all outlaws.

There are two main parts to the narrative: Robin Hood and his men struggling with Guy of Gisbourne, and the fate of the two charismatic Knights Hospitaller, Sir Richard-at-Lee and his trusted sergeant-at-arms, Stephen. I have to confess I enjoyed the side story of the knights more than that of Robin and his outlaws. I liked Stephen's quest for aid in London and Sir Richard's travails back in Kirklees. However, I was slightly disappointed by the denouement of the knights' tail. It lacked a certain heroic panache that McKay seems to reserve for the protagonist.

It is a dark novel. Important characters are killed, people get badly beaten and injured, and things look bleak for Robin and his cohorts. Robin's enemy is evil in the extreme, and whilst McKay gives Gisbourne a back story to explain his violence, you never really feel sympathy for the bounty hunter.

The Wolf and the Raven is a solid sequel to the great debut Wolf's Head. Whilst it is clearly a transition novel, adding depth to the characters and setting the scene for later adventures, the second act of a longer story, it is an extremely satisfying read that paves the way for the last two books McKay plans in The Forest Lord series.

My verdict?

McKay does it again. Blood-splattered historical adventure from a powerful story-teller.


Nick Ellsworth, who has read all of McKay's works to date, reads with a strong sense of authenticity. He has a deep, serious voice that is naturally suited to the gravity of the story. There are a few moments when I was put off by unusual pronunciations of certain words, and I would recommend speeding up the Audible player to 1.25X, which seems to provide the perfect speed of delivery, but all in all Ellsworth gives a solid performance that is worthy of the material.


Audible is a real doddle to use. No problems at all.

Overall score

4.5 out of 5 stars


The Wolf and the Raven on
Steven A. McKay's webpage