Fantasy

Cover Art

Cover Art

by John Swan

The debut novel by a new author can be a disquieting time for all concerned. The author worries about what the reviewers will make of his months – if not years – of hard work. Another worry is how the book will be received by the readers themselves. Professional reviewers – or at least those who pretend they are – hope that they will be among the first to proclaim an emerging talent and worry that other reviewers will not agree with them. In Your Dreams by John Swan is an impressive story for an author’s first outing and does not disappoint. John’s early influences included J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, and Robert Jordan and that influence – especially of J.R.R. Tolkien – shows in the prologue, A Lullaby of Ages. If the reader takes Mr. Swan’s Tolkien-esque world-building as an indication that The Aldaya Series will be merely yet another attempt to ride the coattails of Middle Earth, then they are making a grave mistake.

The scene is Aldaya, a large island on a water planet not too far – in astronomical terms – from our own. The civilisation there is not what it once was and after suffering a global catastrophe, a sort of dry rot has begun to set in. Sic transit gloria mundi. The squabbling of territories, which goes back over a thousand years, has intensified of late and alliances are on the brink of crumbling. War seems to be almost inevitable. In the centre of all this is High Lord Éolan, Steward of the City of Nausica, council member and spouse to the Premier-elect. Aside from all the disturbing things going on, Éolan’s dreams have been troubled of late. The subject has always been the same, year in and year out; a pale blonde waif-like girl. Those dreams have become much more frequent … and now, quite vivid.

It had taken place somewhere deep in the Endless Marshes to the east, and in an old canoe had lain the body of a girl. She was young, perhaps fifteen, and all the colors in the dream were muted shades of grays and blacks save her golden blond hair. She was ghostly pale, almost to the point of being translucent, and cold to the touch. Éolan had been having similar dreams of the girl off and on for many years, but lately they had become much more frequent.

The girl with the blond hair and purple eyes, of whom Éolan dreams, is named Mim and she has dreams of her own..

 A woman stood above her, her kind purple eyes shining with love, and radiant golden hair just as Mim had. She disappeared, and as Mim sat up the woman was now seated with her head turned away and staring into an ornate crystal hand mirror. Upon it were etched images of gods and goddesses dancing under the night sky and beneath ancient trees.

As she began to sing, the mirror began to glow, as did the woman’s eyes. The song was a tale of seven sisters that guarded the heavens, and the melody was so beautiful that Mim floated upwards and over to the woman’s lap. Her reflection showed a toddler, but Mim knew it was her and giggled. The woman began to laugh as well. She let go of the mirror, but instead of it dropping and shattering on the marble floor, it stayed suspended in the air.

Mim is fifteen years old, parentless and lives in a flyspeck of a town named Slaidburn in a blighted area of Endmoor, bordering the Endless Marshes. Slaidburn’s cash crop seems to be mildew and the benefits of civilization appear to be receding; the roads are in deplorable condition and lamplight has become more the rule than the exception. A foundling raised in foster care until the age of 12, Mim has been on her own for three years now, and lacking the necessary wealth for secondary education, works as a kitchen assistant at The Last Stand Tavern which provides her with enough money for clothes and a place to sleep. Like many people in Slaidburn, Mim is just barely getting by.

All of this is about to change for her because, on a chilly, misty night, three unwelcome visitors enter the tavern after closing. Two of them have no name but the third is a thin woman dressed in black who the reader learns is Morra Losis. Morra has an appetite for people … as dinner … and Mim is an intriguing morsel who might otherwise become the blue plate special except that the person – or thing – Morra serves would be quite interested in the girl and thus she decides to spare her but only just. There is nothing for it but to run; first to her rented shed and then to as far from Slaidburn as is humanly possible.

Her hope is to eventually make her way to the seat of learning in Aldaya, the Charis Vale. Interestingly, Lord Éolan is on his way there himself to attend an annual gala which will inaugurate the autumn term at that institution. The weather plays a key role in this story, no doubt because of John Swan’s Bachelor’s Degree in weather and climate. Because of a weather system that just won’t go away, Lord Éolan is forced to travel by coach along the southern highway, bordering the edge of the marshes, to reach the capital of Endmoor in order to catch a north-bound airship to reach his final destination. Their paths cross at the junction of the highway and the road leading to Slaidburn where Mim helps thwart an ambush by brigands. It is from this point forward that their journeys – and indeed, their fates – are intertwined.

The world of Aldaya is one most carefully crafted and John Swan’s prose allows the reader to sense the fetid miasma of the Endless Marshes, the dank atmosphere and crushing poverty of Slaidburn as well as the glories of the cities of Alastria and Iccobar. Those fortunate to read In Your Dreams will catch a glimpse of the terror that permeates both Mim’s encounter with Morra Losis and her perilous journey through the marshes. Through the power of Mr. Swan’s vision, readers will vicariously experience Mim’s sense of awe and wonder as her first journey on an airship lifts her above the mundane world and carries her far away from the blighted province she has known all her life. In fine, John Swan is a lexical mage, conjuring a pellucid world for all who choose to peruse this fantasy.

In a time before ours, when the universe was much younger, a great civilization lived upon the surface of an infant world not much different than our own. It was tucked away on our same distant arm of the galaxy, with its twin moons shining unblemished in the night sky, and its surface full of spirits both great and small.

