Title: Highwayman: Winter Swarm
Author: Michael Arnold
Published by: Sharpe Books
Publication date: 14th Mar. 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Private Collection
The nation is reeling from the turmoil of bloody civil war, the forces of King Charles have been utterly defeated and England is now in the iron grip of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate.
Major Samson Lyle, once a member of Cromwell’s Roundhead army, and now the infamous outlaw, Ironside Highwayman, has been forced into exile.
Scarred by the massacre of innocents in Ireland he turned his back on the all-conquering English army, but in retaliation his beloved wife Alice was tracked down and killed.
Spurred on by revenge Lyle is now the predator, not the prey. The most feared highwayman in all England, he hunts quarry on the nation’s roads. Any who performed the duties of a cog in Cromwell’s grand machine is under threat.
Along with his trusted young ward Bella, and Eustace Grumm, an irascible former smuggler, Lyle has dodged the ever-present threat of capture, but now it is time to bring the fight to his enemies.
With a brilliant scheme to bring the army to its knees, Lyle must find a way to destroy his pursuers before they destroy him.
As with the previous novella in the series, I picked this up in a charity shop in Louth and binge read all three in a row.
The actual order of the Ironside books is somewhat confusing. According to Goodreads, Highwayman: Winter Swarm is the first book in the series and on Amazon it’s the second. I read it as the second novella in the series, but because they’re all stand-alone novels, they can be read in any order. At only 80 pages, Highwayman: Winter Swarm is a short read that can easily be read in a single setting, but it none-the-less enjoyable for its brief length.
Highwayman: Winter Swarm sees Samson Lyle return to the fray in thwarting the deeds of his rivals, trying to strike a blow against the larger goal. – Oliver Cromwell and his Protectorate. Whilst trying to dodge his own personal rivals and survive the trials of the Highwayman’s life. Once again we are introduced to Lyle Samson, his ward Bella and the eccentric elderly smuggler, Eustace Grumm. Their back-stories are reiterated in this novella, helping it to stand alone story that can be enjoyed on it’s own or part of a larger whole.
Lyle Samson is a wonderful lead character to follow the adventures of; his methods of revenge don’t count on a swath of bodies left in his wake but on carefully planned cunning. Every step of the way throughout his revenge journey there is the real threat of capture and the hang-mans noose and that makes the stories exciting and fast-paced. Add into the charming side characters, Bella and Eustace, the reader is in for a really wondrous time!
Highwayman: Winter Swarm touches on the highly superstitious nature of English denizens in the 1600s, addressing the fear amongst England’s people in a humorous fashion that weaves its way throughout the book. This notion of fear feeds back into the climax of the book and results in an entertaining conclusion.
Bees play an integral role in the novella also – which is a bonus as I am a bee fan – and I was a little uncertain of some of the authors choices in regards to them, which as I was reading made me question the validity of the plot line; although this has more to do with me as a reader and my personal lack of knowledge, than the writing or novella itself. I thought it worth mentioning in my review however, as it did slightly hinder my reading experience – but not enough to keep me from binge reading the last book in the series right after!
A highly enjoyable novella that is quick to read and fast-paced. Filled with swash-buckling, dare-deviling, heroic antics. A wonderful lead character that’s entertaining to read about, rich in back-story and passion for his cause. Side characters are just as well considered and they share believable foes to thwart. Great to read if you’re fans of anti-hero type characters and have only an hour or so to fit a whole story into.
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