Rejection notes – no.16 in a series

This is the sort of rejection note that is almost as good as an acceptance!

A fun tale, Edoardo!

Unfortunately, it’s not a good fit for us at this time – even though I love a good satire!

I wish you the best in placing this elsewhere. I noticed your books above, and they sound fascinating. I do believe I’ll place them on my list.


Book review: Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies


OK, I admit it, in the end I didn’t read all 848 pages. Some of the kingdoms were just too obscure, the characters too interchangeable, and the permutations too complicated (Burgundy, I’m thinking of you) to prevent my eyes glazing over. But where I did know something about the background history, Davies was downright brilliant. In particular, the chapter on Alt Clud, the Kingdom of the Rock, that endured upon the twin humped lump of granite overlooking Dumbarton for four centuries during the Early Medieval period was wonderful. It brought the old British kingdoms vividly to life, and was worth the price of the book (or at least the reservation charge at the library) on its own. So, particularly recommended for periods and places that you know a little about, and want to learn more about.

Edwin in the mail

It’s been a long eight months of work but this morning I sent off to the publishers, Lion Fiction, the final text for Edwin: High King of Britain, the first volume in the projected trilogy of books about the Bretwaldas of the northern kingdom, The Northumbrian Thrones. The series title was the publishers idea, but a good one – there is something very Game of Thrones-ish about Anglo-Saxon England, even down to the rumours of monsters and dragons in the wilderness (and Beowulf’s hall).

The next volume will, naturally, be about Oswald – king, saint, martyr and, according to Max Adams’ biography, prototype for Aragorn, son of Arathorn.


Bede the Gentle-man

In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People the Venerable Bede invented the very idea of England. Reading the book today, I’m struck by its generosity, its concern for historical sources but most of all by the evident kindness of Bede himself. This was a good man. I wonder if the quintessence of the ideal of England – the gentle-man – was prefigured and, in a way, preformed by the man who invented England, Bede himself. I can think of few better patterns for a nation than the man from Jarrow.


Book review: Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost


Space Captain Smith is an almost successful science fantasy romp, set in a 25th-century universe where the British Empire has expanded to the stars and faces enemies both alien and human. The author has a gift for one liners and puns and, since I’m a sucker for both, as well as steam punk futurologies, it should have been a winner. Where it fails is quite interesting. Firstly, Frost proves utterly incapable of avoiding an approaching pun – something I’d normally applaud, but here there’s just too many one liners. Secondly, a lot of the jokes involve contemporary references, and even though the jokes are good, they jerk the reader right out of the world of the book. And thirdly, I don’t think Frost has thought through his future universe carefully enough. There’s no sense of space travel involving anything other than getting into a ship on one planet and then emerging on another, nor any depth to the history and cultures of the other peoples and civilisations – in contrast with Philip Reeves’s on-the-face-of-it similar triology, Larklight. Larklight also has a space-faring British Empire and excellent jokes, but the world is much more believable, the joking more disciplined, and the Victorian references deeper. In fact, if you’re looking for a purely enjoyable read involving stalwart Victorian heroes in space, try Larklight.

Blurb for Edwin: High King of Britain

Here’s the publisher’s blurb for Edwin: High King Of Britain. What do you think? Would you be inclined to read the book after reading this and looking at the cover?

Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin’s usurper. As Edwin walks by the shore, alone and at bay, he is confronted by a mysterious figure – the missionary Paulinus – who prophesies that he will become High King of Britain. It is a turning point. Through battles and astute political alliances Edwin rises to great power, in the process marrying the Kentish princess Aethelburh. As part of the marriage contract the princess is allowed to retain her Christian faith. But, in these times, to be a king is not a recipe for a long life …This turbulent and tormented period in British history sees the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who have forced their way on to British shores over previous centuries, arriving first to pillage, then to farm and trade – and to come to terms with the faith of the Celtic tribes they have driven out.