Book Review: Krimson by Thomas Emson

Hi all…

Vampires. In popular media today, vampires are more about masquerading as human in a human world than ripping your throat out and guzzling blood directly from your jugular vein with no pretense of any remaining humanity. These days, the word “vampire” tends to evoke images of wan, whiny teenagers or Civil War-era Louisiana gentlemen more than “cold blooded killers.”

Author Thomas Emson is working to change that. First with Skarlet in 2009 and now with the follow-up Krimson, Emson is embracing the monster in the vampire myth and providing hooks to thousands of years of history. And like the majority of human history, not all the monsters are inhuman. Sometimes it takes power-mad humans to resurrect the past even if they don’t quite understand the consequences of their actions…

In Skarlet, we were introduced to a modern-day London, England on the brink of change. A small group of men and women with bloodlines stretching back thousands of years have brought a drug to London’s youth. Distributed at a dance club called Religion, those who take the drug die and are reborn as vampiric killing machines with an unquenchable thirst for blood. One man – Iraqi war vet Jake Lawton – working as a bouncer at the club is drawn into this nightmare nobody can accept and fights against the monsters with a few companions he gains along the way.

What I loved about the first book was the use of multiple story lines from different eras of history. Emson incorporates the conquering of Babylon by Alexander the Great and battles between the Ottoman Turks and the British army in the 1920s alongside the Iraq War we’re still trying to finish and the modern day. Weaving in an alternate history based on real events made this a much more tangible tale to dive into.

Now with Krimson, the second book in the Vampire Trinity series, the story picks up three years later after the events of Skarlet. Jake is still fighting the good fight, but he’s getting tired. You can only go so long without sleep. And those left alive in positions of power in England are hunting him day and night, so his paranoia isn’t just due to exhaustion. He and his warrior woman Aaliyah have done damage to the vampire cause, but it’s like putting fingers in a dam about to burst – it’s impossible to cover all the cracks.

And like Skarlet, Emson does an amazing job of working an alternate history into the mix. This time it’s ancient Babylon and the time of Dracula in the mid-1400s. And though I wasn’t as surprised by the Babylon links this time around, I was very intrigued in how the Dracula myths were brought in. Again, the history set the stage for the events in the present day and was seamlessly integrated into what started in that first book.

After reading Zombie Brittanica, I was a bit concerned that Emson had lost his touch. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The first half of Krimson sets the stage and offers enough background that readers new to the series should have no problems diving in. For me, the action really didn’t get going until about the half-way mark. At that point it was as though a switch was thrown and we were in free fall to the end. All the characters of the first book are back and we start to see their individual threads get resolved one by one…

I can hardly wait for Kardinal, the conclusion of the trilogy, to be released in another year or two. Can Jake and his friends survive? Only Emson himself knows until the book is released!

If you want a taste of the book, be sure to check out the first three chapters at Thomas Emson’s website. Unfortunately US rights haven’t yet been sold, but you can order via Amazon and other retailers through international wholesalers!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these books at Amazon below!

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Book Review: The Secret History of MI6: 1909-1949 by Keith Jeffery

Hi!

To most of the world, James Bond is the iconic British spy for nearly 60 years. Through the Cold War, the Drug War, and even into a post-9/11 world, he’s been reinvented multiple ways and times in books and movies and played by actors from George Lazenby to Daniel Craig. Ian Fleming‘s creation with a license to kill has dominated the popular impression of British Intelligence. But spies don’t really exist in popular media as they do in the real world.

I’m sure the British Secret Intelligence Service (also known as MI-6) have had a few James Bond-like moments in their long and colorful history, but until now they’ve been hidden from public view. Keith Jeffery was granted unparalleled access to the MI-6 archives to piece together events from the agency’s beginnings to the start of the Cold War. Reading The Secret History of MI6, it was amazing just how much happened in those first 40 years starting in 1909. The real men and women who put their lives on the line to protect Britain from her enemies put James Bond’s antics to shame.

From the beginning, there was a conflict between the need for military intelligence, upon which wartime strategies could be formed, and foreign intelligence, upon which political and international policy decisions could be based. These interests were not always at odds, but the groups collecting the intelligence often sought to protect their sources at all costs, even from other agencies working on the same side. This reluctance to share actionable intelligence in a timely manner often hampered good decisions to be made by those in power. But Commander Mansfield Cumming hoped to change that culture of mistrust and offer a better solution.

