Book Review: The Learn, by Tony Halker

Publisher:  Clink Street Publishing

Publication date:  29th September 2016


The Learn by Tony HalkerThe Learn is an unusual Bronze Age tale featuring the spiritual evolution of a young man by the name of Owayne as he transforms from beach scavenger, by the nature of his birth, to that of priest under the intense guidance of a wise Druid.

Following the discovery of a rare item in the rock pools where they harvest shellfish, Owayne’s mother quickly intervenes to present both this and her son as a candidate for The Learn. This item attracts much interest of the Druid, Merle, as it is associated with the Deity they worship. Now she has Merle’s attention she can barter for her son’s advancement in life, although her approach is considered somewhat unconventional.

This telling of Owayne’s steps into priesthood is told is stark and simplistic detail. To make him ready for the ultimate test, where it will be decided if he is ready to embrace The Learn or will become a ‘fail’, he must shadow the druid for many months and experience nature, spirits, defence, and ultimate respect for all these elements.

With each new day his eyes are opened to reveal the concept of new ideas, intense discussion, and the value of listening to all sides before coming to a conclusion – walking with Druidii will provide a tough education for the lowly beach comber.

It is expected that learning should never cease and there’s almost a ‘Dragon’s Den’ moment where a new invention is offered to the high council for consideration, as it is thought that this initial concept could alter the course of history. But first it requires approval by the most knowledgeable, which is an interesting process; while there are people wishing to test new theories, accusations of blasphemy, abomination, and offending Mother Nature are a few of the barriers placed in their way.

The non-flowery prose perfectly conveys the ‘bare necessities’ of this primitive period, which makes any progress appear awe inspiring; new knowledge is celebrated and defended, as ‘know’ is essential for long term survival. As Owayne becomes older and hopefully wiser he will learn and grow, until one day he can leave his own footprints on the earth. 

The Learn captures the essence of a people embracing devout intellectual prosperity and is enriched by a philosophical approach to the ever-changing world around us.  It’s a story perfectly suited to the patient reader who will be able to fully appreciate the journey through this intriguing historical era and the calmness it evokes.

Rating:  3/5

(I received a digital copy of this title from Rachel at Authoright PR  and Authoright in exchange for an honest review, with my thanks.)

~ Here’s wishing the author a wonderful publication day ~


(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Blending reality, history and legend, about a time when women were considered as important as men, taking power in an oral society that worships the Goddess. A whole Celtic Druid world is laid out before us, incorporating beliefs, technology and the natural environment.

A Celtic boy, a beach scavenger, is pledged to the Learn, a life of endurance, a path to become sworn Druid: scholar and warrior.  Young women and men progress, becoming Priests and Druidii. Friendship, affection, passion and care develop as novices mature, confidence emerging.

Seasonal battles of winter and summer bring rich festivals when seeds of men are taken by women in pleasure to prove fertility. Small damaged, hurt peoples on the margins of Celtic society blend in and out of vision.

At frontiers with Nature, dependent for everything on what the earth gives or takes, an emotional response to the natural environment defines who people are and the values they live by.

A lyrical novel resonating with modern readers through portrayal of character, language and history; arising from a landscape of today, yet centred in the Celtic Bronze Age of North Wales.



(Courtesy of Author’s blog)

Born in London, Tony Halker studied geology at Leeds University after which he worked as a geologist, travelling extensively overseas. Following an MBA at Cranfield School of Management, he became a manager in hi-tec business and later a businessman and entrepreneur. His writing is inspired by powerful natural landscapes and his interest in the people and technologies emerging from those hard places. His two daughters were born in North Wales. He lives with his wife there and in Hertfordshire.



Book Review: The Beast on the Broch, by John Fulton #thebeastonthebroch

Publisher:  Pokey Hat (Cranachan Books)

Publication date:  September 2016

Beast on the Broch - My Review

The Beast on the Broch - CoverBrimming with legend and lore this exceptional tale features enigmatic stone carvings, a primitive religious order, a sword with two blades, a wise old woman, imminent invasion and not forgetting, The Beast on the Broch.

Spirited Talorca lives a quiet life catching fish to provide for her one parent family. Her father has died and her mother is often preoccupied. Soon the twelve year olds’ daily mischief is replaced by mayhem that came in on the tide and village life is about to get interesting when a group of ignorant intruders muscle their way in to take advantage of their shores.

Her introduction to the new arrivals doesn’t go well. From the top of the old broch Talorca spies three lads casually helping themselves to her nets and all the bounty in them! As she races to stop them, she slips from the tower only to come face to face something more menacing than the wretched thieves. She doesn’t believe her eyes when she finds herself staring at a long snout, two curly horns and a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, features she recognises from the mythical symbols carved into the ancient clan stone that stands in the centre of their village. And in a flash the creature vanishes, almost like it was never there at all.

While one threat has gone the other remains as it seems these uninvited guests are planning on staying a little while. The villagers try their best to accommodate their ‘superior’ neighbours who can’t speak their language and make no effort to learn it. But the chief’s three sons are so up for making trouble, taunting Talorca and goading her until her patience runs dry. And what on earth is her mother thinking when she invites these people for tea?!

With no one to confide in except a wise old woman, she and Talorca do what they can to make the visitors feel unwelcome. Although Talorca may be used to getting into scrapes things get very serious indeed and she finds that it’s not her fishing nets she will need to defend, but her severe recklessness.

There some wonderfully mysterious encounters with the enigmatic Beast and this one isolated girl. His presence may appear menacing, but it will prove to be an asset providing Talorca can coax him into lend a helping claw or two!

The Beast on the Broch is bursting with adventure, bravery, and a glorious Pictish charm. The very talented John Fulton has captured the vulnerabilities and extremes of living in a remote coastal village in 799AD and how things can go from bad to worse as the tide ebbs and flows. The story carries subtle morals of owning up when you are wrong, and also one regarding change – you don’t have to embrace it just try to adapt, as a time may come when you need to pull together to confront your true enemy.

Rating:  5/5

Huge thanks to the author for getting in touch for a review and to Cranachan Books for kindly organising this intriguing bookish parcel, complete with chocolate broch! …

Beast on the Broch Book Post

Beast on the Broch - Book Summary

(Courtesy of publisher)

A lonely girl.  A wild Beast. An unforgettable friendship.

12 Year Talorca is a Pictish girl living in North-east Scotland in 799 AD.  When Gaelic-speaking Dalriadans arrive in her village, her world is turned upside down.

Her only friend is a mythical Pictish Beast, who has been injured by the Dalriadans. Talorca decides to take a stand against the intruders and hatches a plan to drive them out. But she can only do that with the help of the wild beast on the broch.


Beast on the Broch - Author Profile

(Courtesy of publisher)

John K Fulton is the son of a lighthouse keeper, and grew up all around the coast of Scotland.  These remote and lonely locations instilled in him a life long love of books and the sea. He studied at the universities of St. Andrews and Dundee, and now lives in Leicester with his partner Sandra.  While Leicester is about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK, their home is stuffed with books, which is the next best thing.

His first book, the WW1 spy thriller The Wreck of the Argyll, won the Great War Dundee Children’s Book Prize.