Tuesday, 31 May 2016


Please note that the author is offering a signed copy! Please leave a comment below
if you would like to win. To be drawn on Wednesday 8th June

Mary Kelly lies dead upon her bed... Her sorrowful eyes still hold captive, the agony of her fate. Anger, and fear walk side by side as the populace of London demand justice for the slain. Is it a single mad man or is there a bloody political game being played out in the grime filled streets of the old City? The authorities are powerless to stop the bloodletting and call for a new kind of law. William Harkness, former officer of the 66th Regiment of Foot will join the hunt. His task is not to bring an insane killer to court, his hands are not tied by the laws of the day. 
William Harkness is the killer of killers, the assassin of evil...

I have long held a fascination for the Jack the Ripper tale; gruesome as it is, its the mystery that surrounds the deaths of at least five women, that grip me, and the fact that the identity of the killer is still unknown. Its a tale that has spawned many a theory as to who the killer was and why these women were killed. Conspiracy theories abound, but the fact remains, no one has ever been able to prove beyond a doubt who and why these women were killed. The dark, dirty streets and alleys of Victorian East London, are conjured whenever anyone speaks Jack the Ripper's name, keeping the macabre interest in these murders alive, even more than a hundred years after they happened. 

When I heard that Mr Southworth was writing a thriller, based on the Ripper, I was excited to download my copy, expecting dark alleys, foggy black nights, dirty streets filled with urchins, and carriages with mysterious gentlemen lurking inside, ready to lure a woman into its evil interior. And happily, I am pleased to report, that's pretty much what I got. 

The author starts off by describing the depravity of London and the origins of the Robert Peel's Metropolitan Police, and then we view the first murder through the eyes of a little stray dog, who stumbles upon the murder taking place. The author cleverly shows the reader what the dog sees. He doesn't understand it, but through his senses, it smells blood - and danger - and flees, terrified, into the night.
The dog watched as the blade went to work. What was once an attractive woman was turned into mere lumps of flesh. Then at last the shadowy figure ceased its butchery and after carefully wrapping each bloodied remnants of its victim, walked towards the door. The dog shook violently and whimpered with fear. The figure stopped and looked at the wretched beast and then stretched out a hand. Two tender pats to the head were delivered.
"Good dog," whispered the figure, and then the shadow walked away. 

Southworth's central character is a war hero, Captain Harkness, a young soldier who was injured in Afghanistan, saving the life of a young private. He returns to England to recoup and some years later, he is sought out by Inspector Abberline, mainly for his reputation, and Harkness is given full licence to seek out the Ripper and exterminate him. William Harkness, turns out to be a regular customer of poor Mary Kelly, whom we know received the most horrific treatment from the Ripper, in her own home. Shocked and horrified by Mary's horrendous death, Harkness agrees to Abberline's  proposal. He wants to get the man who killed her, and was killing all the others.

Harkness is a brooding hero. He has seen and experienced terrible things as a soldier, which makes him a good candidate for the man to lead the task force against the Ripper, and if there are more in league with the Ripper, his gang. Southworth's hero is a deep character, with a dark side as most broody heroes have, and he soon forms his own force, with men from both the police force and his past as a soldier. We get to know the characters and we are interested in them. One gets the feeling that we will get to know more about them in the second and third books.

Mr Southworth is not afraid to write bloody scenes, however he cleverly crafts his words to create a picture of the event without using graphic images of gore and blood. He is able, with great subtlety, create the brutality of murder, with little words needed, but still managing to conjure an appropriate atmosphere, that clings to the pages like a dark mist. Less is more, in this case, and its perfect.

Also interwoven into the story of this hunt for the killer Ripper, is the story of Harkness' lost love, and the difficult relationship he has with his father. There was one particular scene where I was close to tears, urging William on in my head to do take the olive branch. The beauty of this book is that it is has a great plot, even if the author has taken liberties with the facts, its appropriate and fits in nicely with the events of the time. It also has a nice little subplot, with William's father and an old girlfriend of his, adding depth to William's persona. I also enjoy the other characters, especially Obadiah, who has known William, been in his father's service, for years.

