by S.K. Munt
|GORDIAN KNOT: The Gordian Knot is a legend of Phrygian Gordium associated with Alexander the Great. It is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) solved easily by cheating or “thinking outside the box” (“cutting the Gordian knot”). – Wikipedia|
Welcome to Thunderdome. Two men enter, one man leaves.
The long-suffering Lincoln Grey is back to being a second-class citizen again. After Tristan’s untimely death, Lincoln stepped up and became the fiancé of Ivyanne Court. Things were finally starting to work out and it looked like he would marry the love of his life when the unthinkable happened. Tristan Loveridge came back from the presumed dead on the night of the engagement party. Link could already see things starting to slip as one more round of plaudits were added to the Loveridge legend. Things went from bad to worse when Ardhi killed Ivyanne’s parents forcing the mantle of leadership upon her about a hundred years too soon and then hit rock bottom when Ivyanne broke the engagement in order to prevent Lincoln from becoming a target for the mad mystic merman, Ardhi. Tristan Loveridge is now back in the running and nothing is guaranteed for either suitor.
Heads or Tails opens in the aftermath of her parents’ murder and Ivyanne is struggling to find at least some semblance of safety. She is the only heir to the throne and if she should fall victim to Ardhi’s madness then all continuity will be lost and the fragile kingdom will be in serious trouble. Ivyanne closes up her parent’s home on Bracken Island and relocates to a more defensible house on the mainland. Garridan, her head of security, has suggested a guard be formed for her protection and suddenly, the two rivals for her hand find themselves sharing the same roof with a queen who is struggling to come to terms with the responsibilities that have suddenly been thrust upon her.
Tristan is the same old Tristan or so it would seem. He’s in Sydney trying to repair the damage to his company caused by his absence and presumed demise when he is called to spend a couple of days in Ivyanne’s new home. In The Marked Ones and, to some degree, Three Rings, Tristan Loveridge has appeared to be the sort of devil-may-care kind of guy who would simply move on to other conquests if he was unable to claim Ivyanne’s hand. In Heads or Tails, S.K. Munt has painted him with more vulnerability and the reader can easily see that he will be hurt if he does not persevere.
Tristan was in love with her. Really and actually in love with her. Lincoln had doubted before but he didn’t now. The guy was on the level, and as vulnerable as Lincoln himself.
Meanwhile, back at The Seaview, Lincoln is trying to keep the resort afloat and adjust to not only being Mer but being a demoted Mer at that. The verbal sparring between he and Tristan will resume and Lincoln will have to keep up. Tristan will continue to hold over his head the fact that Lincoln is alive only because he saved him from drowning in The Marked Ones and took a knife wound for his troubles. To be sure, Lincoln will get his digs in and even gain some ground with Ivyanne, but he will continue to be wrong-footed by Tristan.
Tristan grimaced, feeling a trace of guilt. When it came down to it-Lincoln really was a hard luck case. He’d finally gotten a ring on the finger of the girl of his dreams only to have her take it off the night of the celebration. The fact that Tristan had kissed her in that damn closet during the party made him feel like a heel.
The cast of characters in Heads or Tails is augmented by the Ms Munt’s promotion of Grace Londeree from her cameo role in Three Rings to a full supporting role in this story. Grace is the niece of Tristan Loveridge and, in many ways, an 18-year-old feminine version of him. Both are achingly beautiful and both won’t stop until they get what they want. For Grace, her want is Lincoln Grey and the fact that she is more mature than a number of the characters in this drama makes her quest all the more interesting. Will she ultimately succeed and will Lincoln ultimately succumb or is Grace simply a teen-aged flirt enthralled by the hottest man on the planet?
