The Shadow of What was Lost – A Review

The Shadow of What was Lost by James IslingtonThe Shadow of What Was Lost: Book One of the Licanius Trilogy by [Islington, James]

“As destiny calls, a journey begins…

It has been twenty years since the godlike Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them – the Gifted – are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their own powers.

As a gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discover he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything.

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s, wakes up in the forest covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir.”

This is an epic fantasy written with a masterful panache with a flavour of Robert Jordan about it. It has a vast history, a broad geography, and a great map – always a plus as far as I am concerned. The prologue is a taster of  some of the history, one which certainly intrigued me.

The Augurs were fabulously powerful and were served by those with lesser powers of a different nature known as the Gifted. Long before this story begins, the Augurs were overthrown and annihilated by a rebellion of the non-gifted, and the surviving Gifted were forced into living with their powers very much curtailed. All the Gifted are marked with a naturally occurring brand when that Gift first manifests within them. These youngsters are then sent to learn how to use their Gift at various colleges around the land of Andarra. Now, a new army rises from the north, strange people with stranger powers proliferate.

This is a multi-POV story, essentially following three protagonists Davian, Wirr and Asha, but many other characters fill the narrative with interest and colour. The three youngsters attend a college where they learn how to use their magical powers, within the constraints of the Tenets. Unfortunately, apart from his brand indicating the Gift must have manifested, Davian cannot seem to access it.  A stranger sends him off on an errand to discover why the Boundary – a magical construct lying between the lands of Talan Gol and the south, which holds back the remains of the Augurs’ ancient powers in the form of monsters and followers – is failing and how to mend it. He is accompanied by his friend Wirr. Asha loses everything, we journey with her to a new life where she must learn a new way of being. The fourth main player, who wakes with no knowledge of who he is, though named him Caeden by villagers in the place where he woke, joins Wirr and Davian on their journey to the Boundary. Caeden must discover who he is and what the link between him and an artifact that Daeven carries is. He is beset by many visions of a past, but not a past that he can remember. In one he is told:

“We each have our temptations, Tal’kamar. We each have our own battles that must be fought. But you must fight them, my friend. You cannot hide from them. Otherwise you will never be more than you are.”

And Caeden knows he needs to be very much more than he is now to survive, let alone succeed in doing what he must – even though he has no idea what that might be.

I like that this world is one where magic and its bearers are detested and controlled by those with none – that the all-powerful ones were overthrown long ago. I like that there are different types of magic, there’s a nice section explaining how the two types are different and how they work – how it is the Essence that powers the Gift – yet it is not in the traditional college/school setting that this is learned. The characters are believable and strong, many characters are not what they seem, some have powers that could get them killed, some situations are not what they as straightforward as the reader might suspect, there are lots of twists, red-herrings, shadowy flashbacks and fore-shadowings – and I love them all.

I am very much looking forward to reading the second book in the Licanius trilogy.

All the best

R B Watkinson

The Emperor’s Blades – A Review

I was not given this book, I bought it with my own hard-earned money, I would do so again. The Emperor’s Blades was a good solid read.

The Emperor's Blades

“The circle is closing, the stakes are high, and old truths will live again.”

A classic epic fantasy with a twist, this is an exciting, fast-paced and immersive read. If the story continues on this level, this is going to be an excellent series and I cannot wait to get my sweaty hands on book two.

This story follows three siblings, two boys and a girl, the children of an Emperor. On the Emperor’s murder, these three must find out who is behind the murder and survive attacks on their own lives.

Brian Staveley has created a vivid story filled with action, treachery, and conspiracy, based in a complex world filled with religions, mythology, and history. In those histories are tales of ancient powers scoffed at by most but believed in by a few.

It begins with a prologue providing a window onto an ancient time, long before the events in the main narrative begin, and where the protagonist’s point of view proves to be quite alien.

“’When you know nothing about a creature,’ the monk ground out, his voice hard as a rockslide, ‘expect it has come to kill you.’”

Then we are thrown into Kaden’s POV, the eldest of the siblings and heir to the Empire. He lives a severe life in a monastery until the outside world barges in on the death of his father. He is frustrated by his lack of learning, and wonders why he is there at all, so far from the court and all he feels he should be learning about the Empire. He is mentored by the harshest of all the monks, who seems intent to make him learn something or die trying. As a reader I was becoming as frustrated as Kaden in trying to figure out what it was the monks truly wanted of him.

Next, we meet Valyn, the middle child. He trains at a college for assassins. An odd choice for a prince, but by now we realise these youngsters have no choices of their own in this world. Valyn is good, but not the best, loyal but impetuous. He quickly discovers he’s next on the hit list and tries to discover who is out to kill him at the same time as train for his ‘finals’. An even which could easily lead to his death.

