Check out this cover!!! Syren’s Mutiny by Jessica S. Taylor, will be released this fall and I can’t wait!
The Syren’s Mutiny
Expected Publication Date: November 9th, 2022
“It’s frightful bad luck to have a woman aboard.”
Brigid knew the superstition, but when her father tried to marry her off, she had no choice but to stowaway on a ship bound for Bhodheas. When she’s discovered and discarded, her fate seems sealed…until she’s saved by the ocean and its queen.
Transformed into a syren and given new life, Brigid now has the power to seek revenge on those who wronged her.
Caelum has spent his entire life trying to help those who couldn’t help themselves. After years suffering the cruelty of his pirate father, saving others from a similar fate was ingrained in him. But when he’s unable to save a young girl from being thrown overboard for hiding away, he’s devastated.
Until one day, when he’s thrown into the water by unforeseen forces, he comes face to face with the past, and maybe, with his future.
But there’s a darkness lurking on the seas they both call home. And Caelum and Brigid have no idea just how intertwined their stories really are.
This book contains dark and adult themes. Possible trigger warnings include: violence, drowning, death, dismemberment, torture, brief/non-explicit references to child kidnapping and deaths, mentions of past domestic violence, mild sexual content, and mentions of arranged marriages.
Jessica was born and raised in Kentucky, but has been moving with the waves and is currently residing in southern Maine with her husband and cat, Nebula. Jessica’s love of reading and writing began at a young age with the help of her grandmother and her local library, and she hasn’t looked back since. Similarly, her love for pirates, mermaids, and all things fantasy have only grown more intense with time.
Murder, monsters…and a disreputable Victorian lady’s maid.
A killer stalks the grimy streets of Whitechapel—but Scotland Yard seems determined to turn a blind eye. With one look at her best friend’s corpse, Liz Sharp already knows the truth: the killer is a werewolf.
No one important will hold a werewolf accountable—after all, the monsters rule Europe. Certainly, no one will believe a werewolf victim like Liz: the very scars that make her determined to investigate Sal’s death also condemn her as the sort of female who’d sell her blood for easy money.
As it happens, Liz’s best hope for justice might well lie with her emotionally repressed employer, Princess May. Though the princess has connections with werewolf royalty, there’s no one else Liz can turn to. Certainly, she can’t risk trusting the irritatingly personable Inspector Short, who dogs her steps from the slums of Whitechapel to the palaces of St James.
But as corpses mount up, Liz discovers that no one is precisely who she thought: not Sal, not herself, and certainly not the werewolf.
Luckily, she has a few tricks hidden in the pockets of her trusty bloomers…
The first novel of Miss Sharp’s Monsters is a witty historical fantasy adventure, perfect for fans of The Parasol Protectorate or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! Pick up The Werewolf of Whitechapel and join Miss Sharp on the uncanny streets of Victorian London…
Set in an alternate Victorian era in London, this story is a whodunnit with werewolves as the suspects. Miss Sharp, the narrator who is telling the story from a future in which she is married with children, was the victim of a werewolf attack some time ago and has lost all memory of her life before she was attacked. She was found and treated by a hospital called St Botolph’s which takes in victims of vampires, sirens and werewolves and trains them to make the most of their new enhanced strength, thus allowing them to become bodyguards and ladies’ maids for members of the aristocracy. Miss Sharp accepts an offer of employment from Princess May who becomes engaged to the grandson of Queen Victoria. Miss Sharp is a very brave and likeable character. Marked on her face by her werewolf attack she is sometimes mistaken as a woman willing to offer herself to such creatures for feeding and has learned to deal with the hostile opinions which accompany this idea. She is determined to get to the bottom of her old friend’s murder by werewolf attack and to protect other poor defenseless women in London. She is also keen to find out about her past and who she was attacked by. It is well known to the police that the German royalty are werewolves, but they are also “untouchable” by the police. In fact there are even clubs in SoHo in which they can satiate their bloodlust. May is also a fully fleshed out character. Genteel and conditioned to be polite and respectful, she is equally able to stand up to those she thinks are protecting one particular werewolf from among her circle and bravely teams up with Miss Sharp on occasion. She is somewhat naive yet luckily she is safe since the werewolves would never attack someone who is a member of their own social strata. The novel is fast paced and hard to put down, making it a fairly quick read. There is also a hint of “will they won’t they” romance and I thoroughly enjoyed one particular scene with Queen Victoria! I found this book to be a highly enjoyable, light-hearted read.
About the Author
Hi! I’m Suzannah Rowntree – author of historical fantasy fiction. I live in a big house in rural Australia with my awesome parents and siblings, drinking fancy tea and writing historical fantasy fiction that blends real-world history with legend, adventure, and a dash of romance.
If you like the historical fantasy of Gail Carriger, S. A. Chakraborty or Naomi Novik, you’ll probably like my stories too!
Today I am excited to be taking part in the blog tour organised by Escapist Tours for Moroda by L. L. MacRae. Thank you for having me along and for sending me a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
There is a giveaway further down the post – be sure not to miss it! Also please take a look at some of the other posts on this tour as listed below:
Moroda by L.L. MacRae Series: World of Linaria Genre: Epic Fantasy Intended Age Group: 14+ Pages: 534 Published: May 30, 2022 (Second Edition) Publisher: Self Published
In Linaria, dragons are revered as gods. Airships command the skies. And across the land, war is brewing.
Devastated by their father’s death, Moroda and her sister struggle to make ends meet. Things go from bad to worse when a rogue dragon destroys their city.
Fleeing on a sky pirate’s airship to escape the chaos, the sisters find themselves penned in by untrustworthy companions, a bloodthirsty warlord, and dragons on the rampage.
For Moroda, who would do anything to protect her sister, nowhere is safe. Not even the sky.
The balance of power in Linaria is tipping. Can one woman make a difference?
If you love dragons, airships, and sky pirates, you’ll love discovering THE WORLD OF LINARIA.
Shown on page: Mild to moderate violence Some swearing
Do Not Meddle in Dragon Affairs • With Great Power • (Trying to) Do the Right Thing
I was excited to join the tour for this book as I thoroughly enjoyed both The Citrine Keyand The Iron Crown by MacRae and was keen to read more of her work.