These two opening sentences are so much more evocative than “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. “

John Swan’s vision for In Your Dreams was to write a story that was both readable and understandable by those thirteen years-old and above. It is this reviewer’s considered opinion that the author has ably achieved his goal. He has created an exciting and enthralling story that should attract readers with a passion for the fantasy genre. Do not let the fact that this is a Young Adult novel dissuade the reader in the least. YA fiction is a not-so-guilty pleasure for many people and In Your Dreams provides all of the reading pleasure with none of the guilt. Mr. Swan envisions the Aldaya Series as a six book saga and promises that this is merely the beginning with many more works to come. If In Your Dreams is any indication, he has a distinguished literary career before him.

My Rating:

Important Links:

Publicity Inquiries Attn: Natalie Spasic | email publicity@nataliespasic.com

June 26th & 27th, 2014

Three Great Stories

by

Three Great Authors

From

Three Great Countries

Mark Your Calendar!!!

Mark Your Calendar!!!

 REVIEWS:

Cover Art

Cover Art

 by S.K. Munt

Over the course of the past year, I have had the distinct pleasure and privilege of reviewing S.K. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga and have enjoyed each story from start to finish. Inasmuch as Stained Glass is the conclusion of the series, I have chosen to deviate from my usual approach to reviewing novels and instead, have looked at the story through an analysis of the four central characters in this story. S.K. Munt has an extraordinary gift for developing the characters that inhabit her stories and each of them deserve their moment in the reviewer’s spotlight. Taking this approach also reduces the number of spoilers and I do not wish to take anything away from the reader’s pleasure in perusing this “must read” conclusion to the series.

Submitted for your consideration; A four-time loser named Lincoln Grey who has squandered the sympathy of his peers by trying, in less than a year, to emulate the lifetime accomplishments of his greatest rival and has failed miserably. Feeling used and discarded – again – by the love of his life, Ivyanne Court, Lincoln uses and discards his friends and allies in a bid to prove that he is much more than a nobody. While “Oh yeah? I’ll show her” may be the rallying cry throughout history of every lover who has been pipped at the post by his competitor, Lincoln Grey’s campaign to somehow show the woman who spurned him that anything Tristan Loveridge can do, he can do better is a disaster and Link does not even realize it. Try as he may, he can’t capture Tristan’s aura … at least among merfolk.

Ivyanne has been out of the picture for eight months and a lot has changed in the interim. She has been around the world on her post-nuptial tour, uncovered the back-story regarding her family’s origins and become a mother – not to just an heir but to triplets. The women of the Court dynasty seem to have been hitherto cursed not to bear children until after their first century but Ivyanne has apparently broken that curse and she has returned to the Seaview to find that much has changed there as well.  Her knight – Sir Lincoln Grey, as it were – has used his reward to refurbish the resort and is continuing his masque as an alcohol-fueled bon viant and playboy. Despite all of his debauchery, Link seems to be thriving, his buff body even more attractive than before. Sadly, Lincoln Grey, the person, has become increasingly less attractive to the people who should really matter.

… and though he didn’t remember most of it well, he hadn’t forgotten how perfect that coupling had felt.

Lincoln’s amorous adventures have largely been a parade of bed-partners in a desperate search to replace or relive his time with Ivyanne. Somewhere in the alcohol induced haze, there was one perfect night with one perfect partner. That relationship has gone by the boards, as has his relationship with Grace. Though she had promised to wait until he was ready, the beast he has turned in to is much more than Grace can bear and she has fled to the Philippines. Pummeled by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Link writhes in emotional and psychological anguish like a fish impaled on a spear. The past eight months have been an attempt at self-medication which has – as it usually does – failed.

S.K. Munt has deftly turned the sympathetic character of Lincoln Grey into one that the reader wants to wash their hands of and she does it in a one hundred and eighty degree tour de force that leaves the reader wondering just what it was Grace or Ivyanne ever saw in him. There is more than one point in Stained Glass where the reader expects to hear a single gunshot and then Ivyanne and her mate swim off into the sunset as the credits start to roll, the only question being who pulled the trigger.

In direct antithesis to Link’s character is that of Tristan Loveridge. The author has taken the crowd-pleasing character and made him more likeable as a person whilst showing more depth to the royal consort. Tristan is truly and deeply in love with Ivyanne and will do anything to protect what is his even if it includes shooting Link, the poster boy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “No” and “Go Away”. The question is, would Tristan really liquidate Lincoln and if so, would Link thank him for it? Tristan’s attitude towards his former rival seems to be an odd mixture of compassion and scorn. It is Tristan who wants to break things to Lincoln gently and it is Tristan who really feels for the guy and yet Tristan looks down on Link for once again feeling sorry for himself. Given Lincoln’s string of losses throughout the Fairy Tail Saga, feeling sorry for himself seems to be the only viable alternative to using the .22 calibre pistol hidden in his safe. For over a decade, Lincoln Grey has been the man of constant sorrow and it could well be that Tristan’s attitude is due to his own life of privilege. Even the ‘perfect’ have their imperfections.

The author has painted an even more detailed portrait of Ivyanne in Stained Glass that reflects her sorrow for the pain and misfortunes that her family seems to have dumped on the Greys through the years. It is questionable, however, if she is really to blame for these misfortunes or is merely where the buck finally stops. She sincerely wants to make things right but can that ever be accomplished completely? In one sense, she already has made one thing right. Ivyanne was unwittingly responsible in a way for Lincoln losing ten years of his life to misery and sorrow and yet, because of his renewed association with her, Lincoln has gained centuries in return. S.K. Munt has made one aspect of Ivyanne abundantly clear; she really and truly does love Tristan Loveridge though the reader does sometimes wonder if his physical attributes have anything to do with it.