Through her extraordinary gifts for story-telling and writing compelling dialogue, S.K. Munt has created the perfect Gordian Knot with the third book in her Fairytail Saga, Heads or Tails. Solving this twisting tail of love, desire and royalty will definitely require that one think outside the box; way outside the box. While some may argue that this is simply the same old romantic triangle with scales, it is so much more and though the question of whom Ivyanne chooses will finally be solved, Ms. Munt seems to have laid the ground work for a fourth book in the series. This is in addition to the YA prequel that she is already at work upon.
To be sure, S.K. Munt keeps the pot bubbling in Heads or Tails and the reader is kept off-balance and one step behind in divining the final outcome. When one factors in the uncertainty of how, when and where Ardhi will choose to strike along with the heartbreak that is certain to befall at least one of the suitors, you have a dark and suspenseful novel that is difficult to put down. If this is the first that you have heard of The Fairytail Saga, by all means, go and read The Marked Ones and Three Rings first. The reader will know firsthand the kind of story that S.K. Munt is capable of spinning. If, however, the reader is familiar the first two books, this reviewer strongly suggests that one find a comfy chair or sofa, a bit of something to eat, a few tissues and prepare to submerge themselves in this story. While some readers might not like how Heads of Tails ends, the story is so well told that one simply has almost no choice but to like it. Though some readers may find that romantic triangles are overdone, sometimes it is not so much the story as how the story is told.
There is a bright spot in all of this. Those readers who have followed the entire series will remember Remi, the red-headed barmaid at The Seaview resort. Remi is a mermaid married to a human man for the past 10 years. Mixed marriages usually don’t go beyond a decade and a half because the human partner will inevitably notice that their spouse has appeared to age little, if at all, and in order to protect the secret the spouse will have to disappear . . . no matter how much they may love their human. The only way that the human may enter the Mer world is to be “Turned” by another Mer. Except for the occasional individual who is gifted with the ability to “Turn” at will, this act is fatal to the Mer. Ardhi is the only one currently known to have this ability and he has gone mental.
There’s tension in Remi’s marriage as she doesn’t want children due to having to leave so soon. Her husband, Michael, knows nothing of what his wife is really facing and has begun drinking more than is good for him. It’s a busy evening at The Seaview and Michael has had too much and wandered off. Lincoln goes in search of him only to find Michael mostly drowned in the resort’s pool. Lincoln revives him but Michael’s life won’t ever be the same. Lincoln has discovered that he can turn humans and live to tell the tail. Remi has her marriage back and Lincoln’s a hero. Will his new-found gift help him in his quest to become Ivyanne’s husband? This reviewer is honour-bound to not spill the beans.
For those who crave at least one little nugget as to how Heads or Tails ends, this reviewer will allow one minor revelation. One of Ivyanne’s first acts as queen is to offer a Knighthood to the person who can take Ardhi down. There is no “winner-take-all” in this story. For he who obtains this rare honour, this reviewer would like to pass on the following bit of advice from a another Knight:
No, you can’t always get what you want
No, you can’t always get what you want
No, you can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, you just might find
You get what you need – Sir Mick Jagger
In the interest of full disclosure, an ARC was provided by the author in exchange for a full and honest review. (Which she would have received anyway!)
Follow S.K. Munt on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skmunt?ref=br_tf or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7159848.S_K_Munt/blog
Buy Your Own Copy of Heads or Tails
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The holidays are almost upon us and since Black Friday – or Black Thursday as it is starting to look like – is coming up fast, many of you may be wondering about just what to give your favourite mer-fan. If not, the you may be wondering just what you’re going to do with the Hanukkah and/or Christmas gelt that is sure to come your way. Submitted here for your consideration is one possibility.
Life as a mermaid can be suffocating.
Sometimes following your heart can end up destroying the ones you love.
When seventeen-year-old Eviana Dumahl is faced with the responsibility of an arranged marriage and clan leadership, she is forced to choose between the life required of a mermaid and one of a teenage girl simply infatuated with the wrong guy. Kain, her devoted fiancé would make a wonderful husband except that she’s been in love with Brendan, a shape-shifting selkie, ever since they were kids. Choosing to abandon her family, her clan, and her life with Kain will have dire consequences far beyond anything she could have imagined.