Moroda is a character driven fantasy written from multiple points of view. It’s the first of the World of Linaria series by L. L. MacRae.
The action begins right at the start of the novel, with Moroda being thrown into jail and meeting her cell mates – the over confident sky pirate Amarah, and the creepy snake person, Sapora, a Varkain hiding in the shadows of the cell. A rescue soon follows and hot on the heels of that action a dragon sets fire to the city they are in! What an exciting start to a novel – I always love a book with dragons and I was totally hooked from this point onwards.
There are a number of imaginative races living in Linaria – a realm where dragons are revered as gods – the shape-shifting Attallan, the snakelike Varkain, winged weather commanders and dragon hunters known as the Irillian, and humans, some races of whom have magical abilities. There are also airships, pirates, dragons, phoenixes. What more could you ask for in a fantasy series?
Moroda is a “Goldstone”, the name given to the well-to-do nobility. Her father recently died leaving her and her sister to fend for themselves, since their money has now run out. She finds herself with her sister Eryn on the airship Khanna, which belongs to Amarah, with two Attallan shapeshifters, a Varkain, an Irillian and a member of the Imperial Guard escaping from the dragon attack. This unlikely crew of misfits embark on an adventure to find out why the revered dragons have begun behaving in such an unusual and unpredictable manner.
“Easily twenty-five feet long, not including its tail, which swung furiously at the Arillian, the dragon’s bronzed scales were blackened slightly from the flame and smoke it breathed. Narrow, brown spines ran along the length of its back, almost black at the tail. For a creature so huge, it moved quickly; lunging and swiping, never still for a moment. With golden eyes tinged red, it watched the Arillian as he continued to avoid its lunges.”
The new crew of the airship Khanna get to know each other better, forge relationships and undertake a heist for an Ereven sphere – a device which can be used to track and control dragons – each of them being perfect for a specific role in the heist. Characterisation is one of MacRae’s many strengths and these characters are wonderfully fleshed out. The Irillian, Kohl, is able to fly ahead and scout for dragons and other dangers. The shape shifting Attallan can turn into a falcon, making him another useful scout for the crew. The Sky Pirate is a talented thief and was a favourite character for me. Morden, the Imperial Guard is a good fighter. Palom is an Attallan shapeshifter with a protective, father-like personality. He was another of my favourite characters. He stays on the ship ready to fight and protect the others as needed. Sapora is a Varkain, a snakelike race which is feared for their brutality. A morally grey character, he is able to conceal himself and strike when necessary getting rid of lots of the enemies they encounter as they become further embroiled in a plot hatched by a group of Irillians. Sapora was another of my favourite characters. There are conflicts and mistrust between these misfits to begin with but by the end of the story they respect and trust one another.
Able to fly and bring down powerful storms on anyone who gets in their way, the Irillians led by Aciel are a formidable foe. Aciel is able to control people and dragons using mental compulsion. These were a particularly interesting race and I would love to know more about their history and what has driven power hungry Aciel to be so determined to rid the skies of everything that isn’t an Irillian or a dragon controlled by Irillians.
I did not particularly warm to the character of Eryn, Moroda’s sister. She was unhappy away from the opulence she had been accustomed to growing up and seemed particularly inflexible to change. She appeared to have no sense of adventure. Morden, the Imperial Guard also seemed a little weak as a character to me. It was clear that he was falling in love with Eryn – but he didn’t seem to have any other real purpose in the story. I really enjoyed Moroda’s character development in contrast. She started off as a daydreamer and somewhat impractical young woman whose more capable sister thought she needed to look after her and try to keep her out of trouble. As time went on she became braver, discovered a tenacity and sense of adventure she didn’t know she had, learned and became good at both Samolen magic and flying the airship and by the end of the book she was a force to be reckoned with!
As the airship journeyed to various places within the realm of Linaria, the world was gradually and skillfully built around them, my favourite location was Berel, the city of mages, an oasis in the desert powered by dragon energy. The Varkain underground territory of Sereth, a very creepy world of tunnels and fighting pits was also intriguing. There were multiple kinds of magic among the different races. The magic of shape shifting, the Samolen magic, Irillian weather control and the energy emanating from the dragons which powered the city of Berel – each was compelling and I would have loved more about these magic systems.
There are complicated family dynamics in this novel, loss of loved ones, and strength through the teamwork of the crew – all of which make it a many layered and highly rewarding story. And did I mention the dragons?!! Of course they make Moroda a must-read for anyone like me, who loves these scaly fire-breathing creatures.
**International Giveaway **
Prize: An eBook Copy of Moroda! Starts: June 27, 2022 at 12:00am EST Ends: July 3, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
Morning dew flavoured her skin with the taste of autumn. Pale sunlight filtered in through the narrow, steel-barred window, and Moroda shivered in the cold cell of Rosecastle Dungeon.
She shifted her position to ease the cramp developing in her aching back and legs. She was not in chains, thank Rhea, but that didn’t bring much comfort to the fear and uncertainty which plagued her.
Surely the threat of beheading had been an idle one? Something to keep the crowd from retaliating at her sudden arrest?
Only murderers and traitors to the crown were beheaded.
She’d just voiced an opinion. She didn’t really believe they’d kill a woman for that.
Before she could further consider her mortality, the door to the dungeon rattled and Moroda’s stomach tightened with an involuntary spasm as muffled shouts carried from the other side. Grunting and a shrieked curse pierced the air as the heavy oak door shook.
She backed away from her cell gate, the cold stone floor sending goosebumps rising on her arms and legs. She flinched, and something metallic jingled within the folds of her skirt. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out three silver coins, a set of scales emblazoned on each.
She’d forgotten about the florins—the only money she had left—and another stab of panic pierced her.
Eryn would be so angry with her if she lost them.
Desperate, Moroda looked for somewhere to hide her treasure. If she put the coins back in her pocket, they’d jingle when she moved. She considered the window, before realising they would be seen between the bars. Dragons above, what was she going to do?
She let out a distressed whimper, then she spotted a cracked floor slab.
Outside her cell, the steel hinges of the oak door creaked as it was heaved open, and she knew she had no time to look for an alternative hiding place. Shuffling over on her knees, one fist clenched around the coins, she wedged the fingers of her free hand under the stone slab. It was rough against her skin, but Moroda lifted it just high enough to slide the florins into the gap. The dungeon door slammed shut, the slab dropped into place, and the new prisoner entered the chamber.