Mr Southworth has done an excellent job crafting this book. It has an authentic feel and he uses the language of the time so that the dialogue feels authentic too. The book starts a little higgledy-piggledy with the time line, but once into the meat of the story, it develops fast, leaving this reader wanting more as I finally force myself to close my kindle for bedtime. The ending is a crescendo, with a plot twist that makes you bite your nails. Some people are not always who one might think they are and the ending finishes in such a way that paves the road for the next book, which i can't wait to read. This book compares favourable to that excellent Ripper Street series, and would also make a brilliant TV series too.
I would recommend this book to those who love late Victorian thrillers and crime stories and also to anyone who likes a great yarn. Its mighty good!


Robert Southworth comes from a sleepy little town in the centre of England, called Nuneaton. I have spent most of his life there apart from  a few years. Essentially a family man at heart, writing gives him the opportunity to spend quality time with his wife and children. Before he became an author he had tried his hands at many professions. For a brief time he was in the army, serving in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Then he tried his hand at engineering and finally retail management. Eventually, redundancy called and he decided to devote his time to writing, which was soon to become his new occupation, thanks to his wife who encouraged him to take up the mantle of an author. Currently he has five novels completed, the last of which is 'The Reaper's Breath', which is the first novel in a series of three.  The series is set in Victorian London, and centres on the infamous Jack the Ripper. 

To read more about Robert and his projects, go to 
his Website ,
follow him on Twitter 
and join him on Facebook

Wednesday, 4 May 2016


War clouds are gathering. After the last year’s defeat of the invasion of their Northern Holdings, the Taleeli Empire now has the justification to once again carry the flame of war south to their shadowed rival, the realm of Acaross. To her subject peoples, who endured both the invasion and the treacherous misrule of the ousted Dominar Sligo, the strength of Taleel no longer looks as sure as once it was. Questions regarding the fate of Commander Kaziviere and the nature of the dark god of Acaross remain. Seeking answers the Sun Shard wielder Tuan Blackstone, his comrade Bronic, the Flinter Klesh and Kaziviere’s lover Tamzine, journey eastward to find the missing Taleeli commander Kaziviere, who, after encountering the dark god of Acaross, finds himself transported into the heart of that shadowy realm. 
   As war between Acaross and Taleel draws ever nearer Kaziviere discovers the horrific nature of the Messiah of Shadows and his monstrous children, The Dead Gods. Meanwhile, northward across the Hailthorn Mountains, with the knowledge of black powder alchemy now at their disposal, do the Flint Folk seek to end their exile and take back the lands that once were theirs?

***** Please note the author is kindly giving away a signed copy *****
To enter leave a comment below
winner to be drawn 11th May

Commander Kaziviere

Well, as you can see by the above, this book has many threads woven into its pages. The Dead Gods is book 2 in the Flint and Steel, Fire and Shadow series, and follows on from the first book, The Sun Shard, and starting where it left off. This book is based on the cyberpunk subgenre, clockpunk, which portrays a sort of renaissance era technology, which we see throughout the novel. However there are other elements in there, such as the Anglo-Saxon-style society which is ruled by a  Khan, and holds sway in the Cheama lands and refers to ‘thegns’ and 'huscarles'. So we have a mixture of muskets, spears and axes and also the stoneage  Neanderthal flint folk, wary of the ‘flat-faces’, and the guardians of the sun shards. All these different cultures are thrown into what is this huge melting pot, and each have their own roles to play in the war that threatens to destroy them all.

   What I loved most about this series is the way the characters are developing and the world Bayliss is building. There are many characters who play in the story of The Dead Gods, and the reader gets to know each of them. their strengths, weaknesses, their foibles and their desires. Bayliss' talent for showing depth to his characters by transporting their thoughts, albeit in the third person, to the reader, helps this process and by the end of the second book, I felt that I had more of a handle on them than the first. The world in which they inhabit is as rich in its diversity, as it is in its terrain, and physical characteristics, with vivid descriptions of the lands in the narrative.
   The narrative is cleverly written and although the author sometimes swings from one point of view to another, his technique in using thought in the third person, written in Italics, makes those switches readable, though there is one particular chapter where the head-hopping is really jarring; but, because Bayliss is capable of writing such wonderful prose, so poetic and lyrical in its form, and he creates such vivid scenes, I can forgive him anything.   
The Tower had looked impressive from a distance, but it had merged with the rock of surrounding cliffs, but now its scale was apparent to the travelling companions. Its dizzying heights caused their heads to swim as they looked up, its uppermost reaches lost in the realm of birds and clouds.