Finally, there is Grace Londeree, the somewhat spoiled child of privilege who latched onto Lincoln like a limpet in Heads or Tails. Although Grace was seen as an incorrigible flirt – as least where Lincoln was concerned – she also showed an amount of maturity which was often lacking the other characters. However, in this, the finale to Ms. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga, it is Grace’s overall lack of maturity that is her undoing. Lincoln is searching for a clone of Ivyanne and he repeatedly cites Grace’s immaturity as an impediment. Even though Grace said that she’d wait, Lincoln’s womanising – or is it mermaidising? – was too much for her and she walks out on him. He hardly notices and the story finds her trying to ride out Typhoon Bopha with her music students. On the one hand, she dealt with Link by walking away but yet, there is still something about him that speaks to her soul. Does she hope for a rescue from Link and even if she were to accept one, what form would that rescue take? Stained Glass will see Grace Londeree grow up in the course of having responsibilities thrust upon her. While readers – and this reviewer – will miss the eighteen year-old with the hots for Lincoln Grey, the post-Bopha nineteen year-old is much more of the woman she needs to be – for herself and for her future.

Our cast of characters assembled, it is now time to consider the central thread of the plot in Stained Glass.  Ivyanne Court has discovered than an unseen hand has shaped events affecting the Court and Grey families for nearly a millennium. It is a hand bent upon destruction and its endgame is one of extinction. His name is Luca. After dumping Lincoln Grey in favour of Tristan Loveridge, Ivyanne Court has the unmitigated gall to walk back into his life and ask her knight to lead an expeditionary force to neutralize Luca. As one learns the extent of Luca’s power and the forces that he controls, the reader is left to wonder if she is asking him to go a suicide mission. The reader will also wonder just how dumb can Link be and why is he even considering this? Is Lincoln simply obsessed by Ivyanne or is there something else at work here? Even Ivyanne seems to be unaware of Link’s true mental state. Will he ever have the strength of will to tell Ivyanne to go away or is he simply a wounded animal – a rogue shark, if you will – that needs to be put down. All arguments may well be moot if the characters find that the enemy is already amongst them.

Over a five book series, S.K. Munt has treated readers to a very hot and very wild ride through the secret world of mermaids and mermen, fate, lust, and blood-lines. Up until Stained Glass, the main mystery has been which suitor would wind up with Ivyanne. In her thrilling conclusion to The Fairy Tail Saga, Ms. Munt presents the reader with the mystery of why all this is even happening and what will be the ultimate outcome. This reviewer has devoted much of this concluding review to the main players as the author has a natural flair for character development. Lincoln, Grace, Ivyanne and Tristan have made this series what it is and they each deserve a curtain call.

Besides characters, S.K. Munt has displayed a talent for provocative writing and in the series finale, the Queen of Steam has delivered once more. Those readers of tender sensibilities should avert their eyes from the following excerpt:

He’d been drunk, and she’d been comforting him. She’d started kissing away his tears and before he knew it, she’d whispered her plea that he take her. He loved remembering how her vulnerable, tight little body had trembled in his arms, and how her teeth had sank into his neck as he’d gently eased himself into her- and how her tears had rolled hot and wet down his shoulder blade for only a few minutes before her pleas had become wild and her trembling had become violent, ecstatic shaking.

None but the truly jaded can read passages like this and not want a cup of tea, a long walk or a cold shower. As in her previous books, the characters, the plot and the romance of Stained Glass all come together in an expertly woven tapestry of love, lust, loss, gain, suffering and ultimate triumph. Although Lincoln Grey may have found himself to be a punching bag throughout the saga, relatively minor characters such as Pintang Kayu-Api have suffered as well and Ms. Munt has given them the same detail as she has the major characters and the story itself. For her, there are no half-measures.

This includes her treatment of Lincoln Grey’s character. Although his fans may be somewhat dismayed by what happens to Link, having him hit rock bottom is a necessary requirement that will lead to his ultimate redemption. Just below the surface lies the unspoken truth that Lincoln and Grace are more alike than the casual observer might think.

In summation, Stained Glass is a thoroughly enjoyable story which the reader will want to peruse more than once. No one who takes the time to read and absorb the finale will come away feeling that it is anything less than a wicked good tale and time well spent. To say more would only be gilding the lily.

Throughout The Fairy Tail Saga, this reviewer has admonished potential readers to start at the beginning of the series and he once again offers the same advice. This is not one of the serial novels where a person may come in during the middle or the end and easily deduce what has come before. S.K. Munt’s Stained Glass is the capstone of a carefully developed series of stories, all the more enjoyable because of what has come before. To paraphrase Bette Davis, this reviewer urges readers to Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

This reviewer lacks any and all qualifications to teach and yet, he would dearly love to conduct a semester’s course covering Stained Glass and all the books that come before. It is not merely the mythology but also the characters and their interactions with each other as well as the plot itself. S.K. Munt has a true gift for storytelling and creates fascinating multi-level characters along the way. Her stand-alone novel, Unchained Melody is positive proof that her talents extend well beyond the realm of mermaids. Those who choose to dismiss her series as simply a hot fairy tale for adults, do so at their peril.