The same guard who’d brought her to the cell barely an hour ago now wrestled with another woman—lowborn, from the rasp in her voice and the insults she hurled at him. She spat and kicked, even tried to bite the guard as she fought to free herself from his grasp.
Moroda pressed against the wall, equally terrified yet curious, and watched the guard frog-march the new prisoner towards her cell.
Pressing the woman against the bars, he took the keys from his belt, unlocked the gate, and threw her inside.
Blood spattered the floor from an open gash on the woman’s shoulder, bringing a splash of colour to the grey dungeon. She immediately whirled around and threw herself at the gate, reaching between the bars and scrabbling for the guard’s face with chipped nails. ‘You pig! Bastard! Get this gate open now or I swear to Rhea herself, you’ll pay!’
‘Amarah, you’re done. No threat will change that.’ He shrugged. Beyond the reach of her flailing hands, she was no threat.
She snarled at the guard, animalistic in her fury. ‘Morgen, I’ll kill you for this!’ She covered the wound on her left shoulder with one hand. Blood trickled through her fingers as she tried to stem the flow. ‘At least get me a medic! You don’t want me to bleed to death in here, do you?’ Amarah’s eyes narrowed as the young man glanced at her wound.
He sighed. ‘You aren’t going to die. Calm down and I’ll see what I can do, all right? Try not to cause too much trouble while I’m gone.’ Morgen walked towards the door.
‘What about Khanna? You ain’t gonna destroy that ship are you? She’s faster than anything the Imperial fleet has!’ Amarah followed Morgen and walked along the bars, reaching through them at the edge of the cell. ‘Be of some use, won’t she?’
‘I don’t know. It isn’t my decision. She’s locked up safe and sound, just like you.’ Morgen ignored her glare as he left the dungeon, slamming the heavy door behind him.
As the sound of his footsteps faded, Moroda held her breath, keeping herself as still as possible. Amarah hadn’t noticed her, and she was keen to keep it that way until the other woman calmed down. She’d never coped well with conflict. Who knew who Amarah was, or what she had done to warrant being locked up.
Moroda slid down the wall, until she was half-crouched on the floor, heart racing as she watched the uncouth woman. Perhaps if she stayed quiet enough, Amarah wouldn’t spot her before Morgen returned to take one of them away.
After a moment, Amarah turned and looked around the cell, pausing to scowl immediately at Moroda. ‘What do you think you’re looking at, girl?’
Moroda was taken aback by the harshness in Amarah’s voice. ‘I—I didn’t mean—’
‘Good. Shut up and keep out of my fucking way.’ Amarah strode past Moroda, looking over the rest of the cell. Her scowl deepend. ‘Damned if I’m staying here long enough to be executed.’
Moroda watched her carefully and said nothing.
Amarah released her shoulder and grabbed the bars, giving each a short pull, leaving the metal slick with blood. ‘Damn.’ Amarah shook her head and leaned against the metal gate, her hand returning to cover the wound on her shoulder.
‘What happened?’ Moroda allowed her curiosity to get the better of her, and braced for another insult.
Amarah shrugged. ‘Too much haste. Got sloppy. Made a mistake. Never again, I tell you.’ She closed her eyes, allowing silence to fill the cell.
Moroda took the opportunity to study Amarah’s face. Her hair was short, dark, and roughly cut. She wore no powders on her face or oils in her hair. A thin scar lined her left cheek, just below her dark brown eyes, pale against her tanned skin. Mostly, she looked grubby, as though she hadn’t bathed in months.
She guessed the injured woman to be in her late thirties, but wounds and dirt did a lot to age a person, so she couldn’t be sure. Moroda kept herself small, hoping Amarah kept her distance while they were locked up together.
‘Morgen’s a fool. He ain’t fit to be in here. Neither are you,’ Amarah said, her sneer shifting into a lopsided grin. ‘I heard what you did this morning. Standing up to that foreign bastard.’
Moroda flinched as Amarah swore again, even as relief flooded her—her deed that morning had not gone unnoticed. Then again, she had been arrested publicly, so she supposed word of her actions—a Goldstone’s actions, no less—would spread like wildfire. Not that she was really a Goldstone anymore. Her heart sank as she thought back to the three florins she’d hidden. It was all that remained of a vast inheritance that should have ensured she and her sister were well kept until the end of their days.
Moroda had wanted to leave. Run away from the debtors.
Eryn had convinced her to stay. They could survive without their father and his money. They’d make it work. After all, Niversai was their home. Leaving the only place they’d ever lived was not only foolish, it was childish.
Moroda forced a smile, unwilling to show Amarah any vulnerability. ‘Thank you.’
‘That the only reason you get arrested? Or you do something else? Sleep with some other Goldstone you shouldn’t have, or something?’
‘What? No! N—nothing like that! I would never!’
Amarah’s cackle filled the dungeon, echoing off the stone. ‘Ah, you Goldstones are all the same, ain’t you? Little goody-goody rich girls who never get in trouble or do anything wrong.’
‘I’m not a Goldstone…not anymore.’ If only she’d left after her father had died…
‘Yes, well I can see that, can’t I?’ Amarah grinned, licking her lips. She shifted her hold on her injured shoulder. ‘Can’t buy yourself outta this one, can you?’
Heat flushed Moroda’s cheeks and her stomach roiled. ‘Do you want me to help with that?’ She nodded towards Amarah’s shoulder, eager to turn their conversation away from her shame. ‘I can use some cloth to stem the blood? Won’t be permanent, but it should hold until help comes?’
Amarah paused for a moment before dropping her hand from her shoulder. ‘Yeah, if you can.’
Moroda tore a strip of fabric from the thick, dark cotton at the bottom of her skirt and wrapped the length of it around Amarah’s wound as best she could, tying it off with a secure knot. ‘There. That should help.’ She wiped her bloodied hands on her skirt, satisfied she’d done something useful.
Amarah inspected the makeshift bandage for a moment before approving it with a sharp nod. She glanced at the dungeon door through the cell bars and sighed. ‘I ain’t sticking around here. Neither should you, if you know what’s good for you.’
