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Reviews and Readers’ Comments

A Collection of Work by Tom Durwood

by Sara Ridley on Life of a Story Teller Book Blog | November 20th, 2017

‘There is such a thing as honorable conduct in war.’

Tom Durwood firmly cements himself as a brilliant storyteller, and an accomplished writer. In his collection of stories, focusing on various aspects of significance and important historical events. Tackling the vastness of the past, Durwood does so with grace and ease, which makes his collection of novels even more enjoyable to read.

One of his novels, in his collection of historical works, is The Colonials. The novel centers on six kids who come from a wealthy background, who admire the American Colonials from afar, at their boarding school. One by one, they are each pulled into a war for equality and liberty, and something they cannot fully understand nor comprehend. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and found myself getting exactly what the back of the book told me- swashbuckling fights, treachery, hidden identities, and assassins.

It made for an entertaining; yet, intriguing read, where I simply found I couldn’t take my eyes away from the page. The American Revolution is widely known to all who have studied history, as one of the greatest global wars of all time. Having known the background of this historic event rather well, I found myself stepping into it for the first time all over again when reading The Colonials. Durwood takes one of history’s greatest events, and retells it through these six wonderful, authentic, and deeply reliable characters, as they discover what it meant to feel heartbreak, revenge, and to learn the truth that the world is not how they once perceive it to be. A wonderful, wonderful read.

Another novel, in Durwood’s collection of historical works ins King James Seventh Company. Centered on a story full of obstacles and time is but a luxury. It begins with a young bookkeeper by the name of Matthias. He is loaned out to none other than the King of England, and discovers that there is far more amiss than his ledgers. King James Seventh Company is an incredible telling of a time when the publication of a new bible comes into being.I must admit, before reading this novel I was concerned I would be swept away by the heavy religious terminology of that time; however, Durwood does an outstanding job.

As someone who is not schooled in this particular historical event, I found that Durwood’s storytelling was not only informative but enlightening. Whilst I found myself intrigued by the events taking place with the Seventh Company, I also found myself drawn towards the account of the Apostle Paul,the man who spread his version of Christianity. Throughout the novel, it became easier and easier to read as there was a commendable balance between the storytelling of such historical events and the development of the characters. A superb recount of such an important and changing time.

The last novel in Durwood’s collection of works is Ulyssess S. Grant in China: And Other Stories. This novel centered on the famous event of the Ulysses S. Grant taking a trip around the world. With a collection of young protagonists like Novella, a smart, resilient girl, who is belittled by her clan, they take on all manners of obstacles set during a range of historical events. Although not my favorite out of the three, due to constant changing historical era’s, I still thoroughly enjoyed this novel. What seemed to draw my attention and love to this was the character of Novella and her dream of having a new life for not only her but the clan, who bullied her about for her appearance. It is a wonderful coming of age story that captures the innocence, yet the strength of the youth. This is a wonderful novel to educate children about the events that took place in our past whilst also giving them authentic and relateable characters to help guide them through the novel and through life.

Durwood creates a strong and informative collection of works that are full of mystery, heartbreak, coming of age, and revenge. An excellent telling of historical events , and a wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable way to bring them back to life to educate not only our youth, but the population of the world that has forgotten aspects of our past.

Do I recommend these novels: Absolutely!

Bookplex Book Reviews

A Rabble of Butterflies

I just finished a very interesting and enjoyable book by a very talented author. King James Seventh Company by Tom Durwood immediately captured my full attention thanks to its subject matter and the author’s polished writing skills.

Tom Durwood’s writing style reminds me of the great Mr. Steinbeck. Who also was a man of fewer words, but thanks to insightful vocabulary his word choices had more dramatic impact. I found that this author created a fun and colorful journey, which included historical characters, some factual and some ingeniously fabricated. All were interacting in creative environments which stirred the wonder and excitement of the adventurous young boy within me. Fiction or nonfiction this story educated and entertained me, page after page.

 

My favorite character being Caiaphas, a man of great responsibility and foresight. He is tasked with observing and documenting historical events with great precision, detail, and diligence. Risking his life to record and then conceal the powerful historical journals for decades. In my eyes, he is a real hero and a man’s man through and through. I would like to express my satisfaction with the quality proof and editing which enhanced an excellent writer with a great story. Sadly, I feel that the cover art would not have entice the young explorer in me to select this book. Thank goodness, my grown-up self has progressed past judging a book by its cover or I would have missed a great read.

King James Seventh Company is a book that I would confidently recommend to everyone, especially those who embrace the adventurous child within.

A 5 Star Review

Jasvella at IBP | November 5th 2017

King James’ Seventh Company

If you love books that have elements of historical fiction, cutting across religion and Christianity, this book is for you!  This book brings you to the point of time where the world awaits the release of a New Bible. The story revolves around Matthias, who goes to work at one of his company’s client’s place. He then finds out the truth about who the client really is. The plot thickens as he finds out further about the connection between the New Bible and the client. this story is not just a work of fiction. Beneath the story lies the story of Apostle Paul, and the actual mission his travel across different places around the world. I wouldn’t want to further give away the essential aspects of this book as anyone interested int he genre should definitely grab a copy to enjoy the story on their own.