And now, before the curtain call is over and the applause fades away, it falls to this reviewer to cry “Author! Author!” Ms. Munt, it’s time for you to take your bow.

In the interest of full disclosure, Stained Glass includes a bit of fan fiction written by the reviewer as an exercise in preparation for his forthcoming novel, Urban Mermaid – the first installment in his series, Tails from Colony Island.

 
My Rating:

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 Stained Glass
[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”14″ position =”none” box_spacing = “auto” padding =”10 15 13 27″ background_color =”aliceblue” background_opacity =”80″ border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_radius =”10″ height = “270”]

Kindle

[/boxify]

Cover Art

Cover Art

 by Melissa Eskue Ousley

The second book in Melissa Ousley’s Young Adult Solas Beir series is as exciting as the first and leaves the reader wondering where things will go next. Her first book, Sign of the Throne ended with David Corbin installed as the new Solas Beir or ‘light bearer’ in his home world of Cai Terenmare. Although he was originally born  there as Artan, son of King Ardal and Queen Eulalia, he was abducted in infancy by his aunt Lucia and raised in the ordinary and indeed, mundane world which we all inhabit. A hallmark of stories in the Young Adult genre are plot lines wherein young people are suddenly thrust by the course of events into positions of power and responsibility and so it is with David. One day he is facing a pre-planned life of marrying the perfect girl for him and starting work well up the ladder in his father’s business and the next day he is suddenly the ruler of a parallel world.

David is not the only one who has had power thrust upon him. In Sign of the Throne, Abigale (Abby) Brown discovered that her way with dreams was more than an annoying nuisance which plagued her sleep. Since her escape into Cai Terenmare, she has discovered that there is a lot more to her abilities than was once thought. Coincidence or not, she and David have become quite interested in each other as well. There is one lingering question that is not resolved in The Rabbit and the Raven; how did a girl with such abilities wind up in the decidedly un-magical world we inhabit? An unfortunate by-product of the escape from our world into that of Cai Terenmare was the release of Tynan Tierny from imprisonment in the parallel world known as the Wasteland. Tierny was incarcerated in the Wasteland for commanding the assassination of David’s father and has now been sprung by Lucia. Tynan Tierny will – in one way or another – dominate the story of The Rabbit and the Raven as it unfolds.

Melissa Oussley’s narrative begins within hours of Sign of the Throne’s conclusion. Newport Beach, California is infested with Kruorumbrae and though Abby is relatively safe in Cai Terenmare, her parents back home are not. The Brown family are not alone in this, either. Jon Reyes, Abby’s childhood friend, escaped with Abby and David to Cai Terenmare and his mother, Blanca, is just as exposed as the Browns. Faced with this dilemma, David, Abby and Jon conduct a rescue sortie to Newport Beach and return not only with their families but Marisol Cassidy, a mutual acquaintance as well as a girl whom Jon rather fancies. There is a lot to learn now that everyone is – supposedly – safe in Cai Terenmare. Both David and Abby have much to learn about their newfound abilities. David’s kingdom is under threat and he will need to begin to pull things together and quickly. Abby’s power with dreams is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that she and David can arrange a rendezvous in their dreams. The curse is that the royal road to the subconscious is Tynan Tierny’s road to Abby’s mind. It will seem that Tierny knows quite a bit about Abby – perhaps more than is good for her – and he uses that knowledge in his attempts to undermine and control her.

Abby could feel the beast’s hot breath on her skin. Don’t show fear, she thought, planting her feet in a fighting stance and drawing herself up to look taller, brawnier. Look him straight in the eye. If you’re going to die, at least have a little dignity about it. She stared into his eyes and spoke his name: “Tierney.”

Not to be forgotten in all of this are the Kruorumbrae; the thoroughly evil stuff of which nightmares are made. These creatures can shift from one form to another and find humans to be rather tasty. Lacking human or animal flesh to consume, other Kruorumbrae will do nicely. Added to the threats facing Cai Terenmare is the fact that their numbers have rapidly increased and Tynan Tierny has promised them a feeding frenzy of their very own if they help him come to power. No place, not even our own mundane world, will be safe from them. It falls upon David to help repair a village suffering from the depredations of the Kruorumbrae – or is it something else? – and to gain the allegiance of the four Oracles who govern the peripheral territories of Cai Terenmare. The Oracle of the North is loyal to the Light and the post of the Western Oracle – once held by a particularly nasty siren – has been given to a more friendly creature of the sea, the mermaid Nerine. It is the Southern and Eastern Oracles who are the big unknown factors and neither lives within easy travel of Caislucis, the seat of the Solas Beir. David, Abby, Jon and Marisol will have to traverse a perilous rainforest and somehow cross the barren desert to reach the city of the Eastern Oracle.

“Well, David Corbin, you may be the Solas Beir, but you are just one man, and there are greater things at work here than you. Keeping me safe is not your job.” He stared at her, shocked. “It’s not? I kind of thought it was.” Abby put her hands on her hips. “Nope. Your job is to stand up for your people and to serve the Light. So is mine. At some point, we’ve got to trust that the light will prevail, even if it means we have losses of our own.”

