Monday, 20 January 2020

Review: Agricola's Bane by Nancy Jardine

Agricola’s Bane by Nancy Jardine

A.D. 84 Northern Roman Britain 
Nith of Tarras helps Enya of Garrigill in the search for her kin, missing after the disastrous battle at Beinn na Ciche fought between the Caledonian warriors and the mighty Ancient Roman legions. Enya soon has a heartrending choice to make. Should she tread Vacomagi territory that’s swarming with Roman auxiliaries to find her brother? Or, should she head south in search of her cousin who has probably been enslaved by the Romans? 
The Commander of the Britannic Legions and Governor of Britannia – General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola – is determined to claim more barbarian territory for the Roman Empire, indeed plans to invade the whole island, but finds not all decisions are his to make. It increasingly seems that the goddess, Fortuna, does not favour him.
The adventures of the Garrigill clan continue...

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The fourth novel in the Celtic Fervour series is standalone, although I highly recommend the first three books to gain more insight into the Garrigill characters and back story.

The story picks up where we left off in Donning Double Cloaks as the focus switches over to the younger generation of the Garrigill Clan. It's AD84 and Beathan, son of Lorcan and Ruoridh, son of Gabrond are missing after the devastating battle at Beinn na Ciche between the Caledonians and the Roman legion. Therefore, aided by Nith of Tarras, Enya, the young warrior daughter of Gabrond sets out to find her kin and to gain valuable intelligence about Agricola's intentions.

While there's much focus on the adventure and fortunes of the young warriors, the author keeps us informed about Agricola, as he continues his ruthless campaign. After sevens summers as governor of Britannia, he's becoming weary of his time in Northern Britain, especially during the harsh winters in areas, he deems inhospitable barbarian territories.

As I've come to expect with a Nancy Jardine novel, the narrative is full to the brim with fascinating insights and historical details. While it takes me a while to fully remember the names of the characters and places, the writing style makes it eas
ier to absorb the rich facts skilfully wrapped around intriguing plot lines. Set against a timeline I knew very little about before picking up the first book in this series, I also appreciate how the author brings the characters to life, specifically, Enya and her confusing emotions. It's a time in her life where she's coming of age and has conflicting feelings; she has to choose to between what she believes is right for her family, rather than listen to her heart.

Overall, the ending is satisfying and the scene is set for book five. This series has hooked me in and I hope the next instalment is ready to read soon?

***review copy received courtesy of the publisher Ocelot Press*** 

Nancy Jardine writes historical fiction; time-travel historical adventure; contemporary mystery thrillers; and romantic comedy. She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where life is never quiet or boring since she regularly child minds her young grandchildren who happen to be her next-door neighbours. Her garden is often creatively managed by them, though she does all the work! Her husband is a fantastic purveyor of coffee and tea…excellent food and wine! (Restorative, of course)
A member of the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland; Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Independent Alliance of Authors, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.
Giveaway to Win x1 signed paperback of Agricola’s Bane to one UK winner; X1 kindle copy worldwide
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Release Day Spotlight: 133 Hours by Zach Abrams

133 Hours by Zach Abrams
I’ve often heard about authors complaining they have writer’s block. I don’t know if I’m unusual in this respect but it’s something I haven’t ever suffered from (to date) while writing a book. True, there are times I’ll sit deliberating over how to use a particular word or expression. More often I’ll rack my brain, seeking to remember a particular word where I’m having difficulty recollecting what I know should be there, somewhere. But I’m fortunate, I haven’t ever had the trauma of being unable to think of something to write – quite the reverse. My head is full of ideas, sitting on the back burner - things I want to write. This sometimes causes me a problem. I can be in the middle of writing one story, when I find it a struggle to concentrate, because my thought process is plagued by ideas for the plot on something that I don’t want to work on at that time. My dilemma is, while on the one hand, I don’t want to lose continuity on the current project, neither do I want to risk forgetting and losing the new idea I’ve come up with. My compromise is to take a few notes on the new ideas before resuming working on the current project. However, as I’m sure you can imagine, nothing is ever so simple.
It’s now roughly ten years since I started writing fiction. My first novel, Ring Fenced, started off when I had the idea of a powerful and controlling character, who uses multiple personae to manage his life. He keeps each of the different aspects compartmentalised. The story wasn’t pre-plotted. Instead, when I started, I had no idea where it would end up. My technique was to imagine myself as my protagonist and let him tell me his own story. It developed with plots and sub-plots and ended up a thriller rather than a character study.
My Alex Warren crime series was different in that I was writing a police procedural about a murder investigation where I had a good idea of where it would end up. Nevertheless, I used the same technique to let my characters tell me their own story.
The process on my latest thriller, 133 Hours, was more like Ring Fenced. It started with my lead character coming to the realisation that she’d lost a period of time (133 hours), where she had no recollection of where she’d been or what had happened to her. The story developed from there with a police investigation running in parallel with her struggling with her inner demons as she trys to find out what had happened. However, this book is a departure from anything I’ve written before as it’s written in the first person, present tense and has a young female protagonist.  

Arriving at work to find she’s lost more than five-and-a-half days (133 hours), Briony Chaplin, has no recollection of where she’d been or what had happened to her. She is distraught. Has she been ill, or had a breakdown, or could she have been drugged and abducted?
Doubting her own sanity, Briony is fearful of what she’ll find. Yet she’s driven to discover the truth. When she trawls her memories, she’s terrified by visions, believing she may have been abused and raped.
Assisted by her friends Alesha and Jenny, and supported by a retired detective, she’s determined to learn where she’s been and why.

Having the background of a successful career in commerce and finance, Zach Abrams has spent many years writing reports, letters and presentations and it's only fairly recently he started writing novels. "It's a more honourable type of fiction," he declares.

Writer of the Alex Warren Murder Mystery series, set in Scotland, Zach has also written the psychological thriller 'Ring Fenced' and the financial thriller 'Source', as well as collaborating with Elly Grant on a book of short stories.

Zach is currently producing a non-fiction series to help small businesses -using the collective title 'Mind Your Own Business'. The first, 'So, You Think You Want to be a Landlord' is already available.
Twitter: @authorway