Archive for the ‘Historical Thriller’ Category


The Wolf is Back

RotW final FINAL! smaller

Review of the Rise of the Wolf; Steven A. McKay 2015; pp 33

– Shana Susan Ninan

Balanced. That’s what the third book in the Forest Lord series is. Author Steven has masterly woven a blance between the youngblood, impulsive Robin Hood and the now more settle, fatherhood-absorbing Robin Hood. Giving prominence to Matilda, Robin’s wife, and Marjorie, his malnourished sister, this book takes on a different course than the previous two! The family life and the action sequences are well-balanced, too, in my view.

Steven has rightfully joined the league of historical fiction writers, who have given us famous classics with their twist. His reading and research is seen well in the narrative, one that never bores us. In fact, I read the Rise of the Wolf in three almost no-break sessions in one day. Especially considering the fact that I have a busy day job and a three-year-old to spend time with!

Sir Guy of Gisbourne is back with a vengeance, and this time Robin needs more hands to beat him. Who will be by his side? How does he outwit the forces against him? How will he ensure the safety of his family? He returns with a more vile intention – to ruin Robin and to regain Gisbourne’s name as the King’s bounty hunter.

Robin Hood is one of my favourite childhood heroes. It’s wonderful to read about him in a different context, years later! And I hear Steven may right another sequel to this… that is some good news.




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Rating: 8.7/10 (7 votes cast)

Robin Hood – Boy to Man

Review of Wolf’s Head; Steven McKay; Self Publishing 2013; pp 328

– Shana Susan Ninan

The first book in The Forest Lord trilogy, Wolf’s Head took my breath away. No, it isn’t a romance fiction. But because it’s action from the word Go. The action starts right on the cover page – an arrow in flight that suggests a chase. Robin Hood, the much loved character in movies, books, cartoons and other media comes to life in Steven MacKay’s debut work. Outlawed and separated from his family and his love, he’s practically chased; he flees into the forests of England and joins a gang of violent men. Under the leadership of Adam Bell, the men move from clearing to clearing in the forest, loot rich travellers and wait for a pardon on their heads.

An historical thriller, Wolf’s Head looks at and treats Robin Hood differently. For one, he’s very human, with flaws of his own.  In the author’s words, Wolf’s Head is about a normal young man fighting to survive and live a regular life without being hunted down and killed like an animal. And this urge to live keeps Robin going.

Robin faces several hurdles, from getting his band members to trust him to finally holding them together in the face of hardship and betrayal. The sub plot of Robin’s romance doesn’t take away the heat of the action, it only spurs it forward. Steven’s use of dramatic descriptions, casual expletives and gory scenes add authenticity to the narrative. The readers, I’m sure, can definitely feel the whiz of an arrow, hear the crunch of dried leaves on forest floor and even the emotions of a band member on discovering that he’s lost his family forever.

I won’t let on more, except that you’re in for a double treat here. And, the sequel The Wolf and The Raven is around the corner, just a few months away.

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Rating: 7.9/10 (9 votes cast)

My readers are normal, everyday people… they can identify with someone like Robin who has the same hopes and fears as they do

A brilliant debut writer who knows how to set the tone and the pace for the reader. Introducing Steven McKay to IBR readers. His book Wolf’s Head is the journey of legendary Robin Hood, from a fun-loving young boy to a forest lord. Almost. This is the first of the series.

– Shana Susan  Ninan

Shana: Action from the word go. How exciting was it to write an action-packed novel as yours?

Steven MacKay: How exciting is it to READ an action novel? Well, double that. Writing a novel is an opportunity to let your imagination run free. Of course, I’m not writing fantasy so there are limits, but in general, Wolf’s Head was so much fun to write that it never became a chore until well into the editing stage. When we read a book we place ourselves in the shoes of the protagonists, but actually creating the protagonists is even more exciting. Working a full-time job, as I do, then coming home and spending hours writing a novel would be impossible if the writing wasn’t so much fun. Come on – how hard can it be to write about a 7 foot tall giant like Little John, kicking everyone’s ass about a forest and drinking ale with his mates?! I loved it!

SSN: So many versions of Robin Hood’s story out there in the world – in classics, movies and cartoons. How does your Robin stand out?