With the publication of her second YA novel, Melissa Eskue Ousley effortlessly maintains the action and story flow that so well defined Sign of the Throne. She has extended her well-deserved reputation for storytelling, the rendition of that story into the exacting artistry of the printed page and it goes without saying that the plaudits accorded Ms. Ousley in the first installment of this series most definitely appertain to The Rabbit and the Raven. If she continues to follow the standards she has thus far set for herself and her writing to the third book of this series, The Sower Comes, Melissa Eskue Ousley will undoubtedly achieve a literary trifecta. The Rabbit and the Raven is an enthralling and exciting story for Young Adults. The central characters – David, Abby, Jon and Marisol – are heroic, each in their own way and while there may not be a Cai Terenmare connected to our own mundane world, it is nonetheless a fascinating place to visit via the written word. The reader will find themselves caring about what may befall them throughout the course of the story and nurture the hope that all of this will somehow work out for each of them in the end. Melissa Eskue Ousley continues to follow the benchmark of quality writing she set in Sign of the Throne and it is hoped that this reviewer will hear more from her once this series so stories is complete.

In the interest of full disclosure, the reviewer was provided with an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

My Rating:

Melissa’s website may be found at melissaeskueousley.com/

Buy your own copy of The Rabbit and the Raven.
[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”8″ position =”none” box_spacing = “auto” padding =”10 15 13 27″ background_color =”aliceblue” background_opacity =”80″ border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_radius =”10″ height = “270”]

Paperback Kindle

[/boxify]

Cover Art for Urchin

Cover Art for Urchin

by S.K. Munt

When the Australian author, S.K. Munt, burst on to the literary scene in the spring of 2013 with her book, The Marked Ones, she ushered in a fresh take on mermaid stories for adults. Once considered to be the stuff of children’s stories and Young Adult paranormal romances, the mermaid story suddenly became more sophisticated and well … interesting. No undersea warriors in hand-to-hand combat with monsters. No running battles between mermen and humans. No kings and … OK, there is royalty involved but it would not be a fairy tale without some royalty, would it? Aside from the royals, most of the characters were relatively ordinary merfolk, trying to make a living, trying to protect the environment and trying to hide the fact that their normal lifespans were measured in centuries. Oh and there is one other thing; the ladies have the upper hand.

The Marked Ones was followed in succession by Three Rings and Heads or Tails and S.K. Munt gained a loyal following that spanned the globe. When the last word on the last page of the third novel was written, readers assumed that Ms. Munt had finished with her saga and the characters would now live happily ever after . . . or not. Fortunately for her fans, she had more stories waiting to be told and Urchin is one of those as well as her first foray into the Young Adult genre. While much of The Fairytail Saga’s pre-history was described or intimated in one way or another throughout the series, there were still plenty of questions that wanted answering.

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned   The Mourning Bride (1697) by William Congreve

Urchin starts at the very beginning of S.K.’s world and tells the tale of Anna L’Autienne, an 11th century peasant girl living in Perle Des Bois, a remote town in Brittany. Anna has not had an easy go of it. Her father is an alcoholic sea captain whose way of parenting is not to be emulated. She has 3 older brothers, one of them adopted, and three younger brothers – triplets. Anna is the lone female in her father’s house as her mother died in childbirth –  perhaps escaped is the better word for it – and is as low in the family pecking order as can be. Aside from her duties as cook, maid and punching bag for her adopted brother, Anna is a practicing apothecary, dispensing herbal remedies to all and sundry. She has saved almost enough to buy a one-way passage to Italy and with a little more time she should have enough.

Unfortunately, time is not on her side. Her father arrives home from a twelve month voyage earlier than expected and though he makes a rough attempt at parenteral affection, nothing much has really changed … especially his thirst for ale. Though she is a peasant, Anna does have friends in high places – the son and daughter of the local baron – and it is the latter who sends the Prince du Sang her way in search of relief for his frequent migraines. As it so often happens in fairy tales, the Prince is instantly smitten – smitten and besotted – with Anna and wants to marry her. She harbours no such desire – having seen firsthand the woman’s lot in life – and indeed, has vowed never to marry. The Prince – on the cusp of turning 18 – sees things differently and his parents – ever eager to see to their son’s happiness – are inclined to accede to his wishes even if the Queen sees Anna as a gold-digging, social climbing guttersnipe. Anna’s less than adoring father connives to put his less than appreciated daughter in the best possible light. The king and queen are more interested in her fecundity and when her father reveals the propensity on both the paternal and maternal sides of Anna’s family to produce male children – lots and lots of males – she is looked at in a wholly  different light. A deal is done and Anna is to become the future queen in in a few days’ time.

I wished I hadn’t had to take his name, but I allowed myself to take a little comfort from not being branded with my father’s name anymore. But why should I bear the name of the man who had taken responsibility for me at all?

And that is exactly what happens. Her final chance at escaping to Italy is thwarted, Anna quickly becomes Princess Anna L’Court and her handsome prince quickly claims what is his by right. Anna’s freedom, childhood and innocence are gone in less than a day. It should be mentioned that at this point in the story, her prince is really not a bad person but merely a weak and spoiled young man, rather used to getting what he wants and who is disappointed that his new wife does not instantly love him the way that he instantly loved her. Nonetheless, his blandishments continue and Princess Anna falls pregnant within the month … with twins … both of them girls. Within a year, the prince has ascended the throne and Anna has fallen pregnant once again … with a girl once again. The only positive thing that may be said for this point in time is that Anna has at long last fallen in love with her prince and they are happy together … at least for a while.