Moroda knew the woman was right. She didn’t think she’d be executed, but she didn’t want to wait around to find out. She’d never been in trouble with the Imperial Guard before, let alone arrested, and she didn’t have the first idea how to get out of her situation. Would there be a trial? Would she be allowed to plead her case? Beg forgiveness?
She chewed on the inside of her cheek, trying to think. She’d never been any good at planning ahead. Her sister was the brains of their duo. Moroda just dreamt up the ideas.
She didn’t know how her sister managed.
‘Oh great, not a Varkain, too.’ Amarah’s harsh voice cut through Moroda’s thoughts.
‘But I’m not…?’ Moroda followed Amarah’s gaze to the back corner of their shadowed cell. Puzzled, she looked from Amarah to the corner, squinting in the darkness as she tried to make out what Amarah could see.
Her heart raced when she spotted the silhouette of another person sitting in the shadows. How hadn’t she noticed them after all this time? She’d been in the cell for almost an hour!
‘I do love the sound of a panicked heartbeat.’
The smooth voice from the shadows set every hair on edge, and Moroda was on her feet in an instant, breath quickening as Amarah’s words resounded: Varkain. Someone was there. Someone who was mocking her fear.
A Varkain was far more of a threat than Amarah could ever be.
She could have been attacked—killed!—at any moment. Had he just been playing with her?
Stumbling backwards, Moroda tried to put as much distance between herself and the Varkain as she could. She couldn’t even see him, yet her heart thrashed in her chest, as if desperate to flee.
‘Ah yes. And there is the accompanying scent of fear…such a nectar.’
‘Shut up you filthy creature.’ Amarah hadn’t moved, but she glared at the corner with such venom that Moroda thought she’d burn a hole through the stone floor. ‘Why are we in the same cell as you? What in Rhea’s name happened to enforced segregation?’
‘Perhaps they forgot. Being invisible is our speciality.’
Moroda’s heart thudded painfully. She couldn’t quite make out the Varkain’s features—the cell was too poorly lit and he was too still. She could have sworn she’d checked the cell over when she’d been thrown inside, and found it empty.
Then again, she’d never come across a Varkain before. She’d grown up on stories of brutal Varkain killings and had no desire to be in the centre of the next one. Moroda couldn’t even think straight, the fear gripped her so tightly. She was lucky he hadn’t slaughtered her while she’d panicked about being beheaded.
‘Come out from the shadows, Varkain. Show yourself,’ Amarah ordered, her hand returning to her wounded shoulder.
Moroda wanted to object, but her voice fled.
‘No. I am chained.’
Amarah’s shoulders relaxed and Moroda followed suit, happy to take the other woman’s lead. The Varkain’s chains had to explain why she hadn’t been attacked earlier.
She swallowed and tried to calm her breathing.
‘Ah, well you’re just a worm then, ain’t you?’ Amarah cackled, wandering to the edge of the shadow. ‘Tied up and left for dead. It’s all you’re worth.’
Amarah crouched and sneered. ‘I don’t think so. I don’t take orders from anyone, not least the likes of you. Tell me, Varkain, were you given a name at birth? Or just abandoned in a nest somewhere?’ She tilted her head to one side. ‘Dumped in a hole in the ground and left to rot like the maggots you are.’
Moroda didn’t know what might come of taunting such a dangerous creature, but Amarah clearly thought he posed no threat.
‘Sapora,’ he answered, voice barely more than a hiss. ‘I know you are a sky pirate and thief, Amarah. And a murderer, just as I am. The scent of blood runs deep in your skin.’
Amarah snorted and straightened. She ignored the Varkain and paced the cell, clearly shaken. With her good hand, she grabbed one of the bars on the gate and furiously shook it. ‘Morgen! Where is my medic?’
Amarah grunted and paced again, fingers tapping against her arm. It didn’t take long for her to notice the cracked stone slab.
‘Oh? What’s this?’ She dropped to one knee and picked at the cracked stone. Within seconds, she’d lifted the slab and was rewarded with the glint of silver. ‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’ She snatched the coins and grinned. ‘Three florins. Perfect!’
Amarah pocketed them as quickly as she’d found them, and Moroda clenched her fists in response. She couldn’t bring herself to challenge Amarah, despite those coins being the only thing of worth she had left.
Especially not if she was a murderer as the Varkain claimed.
All her fight had gone out of her earlier that morning.
Moroda didn’t even know why she’d got involved. She’d been berating herself about it since she’d been arrested, in between panicking about whether or not she’d actually be beheaded.
She’d been taken aback by the shift in behaviour of the townspeople after Aciel—a foreign dignitary—had arrived in Niversai some days previous. Even the Imperial Guard who’d been nothing but fair towards them had turned suddenly aggressive. Eryn had said it was simply a result of their ill fortune.
Moroda had been convinced that something else drove the shift in behaviour. The injustice.
Aciel’s speech that morning had been the last straw.
A guest of the city. Invited into Rosecastle. Given an address to the gathered townspeople. And yet she couldn’t accept the words Aciel spewed, the condescension in his tone, the disgust with which he’d stared at her and the people of her city.
As far as she was concerned, he was a pompous, arrogant bully who delighted in war-mongering, and she wouldn’t stand for it. Eryn had told her to leave it alone, but Moroda had lost too much too quickly to put up with more patronisation, and refused to be silenced. She hated conflict, had never learned how to deal with it properly, and she’d exploded.
Despite having his own soldiers, the city’s Imperial Guard had leapt to apprehend her when she’d spoken out.
Her immediate arrest only proved she’d touched a nerve.
Scare people enough, and no-one will stand against you.
The thought made her sick.
Closing her eyes, Moroda exhaled, resigning herself to her situation. An hour ago, she’d been worried about being beheaded. Now, she was stuck in a cell with two murderers. She shook her head, wondering which fate was worse.
It took only a few minutes before the dungeon door was forced open again with another loud creak, but it wasn’t Morgen who walked down the corridor. It was a young woman clutching a ring of bronze keys close to her chest as she tiptoed across the stone floor in soft leather shoes.
Moroda couldn’t believe her luck.
‘Eryn!’ She jumped to her feet and clutched at her sister’s hand through the bars. ‘What in Rhea’s name are you doing here? How did you get into the castle?’