Lastly, we meet Adare, the daughter, a princess and the Minister of Finance. With the poisonous environment of the court and the religious orders of Annur all about her, she walks a fine line between what she wishes to do and what she may do. She is clever but anger makes her react in uncontrolled bursts when she must be very controlled to survive. I’m hoping Brian develops the character of Adare more as she is only touched upon throughout the book. Having said that, her last chapter is very promising indeed, and its twist is something to relish.

All the best

R B Watkinson

Writing The Fractured Portal

Castle under attack

That’s a five thousand odd word battle done for Book Two of The Wefan Weaves Trilogy. My brain is officially knackered.

Alan – flung from London through portals and hyperspace into the world of Dumnon – lives through a siege that lasts three days. He now holds a crossbow and adds to the arrows and quarrels that sheet down from the parapets, dodges catapult thrown balls of fire that spatter the walls with green flames, cheers as forays of Manomish heavy and light cavalry charge from the castle to attack the Murecken besiegers. Ladders are raised and gates broken, mindless blodgemen boil up to the castle and die in their hundreds, monsters known as tadige and writhen kill and kill and eat the dead and dying. Blood and gore steam in the ice-laden air, bodies and their parts litter the frost-crusted ground, the stink of death clogs his nostrils and poisons his food. Ash and snow fall from the skies and everything is black and grey and red and hell.

On the final day,  a vast creature that looks very like a prehistoric crocodile known as an orswyrm, is ridden by Reven – a Mid-priest of the Great God Murak – right up to the gates above which Alan stands. The priest’s blood-magik swallows all arrows and quarrels sent his way, fire and boiling oil are deflected, his orswyrm attacks the gates…

Do the Storratian arrive in time to counter-attack? Do the last defenders escape the keep through secret passageways or sally ports?

You will have to wait for the publication of The Fractured Portal to find out.

Meanwhile, read The Cracked Amulet if you have not already done so 🙂

 

Working on Book 2: The Fractured Portal

Bookmark FrontBook 1 ‘The Cracked Amulet‘ is out there and yes, I’m still working on book 2: The Fractured Portal. It’s been a longer and harder road than I imagined it would be. I now have to create a huge battle near its end to create a powerful ending. One where I draw together disparate threads and characters to make of book 2 a story in its own right, which lies within, yet is still part of, the greater story arc of the trilogy.

There is more journey, more tension, and more action than I had initially envisaged. I’m truly hoping the wait will be worth it for all my readers. I am sweating and have sweated and will no doubt sweat more blood over this book as I continue on this writing journey. Tears of frustration and joy have been wept – and more will certainly be wept – as I work my way through yet another draft tweaking the characters onto the right paths to get them to the great denouement for ‘The Fractured Portal’. I’m doing my best to create the best bloody rollicking read I humanly can, one which I intend to be as near to a standalone that the middle book of a trilogy can be. I have cut thousands of words and have written thousands more – many of these new ones even make sense (hehehe).

The big battle is now fully researched, planned, and ready to be written.

Above you can see one side of the bookmark design I created especially for EasterCon2017. What do you think of this? Any good? Any comments?

A Story for Saturday

This is a theme for Saturday’s where I post short stories I either host or have written myself.

‘Moss’ is a powerful story written by a talented young man Nick Watkinson. Enjoy, but watch out – it will play with your emotions.

MOSSsunset C

 

Through the Teign valley, the river meandered between high crags
and dense forest. Where it was visible from his vantage, it shone gold with the late afternoon sun and a scattering of pearl stood a clear warning that the river ran faster and rougher than it might appear at a distance. Marianne pulled at his arm.

‘I’m cold, Papa.’

He caught her hands in his and dropped his knee to the slick grass. ‘Do you want to go back, Marie?’

She scrunched up her face for a moment, then shrugged, then said ‘Chase me!’

She was out of his hands and bounding from the boulders before he could stand. He paused when his knee cracked, waited for the pain to wash through him. It was always accompanied by a smell, a grey nothing that never the less smothered all other scents, and a prickling fire in his skull. A hangover from the crash. With learned caution, he picked his way between the broken stones as his vision swam.

‘Papa, chase me faster!’ He heard her shout and, somewhere in the distance, saw the violet of her coat.

Faster, with a laugh forced out, he stumbled down the sheep track. Marianne screamed and laughed and her splash of violet bounced up and down, and down. He saw the shape of her hood, the dark sweep of her hair, her cheeks red with the cold. When he caught her he swung her up and fell, rolling on the generous wetness of moss and grass. Marianne caught her breath and climbed onto his belly.

‘You’re crying again, Papa,’ she said and pawed at his cheek.

‘It’s from the grass, Marie.’