SM: I think my Robin stands out because he’s different to all the versions people are familiar with nowadays. The modern version of the myth has become all about a disinherited nobleman, or, like Angus Donald’s, some kind of medieval gangster. The original ballads were about a normal man, a yeoman, not a nobleman – that was all a much later addition to the legend. My Robin is a frightened teenager who slowly grows in stature until he and his friends eventually become local heroes. Wolf’s Head isn’t a story about a rich man trying to regain his wealth and property from more rich men, it’s about a normal young man fighting to survive and live a regular life without being hunted down and killed like an animal.

SSN: The violence and the gore, I enjoyed it. But I’m sure a lot of readers might find that not too easy on the eye or the mind while reading. What do you feel?

To be honest, I haven’t thought about it. A few of the reviews on Amazon have complained about the swearing, but none have mentioned the violence. When I was writing the book, right from the start I wanted it to reflect reality as much as possible. The middle-ages were a hard, extremely violent time and people today are used to seeing that violence recreated in movies or described in books by guys like Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow. I don’t want to offend anyone, and I certainly don’t want to stop people reading any future books of mine but, honestly – being hit in the face by a sword can’t have been a pleasant experience. I hope the pain and terror of something like that comes across in my writing.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (3 votes cast)

Cracking the Templar’s Code

Review of The Templar’s Secret; C. M. Palov; Penguin 2012; Rs 350

– Shana Susan Ninan

A Templar thriller that’ll keep you glued to the pages. C. M. Palov’s The Templar’s Secret got me finishing the book in a matter of two days. now, considering I have a hectic day job and a scrambling toddler waiting for me back home, that’s saying something about the pace of the book. Switching between early Mediaeval age and the present day, the plot takes you to Fort Kochi in South India, Spain and Paris, as well as New York!

Realisation dawns quite late for ex-MI5 and Templar expert Caedmon Aisquith as his high school love, Gita Patel comes to him asking for his help in finding their abducted daughter. As part of her work, she had contacted the Vatican Archives for almost secret information, which gets her into the soup. A criminal mastermind inside the Papacy hopes to retrieve an old and abandoned gospel called the Evagelium Gaspar. And he does this by kidnapping (using his extended resources of course) Ms Anala Patel and holding her to ransom.

Caedmon is jolted from his carefree present life and, along with his love, Eddie, and Gita he follows a series of clues to figure out the location of the long lost gospel. The book opens with a Templar knight being tortured to get information on the very same gospel that the trio are now after. What is interesting is that a lot of history comes across in the lines but in a very unassuming way, something a lay reader can digest.

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Rating: 6.0/10 (6 votes cast)

Ken Follett’s ‘Winter of the World’ to be published in September 2012

Following is an email I received from the best selling author Ken Follett, announcing the provisional date of publishing of the second novel in the ‘Century’ trilogy, and a mini series based on his book, World Without End.

Dear Shana,

Happy New Year! I hope that it will be the best yet for you.

I will have a new book out later this year. Winter of the World – the sequel to Fall of Giants – is a story about a group of families in the dramatic events leading up to World War II, and during that tumultuous conflict itself.

There is an American family, a German family, a Russian family and two British families, and their desires and ambitions, and the events of the day, shape their relationships and fates in extraordinary ways.

Winter of the World, the second novel in my ‘Century’ trilogy, is due to be published in many countries in September 2012. Around the time of publication, I’m planning to visit the USA, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and several other countries.

This year will also see the release of the eight-hour TV mini-series of World Without End. From what I’ve seen so far, it is going to be every bit as good as The Pillars of the Earth mini-series that was screened worldwide two years ago.

I really appreciate the feedback I get from my readers. Please get in touch with me through my web site, on my Facebook page or via Twitter.

Best wishes and good reading!


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Rating: 4.1/10 (8 votes cast)

In The Refuge Of Law

Review of Heartstone; C. J. Sansom; Pan Macmillan 2010; pp 724; Rs 299

– Shana Susan Ninan

That this novel is the last one in the five-novel Shardlake series of mystery works by C. J. Sansom and happens to be the only one I could get my hands on was my only disappointment when I finished his Heartstone. Sansom captures the best and worst features of Tudor history in his novel that includes murder, mystery, legal tangles, impersonation, dissolution of monasteries, the move towards Protestant Reformation and a fragment of peasant revolts.

