Excerpt & Giveaway: The Saxon Spears by James Calbraith

The Saxon Spears by James Calbraith

Publication Date: December 11, 2019
Flying Squid
Paperback & eBook; 481 Pages

Series: The Song of Ash, Book 1
Genre: Historical Fiction

The old world is burning down
A hero will rise from its ASH.

Thirty years have passed since Britannia voted to throw off the Roman yoke. Now, the old world crumbles.

Pirates roam the seas, bandits threaten the highways, and barbarian refugees land at Britannia's shores, uninvited. The rich profit from the chaos, while the poor suffer. A new Dark Age is approaching - but all is not lost.

Ash is a Seaborn, a Saxon child found on the beach with nothing but a precious stone at his neck and a memory of a distant war from which his people have fled. Raised on the estate of a Briton nobleman, trained in warfare and ancient knowledge, he soon becomes embroiled in the machinations and intrigues at the court of Wortigern, the Dux of Londinium, a struggle that is about to determine the future of all Britannia.

A child of Saxon blood, an heir to Roman family, his is a destiny like no other: to join the two races and forge a new world from the ruins of the old.

The Saxon Spears is the first volume of the Song of Ash saga, perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell's "The Last Kingdom" series, Simon Scarrow and Conn Iggulden.



"Fast paced and full of energy." --Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the Shadows of the Apt

"James Calbraith's writing is reminiscent of a classic, epic fantasy -immersive, and detailed to the letter. The real-world cultures he draws from are incredibly well-researched and truthful, and yet well-balanced with the fantasy elements he sprinkles in between. An intriguing and impressive series." --Ben Galley, author of the Emaneska Series

"This manuscript is full of highly crafted detail that will make readers shiver at times with fear and delight. (...) a familiar yet highly original fantasy that is a worthwhile read."--Publisher's Weekly

"Calbraith weaves a story that is wholly original while following the traditional fantasy tropes." - eFiction Steampunk

"The detail and intricacy of the writing is impressive. With inclusion of races and histories, it almost reminds me of Tolkien - in Asia." - YA Book Bridges review


We’re playing “A Battle on the Saxon Shore”; and it’s true, I always get selected to the team of the vicious fair-haired sea pirates, invading a fortress manned by Roman soldiers. Gleva himself sports an unruly, straw-coloured mane, a mark of some Saxon blood mixed with Briton in his veins. But the other five have brown or black hair and dark eyes, so the argument doesn’t hold. Nevertheless, Gleva is the tallest and strongest of us all — though not the oldest — and his word is final. The captain of the Romans gives up and waves with resignation at the lonely boy.

“Fine. Master Fastid, if you please.”

The boy raises his head and shuffles over, trying his best to look eager. His full name is Fastidius, but nobody bothers to pronounce all of it. Only the nobles living in the domus have the time to use names that long. I feel pity both for him and for the captain of his team. Fastidius doesn’t care for victory, he’s only here because he likes to spend time with the other children whenever he can — and it doesn’t happen too often.

Fastidius is the closest I have to a brother. He is Master Pascent’s only child — the only child he and his wife would ever have. The difficulty of his birth had rendered Lady Adelheid barren. He is weak of health and frail of frame, shorter and lighter even than Eadgith, the bladesmith’s daughter, the only girl we allow in our games. But his intellect towers over any of us. He spends most of his days studying under Father Paulinus.

They say he himself might one day become a priest. I respect him for it: he can already read entire books, while I barely know enough letters to decipher the sign above the villa’s entrance: ARIMINVM. But intellect alone is of no use in battle — at least not one as chaotic as the one about to erupt at the game field.

Gleva hands me my weapon — an aspen stick about a foot long — and the shield, goat hide stitched to a round wicker frame. One side of the stick had its bark removed, to show where the blade would be on a real Saxon sword.

Our opponents are armed with longer sticks, stripped of bark on both sides, and massive oval shields, unwieldy but strong, reinforced with lime wood boards. The shields make even Fastidius — I see he’s discussing something with his captain, agitatedly — look suitably impressive, but then, they represent the valiant Legions of the Empire, the finest fighting force in the world… or so we’ve been taught to believe.

The wall of their “fortress” is marked with sacks of sand. We, the Saxons, are only allowed to charge through one of the three openings in the “wall”, since the pirates in the stories never used siege weapons. There’s no place for tactics here — strength of arms will be enough to resolve the conflict, and there’s a lot more of it on our side of the field. Apart from me and Gleva there’s Fat Banna and Big Sulio, who work in the domus kitchen; Map, the master carpenter’s oldest; Waerla, the pig shepherd, and Vatto, the gardener’s hand. Each of us is larger and stronger than any of the “Romans” facing us across the rectangle of dried grass.

We all sense this isn’t as it should be. We know the history of this conflict, from the stories told by our elders: the Legions successfully defended the coast for centuries, until one day, for reasons none of us, except perhaps Fastidius, understands, the Roman soldiers left. But as long as they manned the forts, the pirates never stood a chance of penetrating inland. And yet in our pretend battles, we, the “Saxons”, win almost every time. There’s something ominous about it all, but I have no time to ponder. Gleva orders us forward.

I let out a wild yell, raise the aspen sword over my head and charge across the field.

About the Author

James Calbraith is a Poland-born British writer, foodie and traveller.

Growing up in communist Poland on a diet of powdered milk, Lord of the Rings and soviet science-fiction, he had his first story published at the ripe age of eight. After years of bouncing around Polish universities, he moved to London in 2007 and started writing in English. His debut historical fantasy novel, "The Shadow of Black Wings", has reached ABNA semi-finals. It was published in July 2012 and hit the Historical Fantasy and Alternate History bestseller lists on Amazon US & UK.

Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 24
Review at Donna's Book Blog

Tuesday, February 25
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, February 26
Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Thursday, February 27
Review at Broken Teepee

Friday, February 28
Review at Books and Zebras

Saturday, February 29
Excerpt at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Monday, March 2
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Tuesday, March 3
Review at Jessica Belmont

Wednesday, March 4
Review at Historical Graffiti

Thursday, March 5
Excerpt at Carole Rae's Random Ramblings

Friday, March 6
Review at YA, It's Lit


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of The Saxon Spears! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on March 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

The Saxon Spears

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