Monday, July 15, 2024

Editorial Book Review: Oaths of Blood by Logan D. Irons #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalFantasy #Crusades #RecommendedReading #TheCoffeePotBookClub

Oaths of Blood

The Oaths of Blood Saga, Book #1

by Logan D. Irons

Oaths of Blood is an action-packed grimdark historical fantasy set during the Crusades, in the vein of Joe Abercrombie, Bernard Cornwell, and John Gwynne.

In 1099, the armies of Christendom march for Jerusalem. Mercenary captain Robert Cutnose finds himself in the belly of a siege tower waiting to storm the walls in a desperate attempt to take the city.

But what they find inside the city is far more terrifying than the arrows and spears that fly their way...

After a savage attack by the moonlight, Cutnose’s lifeblood leaks from his veins, and he is thrust into an immortal war between the Order and their prey they simply call the Hunted. Each desires to own a relic with power far greater than he could ever imagine. With the aid of a secretive party of warriors, he must track down the man who ripped out his throat in the blink of an eye, for if he does not, his future as a human will be short.

As he crawls deeper into the shadows, it is clear, only oaths made in blood survive.

A war-filled journey through the crusades and into the depths of the ancient Noctis Bellum. Filled with legendary characters both barbaric and gray, driven by valor and treachery alike!

“A cold red sun shone between the stout olive trees atop the mountain ridge to the east of the city. Known as the Mount of Olives, it was a place revered by both Christians and Jews. In the city itself, the drum of boots marching, the metallic song of swords crashing, and the rumble of hooves pouunding continued until the bells began to toll.

Right at the beginning of Oaths of Blood, we are thrown into the brutal attack on Jerusalem's defensive walls during the Crusades of 1099. The mood is sombre; adrenaline is pumping through the veins of the men squashed into the siege tower that creeps slowly towards the wall. One little mistake can be lethal, and as the tension rises, excitement at the forthcoming rout mingles with an uneasy sense of dread.

Here is where we meet Captain Robert Cutnose and his men. A hardened mercenary with a long history of fighting for rich lords, with a strong sense of adventure, loyalty to his men, and highly experienced in killing, Robert is the typical no-nonsense warrior of his era. And while patience is not one of his virtues, his inert sense of survival makes him snap at those who may risk the lives of all the men crowded into the confined space.

Eventually they breach the wall, and the mass of warriors is unleashed into the streets of Jerusalem – targeting Moors in particular, but also Jews, and even fellow Christians.

Carnage begins...

Oaths of Blood (The Oaths of Blood Saga, Book #1) by Logan D. Irons starts with a fierce account of the Crusaders’ brutality, religious fervour, greed, and distinct lack of respect for any of the inhabitants of the holy city. But it soon turns even more sinister...

Cutnose's adventure in Jerusalem only just begins, as he fights his way through the crowds. He has little time for rape or pillage – his goal is the rich reward promised by the lord he supports, Tancred, nephew of Bohemond of Taranto. So he keeps his men in line, following the knight and his entourage, until they reach a building with a golden dome. The Temple of God.

But when they break into the courtyard, they go no further, much to his men's annoyance. Tasked by Tancred to keep watch and not allow any other Crusaders entry into the courtyard, Cutnose and his men do their duty, more or less reluctantly. They fend of a few who dare, and who soon retreat under the iron defence Cutnose and his men put up.

Then a solitary knight appears, wearing armour of scales, requesting access to the temple. The man's cold, undeterred attitude unnerves Cutnose, but he and his men have dealt with arrogant knights before, and usually won. But within moments, one by one fall at the hands of the stranger, and Cutnose finds himself at death's door when the knight – or whatever abomination he turned into – rips into his throat. As his blood seeps into the ground, he loses consciousness.

When he wakes, a small group of... warriors? ... comes to his aid. They patch up his throat and take him with them. Forced to leave behind the mutilated bodies of his men, he ponders about just who his saviours are, and why he was still alive.

He was still alive, wasn't he? Well, read the book to find out what happened next!

Oaths of Blood is a visceral account of the sacking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099. As we follow Cutnose's footsteps, we smell the unwashed warriors, the blood clinging to swords, hear the people's cries as they are cut down. We hear women screaming, see men decapitated, and dead bodies stripped and looted of any valuables. The battle scenes throughout the book are not for the faint-of-heart reader, but the detailed narrative creates an incredibly strong sense of reality. The Crusaders did not look for churches (well, that came later, in order to be absolved of all their horrific crimes) – the knights and their followers were there for the kill, and for the spoils.

The author has undertaken a great deal of research, and it shows, as we are rewarded with a vibrant, fast-paced story that leaves us breathless. The Holy City under attack, the surrounding countryside, the Crusaders’ politics and squabbling factions, and the mannerisms of both the lords and ordinary fighters – we learn so much about the background through the narrative. In particular, the fierce rivalry between Raymond of Toulouse and Godfrey of Bouillon is revealed to have been a major source of irritation and danger to all. The inclusion of these real characters adds to the sense of total reading immersion.