A 3.5 Star Review

Jasvella at IBP | November 5th 2017

Ulysses S. Grant in China and Other Stories

This book revolves around a girl and her group of friends who bale against some of the issues surrounding the completion of the Suez Canal, which offers a new perspective to the old history we are all familiar with. The drama is mainly on betrayal, friendship, and the struggles the characters face to rise against all odds in their endeavor. I personally feel that this book would be a good fit for younger teenage readers who find books like the The Famous Five interesting, as the story gives a similar feel to one of those.

The plot is somewhat interesting, with fewer suspense elements when compared to the author’s King James’ Seventh Company book.

Comfy Reader Book Blog

by Kerrie Irish | November 20th, 2017

Travel through time in a book filled with captivating stories from History. In Ulysses S. Grant in China and Other Stories by Tom Durwood, not only do you travel to China with President Grant, but all throughout time.

In the first story, you get to see how the first crop was planted in great detail, then you enjoy a tale about teenage Mayans, who must escape the collapse of their empire. Later in the book you travel with a young boy who seeks revenge in a saloon- this one could easily be my favorite story. Eventually, the title story Ulysses S. Grant in China plays out before you. A very detailed and impeccable researched tale, it will be a wonderful experience for a history burr. With illustrations provided on each chapter, this book will interest preteens and adults alike. The book is written for young readers, but I think anyone could enjoy these tales. The writing is strong, and the photos, and map provide beautiful ribbon to the book.

The Colonials is a full-length adventure tale from 1774, in which teenagers from a prestigious academy are inducted into a society of navigators where they are soon pulled into directions that could change history as we know it. I, personally, have never read a book for pleasure about the American Revolution so this was quite an interesting book. You can tell that the author loves history and knows what he’s talking about. The characters are clever, self-driven, and unique. If you like books with lots of adventure, action, and a dose of mystery, then this one is for you.

King James Seventh Company is more adventure and mystery, though there is still a history lesson to be found within these page. I enjoyed this one the most, as it was more up my alley.  A bookkeeper named Matthias is sent to help a man who ends up being King James. The boy doesn’t believe this at first, but soon discovers that there are many mysteries within the walls of the castle. During his first night in the castle, the book keeper finds a hidden passageway, and that’s just the beginning. Soon, Matthias finds himself wrapped up in a murder as he and a group of others try to figure out how to untangle themselves from the mystery, chaos ensues. This book is gorgeously written with true to its time dialect that shows the author has done his research.

These books are sure to spark curious minds, and a love for the past. If you know anyone who loves reading biographies, historical/colonial novels or watches The History Channel, then grab these books for them, they are sure to make a wonderful gift.

 

A 4 Star Review

Jasvella at IBP | November 5th 2017

The Colonials

I love the author’s idea of bringing students into the war of the American Revolution. These rich kids were somehow forced by their circumstances to go into the war for human rights, that is when they actually come to understand that the struggle is not something that they had thought about before.

I like how the author worked meticulously on the struggles the kids face in the sory and this pulls readers directly into the story. The kids journeyed together as they find their own paths. Along the process, they provide a new perspective to the history of the American Revolution.

A 4-Star Review

Amazon Editorial Review

The Colonials

Marta Cheng | December 4, 2017 | Private Review

The Colonials by Tom Durwood is an exciting and ambitious work of historical fiction for young adults, where teenaers come of age during a violent time,ultimately changing the course of history.

The year is 1775 and a large number of complex characters are at play: young Will Oldenbarnevelt is the second-born son to a wealthy Dutch shipping merchant, Jiayi Wei Ying is Yunhe Jiating of the Chinese Grand Canal clan. Countess Clotilde Ushakos is the eldest niece of Ekaterina alexeevan- Empress of all Russia- Leo Krummensee- Grabmaler is heir to the House of Hohanzollern…and many others, giving a sense of the impressive scope and scale of this novel.

Together, this fascinating set of characters are the newest crop of the future’s birghtest at the Academy for Royals, a haloed place run by masters, where they work at menial tasks during the day and study old manuscripts and clean barns when not working or sleeping. Once they return to their respective countries to assume their rightful places, they quickly learn that life outside the cloisterd walls of their Academy is harsh. They nevertheless less prevail, unadvertently changing the course of history, aided by the mysterious Society of Navigators…

The Colonials is clearly well-researched, containing the high-octane adventure quotient of a James Michner novel and the imaginative complexity of a Harry Potter tale. There are definite parallels between Hogwarts and the Academy, but the troupe is never missed , and rather heightens the import of the historical narrative. At the heart of the American Revolution lies a global narrative and Durwood effectiely build on this premise, using teenage protagonist thrust into very adult situations of treachery, bloodbaths, and betrayal.

Far from being a textbook in fictional form, Durwood excels at telling the story through his well-drawn characters. All six of the teenage protagonists come from very different walks of life and the only common denominator between them is their background of privilege. Will, Mei Ying, Clotilde, Leo, Mahment and Gilbert are all blessed with very special skill sets such as a proficiency for weapons, or numbrs or an appreciation for the earth’s bounty, giving the book a true sense of adventure. As the Academy nurtures their intellect and squabbles force unlikely alliances, unexpected hostilities quickly band them together as one united front.

