I read a lot and I always have a book handy, I know a lot of people don't like reading and prefer stories in different form (Films, Game etc.) but I've always preferred a novel. The main genre of book I've been reading over the last few years is Historical Fiction, which usually is a story within a historical plot. Most people refer to Bernard Cornwell as the king of the genre, and I completely agree. Cornwell is best-known for Sharpe, he has written over 20 books in the series and it was adapted for the BBC starring Sean Bean (and many lesser British actors spread throughout) I haven't made it through all of them, but I've read quite a few.
A series by Cornwell which I prefer is 'The Warlord Chronicles', it was written in the 1990s and consists of three novels. It takes place in Arthurian Britain, following a warrior under the command of 'King Arthur' named Derfel. The series follows King Arthur's 'knights' fighting off the Saxons from England. From any other Author, this plot may seem cliched and cheesy, but the realism and down-to-earth story which lays behind Cornwell's writing makes it seem very possible and amazing to read. Each battle is more brutal than the last, and it is soaked with historical fact (Though not much in this series, as it's all disputed)
The most recent series by Cornwell, which he is currently still writing is 'The Saxon Chronicles'. It is in it's 5th book (I think) and it follows 'Uhtred' a warrior in the 9th Century, a Saxon who was orphaned by a Viking horde and raised by them, pillaging and raping England for wealth. As he grows older, fate brings him back over to the side of the Saxons, clinging to the last piece of 'England' that has not been taken over by the Danish. He makes an oath to 'King Alfred' (Later Alfred the Great) to reclaim Southern England from the Vikings. The series is incredible, it is brutal and follows Uhtred 'Lord of Battles' as he fights the Danes.
This series, is based on historical events of that century, where the Danish held most of England's lands, with only the Kingdom of Wessex (Southern England, West of Kent) holding out against them, incredibly outnumbered. A quick excerpt to show the violence of the book:
Cenwulf and his men were behind me, and there we began the killing. The enemy ship was so loaded with men that they probably outnumbered us, but they were bone weary from a long day’s rowing, they had not expected an attack, and we were hungry for wealth. We had done this before and the crew was well trained, and they chopped their way down the boat, swords and axes swinging, and the sea was slopping over the side so that we waded through water as we clambered over the rowers’ benches. The water about our feet grew red. Some of our victims jumped overboard and clung to shattered oars in an attempt to escape us. One man, big bearded and wild eyed, came at us with a great sword and Eadric drove a spear into his chest and Leofric struck the man’s head with his axe, struck again, and blood sprayed up to the sail that was furled fore and aft on its long yard. The man sank to his knees and Eadric ground the spear deeper so that blood spilled down to the water. I half fell as a wave tilted the half-swamped ship. A man screamed and lunged a spear at me, I took it on my shield, knocked it aside and rammed Serpent-Breath at his face. He half fell, trying to escape the lunge, and I knocked him over the side with my shield’s heavy boss. I sensed movement to my right and swung Serpent-Breath like a reaping scythe and struck a woman in the head. She went down like a felled calf, a sword on her hand. I kicked the sword away and stamped on the woman’s belly. A child screamed and I shoved her aside, lunged at a man in a leather jerkin, raised my shield to block his axe blow and then spitted him on Serpent-Breath. The sword went deep into his belly, so deep that the blade stuck and I had to stand on him to tug it free.
There are plenty of other authors I like, Simon Scarrow being another great Historical-fiction writer along with Wilbur Smith. Cornwell has always been my favoruite author, and I suspect he always will be. I know these type of books aren't many people's cup of tea. When I try to explain to a friend or family member how great a certain book was I get a pitied look with a 'Sounds gruesome' or 'Thats nice, but I'm going to stick with this Auto-biography of Peter Kay'.
I'd love to hear what other people have been reading and what stories they consider to be 'perfect'.