The Shires of York by Joseph Murphy James – Review

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By Sandra Callard

This six-volume series of fantasy books has shades of  Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, and yet has distinct differences. Author Joseph Murphy-James has crafted The Shires of York in a unique and compelling manner, in that the old historical world of Yorkshire runs alongside a mystical world of magic, demons and dragons.

To ancient peoples the world of magic was an extension of the real world, and Murphy-James has brought this belief to startling life. Real historical characters such as Queen Cartimandua of the feared Yorkshire Brigantes tribe, challenges the demons for supremacy. The famous and terrible Harrying of the North is not executed by William the Conqueror, as we have always thought, but by an unruly mob of goblins who tackle their job of destruction with a gleeful zest that almost endears them to us. Even the Black Death is not brought about by fleas, but by a massive curse on the land by the High Priest of the devilish Damonen.

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This is all great fun and alarmingly convincing, and the historical content is spot on, as are the geographical references to the old Yorkshire landscape, most of which we still recognise today. Malham Cove, Pickering, the Vale of York and Flamborough Head are all the haunts of the various groups of supernaturals.

The aim of the protagonists is to gain control of the beautiful and magical Crystals that can open the Veils of the Shires of York, and thus control the other factions. The chase is complicated and seemingly never-ending, with power changing hands continually. The end of each book is somewhat of a cliffhanger, and the ploy of having to read the next book works very well.

The books cover a period of around one thousand years, and some original characters are there throughout. Many new ones are added with each successive book, and I was grateful for the prolific Who’s Who which is at the start of every book.

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Murphy-James’ text flows well, but I have one slight niggle in the many instances of continual dialogue. These are sometimes quite exhaustive and carry over many pages, mostly of the “He said, she said” variety. Quite simply, they need a descriptive break here and there.

However, there are parts that please enormously, particularly in Book Four, ‘War’. As the battle rages for power, the chase of the dragons by the devils is beautifully scripted and described, and one of the most exciting sections in the books. It is tense, dramatic and concise, and left me smiling.

This is an impressive series of books, and easy to read as the each individual book is quite compact. We meet some captivating creatures, both appealing and obnoxious, who also possess remarkably human traits, and as the books finish with a hiatus, I would hope that there are further adventures to come.

‘The Shires of York’ by Joseph Murphy-James is published by Wise Grey Owl Ltd, £6 per book from Amazon – more info:


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