Throughout the build up to the First World War, it was a matter of gaining the trust of the agencies depending on intelligence reports while building a network of field agents and informants that could reliably get a more complete picture of what was going on. Many of the same challenges of mistrust and information sharing existed for the next forty years as well. And always it was a balancing act between the need for information, the need for secrecy, and the safety of all assets involved.

The book provides a detailed accounting of many of the trials associated with developing the tools and techniques of spycraft – from learning how to record and transmit or transport reports from the field back to headquarters to finding cover identities and companies with which to hide assets in plain sight. Even the Import/Export business used by James Bond’s MI-6 was first used by the real MI-6 long before World War I!

Though the text does get dense and mired in detail at times, I honestly think Jefferey’s book should be required reading for any student of history or individual seeking to learn more about how MI-6 began. As events unfold through the years, I gained a new perspective on key events leading to World War I and II and the aftermath of each. The Secret History of MI6 is an incredible read. Perhaps in another fifty years or so we can read more about MI-6 history from 1950 to 9/11 and beyond!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great history books below!

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Book Review: Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia, Vol. 1 by Jayden Woods

Hey there…

Historical fiction is not one of those areas I usually dabble in when looking for a book to read. Quite honestly, I’m more apt to find an actual history book than read fiction based on a historical figure or period. But I have to admit that Jayden Woods’ debut novel – Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia, Vol. 1 – puts an interesting spin on a figure I had never heard of.

Apparently Eadric (or Edric, depending on the source) Streona was a Saxon who gained the ear of King Ethelred II early in the 11th century. Though a commoner by birth, it is claimed that he worked his way up the noble tree by assassinating the King’s opponents. Beyond that, he may have also acted as a go-between between the Saxons and the Danes, who had been attacking the Saxon coast. Eadric supported paying off the invading forces, while others supported attacking them outright.

The upshot of all of this was that Eadric was suspected of many crimes during his time… from suggesting the assassination of a group of Danes peacefully living in England to murdering several other nobles in Ethelred’s court.

Woods proposes a different view of this vilified character in English history. Instead of acting with truly villainous intent, she paints Eadric as a person trying to do what he thought was right to keep the peace between the Danes and his countrymen. He goes from a swineherd to an advisor to King Ethelred after a chance meeting and things snowball from there as the King began to rely more and more on his counsel.

Eventually he marries the King’s daughter, Eadgyth, which further aids his rise to power. She turns out to have secrets of her own and seems to be tied somehow to The Golden Cross, a mysterious figure providing battle plans to Saxon leaders to aid in fighting back against the continual Danish invasions.

Though this is her first book, I have to admit that it worked really well. Her style involves the use of a great amount of detail, which bogged me down a bit, but the story is engrossing enough to keep things moving along fairly quickly. The constant political intrigue, backstabbing, and mixing of people of both noble and common birth kept me going to the end.

The other thing that I really enjoyed was her attention to the little crunchy details about medieval life. Describing the conditions of a desperate famine early in the book, she says “Men and women from across the land came to Eadric and bowed thei rheads, offering their loyalty and servitude in exchange for a loaf of bread. When the grain stocks were low, Eadric ordered that acors, peas, bark, and beans be ground into subsidiary flour. He saw that the hedgerows were well tended, so that if all else failed, his servants could pick off herbs, roots, grasses, and nettles to cushion their empty bellies…” In the modern world, I can hardly imagine such a thing happening today in the United States, but suspect that it’s still happening far too often in the Third World or even in severely depressed areas.

I think Woods has a bright future in historical or fantasy fiction and she’s already been hard at work on two sequels – volume 2 is Godric the Kingslayer and volume 3 looks like it will be Edric the Wild. And if that’s not enough, she also has a book of short stories set in the world of the Sons of Mercia called Lost Tales of Mercia.

If you’re a fan of historically-based fiction, I’d definitely recommend that you give Eadric the Grasper: Sons of Mercia, Vol. 1 a read. Also be sure to check out Jayden Woods’ website for additional details!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these books from Barnes & Noble below:

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