‘Sshh, never mind that. I’m getting you out!’ Eryn glanced over her shoulder.
Amarah approached the gate and elbowed Moroda out of the way. ‘Get on with it, then. Hurry up!’
Eryn tried each key quickly, breathing a sigh of relief when the successful one clicked and the latch lifted off the lock.
Before Eryn could move, Amarah wrenched the door open and shoved past. ‘Get out now if you know what’s good for you!’ She raced down the corridor and disappeared from sight.
Clearly unfazed by Amarah’s brusqueness, Eryn turned to Moroda. ‘You heard her! Let’s go!’
Moroda faltered, peering back at the corner of the cell. She dreaded the Varkain’s wrath if he ever got out on his own and hunted her down. ‘Ryn? Do you have all the keys? There’s someone else back there…chained up.’
‘Moroda, this isn’t a jailbreak! I’m here to get you and get out!’ Eryn whispered through clenched teeth. ‘The guards’ll be here any minute, and I’ll be locked up too! Come on!’
‘I can’t. He’s a Varkain!’ Moroda grabbed the keys from her sister and ran to the dark corner, hesitating at the last moment. It was too late for second thoughts, now.
‘There’s a Varkain in there? We should be locking the gate, not letting him out!’ Eryn cried, incredulous.
Moroda felt it best to address him by the name he’d given to Amarah. She took a deep breath and ignored Eryn’s frantic whispers. ‘Sapora? You…you won’t attack me if I let you out?’ Her voice was as meek and small as she felt.
Today I am very excited to be featuring some of the amazing artwork from A.R. Witham’s debut novel: The Legend of Black Jack.This is a fantastic fantasy adventure story which I reviewed here.
Prize: One US audiobook code for The Legend of Black Jack! To enter: Follow me @SueBavey and @ARWitham on Twitter and comment “Me please!” on this blog post to be in for a chance! The draw for the lucky winner will take place on July 4th 2022. Good Luck!
Jack Swift can tell you every element on the periodic table, recite Treasure Island verbatim, and would remember in perfect detail every word you’d ever say to him. He has been alone for a long time, so he has buried himself in books, using them to plan his escape.
But no textbook could ever prepare him for the land of Keymark.
At 3:33 a.m. on his fourteenth birthday, Jack is kidnapped by a hideous monster to another sphere of existence. Now there are two moons in the sky, and he is surrounded by grotesque creatures and magical warriors training for battle. They want the impossible: Jack must use his abilities to save a life or be trapped in this bizarre world with no chance of rescue.
Jack doesn’t have secret magic, a great destiny, or any experience.
So why do they all expect him to become a legend?
The Legend of Black Jack contains 20 full-page illustrations and has been described as classic portal fantasy, a standalone coming-of-age adventure, and a descriptive, wholesome, heartwarming story. It features a smart, empathetic hero, lovable characters, loads of action, and a thrilling grand finale.
On the book’s cover, you will find a small keyhole. If you choose to unlock it, nothing can prepare you for the adventure that comes next.
Here are the amazing illustrations followed by A. R. Witham’s explanations for each of them:
You know those leather-bound journals with the lock on the cover? That’s what I wanted for the cover of the book. An armored tome with silver clasps like something from the library of Doctor Strange. Something that felt private and mysterious that contained something so dangerous it had to be kept under lock and key.
Monster in the Streetlamp
This is where it all started. The image of a rhino in a filthy alleyway with broken windows, flickering lights and cracked pavement beneath its massive hands. I wanted something monstrous and wonderful, something I’d never seen before, as our introduction to a world just beyond our reality.
After all the chaos that launches the story, I wanted a moment of peace and beauty, something where you could hear the warm wind whispering through the trees and the ocean waves in the distance. It’s easy to love Keymark and the people who make it home, and I wanted to give the readers something to inspire their imagination.
Just A Boy
This is the crux of the entire first act. Jack Swift is completely out of his depth. I love that all the equipment, the gloves, the mask, the shirt, all of it is too big for him. It sums up Jack’s predicament entirely: too much too soon. And that look on his face is priceless.
James Turner Mohan came up with the idea of the belly turret when we were talking about vehicles other than catamarans that we could reference and he brought up the design of the B-52 bomber. We decided it could be a pilot cabin with a deckwheel during lousy weather, and a way to descend on smaller ships from above.
A little touch of horror goes a long way, and the kekubi, based in Japanese myth, were a great jumping off point. The idea of watchmen posted along the roads was something I needed, and the idea of zombies that would rip off their heads and embed them at crossroads as spies struck me as an idea I hadn’t seen before.
I love Django, Li-Bao and Chance, and I needed them to have their own art. We intentionally avoided human faces in the art to let readers develop their own idea of what everyone looked like, but the Trio was a perfect opportunity to let loose. Chance is designed around an African serval cat, and looking at this image, I want to take him home and feed him tuna.
The Citadel Akkadian is all based around the idea of a circular staircase that goes up forever and it was impossible to pass up the opportunity to show the ultimate moment of vertigo at the top. Li-Bao makes a bold decision. Freezing that moment he jumps is the thrilling image I was hoping for.
Coming of Age
This is the moment the entire story has been leading to. Jack is faced with a decision about which path he wants to take, and the choice is his alone. Valerian, his adopted father figure, stands silent, knowing that there is nothing he can say to help. This scene is the heart of Jack’s story, and the decision of what kind of man he will become.
Knight of the Burning Tower
This one always struck me as special. The scarlet samurai stands overlooking Highyon Garde, separate from his army, alone. In the story, it is a particularly cold and hollow moment, and I love the juxtaposition of the image of a perfect, beautiful hero counterbalanced against the desperation and despair going on inside that helmet.
It was intentional for the art in the book to have an ancient parchment feel to lend texture and history to the illustrations. However, the Crownéd Dæmon Chulurath is best left to our imagination, and hiding his flaming body behind the wall of blue ice in Steeplechase was too good an opportunity to pass up. It is the shadow that haunts your dreams, and it is coming for you.