A war is brewing amongst the clans and Eviana unwittingly becomes a pawn in the intricate schemes of a twisted mastermind. With Brendan’s life on the line, she has no choice but to involve those who she once considered friends. Amidst encountering senseless tragedies and immense loss, Eviana discovers that she is more valuable as a clan leader than anyone ever suspected. Her survival is not only dependent upon the loyalty of her friends, but also on her acceptance of a life that she had so adamantly tried to escape.
Promises is the first book of The Syrenka Series trilogy following Eviana and her friends through the perils of growing up in a discrete world that inherently threatens human society.
About Amber Garr
Amber Garr spends her days as a scientist and nights writing about other worlds. Born in Pennsylvania, she lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry kids. Her childhood imaginary friend was a witch, Halloween is sacred, and she is certain that she has a supernatural sense of smell. Amber is a multiple Royal Palm Literary Award winner, author of Waterproof, The Syrenka Series, The Leila Marx Novels, and the upcoming Death Warden Series. When not obsessing over the unknown, she can be found dancing, reading, or enjoying a good movie.
by Marie McKean
In 1975, the American artist, Jamie Wyeth, created a painting called “And then deep into the gorge” which depicts a person driving a buggy led by a team of two white horses. The buggy leaves the dappled light of the forest behind as it proceeds down a road and turns to the viewer’s left – always a bad sign in paintings – into the leafy gathering gloom of darkness, a foreshadowing of what is to happen to the person driving the buggy.
This painting came to mind when I first saw the cover art for Marie McKean’s Born of Oak and Silver and that feel of it was certainly reinforced as I read more and more of her down right dark and creepy tale. Wyeth’s creation portends the automobile accident that will severely cripple his wife. Such a tragedy would be the least of the troubles that Daine Caradoc Dalton will have to endure. We encounter him as a very young boy who has come under the tutelage of Bram Macardle, a trifle odd but generous neighbour of his parents who live outside of Strasbourg on France’s eastern border. Bram is something of a naturalist and takes the young Daine on rambles through the surrounding countryside and provides him with an early introduction to the natural world. For his part, Daine has a yearning to go fishing like the other boys do and since his father is constantly at work on orders for bespoke furniture, Bram offers to act in loco parentis for piscatorial activities in exchange for seeing to Daine’s education. In effect Bram becomes Daine’s patron and rather than attend a regular school, Bram will personally tutor the boy.
The education that Daine receives is unlike any other boy in the neighbourhood will have. Bram Macardle is a Druid and what’s more, Daine is one of Druidic descent. Daine does not take this bit of news very well and wonders if his tutor is barking mad. Given a day to consider the direction for his life, Daine walks home, intending not to return, and wanders through the bounds that constrain Maurelle, a subordinate member of the Sidhe Royal Court. The Sidhe are the faery people of Irish folklore and in Born of Oak and Silver, they are not of the variety that may be found living at the bottom of the garden. The Sidhe Royal Court are intent on making our world theirs and are, in and of themselves, nasty pieces of work. Even though Maurelle is pretty low in the Royal pecking order, she is nonetheless not one to be trifled with.
Daine survives his encounter with Maurelle and considers that Bram Macardle may not be off his nut after all. That Maurelle has designs on him – and not in a nice way – is impetus enough to convince Daine to train to be a full-fledged Druid. Reviewer’s Note – There are an estimated 50,000 neo-Druids in the world. 30,000 of them are in North America.
When Daine is 17, Bram proposes to take him to Ireland in order to complete his education. Though his parents are sorry to see their son leave the nest, this opportunity for him to travel and become a man of the world is too important for him to pass up. And so, Daine Caradoc Dalton says good-bye to his parents and the only home he has ever known.
