Thursday, 24 April 2014

Emma Reviews: Feud by Derek Birks

Feud by Derek Birks

Feud is one of those books that makes reading (and reviewing) so worthwhile and downright enjoyable.  From the striking cover that hints at what lies within, to the last cliffhanger of a sentence, the reader is taken on an enthralling, action-packed and absolutely riveting adventure.

A violent, emotional and long-standing argument between two land-owning families against the backdrop of the opening era of the Wars of the Roses, Feud gives us an insight to how life must have been. Survival of the fittest - both in mind and body - was the key.  The opening paragraph in this book is where the action starts: no build-up, no hint of what’s coming, just boom!  And the reader is in the thick of it. The author cleverly portrays the transition of the feud from fathers to sons within these opening paragraphs whilst maintaining the constant environment of the war. It is at this point so early on in the novel, that I must say this book is not for the squeamish. The reader is never allowed to forget the era, the trials and tribulations and the constant struggles faced by the characters.

There is a good supporting cast to protagonist and antagonist.  In fact, neither character would have been so real, so believable and so dimensional without the other characters. This was another talent by the author - keeping the characters consistent whilst having their own battles. Not once are they over-played, misplaced or unnecessary. They don’t fade out at all; not once was I left wondering what they were up to as they popped up at the right moments! Each play their own role and there are mini-adventures within the main story and it works. Very well. The only thing I feel may throw a reader in the beginning are the chapters defined by a timeline that jumps back and forth a tad. This does, however, settle down and it becomes easier to understand where you are.

The ‘darker’ characters portray the violence, the lack of conscience and the greed that must have abounded during these times, and the thread that these characters weave throughout the book are what keeps the reader on his toes!

You will find yourself rooting for the good guys (corny, I know, but you will!) at every plot twist and turn. Again, a warning - the tale is written in all its bloody glory and there are war injuries galore. I could almost smell the camp fires, the stench and fear of the armies preparing to fight. The scenes are described with clarity yet not over-described and yes, you really do feel you are there.

The author of Feud, Derek Birks, most certainly shows his knowledge of real battles, weaponry and medieval war plans; it’s almost like he’s had a previous life as a medieval knight.  The author is also very good at conveying the camaraderie of knights together, forging bonds in preparation of the fighting ahead. Medieval soldiers most certainly didn’t need any ‘team bonding exercises’! In this instance, I’m reminded of Helen Hollick’s Harold and Bernard Cornwell’s Uhtred series - whilst the stories are set quite a few hundred years apart, the finite detail of warfare and its horrors are conveyed with aplomb by these authors.

As for the hero, Ned Elder, don’t expect a strikingly handsome ‘knight in shining armour’ winning all and trotting off into the sunset. In fact, ‘hero’ doesn’t really cut it either.  This is a man fighting for survival, his birthright and his kin. He has failures, faults and he is bloodied and wrecked - he is real.  This is what I really enjoyed about the book; even the scenes with Edward IV are written with simplistic style. The reader is made aware that although Edward is obviously a king, with his stature, his charisma and his leadership being more than evident, you are also reminded he is but a young man, with the same fears and worries as Ned. The first scene he is in, when Ned is unaware whom he has come across in the forest, is memorable indeed. It is two young men, ravaged by the what is happening in their land, bouncing their fears and anger off each other. Marvellous writing.

There are also some strong female characters intertwined with the leads.  For lovers of historical fiction, you just know women like this existed; they had to be tougher than the men in many aspects. The Elders are certainly made of strong stuff.

This is a fabulous journey of a book. From the opening scene until the last paragraph, the action never stops. Quite literally. There is an author’s note which I feel adds value to historical fiction, especially when you want to research times, places and battles yourself. If you’re not cheering on Ned Elder in his fights, you’re praying for his family, hiding behind cushions in the battles and despairing when the story takes a turn you didn’t expect or want. The book actually finishes on a cliffhanger; there is no happy ending here just yet and I was very relieved the sequel is already published. And I cannot wait to start it!

Derek Birks can be found at his website, where you can also read about Feud's sequel, A Traitor's Fate.

***Update: There is a free copy up for grabs, so if you'd like to get your name in the hat, simply comment here or on the thread matching this review. Simple as pie!***

If you would like Emma to review your book, please see our submissions tab above. 


  1. Fantastic review, Emma. A definite add to my wish list.

  2. Engrossing review! A book that is already waiting for me to read. Clearly I am going to have to move it closer to the top. Great review Emma!

  3. I so agree with both comments above!! Already in love with the Wars of the Roses era, reading this book is simply a must-do!

  4. Great review - and who doesn't love a realistic hero?

  5. What a lovely surprise to find this great review of Feud! Thank you, Emma and I'm very pleased you enjoyed it. It's a debut book and therefore, I'm sure, flawed in some respects, but I shall strive to get better. A giveaway will materialise shortly!

  6. Well done to Emma for this fantastic review and thank you to Derek for the chance to win a giveaway. I've definitely got my reading teeth in for this one!

  7. I love Bernard Cornwell, so this book is going on my TBR list. Put my name in the hat.