He tore a handful of stems from the ground and brushed them on her face. She batted him away with tiny hands and helpless giggles. Smiling, he eased his head back into the dry cocoon of his hood. Gunmetal clouds choked the sky above, though the west still glowed golden.

‘Not because of Mummy?’ asked Marianne. ‘Grandma says we’re allowed to cry.’ His daughter sounded reproachful.

‘I don’t need to cry, Marie.’ He rolled over so she toppled onto her belly, and he shifted so he was too. He pointed down the valley. ‘The river cries for me. The moss, the sky. If I cried I’d do nothing else. I’d not be able to cook you dinners, or wash the clothes. The world cries for me, so I can look after you.’

Marianne lay still. He couldn’t see her face. She threw out her arms and dug her fingers into the moss and earth.

‘Thank you world,’ she said, with a moss-muffled voice.

With his face pressed to the moss, he said in a strange deep voice, ‘You are very welcome, Miss Marianne.’

She giggled and burrowed into his side. He gathered her up and stood carefully, biting down on the pain. He walked back towards home, up a path he could hardly see, while his daughter tucked her nose into the crook of his hood and shook without sound in his arms.

The End

Dangerous Skies by Brian James – A Review

 

Dangerous Skies by Brian James

Synopsis:

It is the height of the Blitz. Night after night, wave after wave of German bombers pound London’s streets, determined to bring the city to its knees.

Alan and his best mates, Tommy and Wilkie, have virtually given up going to school. Classes are continually disrupted. Many of the teachers, dragged out of retirement because of the war, hardly care whether their pupils learn or not. Some days there are silences at school registration – where the names of children injured or killed by falling bombs once were.

As Alan and his friends roam the streets of Clapham and Brixton, they get sucked into Duggie‘s world – a teenager who runs a gang of looters. Alan vows never to steal for Duggie again. But they become caught up in the dangerous dealings of an armed robber called Ted.

Ted is on the run after shooting a bank guard, hunted by the police. Duggie tells Alan and his mates if they help Ted escape, they need never work for him again. As bombs fall all around his lookout, Alan believes it is the end of their troubles. But he is wrong. Alan is taken by the gangster’s and faces certain death.

This thrilling story, based on the author’s own experiences growing up during the Blitz, is an antidote to nostalgia. It shows the terrors of the Blitz and how war brings out both the best and the worst in adults and children alike.

Review:

This was a good read, bringing me back to a snapshot in time when London suffered under the Blitz.

The terror of living through frequent German attacks, as seen through the eyes of a child, is vividly described. Brian James has done a fine job of putting flesh on the broken scaffolding of those dire times, using Alan and his friends’ adventures, their imagination, and their sense of fun on even the worst of days. The immediacy of his descriptions gives the reader a real sense of a primary schoolchild’s life in wartime London, one with no rose-tinted glasses in evidence. The realism of a working-class boyhood in the 1940’s, and how children could and did fall into the hands of dangerous gangs by unlucky chance is quite graphic. The children, getting an inadequate education in an ill-run school, find it all too easy to roam the broken streets. Streets that are as full of bad as good, as a policeman Alan meets says:

Lot of bad people out there,” sighed the policeman. “You’d think with this war on, bombs dropping all over the place, killing innocent people, it’d be enough to worry about. But it’s times like this when the rats crawl outta their holes and take advantage. No one’s safe from these gangs. And there’s plenty of guns about too. As if we haven’t got enough bother with Hitler and his evil crew.”

The boys become almost feral, and survive experiences that might scar them for life, but where there is life, there a chance to dream, and Alan dreams of living in quieter, happier places.

James’ writing is both gripping and grim, with scattered moments of pure joy in the children’s improvised games. The snappy colloquial dialogue of the London streets and plenty of action, makes this story a real page turner for any youngster.

As I said, I enjoyed the read and recommend Dangerous Skies to both adults and children who would like to know more about how dangerous the gritty streets of London were, and not only from the skies above, during the war.

R B Watkinson

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COVER STYLE FOR A FANTASY BOOK AND WHY?

So I have been told a few times now by various readers, that the cover for my book The Cracked Amulet, is a bit meh. What I’d like to know is: WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COVER STYLE FOR A FANTASY BOOK AND WHY?

There is such a huge variety of covers out there, from the symbolic to the realistic:

enchantress-james-maxwellcracked-amulet-cover-design

 

From the up close and personal of a single character to a landscape:

prince-of-thorns-mark-lawrencethe-book-of-transformations-mark-charan-newton

All of them are eye-catching for different reasons and all appeal to different tastes. Also, over the years, tastes have changed, for what worked in the 70’s certainly would not this century.

Everyone has their own opinion of what works and what doesn’t. I’d be very interested to know those opinions, and I’m sure there are a great deal of other new authors out there who would love to know too.

TELL ME: What do you like?

 

All the best

R B Watkinson