The pace remains fast throughout, and it doesn't let off, as we follow Cutnose's trail. The tension is high from the beginning, with only a few breathing spaces before another he must confront new challenges – most important of all, his revenge on the man who slayed his men, and who turned him into an outcast.

Cutnose is an interesting character. He should not be likeable, for his attitude as a tough mercenary used to killing indiscriminately – and the author shows us clearly the customary excesses of what those often well-paid warriors did. Irons makes no excuses for Cutnose, yet there is something about the warrior that makes us root for him. His wry sense of humour is one reason, his over-the-top confidence another.

The secondary characters are well-defined in their roles. From his loyal band, of whom we don't see too much, the people who saved him – survivors of an ancient brotherhood – to his ultimate enemy, Bors, the knight-turned-beast who killed Cutnose's men like they were nothing more than pawns on a games board.

Amongst his saviours, the Wolf people, there is a strong sense of their cause and mutual support to the death. As the group is trying to prevent a precious cup being taken to England, their human side turns out to be their downfall as they make a couple of deadly errors.

The fantasy elements in the novel are well-immersed into the historical fiction setting. The transformation from man to beast is not shown as a magical swish, but as a painful transition –  one to be mastered – between two worlds. I thought this added a strong sense of realism, despite the fantasy aspect.

Cutnose doesn't just switch sides and everything works out well for him. Oh no! Irons has a few nasty surprises in store for our fierce, stubborn mercenary, and he has to learn a few lessons along the way. One is being bested by a woman, Mayra, and I thoroughly enjoyed their sparring.

However, whilst the historical detail certainly helps set the scene very well, it does slow down the action at times, especially early on. Relationships are explained in places where we just want to read about the action. But overall, the inclusion of political rivalries, personal ambitions, and the brutal treatment of the local population by the Crusaders ensures a truly immersive – if at times gory – reading experience.

Oaths of Blood is the first in a fascinating new historical fantasy series of novels about mercenary captain, Robert Cutnose, and his adventures through the ages, as he slowly adjusts to his transformation. The intriguing plotlines, memorable main and secondary characters, the gruesome fighting scenes, and the sun-parched locations all turn this novel into a true reading feast, and not only for fans of historical fantasy.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Cathie Dunn
The Coffee Pot Book Club

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Logan D. Irons

Logan is the author of the grimdark historical fantasy The Oaths of Blood Saga.

A lifelong traveler, he has visited over 50 countries for both for work and for pleasure. Lifted in Arnold’s childhood gym in Austria, asked his wife to marry him in an abandoned castle in Ireland, bartered for jewelry in a Kuwaiti souk, drank beers and sang quite poorly German songs at Oktoberfest in Munich, and burned a Viking ship during Hogmanay in Edinburgh.

Fantasy, historical fiction, and history novels dominate his library. In particular, the works of George R.R. Martin, Steven Pressfield, Bernard Cornwell, and Robert Jordan inspire his work. He currently resides in Virginia, a place with enough history to keep him busy until the end of time, with his wife, son, and a dog named Ronin the Barbarian.

If he has free time, which is rare, he throws axes (usually at targets), is physically active, and loves taking his family on adventures.

And he’s convinced his nieces he’s a werewolf…

Connect with Logan:

Book of the Week: Novice Threads by Nancy Jardine #HistoricalFiction #ScottishHistoricalFiction #ComingOfAge #RecommendedReading

Novice Threads

Silver Sampler Series, Book #1

by Nancy Jardine

A thirst for education.  Shattered dreams. Fragile relations.

1840s Scotland

Being sent to school is the most exhilarating thing that’s ever happened to young Margaret Law. She sharpens her newly-acquired education on her best friend, Jessie Morison, till Jessie is spirited away to become a scullery maid. But how can Margaret fulfil her visions of becoming a schoolteacher when her parents’ tailoring and drapery business suddenly collapses and she must find a job?

Salvation from domestic drudgery – or never-ending seamstress work – comes via Jessie whose employer seeks a tutor for his daughter. Free time exploring Edinburgh with Jessie is great fun, but increasing tension in the household claws at Margaret’s nerves. 

Margaret also worries about her parents' estrangement, and the mystery of Jessie's unknown father.

When tragedy befalls the household in Edinburgh, Margaret must forge a new pathway for the future – though where will that be?

Praise for Novice Threads:

'From the very first sentence to the final full stop, Novice Threads by Nancy Jardine captivated me with its emotionally charged storytelling. With a realistic historical backdrop, Jardine has created a story that is as impossible to put down as it is to forget. This is a story that will stay with me for a very long time.'
~ Yarde Reviews & Book Promotion 5* Review

'It’s not just a book, it’s an immersive experience where you journey alongside the characters, forming emotional bonds as if they were your own family. You’ll never tire of reading this novel, no matter how many times you read it.'
~ The Coffee Pot Book Club Editorial 5* Review

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This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.