Let it never be said that the nobility loves to see someone from the bottom rungs climb to their level or even higher. Through no fault of her own, Anna has made enemies along the way; all the young ladies who wanted to have a go at the prince are now jealous young ladies and the principle that no good deed goes unpunished has entered from stage left. Her skills as a healer has led to charges of witchcraft and Princess Anna is hustled off to a remote island – without her daughters – to hide until the prince can collect the necessary evidence to disprove the charges. Although Anna’s seclusion is only intended to last a relatively few weeks, those weeks turn into months and her prince comes to visit less and less frequently. On his final visit – just before Anna is due to deliver – he attempts to drown her but Anna doesn’t drown. Something else happens.

Urchin, is told through a narrative written by Anna L’Court nearly seven centuries after the fact and buried on the same desolate island that she lived upon for the duration of her second pregnancy. Anna’s great grandchild, Ivyanne – Queen Ivyanne – has searched for this record of her great-grandmother’s beginnings in the hope of finding answers; answers to how things really began, answers to a question she must deal with in the future.

She wanted to swim, desperately-needed to feel the thump of her tail against the waves-but she had more important matters to deal with first; Silencing the only human man who knew the story.

It often falls within the reviewer’s province to advise the prospective reader as to whether they should or should not buy and read the subject of the review. It has fallen to this reviewer to do likewise but to also include a caveat. If your tastes in literature include mermaids, the middle ages, S.K. Munt’s Fairytail Saga, or wronged women on a rampage, then by all means read Urchin as soon as possible. If your literary tastes include a stonking good Young Adult paranormal romance, then this book is for you. If you are simply looking for a good read, then you should consider giving Urchin a go.

Urchin is suitable for older Young Adults, New Adults and above. Middle range and younger readers may find some of the imagery in this book to be disturbing.

As mentioned above, this reviewer’s advice comes with a caveat. Simply put, prospective readers should  bear in mind that in reading Urchin, no heart will remain unmoved and that no soul will remain unstirred. Ms. Munt is an author of no mean talent and she has admirably exercised her gift of spinning stories once again. Those who follow ascendant authors will do well to take note of her as this is her fourth literary outing and S.K. has again delivered what most readers – Young Adult and older- look for in a story; A riveting and entertaining tale that both satisfies and yet leaves them wanting more. All good things must come to an end sooner or later and The Fairytail Saga is no different but things are not quite done with.  The fourth installment, Stained Glass, is presently scheduled for release in April of 2014.

It is standard practice for reviewers to give some sort of rating for a particular book. The most common form is to award the book one to five stars or in the case of The Parsons’ Rant, one to five pipes. It is here that such rating systems fall short, for in the case of S.K. Munt’s Urchin, five stars are not enough and the author must content herself with what is available.

In the interest of full disclosure, the author provided an Advance Review Copy (ARC) in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Follow S.K. Munt on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skmuntor on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7159848.S_K_Munt/blog

Buy Your Own Copy of Urchin
[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”14″ position =”none” box_spacing = “auto” padding =”10 15 13 27″ background_color =”aliceblue” background_opacity =”80″ border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_radius =”10″ height = “270”]

Kindle

[/boxify]

Cover art for Keeping Merminia

Cover art for Keeping Merminia

by Emm Cole
We are all familiar with the old conversational chestnut that “something” is going to be a tough act to follow. We have all seen examples of that pronouncement ringing true. When this reviewer learned that Emm Cole was working on a sequel to Merminia, he said the same thing to his faithful cat, Rankin, who was sleeping behind his PC monitor at the time. Today, as Rankin sleeps behind the monitor once more, this reviewer is pleased to say that Emm Cole has more than successfully followed her own “tough act” with her sequel, Keeping Merminia.

In Merminian pre-history, two princes fought an ever-widening war over their late father’s estate. Adessia, daughter of one of the warring brothers, implored them to end their fratricidal war but to no avail. Desperate to end the conflict that swept up innocent commoners in what was a simple dispute over what had been bequeathed to each son, Adessia created a ring from tokens gifted by her father and uncle and then threw it and herself into the sea as a sacrificial offering to the fates that controlled the world. The fates complied and the armies of Adessia’s father were engulfed by the sea and transmogrified as merfolk. Although, they had gotten the better part of the bargain, the merfolk devolved into warring clans, all the while searching for the ring of Adessia and the ultimate power it gave to it’s possessor. In the concluding pages of Merminia, Ulric, of the Litiant clan obtains the ring and invades the land in what is essentially a continuation of the original conflict.

In Keeping Merminia, Ulric has taken over the land-based kingdom and changed its environment to suit himself and his Litiant followers. They are here to stay and the sea has suffered for it. Food becomes scarce while more and more merfolk, Merminians as well as the neighbouring Julgrenians give up the sea in the hope of surviving on land even though this change of venue robs them of their scales and their powers. Things are becoming dire and it falls to
Selinne, leader of the Merminians, to act; to end the turmoil and chaos that is affecting her clan and her beloved sea.

In the back of my mind, I recognize what I’m supposed to do next. I remember my dream. I can hear my dead father’s message on repeat. The fates want you to take the ring back from Ulric, he said.

Even with the ocean crying out, even as the bravest mermen flee from the waves—I hesitate. I can’t imagine the horror of being without my tail. How can I leave my home? If I do manage to stop Ulric, will there even be a home left to come back to?

And so, Selinne and Arimis, her protector, embark on a perilous quest to leave the sea behind and stop Ulric at any cost. They are not alone on this journey as they are accompanied by Gabriel, the Litiant who was Selinne’s first love, and Walter, the parentless 9 year-old child who saw Ulric first come ashore near the south coast fishing village. Their guide on this journey will be Yuri, an odiferous, drunken ale trader.