While some historians may not agree with the author’s interpretation that the American Revolutions was the “first skirmish” in a global storm, few will argue that The Colonials is highly entertaining as fiction. The details in the narrative are plentiful and serve to transport the reader back in time with vivid clarity, whether it’s to a battlefield or elegant drawing room. There are some typos here and there, and the dialogue appears to be a little stiff at times, but this formality lends itself to the period.

Overall, The Colonials is an epic, high -stakes adventure that effectively chronicles a struggle for human dignity during wartime. Aimed at young and adult alike, it’s a compelling novel with a vitally important story at its core that is sure to appeal to historical fiction aficionados.

Early Responses from Booksellers

Sherri Smith | Park Road Books | Charlotte, North Carolina

This has all the makings of a wonderful literary property. It’s like The Da Vinci Code meets Kidnapped. It also reminds me of the British series Wolf Brother (I’m not sure why). I firmly place the writing with Steve Berry, Bernard Cornwell, AJ Hartley, and even a little Dan Brown.

Perhaps you could do what Warner did with Dorothea Benton Frank. Her first two books, Sullivan’s Island and Plantation did well enough in mass market that her publisher now releases her books in hardback first, then paper.

Many customers requested the first two in hardcover so they’d have a matching set. They were released in a limited print run to appease the masses. Now you have a choice of hard, trade, and mass market.

I’ve been a bookseller for 20 years, the children’s book buyer for 10 or more, and I have a Master’s degree in history. While I concentrated on women’s history, I am very familiar with Tudor/Stuart and the early modern era.

Please, keep me posted on the progress of these books; I look forward to selling them

Park Road Books has been voted Charlotte’s best bookstore 20 years in a row. An active member of Book Sense, Park Road recommends its own selections on the store’s website as well as in-store. “We love books. If you’ve spent anytime around any of us, you know that. Most of the time, we can’t shut up about them We live and breathe books What can we say? We’re booksellers!”
Lauren E. Snyder | Bookseller | Malaprop’s Bookstore | Asheville, North Carolina
This is a sure fire series. The nebulous Navigators are a key element, I think, since they provide a fantasy element and well as linking the stories. Does Cynthiana appear in the next one? I hope so. I would publish the Colonials first. I think young readers will enjoy and recognize the academy for royals as pure Harry Potter. I’m glad you tie each of the royal teens back into the story (it’s a clever plot).

At a time when history seems particularly vital and textbooks seem increasingly bland, a series of historical novels like this is refreshing, and much needed.

The series will do well with those already clamoring for another Dan Brown novel or the next installment from Alexander McCall Smith, but I believe it will also expand on those audiences, offering entertainment to those who are mostly nonfiction consumers, and a dose of history for those oriented toward straight mystery and thriller. The timing couldn’t be better for these substantive and entertaining novels.
Gina Glenn | Bookseller/Buyer | Malaprop’s Bookstore | Asheville, North Carolina
Tom’s Durwood’s proposal for a series of historical novels comes at an interesting time for booksellers. As a bookseller at one of the South’s oldest independent bookstores, I have witnessed the demand for historical fiction grow. With the popularity of recent books such as The Da Vinci Code, The Historian and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, as well as television and film adaptations of Pride & Prejudice and Master & Commander, consumers are more interested than ever before in entertainment with an historical bent.

After reading a rough draft of Mr. Durwood’s novels. I cannot help but compare him to a more literary version of James Michener. The exotic locales and fast-paced buildup of plot recall Michener’s ‘travel novels,’ but I believe that Durwood’s use of historical turning points and the involvement of a secret society (the Navigators) could add a certain amount of depth and intrigue that Michener’s works often lack. It’s a clever premise, to have teenage heroes coming of age and changing history, aided by the mysterious Society of Navigators. It seem you could spin out an almost endless cycle of similarly colorful scenarios. The existence of a secret society adds a bit of mystery and darkness to the story.

This will certainly appeal to teens. While the writing may be challenging for some young adults, it is not anymore so than J.K. Rowling, and not nearly as much as books like Octavian Nothing. Teachers will love these books. We have a number of teachers who frequent the store, and they are always looking for a good book they can use to supplement their lesson plans.

I would recommend this series to anyone who likes Dan Brown, James Michener, Elizabeth Kostova or Patrick O’Grian. It seems to me that these novels would sell best if markets as ‘Historical Fiction’ of ‘Mystery/Thriller’ as opposed to ‘General Fiction.” I would recommend sending bound galleys to as many bookstores as possible. Generating word-of mouth recommendations from booksellers who are in constant contact with the target audience could be a crucial step to the series’ success. I also recommend sending galleys to any bloggers or genre magazines which review historical fiction, as thee are go-to resources for readers on the prowl for new material.

To Contact Tom Durwood or Purchase one of his books fill out the form below, or go to Amazon.com.

 

Tom Durwood, Author

Empire Studies Press

 
 
 

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