About the Author
A. R. Witham is a three-time Emmy-winning writer-producer and a great lover of adventure. He is the world’s foremost expert on the history of Keymark. He loves to talk with young people and adults who remember what young people know. He has written for film and television, canoed to the Arctic Circle, hiked the Appalachian Trail, and been inside his house while it burned down. He lives in Indianapolis.
The Legend of Black Jack prequel, Noble Seven (the story of how the Border Knights came to Keymark) is available free at arwitham.com.
Vampire Fiends!You can grab yourself a copy of Cardinals by Ian Conner for ONLY $0.99 from now until July 4th! Conner promises “a completely new twist on Stoker’s tale.”
Available now where e-books are sold!
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2022
Genre: Horror/ Vampires/ Sci-Fi Horror/ Fantasy
Publisher: Black Raptor Books
Nine Hundred years before Christ, God has cast his wife, Asherah, out of heaven and condemned her to roam the earth as the first vampire. Over the centuries, she created other vampires. There are also those that she left for dead but survived her attack without being completely turned into vampires. These survivors are called Cardinals. Scottish Countess Kellena Donnachaidh and Lady Suzette Allard, our protagonists, are among these cardinals. They are searching out Asherah for a final conflict.
Asherah has discovered a way back to heaven so she can exact her vengeance. Using the Amulet of Cassiel she can call the Flaming chariot of Israel to return to heaven and exact her revenge on God.
Now, 3000 years later, the Vatican and other groups are working to destroy Asherah and the vampires., fearing their own destruction if she ascends, simply want to stop Asherah using the Amulet of Cassiel to re-enter heaven. The race and intrigue to recover the Amulet is full of intrigue, betrayal.
A completely new twist on Stoker’s tale.
Ian Conner is retired and spent most of his adult life as a Marine and Army Infantry Sergeant. Now living near San Diego California with his wife Bonnie, a cellist, and their two dogs, Cookie and Isabella. Conner spends his days fostering kittens, gardening, crafting beautiful stained glass and creating worlds on the page.
Conner has authored several other novels:
Cooper’s Ridge – Science Fiction
The Long Game – Political Thriller
The Price of Partisanship – Political Thriller
Solaris – Political Thriller
Griffins Perch – Epic Fantasy
Ghost Witch – Horror
After a lifetime of destruction the thought of creating something tangible and lasting holds great appeal. He finds writing a cathartic way to redefine himself both in his eyes and the eyes of others.
Title: Unseen: The Mercer Nox Story (An Alchemist Trilogy Tale) By: L.A. Wasielewski Release date: July 20, 2022 E-book will be available for pre-order: July 1, 2022 Cover Designer: Gabriela–BRoseDesignz Twitter: @designzrose
Unseen: The Mercer Nox Story (An Alchemist Trilogy Tale)
What did life give me? Torment. Grief. A scarred soul. Did I deserve it? Maybe. Did I welcome it? Maybe…
Call me cursed, arrogant, bitter. Call me whatever you want. I know my place in this world, I know where I stand with the Goddess. I know how I ended up here, what I did. What I didn’t do. It haunts me, but then again, don’t we all have demons?
Some tried to tell me it was destiny, but I refuse to believe some outside force controls my life. Bad things happen, good things happen. In my case, well, let’s just leave it at that and move on. It’s probably better that way.
Unseen: The Mercer Nox Story follows the incredible life of a man who never really wanted to participate in the whole “saving the world” thing in the first place—but realized he really didn’t have a choice. And it annoyed him to no end.
This book contains major spoilers for The Alchemist Trilogy, it is recommended that you read the original trilogy first for maximum enjoyment!
About the Author
L.A. Wasielewski is a gamer, nerd, baseball fan (even though the Brewers make it very difficult sometimes), and mom. When she’s not writing, she’s blasting feral ghouls and super mutants in the wastelands, baking and cooking, and generally being a smart-ass. She’s very proud of the fact that she has survived several years with two drum kits in the house—and still has most of her hearing intact.
Her high dark fantasy series, The Alchemist Trilogy, is available now!
Today I am excited to be joining the Escapist Tours blog tour for At the Threshold of the Universe by T. A. Bruno. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and am sad for it to end – but what a fantastic ending it is! There is an amazingly generous US giveaway further down this post – be sure not to miss it! Please take a look at the posts from the other bloggers and instagrammers taking part in this tour:
At the Threshold of the Universe by T.A. Bruno Series: The Song of Kamaria #3 Genre: Science Fiction Fantasy Intended Age Group: General Pages: 496 Published: May 31, 2022 Publisher: Feathersong, LLC (Self Published)
THE EPIC CONCLUSION TO THE SONG OF KAMARIA TRILOGY.
ALL SONGS END.
War ravages Kamaria as an old enemy resurfaces from the depths of the ocean. Offering no support in the coming battles, the Auk’nai isolate themselves in their tightly guarded Nest. Outgunned and outmatched, humanity once again trembles on the edge of obliteration.
The Castus family is torn apart. Denton fights on the front lines, hoping to free Cade from a nightmarish foe. Meanwhile, Eliana and Nella set out on a path that will change everything they understand about the Sirens. The Song will end, but who will remain to hear its final verse?
Contains spoilers for books 1 and 2 in The Song of Kamaria.
Thank you for the beautiful hardback copy of this book – the cover is my favourite of the trilogy and thank you also for the shoutout to my blog in the Acknowledgments! This trilogy has been a thrill ride that I have thoroughly enjoyed.
I was really excited to read the third and final episode in the Song of Kamaria trilogy, but also sad that the story is coming to an end in what has been one of my favourite series lately.
The stakes have been raised in At The Threshold Of The Universe. The relentless Undriel are back. The grisly horror of their absorption of human captives into their mechanical constructs is fully to the fore in the scenes which feature them. The Undriel are one of the creepiest villain races I have come across in Sci-Fi in quite a while and they are so well imagined with all of their deadly appendages and insect-like appearances.
At the end of the previous book, Cade Castus was taken prisoner and he has been absorbed, but keeps his consciousness, which allows the reader to see inside the Undriel fleet, and experience all of its horrific “mechanical purgatory” through his eyes. These sections of the narrative are not for the squeamish!