   When I read, I like to feel that I can get into the mind of the characters. The main protagonist is Kaziviere, and in the first book, The Sun Shard, he is a hard-hearted, racist commander; devoid of compassion for the Turanesci warriors, who are forced, as second class citizens, to fight under his command, for an evil Dominar. He even cuts out the tongue of one of them, so cruel is his nature. By the end of the book, he has been affected by his experiences, and the humanity that has been obviously lurking beneath his harsh exterior, is brought to the surface, helped in this metamorphosis by his love for the 'Razoress', Turanesci tribeswoman, Tamzine. He is a much changed man, and i have gone from disliking this cruel man, to rooting for him. In The Dead Gods, he has no time to enjoy his new found tender nature with his lover, Tamzine, for he has been thrust into another world, by the Dark Magic of the Accarossian God and has to find a way to escape his fate, to forever be told that he is no longer who he was, but the gladiator, Gutspiller, forced to fight disgusting monsters in a blood soaked arena. 
   As I've mentioned, there are many characters to enjoy in this book and another favourite is Tamzine. . She’s feisty, and she fights with two scimitars. I can hear them whizz, every time she uses them. And, she isn’t afraid to stand her ground and takes no BS from anyone – man or beast. 
“My company is with whom I choose it to be, Taleeli. Sit back down now. I would not wish to bloody my sword so soon after cleaning it, or abuse your captain’s hospitality with your life, “ Tamzine replied, still whetting her sword and keeping her back to the man. 
   She is known as the 'Razoress'.  If I had to be anyone in this book, I would want to be her. 
   I have followed Mr Bayliss' career over the last few years, apart from his fantasy novels, he has written a book of short stories and has had his work published in a book called Felinity and also a book of poems. Over these years, I've watched his talent grow and some of his shining moments have been his work on his blog, Rob's Ramblings, utter, utter brilliance. In The Dead Gods, Mr Bayliss has come into his own. His words leap off the page in a fanfare of description, so that a picture is spread before you as his prose plucks at your imagination like a virtuoso.
The Grand Mage stepped forward to join the inquisitor, speaking in a commanding voice, “Neshaduk Grematadi! Silence!” The torches blazed back to life, driving back the shadows that had crept across the walls of the chamber, like the tentacles of some foul beast of the deepest abyss. The screaming ceased but the head, now dry as a mummified relic, still showed jet black eyes. Its mouth opened and closed, cracking at the corners, the blackening tongue lolling.“Enough! Fire consume you!” the Grand Mage exclaimed. The head flared into flames behind the glass. The fire quickly consumed what was once flesh and bone. It disintegrated like paper, falling in on itself. 
   If you like fantasy with historical elements, in this book, Bayliss has created an amazing world, with monsters, ghoulies, giant spiders and magician - not to mention the dark world of the Dead Gods; a plague that swallows anything in its path and warriors who fight to restore sanity to a world seeped in chaos and malevolence. I wholly recommend this book, for those who simply love reading and like their prose to blow you away in a poetic, lyrical musical stylee, this is definitely for you.

    About the Author

Rob Bayliss has always read and enjoyed an eclectic mix of fantasy, historical fiction and sci-fi. Growing up in the West Country countryside the worlds of Tolkien and others came alive during long walks in the woods; a hobby which he still enjoys! After having a vivid dream, and eager to know what happened next, he felt the need to write it down. The world of Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow was born. As well as writing Rob is also a reviewer, contributor and admin of The Review.
You can purchase Rob's book, The Dead Gods here
and you can learn more about his ramblings on his blog Rob's Ramblings.