It is at this point that your reviewer dates himself by comparing the party’s perilous journey to that taken by the commando team in the 1957 movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai. The task of the commando team was to destroy the Japanese railway bridge. The task of Selinne’s party is to destroy Ulric. In both cases, the overland journey is long and arduous. The commandos will have to deal with Japanese patrols while Selinne’s party will have to deal with wild beasts and enchanted beings that pose an even greater threat than the patrols. There are hardships and wounds. As the movie-goer wondered if the commandos would reach the bridge in time, the reader wonders if Selinne and her followers will arrive in time to end Ulric and take back Adessa’s ring.
As one might imagine, an overland journey is not easy on those whose usual method of travel is in and through the water. Emm Cole brilliantly articulates the sense of loss and separation from the sea experienced not only by Selinne but by other merfolk – both Merminian and Litiant – as well. This longing is best expressed by Zara, the wife of Ulric.

Her hands dip into the pond. She traces the surface, making the water curl under her fingertips. “I miss the salt of the ocean soaking into my fins. I miss the way the current rocked me to sleep. I think about the freedom of somersaulting through a lit haze of jellyfish. I’m scared I’ll forget how the morning tide sifted sunlight. I’m lost in this place. I hate not being able to float, Ulric. These weighted legs make me feel like I’m constantly sinking to the ground.”

Aramis is Selinne’s long-time body-guard and unrequited lover. He will strike up an easy-going relationship with Gabriel even though they were once sworn enemies and had both sought her affections. Although Gabriel was her first love and Aramis was treated more like a long-term close friend by her, the reader will see the tide shift from Gabriel to Aramis. Gabriel is meant for other things and though he loves Selinne like no other mermaid, he understands that the tide is turning and must turn in Aramis’ favour.

You captured my heart because you weren’t afraid to look Merconius in the eye when his trident was at your neck. I’d never had that kind of confidence in front of him before. I adored you because you insisted on being yourself for better or worse. You refused to accept his judgments. I’d give anything to go back—to tell him that I didn’t need his acceptance and love if it came with conditions. I want to believe you’re still that fiery soul—the one who wasn’t twisted by him. I want to trust that this hideous war hasn’t changed you like it has changed Ulric. But if you’re going to let your fear of what the fates might do—or how I might feel about it stop you from going after Aramis—”

Most of Keeping Merminia takes place on dry land rather than in the sea and while this reviewer had potential reservations about mer-fiction where the venue was dry land rather than salt water, Emm Cole has indeed made it work and work very well. Ms Cole is an author of no mean talent and it shows in every word, sentence, and paragraph of this story. Emm Cole has accomplished something very special here and this reviewer is eager to what she will bring to future works The only adjective that is adequate for Keeping Merminia is Brilliant.

Regrettably, this story is most likely the last that readers will hear of Merminia. Emm Cole has no plans to extend the series and has turned her considerable talents towards other projects. Though her fans will miss additional stories from the hidden gardens of Merminia, they will nonetheless be grateful for the time she has taken to build and share this underwater world with them. If this is the first you have heard about Merminia, then do not read this story and expect to somehow fill in the gaps. The story of the Merminian world is much too complex and enthralling to be absorbed and understood in one go. Read Merminia first before embarking upon Keeping Merminia. Getting caught up in Emm Cole’s underwater world is perhaps one of the best things that a reader can do.

My Rating:

Emm Cole’s website may be found at emmcole.com

[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”8″ position =”none” box_spacing = “auto” padding =”10 15 13 27″ background_color =”aliceblue” background_opacity =”80″ border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_radius =”10″ height = “270”]

Paperback Kindle

[/boxify]

Son of a Mermaid Cover Art

Son of a Mermaid Cover Art

by Katie O’Sullivan

Most of us are familiar in some way with the ballet, Swan Lake; lots of female dancers in white and a couple of token male dancers. In 1995, Matthew Bourne launched his own adaptation in which the female corps de ballet is replaced by male dancers and the focus is shifted away from Odette and towards Prince Siegfried. Since its debut, this ballet has not been off the stage – somewhere in the world – for more than a few months and was the longest running ballet on Broadway and London’s West End.

Katie O’Sullivan’s Son of a Mermaid is like Bourne’s adaptation in that the central character is male and it follows in the footsteps of Zoraida Cordova’s Vicious Deep series. Although both books share elements of similar themes found in female focused Mer-fiction, they provide a refreshing take on an oft told story and it is hoped that Young Adult males as well as the traditional female audience will enjoy both of these stories.  Whereas Zoraida Cordova’s series is definitely geared more towards the upper end of the YA age range, Katie O’Sullivan’s Son of a Mermaid serves the lower end of the range quite ably.

Shea MacNamara keeps losing members of his family. His mother left when Shea was a baby, his Uncle and Grandfather lost their lives when a rogue wave hit their fishing boat off of Cape Cod and most recently his father was swept away in a tornado that struck the family farm in Plainville, Oklahoma on the eve of Shea’s  15th birthday. Indeed, the only remaining relative is his paternal grandmother, Martha, whom he has never met. Martha MacNamara arrives in the days after Shea loses his father to take him “home” to Cape Cod, a place to which he has never been. While Oklahoma was almost as far away from the ocean as one could be,  the shores of the Cape were as close  to the ocean as one could be without actually being in it. However, in the ocean is one place that he has been told not to go. It’s just as well since Shea’s father, Tom, was never keen on his being in the water or learning to swim.