Cade is such a tragic hero in this book and you cannot help but hope and pray that he will survive the terrors of absorption and torture at the hands of the horrifying Undriel and somehow be able to reunite with his family. Cade’s telepathic link with the siren, Karx, allows him to shade walk through time and witness the back stories of each of the main Undriel characters, most of which are to be pitied for their Undriel absorption despite their later actions, with the exception of a couple of particularly despicable humans for whom I could feel no pity. These back stories are eye-opening and a very interesting way of filling in a lot of the events during the battle at the beginning of the first book of the series, while also explaining to both Cade and the reader how the persistently violent Undriel came into being.
With a terrifying roar, the machines burst forth from the forest and rushed toward the city. Since they had lost the element of surprise, they would use fear to their advantage. The machines shrieked and increased the luminosity of their glowing eyes. They moved wildly, using tried-and-true methods to instill terror in their enemies. All Undriel warriors had felt this same horror right before they became absorbed into the dark network. Deep down, they remembered how effective it was.
Cade’s deaf sister Nella also has a link with a siren – Sympha – which enables her to telepathically talk to the rocklike nezzaforms dotted all over the planet. Through them she learns more of the species known to humans as sirens, but who are actually Voyalten from a faraway starless planet. We learn that Nhymn, Sympha and Karx were part of a group sent to the planet to build a portal/gate, for which Nella is now able to use the nezzaforms to build a “Key” to open the portal, which would allow travel between the network of planets linked by this species.
Denton and Eliana believe each of their children to be dead at separate points in the book and the emotional strain and feelings of despair these episodes cause are well-written and pull hard on the heart strings. There are some amazing twists in the book, particularly one at about two thirds in, which took me by complete surprise and was a fantastic addition and genius way to give hope to the doggedly determined humans in the face of what initially appears to be an undefeatable enemy.
The humanoid birdlike species, the Auk’nai are also back in this book, but trust has been lost between them and the humans since the treaty in Book 1. They have taken over the old Telemachus ship and made it into their new Nest. They are not allowing humans to come near or even to fly over their new territory. Eliana Castus and Talulo, the Auk’nai leader must bury their grievances and try and find middle ground in order for the two species to move forward and work together against the enemy.
The epic battle at the finale of the book is extremely exciting and just keeps on going – whenever I thought it was going to end another character popped up needing to be defeated. There are a lot of major players but everything was well choreographed and didn’t get confusing. The ending to the battle was very emotional and I defy anyone to not shed a tear or two!
At the Threshold of the Universe is a thrilling edge-of-the-seat conclusion to what has been a wonderfully imaginative and creative series and one I will definitely reread. I hope there will be more stories from this compelling universe at some point in the not too distant future!
Kamaria was relentlessly beautiful.
***US Giveaway Information***
Prize: A Full Signed Set of the Song of Kamaria Series! Starts: June 16, 2022 at 12:00am EST Ends: June 22, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
T. A. Bruno grew up in a suburb south of Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is the proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife.
When London boy Simon dreams of becoming a New Zealand rock star, he has no idea he’ll duet with a suspected murderer, model for posters with a dairy cow, accidentally present the weather on the radio and be upstaged by an apple crumble.
As he struggles to impersonate Elvis, forgets the most important birthday song and scares away a hen party, will he ever realise his rock star ambitions, or will he have to pack away his guitar and abandon his dreams forever?
I was given an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review – thank you Simon!
The Pomegranate Busker is the third book in the South Pacific Shenanigans series, and it did not disappoint, each of these books has got better than the last. This has been a very enjoyable series with many laughs and surprises along the way.
The story continues where book two left off and in this episode Simon decides to try and fulfill his dreams of becoming a rock star. Billed as “London Musician Simon Michael Prior” he begins his new career by getting himself booked to sing and play guitar in the local pubs and birthday parties around Hokitika, New Zealand, where he lives on his girlfriend’s Dad’s farm.
With his positive attitude, Simon seems to be able to successfully turn his hand to pretty much anything he attempts, but he gives himself a pep talk on the night before his first gig:
“This is it. You’re a guitar hero. You’re a rock legend. You’re a superstar.”
This book is a breath of fresh air with some hilarious characters introduced among its pages. I loved the Yorkshireman complaining about the proximity of his hotel bed to the window and the lack of proper Yorkshire tea in his room. The lady in the travel agents with a list of requirements for her trip to America also made me chuckle. I wonder if her husband managed to encounter bears in the wild as he so desired!
There are plenty of heart warming moments on the farm as Simon takes part in the annual calving season and also some tear jerkers – boy calves are of no use to a dairy farm.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing where Simon is going to take us next!
About the Author
Simon Michael Prior insists on inflicting all aspects of life on himself so that his readers can enjoy learning about his latest trip/experience/disaster/emotional breakdown (insert phrase of your choice).
During his extended adolescence, now over forty years long, he has lived on two boats and sunk one of them; sold houses, street signs, Indian food and paper bags for a living; visited almost fifty countries and lived in three; qualified as a scuba divemaster; nearly killed himself learning to wakeboard; trained as a search and rescue skipper with the Coast Guard, and built his own house without the benefit of an instruction manual.
Simon is as amazed as anyone that the house is still standing, and he now lives in it by the sea with his wife and twin daughters, where he spends his time regurgitating his experiences on paper before he has so many more that he forgets them.
Fifteen-year-old Willow is terrified of her new baby, Lilah, who has a peculiar form of epilepsy. Every time Lilah’s eyes glaze over, terrible things happen: flowers shrivel, food goes to rot – even Willow’s long, auburn hair turns stark white. But it’s the death of the family cat that becomes the last straw; in the middle of the night, Willow and her mother dump the infant at the fire station two towns over – and are never heard from again.
The next morning, Chief Stanley Quinn takes Lilah home and cares for the toddler as best as he can. With medication, her epilepsy remains under control… For the most part.
But as a teenager, Lilah isn’t always keen on taking her pills, and when she sneaks away to a rock concert with the cutest boy in school, something terrible happens, landing both of them in the hospital. After Stanley breaks down and confesses everything to his adopted daughter, she decides to track down the young girl who gave her up sixteen years ago; the young girl who never made it home that night… The young girl who is now presumed to be dead. Soon, Lilah’s quest to find her birth mother becomes a quest to solve a sixteen-year-old missing persons case. She has everything she needs to find her – she just needs to learn how to control her peculiar ‘gift’ before she kills someone. Again.
