The Powder of Death: ‘a thrillingly entertaining story’
Once a manuscript goes off to the publisher the wait begins. When will I know whether my editor and agent like the book? Will structural adjustments or other major changes be required? How will early reviewers rate the book? I am lucky in my publisher Allison and Busby – they have great respect for an author’s vision and writing style. Of course they will speak up if they feel the manuscript needs serious work but I was delighted to hear this back about The Powder of Death from Susie Dunlop, Publishing Director at Allison and Busby: ‘Such a fantastic tale! Such a well-crafted novel, cleverly marrying history and adventure …The historical accuracy makes it engaging and memorable, and yet the characters feel as real and accessible as if they were part of our modern world.’
I was also chuffed to be given an early peek at a major review coming out in Quarterdeck magazine, August/September issue. It’s reprinted below, followed by another review, from FIRE online.
‘Gunpowder was invented in China during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) but it was not until the Mongol conquests in the thirteenth century that awareness of it spread to the Old World. (Africa, Europe and Asia). How the black powder, the earliest known chemical explosive, eventually reached England has been lost to history. It was this thread that inspired Julian Stockwin to create The Powder of Death, the second title in his GameChangers: Moments of History Series, which engages memorable fictional characters with marked turning points in the past. By 1261, the secret of the deadly powder was known to Oxford scholar Roger Bacon and his friend, Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer William of Rubruck. The colleagues vowed to remain silent about what they rightly perceived to be a terrible threat to mankind.
The Powder of Death picks up in 1287, the fifteenth year of the reign of King Edward I, when Jared of Hurnwych, a young English blacksmith suffers unbearable tragedy. Tormented by heartbreak, he embarks on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land ‘until the remembrances had finally quite faded.’ On a voyage to Venice, Jared encounters Sir Nicholas Gayne, who bids him to join the Knights Hospitallers as the blacksmith for King Edward’s holy crusade. At the siege of Acre, the Crusaders and the city fall to the Saracens, and he is imprisoned. In a fateful move, Jared is sold ‘as a skilled foreign craftsman’ to the Mongols, who take him to Tabriz.
While working in the Mongol capital, ‘a flash and almighty clap of thunder’ expose him to the capacity behind huo yao – the secret powder – for devastation. Although half a world away, Jared dreams about Hurnwych and wreaking vengeance on those who shattered his quiet life.
Closely observing his Mongol captors, he pieces together the formula for the volatile powder. On a warring expedition to Armenian Celicia, the Mongols are defeated, and Jared is liberated by Knights
Hospitallers, who are Christian allies of the Celicians. Months later, he returns to Hurnwych, carrying the mystery of huo yao.
What will Jared do with his knowledge? Sensing a ‘divine charge,’ he ventures forth on a path that leads him across Europe and, finally, to the Battle of Stanhope Park, County Durham, England, in
1327, during the First War of Scottish Independence.
Julian Stockwin, a master of the historic novel, writes with a zeal, recreating ancient times, with fast-paced prose, vivid characters, and matchless authenticity. Powder smoke and the stench of brimstone waft off the pages.’ – Quarterdeck magazine
‘This new standalone book is very different in many respects [from the Thomas Kydd stories] and has managed to provide a gripping tale of Medieval life with the story of gunpowder. It is a Stockwin page turner that further enhances his reputation. This is not a book to miss, with its thrills and spills, joys and sorrows, another best seller. In this new book, Stockwin has set it against one of a handful of genuinely world changing events. The discovery of gunpowder, and its use mainly as a form of entertainment in the Far East, was perhaps not life changing, but its deployment as a bomb hurled at fortifications was the start of a giant leap forward in military equipment and deployment. Stockwin has cleverly combined several separate European developments in a single story written around the main character. In the process, he has produced a thrillingly entertaining story of depth that also contains a great deal of information about gunpowder and the Medieval development of the gun.
Stockwin has produced a roller coaster ride with the hero facing all sorts of challenges and overcoming them to take forward his belief in the future for gunpowder. There is rich description of village life, life in towns and ports, sea travel and the life of armies at war. The hero travels far and wide in a series of adventures, survives set backs and eventually triumphs. It is a great tale that carries the reader along with it. It is to be hoped that there will be more treats like The Powder of Death yet to come.’ – FIRE Project Reviews
Win the audiobook!
For a chance to win an unabridged audiobook https://wholestoryaudiobooks.co.uk/product/the-powder-of-death of The Powder of Death email email@example.com with the name of the reigning king when the book opens. Please include your full postal address and ‘Audiobook’ in the subject line.
Deadline: August 10.
The Powder of Death will be released in the UK and Europe on August 18, in hardback, ebook and audiobook
It will be available in South Africa in September; Australia and New Zealand on October 1. It can also be purchased via Book Depository, which offers free postage worldwide.
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Edward III: (credit: By William Bruges (1375-1450) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
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