A nice review for you today, in that it comes out of the blue and not as part of my ‘leaning tower of reading matter’. You see, I have a set pile of books I’m working through in an order, and occasionally a book comes up that I really fancy or by a writer that I love, and I shuffle it to the top. But in addition to that, I have a tendency to ‘palate cleansers’. When I’ve been nose-deep in four or five serious historical works in a row, I like to interrupt the dangerously towering pile with something short and light and pleasant. Early on I used to have to spend a day trawling through the various shorts out there, deciding what to stack up as potential palate cleansers. Then, courtesy of Robin Carter of Parmenion Books I found a source of the perfect shorts to tap regularly.
Robin is a huge fan of the writer Christian Cameron (and I can understand why.) His ancient Greek epics include God of War about Alexander the Great, the Tyrant series, the Long War series, and he is now foraying into the high Medieval period, with his upcoming novel: The Ill-Made Knight. I’ve read a few of his classical tales and they are incredibly deep in content, bold in scope and well-written. They are not – I will hasten to point out – light reads and belong with the powerful Historical Fiction works of Ben Kane, Robyn Young, Manda Scott and their ilk. So when Robin started making appreciative noises about a set of short stories written by Cameron I wondered how easily his epic narrative style could possibly translate into shorts.
And so, at an appropriate palate cleansing moment in my reading, I downloaded and read the first part of Tom Swan and the Head of Saint George.
And since then, any time I need a palate cleanser, I just check online and see whether another part is out yet! I’ve now read parts 1-5 and part 6 is due out in two days, just in time to fit in my book pile yet again.
Set aside Cameron’s other works for this moment (and this moment only, as I would also urge you to pay attention to his Greek epics too) and I will concentrate on Tom Swan.
In truth, this isn’t so much a set of short stories, as one long story, told in episodes, like the old television serializations. Remember Flash Gordon (in black and white)? The Lone Ranger? Well add Tom Swan in that list and you won’t go far wrong. In style it is a classic adventure serial, with each episode leaving the reader saying ‘Damn! What next?’ and waiting for part x to emerge from the virtual quill.
Tom Swan is set in the mid 15th century (in a time and in locations not a great deal removed from those in which I am currently writing). The tale follows a young Englishman of dubious (illegitimate) noble heritage as he finds himself on the losing side on a French battlefield and through a series of strange fortunes and misadventures, finds himself employed by a Cardinal from Constantinople in the very year that great city is destined to fall to the Turk, exploring the known world, swashing his buckle, kissing princesses, defending fortresses, stealing treasures and spying for governments.
Tom Swan is something of an Indiana Jones of the later Middle Ages.
The tales are told with the sheer depth of knowledge that Cameron displays in his more epic works, but also with a lightness of heart and spirit and a sheer love of adventure that carries the reader along with him to each cliffhanger, making him feel like that young child watching the TV and wondering how Flash was going to escape next week.
Each book is only 99p ($1.55) on Kindle (these are an electronic book only, by the way) and I think you really can’t lose spending that paltry pittance on part one HERE for Amazon UK and HERE for Amazon.com just to see if you like it.
I think you will.