The Girl Who Talks to Ashes is a YA contemporary fantasy set in the recent past (no cell phones) that had me engrossed right from the start! It’s ingenious premise of a baby who could affect the timeline around her whenever she suffered from an epileptic fit and the complicated consequences of this ‘superpower’ as she grew older was really intriguing! This is the first of Rachel Rener’s books that I have read but it will not be the last – I loved the easy writing style and the believable dialogue. There was a layer of teenage angst and a fledgling relationship between the main character and the boy who she thought was too good for her, which was heartwarming. The descriptions of the locations in the narrative were very visual and I could easily imagine this story as a movie or TV series, with this as the pilot episode. Stanley, Lilah’s adoptive father who found her abandoned outside the fire station was a great character – very solid and dependable. He is struggling his way through life as a single dad and widower doing everything he can to protect Lilah and keep her on the straight and narrow. His inner dialogue was credible and he was a very likeable character. There were some scenes which bordered on horror – when people/animals in the vicinity of Lilah aged during one of her seizures but mostly this was a hard to put down easy read! I do think that when Lilah’s affliction/power was explained to people (Jace and the chief of police) it was accepted too readily by them. Lilah had to demonstrate what she had told them for them to believe her, but then there didn’t seem to be an appropriate level of shock at what they had seen. I think the down to earth chief of police would have assumed some kind of trick was being played on him and would have needed more convincing – but this is a small niggle. I also think more could have been made of the scene in which Celeste and Willow pull over to help the girl in the red raincoat. It wasn’t clear to me that this had been a car jacking scene until much later in the book.
I really liked the images of the appleseed/ripe apple/decaying apple used at the start of each chapter to hint at the timeline in that chapter.
I received an advance review copy for free from Book Sirens, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
About the Author
Rachel Rener is a contemporary fantasy author who loves blurring the line between science and magic in all of her work.
She graduated from the University of Colorado after focusing on Psychology and Neuroscience. Since then, she has lived on three continents and has traveled to more than 40 countries.
When she’s not engrossed in writing, Rachel enjoys art of all kinds, riding her motorcycle, reading fantasy books, going to rock shows (both musical and mineralogical), Vulcanology (the lava kind as well as the pointy-eared variety), and playing video games. She lives in Colorado along with her husband, a stellar mineral collection, and a sassy umbrella cockatoo that hangs out on her shoulder as she writes – whether invited or not.
Chief Inspector Pole, the vampire from the mysterious Section S, teams up once again with his human counterpart to hunt down the beast before the people of the city realise that they are threatened by creatures they have dismissed as myths.
Time is short as the werewolf kills ever more recklessly. Can Galbraith and Pole stop it before panic spreads through London?
Galbraith and Pole start their search in Pole’s extensive library of the arcane, accompanied by a couple of glasses of his excellent malt whisky. All too soon, though, they will have to take to the streets to hunt the monster by the light of the moon.
But the threat is even greater than they think, for in its human form the werewolf is terrifyingly close to the heart of government.
This is Tom Williams’ second tongue-in-cheek take on traditional creatures of darkness. Like the first Galbraith & Pole book, Something Wicked, this will appeal to fans of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London.
You never know when the forces of darkness may be released and there will be no time for reading then. Buy Eat the Poor before it’s too late.
I am reviewing Eat the Poor by Tom Williams on behalf of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team #RBRT. Thank you to Rosie and to Tom for sending me a digital copy of the book. My opinions are my own and my review is honest.
Eat the Poor is the second supernatural detective fantasy featuring the unlikely pairing of Chief Inspector John Galbraith and the vampire, Chief Inspector Pole, following on from Something Wicked which I read and reviewed here. This time Pole and his mysterious police department “Section S” are on the trail of a creature that has been attacking deer in Richmond Park, dogs and more recently a human. Could the offender be a werewolf?
Once again I enjoyed the unlikely camaraderie of the two main protagonists, thrown together by the unusual nature of the local murder case. They are very different characters, Pole a 500 year old strait-laced vampire with refined tastes and Galbraith a down to Earth middle-aged detective whose waistline is spreading and hair is greying, beginning to consider his next steps within the police force. Seconded to Section S for the duration of this peculiar murder case, he soon finds himself dining with Pole at his abode most nights as they go over the particulars of the case and the body count begins to rise.
In addition to this fantasy series, the author is a writer of historical fiction and he often includes historical details in the story which make it richer and lend authenticity to the world in which the story is set. The seamier side of London is to the fore here, with murder victims coming from the ranks of the serial unemployed, their bodies being unceremoniously dumped in the garbage areas of the tower blocks of the seedier neighbourhoods in which they live.
We are told fairly early on who the perpetrator of the crimes is and are then able to watch the detectives follow clues until they figure it out for themselves and the pace speeds up until the final “edge of the seat” confrontation. What happens after this confrontation, I found to be quite surprising – it was not what I expected in terms of a conclusion to the case at all. This light-hearted police procedural and its surprising ending was a breath of fresh air and since it is a novella and therefore fairly short, it was quick to get into the action of the story and to grip my attention. I particularly liked how odious the Conservative MP Christopher Garold was. Anyone following British politics lately will not find the idea of a murderous werewolf that far-fetched when it comes to the dirty little secrets of those in power:
“…though the staff were good at turning a blind eye to peculiar behaviour from MPs, the sight of a wolf strolling through the corridors of power would, he thought, be too much for them to ignore.”
Anyone who likes a detective story with a little supernatural edge should give this book a try!
About the Author
Tom Williams used to write books for business. Now he writes novels set in the 19th century that are generally described as fiction but which are often more honest than the business books. (He writes contemporary fantasy as well, but that’s a dark part of his life, so you’ll have to explore that on your own – ideally with a friend and a protective amulet.)
His stories about James Burke (based on a real person) are exciting tales of high adventure and low cunning set around the Napoleonic Wars. The stories have given him the excuse to travel to Argentina, Egypt, and Spain and call it research.
Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which (before covid) he thought he did quite well. In between he reads old books and spends far too much time looking at ancient weaponry.
Tom’s blogs appear regularly on his website, where you can also find details of all his books. You can follow him on Twitter as @TomCW99 or Facebook.