Friday, 12 June 2015

Alaric Reviews: The Wessex Turncoat

The Wessex Turncoat by Michael E. Wills
– A review by very humbled Alaric Longward -

See below to find how you could win a FREE SIGNED COPY of 
The Wessex Turncoat!
Drawing June 19
The drawing has been held and a winner announced at Facebook.
Please see new reviews for more chances!

hen you submit a manuscript to an agent or just publish it for the joy of the audience you know those first pages had better impress. And that leads to the inquiry, "What is impressive?"

Is it teasing bits of plot being revealed? A husband climbing a rickety chair, while his wife is watching, holding a noose ready for him? Or a cavalcade of evil knights chasing down a barefooted dwarf? Possibly. I am sure something like this would immediately get the reader guessing and turning pages.

But there are other ways to get you hooked.

I appreciate a slow start. Heck, I do that as well in mine. I simply and greatly enjoy being slowly and subtly immersed into a world of past times, and The Wessex Turncoat does a superb job at that. I enjoy a novel that paints you a picture so vivid, you imagine being there. In this book you open the first page and enter the story of a very ordinary young man with a very ordinary life. It is not an account of scheming nobles or struggling queens. It relates events in the lives of working class men and by gods, it is well told. What we as readers often do not seem to grasp is that great tales grow from the most common lives led by the most plain men and women on earth. They eat simply, dress modestly, speak as well as their education allows and smell of smoke and manure. And so, here we have Aaron Mew, a craftsman’s naïve apprentice who will end up a deserter in America, a father and a very different man from the boy on the first page. He surely is no genius. He is sturdy and reliable, though with the familiar weaknesses we all recognize in ourselves.

What we dive into just makes you want to take a soft seat in a silent part of the house, with a cat prowling the corners and the clock ticking away, unheeded. Just as I loved Henryk Sienkiewicz for his immensely comfortable transition to a past world without any imminent deaths and sorrows, I liked the simple beginning and calm style throughout The Wessex Turncoat. I can’t stress enough how much I loved the expertise and the countless research hours put into each and every page, as well as the quality of the dialogue of working class soldiers, so I thank the author for teaching me a host of new words from the past. Serjeant was the first of them. I enjoyed the writing style and found very few errors and issues with editing.

This novel is quite straightforward and I will not go into the details to spare you most of the spoilers. A young man called Aaron Mew gets to see the world after his naiveté and plain inexperience leads him astray. He is cheated, robbed, clobbered and in the end, finds himself in the king’s colors and taking part in the doomed attempt to put down the American Revolution.

If I must find something to growl about, then perhaps a bit of intrigue might have kept us guessing. We would have loved a bit of betrayal and a worthy, desperate cause to make young Master Mew a believer in something. He finds himself schooled by a brutal sergeant, hated by a host of unkind personalities of various ranks, and is befriended by a very practical lot of scoundrels. The characters are fairly easy to understand; you have seen them all previously.

This is not all bad, of course. I love the characters. All are well crafted, even if I have known them for decades. Rev is the obvious favorite in the company; his cool head, and practical nature is instantly likeable. Kemp is the bad seed, but also the simplest of the many tests that Aaron has to pass in order to grow into his boots. The hardships of the revolution did give me some new revelations, as did the battle, even if I have delved into the era quite a bit. Also, the ending is enjoyable. While the 62nd Regiment is mauled terribly in the main event, there is an opportunity hidden there for Mew and in the end, he takes it. There is a woman involved, of course, and we get to enjoy the simple human fact that from hardship grows life.

I would definitely recommend this to any lover of historical fiction and look forward to reading more from the author. With the level of research he seems to engage in, I should not hold my breath for a book to appear in my Kindle any time soon, perhaps, but I will definitely read anything he types out.

Author Michael Wills has so generously offered a FREE SIGNED COPY of The Wessex Turncoat for one lucky winner of our drawing. To get your name into the draw, simply comment below or at this review's Facebook thread, located here.

About the Author

Michael Wills was born in Newport on the Isle of Wight and attended the Priory Boys’ School and later Carisbrooke Grammar. He trained as a teacher at St. Peter’s College, Birmingham, before teaching mathematics and physical education for two years at a secondary school in Kent.

After re-training to become a teacher of English as a Foreign Language he worked in Sweden for thirteen years. During this period he had published several English language course books. In 1979 he returned to U.K. with his wife and young family to start a language school, the Salisbury School of English.

Currently, Michael is employed part-time as Ombudsman for English U.K., the national association of English language course providers. He divides his spare time between enjoying his grandchildren, writing, carpentry, amateur radio and sailing.

He has had a life-long interest in history and was able to indulge this interest by doing academic and field research for his third historic novel, The Wessex Turncoat. He traced and then followed the route of the 62nd Regiment of Foot from Britain in 1775, through the tragic conflict which was the American War of Independence.

Read more about Michael Wills and his novels at FacebookTwitter and his website


Alaric Longward is a dad, a husband and an aspiring writer who creates fiction, fantasy adventure and drama. You can find more about him and his books at his official pages and his Amazon author page.


  1. I love reading about our Revolution and to me the ordinary can be incredibly fascinating. I would love to read this book.

  2. Yes Lisl, as I did research for the book I became more and more aware of the truth in the axiom that politicians start wars and ordinary men have to fight them, even against hopeless odds. Yet it is the generals and the battles which are remembered not the common man.

  3. Very good book, would recommend it highly....cracking review Alaric

  4. I'd love to have a read of this book :)

  5. This sounds really good, I would love a copy. Excellent review too.