Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Rob Reveals His Choice for Book of the Month

The Review's Book of the Month for May goes to...

When I was asked to pick my Book of the Month I have to admit I was somewhat stumped. True I’ve read lots of brilliant books, many meeting the indie criteria, since I’ve been a contributor to The Review. I had a few books in mind but I wanted to feature something different, something not yet on our blog-page’s bookshelves. The following points are what I look for when choosing a Book of the Month:

To be well written and have an interesting style
Good characterisation
Good plot development
A good degree of research and authenticity
Emotional empathy - to feel involved in the book

Funnily enough it was while going through the preview process that I found what I was looking for. I read the sample and approved it, secretly hoping that I could review it myself (which I later did!). I instantly liked the author’s style and prose and looked at other titles he had written. And it was there that I saw a title and read the blurb and wondered if I had stumbled upon the book that I wanted. I quickly purchased it and put it on my Kindle. Well I’m happy to say that yes it was.

Let me first take you back 40 years to 1975. I was eight years old and at primary school. I used to read and collect Asterix books and absolutely loved them, although I was a little young to fully appreciate the witty puns of the English translation. I loved the art and the stories and it featured Romans and Gauls, so I always had an interest in the ancient. Then our school started a book club whereby you could order books to read. I remember buying a book on ghosts, a book of Maildun the Voyager and another that had a profound effect on me. That book was Dragon Slayer by none other than Rosemary Sutcliff, which still has pride of place on my bookshelf. I admit I was first drawn to the striking cover by Charles Keeping. But reading the book was like coming home because, you see,

it was the story of Beowulf. And so I learned about Geats, King Hrothgar, Heorot the Hart and of course Grendel.

I then learned that it was based upon an old poem, one of the few surviving pre-conquest tales of our forebears. I urge everyone to read some of the wonderful translations and have a go reading the original. You can see root words in the Old English, familiar yet strange, yet spoken aloud they stir your blood and touch your soul. Hear them and imagine being gathered in a hall, the winter wind howling outside, the fire casting monstrous shadows that writhe on the walls, while the skald tells his tale for his meal, each telling no doubt a little different to suit his audience. A tale of heroes, monsters and blood. Children cling to their parents while the adults smile reassuringly and yet look furtively at the door; was it strongly barred?

My reading later went on to avidly consume the books of Tolkien and other authors of fantasy, but that isn't surprising as the seam of Beowulf runs through it; Tolkien was of course a professor of Anglo-Saxon. And in Beowulf, with Grendel the troll, we have a template for future works of fantasy.

So it will therefore come as no surprise that my choice for Book of the Month would feature a certain Beowulf Ecgtheowson, the first of a trilogy in fact. 

Beowulf the poem was never meant to be read, it would have been performed by an animated story teller and this book reflects that vibrancy. The author's style effortlessly draws you in and we see the character of  Beowulf develop from childhood and through adolescence. We know where this tale will take us and yet we become privileged to see how he came to be a leader of men on his own right and join him on his journey. The world which he inhabits is skillfully brought to life, the peoples and landscapes eloquently described.

There is humour, treachery, honour, murder and war, yet these are heroic times and the old gods walk among their followers. And that is where this book takes the reader beyond what would be loosely described as historical fiction, for in this book, with Beowulf as your guide, you will actually meet Woden. But reader, I beseech you, have a care, the All Father's favour can easily be withdrawn; this you will understand.

It is my absolute pleasure to announce my Book of the Month is Sorrow Hill: Sword of Woden Volume I  by C.R. May.

Don’t wander too far from the hall: the-death-that-stalks-by-night lurks in the shadows and you wouldn't want to miss the review, would you?


C.R. May was born in Bow, East London before his family moved to South Ockendon, Essex. After hearing that Ockendon translated as Wocca's Hill in Saxon, a lifelong passion in history was kindled, which has taken him from Berlin to the site of the battle of Little Big Horn (via Erik the Red's Icelandic hall!). The influx of Germanic adventurers was recorded in the place names around him and, inspired one day, he decided to weave his own stories into this history. You can read and discover more information at his blog and the author may be found at Facebook


Rob Bayliss is a reviewer at The Review and is currently writing his own fantasy series. Information on his writing projects can be found at Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow.


  1. Fantastic cover. This book sounds like a brilliant read. Great pick, Rob!

  2. Great stuff. This is already on my TBR pile. Looks fabulous.

  3. Looks like a great read, one my beloved hubby would read too.

  4. I already have this book, and I am thrilled that Rob has chosen it for his Book of the Month Award!

  5. Fabulous cover - makes me want to open the book and start reading right away.

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone. On Saturday the review of Sorrow Hill goes live, but the Book of the Month Award event doesn't end there, oh no! Next week I will discuss the book with its author, Clifford May, over a horn or two of mead, and later we will have a guest post from the man himself.

  7. I love the cover!and books about Beowulf too!

  8. count me in ...looks interesting

  9. Sharon Connolly23 May 2015 at 11:48

    Sounds like an interesting read