While Shea is homesick for his friends and school back in Oklahoma, living with his grandmother does have one benefit as he is finally able to learn something about his mother. Tom MacNamara was silent on that subject and asking questions about his mother had been a no-go area for all of Shea’s 15 years. Rather than dying in childbirth or abandoning Shea and his father entirely, his mother is still very much alive and his parents have kept in touch over the years. There is so much more to learn but the answers will be slow in coming. The biggest question Shea has is “Why?”

To pass the time, Shea walks up and down the beach with the family dog every morning to collect the detritus of human life that finds itself upon the sand, either en route to or returning from the ocean. While he is pondering “why” and “how”, Shea is being watched.

Hiding amidst the waves, she’d watched him walk the length of the beach and back again, gathering up the debris that’d become all too common along the shoreline. Something about him fascinated her.

She wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers at the beach. That was a hard and fast rule that she’d only broken once before. But those had been girls, and they’d been much younger. This was a boy…and a cute one at that.

The girl’s name is Kae and Shea will meet her on occasion as the days go by. She is something of an oddity as Kae doesn’t seem to understand the basics of life like wearing blue jeans or riding a bicycle. Another oddity is added to his life in the form of Hailey Thompson, a 13 year-old  transplant from New York City with a voracious appetite and a penchant for rapid fire questions and pronouncements. Stir in a helping of quirky neighbours and Shea has an interesting  summer ahead of him. This includes things like taking Hailey fishing – or rather, Shea going fishing with Hailey tagging along. Thanks to Hailey, Shea winds up tumbling off the dock and like a stone, sinking to the bottom where he discovers – after some anxiety — that he can breathe water. It appears that there are indeed some things about which he needs to learn.

It is Kae who becomes his teacher and she tells Shea who and what he really is. He is a merman and the son of Princess Brynnelania. At some point in their lives, most young boys dream of being able to rescue their mom from something or other and Shea is presented with the perfect opportunity. His mother is being coerced into an arranged marriage for political reasons and the fact that her prospective fiancé is only 6 years old makes her situation even worse. Though Shea himself is only 15 years old, he intends to do something about the situation and getting from the shore to the King’s Summer palace requires a different form of locomotion than he is used to. Kae shows him how easy it is by rubbing a special stone and repeating some special words.

Having never even been in the ocean before, or any large body of water for that matter, each new sensation amazed Shea. Every new sight, every new smell, every different texture that he reached out to run his fingers across. Everything was so completely different than anything he’d ever imagined.

Each nuance of his new appendage, the shimmering tail that was suddenly a part of him, continued to fascinate and distract him. All five of his senses threatened to overload from the sheer pleasure of the cool ocean current caressing his body. He felt like the ocean was running its fingers through his hair, welcoming him home. He wondered if he’d ever be able to get used to the feeling enough to ignore it completely.

Son of a Mermaid is a fun and enjoyable story and Katie O’Sullivan has done an outstanding job in bringing Shea MacNamara’s  story to life.  There is mystery and adventure in this tale of tails as well as enough young romance to interest YA girls. The romance will probably also interest YA boys as well though they most likely will not admit it. Although Shea does play the hero in this story, MS O’Sullivan has definitely included Kae in the action and this rescue against all odds in not a one mer-man show. Katie also artfully educates the reader concerning the growing problem of trash that both intentionally and unintentionally finds its way into our planet’s oceans.

By the end of the story, readers will want to know what happens next as there are some questions left unanswered. Fortunately for everyone – and that includes this reviewer – Katie O’Sullivan has planned more books in the series, the first of which is due in the Spring of next year (2014). Do not let the fact that her exciting and mysterious coming of age story is aimed at the younger YA market put you off. Among other things, reading should provide a fun and entertaining escape from the mundane experiences of everyday life. Son of a Mermaid provides exactly such an escape and this reviewer believes that anyone interested in mer-fiction will enjoy losing themselves in this story.

My Rating:

Katie O’Sullivan’s website is at katie-osullivan.com and her Blog may be found at http://katieosullivan.blogspot.com

[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”8″ position =”none” box_spacing = “auto” padding =”10 15 13 27″ background_color =”aliceblue” background_opacity =”80″ border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_radius =”10″ height = “270”]

Paperback Kindle

[/boxify]

Cover Art

Cover Art

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

My Rating:

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
[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”14″ position =”none” box_spacing = “auto” padding =”10 15 13 27″ background_color =”aliceblue” background_opacity =”80″ border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_radius =”10″ height = “270”]

Kindle

[/boxify]

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.

Free on Amazon Free on B&N Free on Smashwords

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

Untitled2

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.

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Cover art.

Cover art.

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.

And then deep into the gorge

And then deep into the gorge

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.

My Rating:

Marie McKean’s website is at mariemckean.com

Buy your own copy of Born of Oak and Silver

[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”8″ position =”none” box_spacing = “auto” padding =”10 15 13 27″ background_color =”aliceblue” background_opacity =”80″ border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_radius =”10″ height = “270”]

Paperback Kindle

[/boxify]

This Month’s Rants

September 2017
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Pipe Count

Dr. Data's Pipe Count

480 (+/-)

Dr. Data has PAD - Pipe Acquisition Disorder

Professional Reader

Subscribe to my Rants

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 222 other subscribers