I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness at the imminent departure of my childhood, and the constant presence of both my mother and father. And though I fought to hide it, at seeing my mother and father both attempting to act so bravely for my benefit, but failing to hide the tears that now escaped both of their eyes, I too allowed myself to fully mourn the passage of what once was.
The train began to move slowly forward.
I raised my right hand, and planted it spread on the window pane beside my face. My parents both raised their hands in farewell.
I watched them fade away until I could no longer see them on the quay huddled together and waving. When all signs of them were gone, I leaned back and drew my hat down over my face feigning sleep. The hat my father had just given me conveniently hid the flood of tears that now coursed down my face.
Marie McKean has a wonderful and amazing gift for descriptive writing. The passage about Daine leaving his home and parents behind becomes even more poignant when the reader later discovers that this moment is the last time that he will ever see them alive. There are more scenes in which you not only see the action but feel like you are in the scene itself and Marie has chosen to begin her tale with a sterling example of her abilities.
Today has been just another hot and stickily humid day in a seemingly endless string of many. Neither night nor day has offered any relief from the oppressive heat. Even the nonchalant insects seem to be overly burdened by the tyrannical sun. Not that there is anything noteworthy about this during the summer months. In Mississippi, it has always been this way.
The sun has just begun to set, splaying a soft pink glow between the darkening thunderclouds in the distance. The air is thick with an imminent promise of heavy rain. Sparrows exude an unspoken urgency as they quickly skim and dart in the skies, looking to make a quick meal out of the mosquitoes that hover unconcernedly amid the southern dusk. Thunder rumbles threateningly somewhere along the horizon, and a welcomed breeze that was not there a moment ago, suddenly picks up.
You can feel the flies starting to bite in advance of the approaching storm. The first impulse of this reviewer was to stop after page 4 and simply review Chapter One but Ms. McKean’s writing style calls the reader on to experience more. If this reviewer was fortunate enough to teach a course in creative writing, Chapter One would be presented as an outstanding example of what a writer is capable of doing and, yes, it would be on the final exam.
Marie’s characters are crafted with the same extraordinary care. For example, Daine is a latter day Job who does not lose all in a day, but rather, loses the people he loves – one by one – as the story unfolds. He is a Druid of untapped power and potential but despite all this, he seems powerless to stop the darkness and tragedy hurled at him by Maurelle and the forces she represents. The most bitter losses are saved for the last.
Another example is Daine’s mother, Carine Dalton. We see her not as a mere secondary character in a story but as a real life flesh and blood mother. The love and concern she shows for her son is most palpable and extends beyond the grave. This reviewer intends to use Carine as an example when he develops his own characters. Bram Macardle, Daine’s father, Bram’s grand-daughters, Maurelle herself; the list could – and does – go on and on.
Born of Oak and Silver fills a void in fantasy subjects as Druidry has received scant attention. This story may well become the “gold standard” for other authors who chose Druids as a theme for their stories. But Ms. McKean’s story is about so much more; Deciet, Betrayal, Evil, Perseverance , Heroism, Sacrifice and unending Love are all to be found between the opening sentences of Chapter one and the final words of Chapter Twenty Three. To that list, one may add Frustration as the sequel, Born of Ash and Iron, is not due to release until October of 2014.
Sometimes, the greatest accolade comes not from a reviewer but from a fellow author. Emm Cole, author of the Merminia series has declared Born of Oak and Silver to be her favourite indie book of the year. It is easy to see why. In the final analysis, it is left to you, the reader, to make the ultimate decision. Born of Oak and Silver is not for the faint of heart nor is it for the casual reader in the fantasy genre. By all means ,do take the time to purchase and read Marie McKean’s novel. The journey is well worth it. This reviewer is expecting great things to come from her future efforts and is eager to see what else is to pour forth from her keyboard.
Marie McKean’s website is at mariemckean.com
Buy your own copy of Born of Oak and Silver
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