Wow, I figured books were released throughout North America on the same date. Go figure. I think Abercrombie's one of the most exciting things going in fantasy right now. I love his style. The dialogue flows naturally, the characters are all seriously flawed and as believable as a charcter in fantsy can be, and he can be downright hilarious. I'm really looking forward to reading The Heroes. That axe cover is way cooler than my dinky American version too.
Just finishing up "The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters". Good book about 3 people thrown together and teaming up against a powerful cabal in a Victorian era/England-but-not fantasy world. I'd really recommend it, and thought I'd heard about it here but can't find any posts on it (perhaps my google-fu is weak).
Must have been on some other site I lurk about at and never post.
This book is so fun! It is one of the greatest high adventure books I've read.
My advice: DO NOT READ THE NEXT BOOK!
While there are a couple good action sequences, Dark Volume is just a disappointing mess. Everything that made the first book great is missing. I won't go too heavily into it in case you don't believe me, because the numerous points where you are angry at the book are the only things that actually illicit an emotional response.
Went to Rochester (UK) this Sunday and came under the spell of the castle and its siege in 1215. King John took the castle after a furious siege which included mining the outer wall and a tower of the keep. And even that didn't settle the contest. The defenders only surrender a week later when food ran out.
This led us to the rather unknown first Barons' War where John defended his rule against a rebellion by 2/3rds of his vassals, combined with Scotland and France. And all this happened after John had signed the Magna Carta (which surprised me), although half-heartedly.
Also, it turned out that John had his enemies largely beat by the time of his sudden death late in 1216.
Picked up Turner's King John, the evil king? as well as Carpenter's the Struggle for Mastery 1066-1284 at Gatwick on the way back. This is proving fascinating reading. SO far I'm learning about John's early life and administration of England and the French possesions (basically Western France from Normandy to the Pyrenees).
The Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: the Middle Ages has a few pages with great maps showing the conflict and Hillaire Belloc's Warfare in England provides some brilliant insights in the geographical importance of royal castles such as Windsor and Dover.
All this makes for a great game, as the whole things is finely ballanced between John's control of strategic castles and highly trained and mobile army against a host of enemies which are in the end mostly a result of him being an utter prick. His death may even have saved England from French domination as John's young son Henry (III) was a much more agreeable monarch than French Louis.
So UK Fatties: make sure to visit Rochester (take Chatham Docks in one sweep).
Another tip is Lewes, which also has a nice castle and sets the scene for the first battle in that other Barons' War. Oh, I could talk about this for hours!