A near realistic representation of the history of the people and the land during Henry VIII’s reign includes good research and revelation of the people’s life, work and even their norms and taboos. In the year 1545, the King is waiting to inercept the angry French fleet at Portsmouth, close to where Shardlake is out on court duty. The French have promised retribution for the King’s invasion of their land earlier, and have taken the Scots into confidence for a double-sided attack, with England sandwiched between the two forces.

Shardlake is informally appointed by the Queen to investigate the “monstrous wrongs” done to Hugh Curteys, son of her former maid. This is a good opportunity for the lawyer to look into his friend Ellen Fettiplace’s puzzling stay in the Bedlam.

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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Chanakya’s Chant On Big Screen

A superbly woven tale, Chanakya’s Chant, written by Ashwin Sanghi, will now be available on TV. The thriller’s rights have been acquired by UTV Motion Pictures. Chanakya’s Chant carries forward two plots – historically and politically motivated – and summits at an interesting point. Sanghi’s words flow through the pages, keeping the readers wanting more.

Even those who can’t digest history will love this story, especially on screen, as it blends thrilling intrigue and spontaneous action across years.


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Rating: 7.2/10 (5 votes cast)

Ken Follett’s ‘Fall of Giants’ In Paperback

Following is a mail I received the other day from Ken Follett. All those who read the book will surely be looking forward to the next ones in the series. With permission:

Dear Shana,

I thought you might like to know that the paperback edition of my latest novel, Fall of Giants, will be published in the United Kingdom, most Commonwealth countries and many English-speaking areas of the world on May 30th this year. The United States and Canada will publish their paperback edition in August.

Fall of Giants, for those of you who have not yet read it, is the first of three, linked historical novels which trace the fortunes of five families – one American, one English, one Welsh, one Russian, and one German – as they live through World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the fight to get women the vote.

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Rating: 7.8/10 (4 votes cast)

The Chant That Changed The World

Review of Chanakya’s Chant; Ashwin Sanghi; Westland Books; pp 448; Rs 195

– Shana Susan Ninan

If you love history, you’ll love this book. If you love controversial protagonists, you’ll love it. And, if you love a fast-paced, intriguing and well-plotted novel, you’ll cherish it. Ashwin Sanghi’s Chanakya’s Chant takes you on a journey across two time zones, the link being the chant which Chanakya had inscribed around 2,300 years ago.

History knows him as Chandragupta Maurya’s mentor and Magadha’s political strategist. He used the alliances and fall-outs between various kings as well as Alexander the Great to move his pieces on the board. This fiction thriller goes deeper into this Brahmin’s childhood and past, analyzing how and why he became the person he was. Simultaneously, Sanghi takes us to the present day, where Pandit Gangasagar Mishra, a lowly Kanpur Brahmin boy discovers the Chanakya’s chant and uses it to scheme up games in the Indian political scenario. You can say he’s a reincarnation of Chanakya, but more cunning and crooked to the point where he has no accepted morals and will do anything and everything to achieve his goals. People are like pawns on his chess board, just mere tokens whose lives are his to be decided.

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Rating: 7.8/10 (21 votes cast)

Patching Up The Predicaments

Ruso and the Root of all Evils; Ruth S. Downie; Penguin; pp: 448; Rs350

– Shana Susan Ninan

Ruth S. Downie spins a fascinating tale in her third Medicus thriller, Ruso and the Root of all Evils that was released in April this year. Her first book featuring Roman medic Gaius Petreius Ruso was published in 2006. The first two in the series are Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls and Ruso and the Demented Doctor.

In Ruso and the Root of all Evil, Gaius Petreius Ruso is a surgeon with the Army, and lives in Roman-occupied Britain. His home, though, occupied by the rest of his family, is in Gaul, South France. Confusion clouds his mind when a letter summons him homeward. A small injury is his reason for a long leave from the legions, and he travels home with his housekeeper-lover-guide Tilla, a British barbarian in the eyes of others.

Home’s waiting for him; but with all the bad news he can take!

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Rating: 8.2/10 (6 votes cast)