Beyond the Parchment: Part 3

So, in my serial story, Beyond the Parchment, we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And now, a villain has just step through the fridge which happens to be the portal into May Ann’s house. Read the first parts here:

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right?

My kitchen will never be the same

“Good evening Lord Daraton. My lady.” Varizan inclines his head with a smile, his smooth rolling voice filling the room. Isn’t he even the slightest bit dazed that he’s standing in the middle of broken glass and scattered food?

“Blazes! Has the whole of Braceaon decided to leave their native land?” Daraton demands. His hand tightens about his blade as he advances a step. “And what of Ethred? If you have harmed her…”

There’s that name again. The girl who had the stone. My hand tightens around the piece in my hand.

Varizan raises his hands, palms upwards, with a long-suffering sigh. But his eyes gleam as they light on me and, behind him, soldiers are still stepping from the fridge. There are nearly half a dozen behind my villain now, though most are opening cupboards or testing their blades on the counters. “Must you always think the worst, my Lord Daraton –”

“Don’t.” Daraton grits his teeth as he takes a step forwards. “My father is the Lord of Balstin Hall.”

“Your father is dead.” The words are sharp as daggers, smooth as a polished lash. The undercurrent pleasure of masked by undeniable condolences. My lip curls upwards, then I jerk my expression into a sober mask. Whatever the perfection of Varizan’s voice, this is not the time to indulge it. Especially with Jerin’s crashing footsteps approaching from the rear.

Turning slightly, I lower my voice, angling the stone both Jerin and Daraton place such importance on, upwards so Daraton can see it. “We need to get out of here. Now.”

“Where to, my lady?” Varizan’s voice slips through my veins.

Botheration. How could I forget I’d given him excellent hearing? And a sure aim with a love of daggers like the one he is flipping between his fingers again. Oh, and let’s not forget the loyalty he can command with just a handful of words nor the dozen soldiers now ranged between us and the door. What the blazes had I been thinking?

“Lord Varizan.” Daraton’s voice is cold as ice. Behind us, Jerin’s steps turn into a flurry of clashing metal. It’s about time Daraton’s men caught up with Jerin. A whole extra minute for us to escape Varizan. How wonderful.

“Why are you here?” Daraton’s voice is low. Measured.

“I am a guest, remember?”

“Courtesies to ambassadors of Salendria do not extend to secret portals no one is supposed to know the existence of.” Daraton glares at the soldiers behind Varizan as I clap a hand to my mouth. Salendria! So, the someplacethatneedsaname is actually already named. Perhaps, if I can merely step into Braceaon, I can figure out the rest of my plot holes without any headache. Well, besides the very real danger of being killed or trapped. “I asked you once, I’ll not ask it again. What of Ethred?”

“I swear to you, I never saw her. Just the portal itself, pulsing and flaring…”

“And so you decide to step through with a dozen soldiers,” I comment dryly. Perhaps not the best idea. Both men’s eyes fasten on me and Daraton’s gaze hardens.

“What do you know of this matter?”

I catch myself before I can say ‘everything’, then bite my tongue before I say ‘nothing’. “Enough.” There, that sounds smooth enough. Except the word breaks into a sudden silence as the clash of blades behind us ceases.

A small smile flits across Varizan’s lips.

“You are right, my lord.” He raises his hand, flicking his wrist. Daraton swings his blade and I jump as a dagger embeds itself in the wall beside me. Daraton’s eyes widen as he inhales sharply between his teeth.

“I came for the wordsmith, of course.” Varizan’s eyes shift to me. “Jerinthreo and you can battle it out as you please but –”

Daraton charges with a shout.

The good news is that, whatever their earlier position, the dagger flying his way must have convinced Daraton that Varizan means no good.

The bad news?

Varizan still has eleven knives left. And he is even better at throwing than Jerin. What on earth possessed me to give him such a lethal skill? Daraton staggers with a gasp as a gleaming projectile smashes between his ribs, but he keeps on, closing the distance before Varizan can hurl another one. Varizan’s soldiers aren’t much help to their leader. Between the island counter and the fridge, there isn’t room for a soldier beside Varizan in any case. For the first time in my life, I am grateful for the narrow kitchen. Then again, Varizan doesn’t seem like he needs any help.

Something dark hurls over my head and I can’t suppress a yelp as I duck, spinning to the side as Jerin himself crashes through the door.

His gaze spins between the fight ensuing between his brother and Varizan, then slips down to me and darkens. I stagger to my feet, stumbling backward before his piercing gaze.

“So you were working with Daraton. And Ethred…did you steal the stone from her too?”

Ethred? Who was Ethred? And why are both brothers so protective of her? Maybe she can talk some sense into them. Provided the two brothers don’t kill each other, which of course assumes Varizan fails in his own quest.

“I stole nothing.” I finally find my voice. “But you both are acting like fools when the real fault lies elsewhere.”

It’s too late. Jerin’s eyes are hardened. He’s not listening anymore if he even registers what I’m saying. I glance wildly back, my gaze flying over where Daraton is now barely keeping Varizan at bay while the strobing blue lights from my poor fridge casts an eerie glow over the chaos that once was my kitchen.

I grit my teeth. I’m going to so regret this, I know. I also know I regret not doing it even more…besides the fact that I’ll be dead and the world I’ve created will probably implode with the death of several of its changing characters.

I leap forward, my hand closing about Daraton’s arm even as he stumbles. Varizan’s blade slashes downwards, but I jerk Daraton out of the way, toward the fridge. The light surrounds me…surrounds both of us, drawing us closer, faster, swifter. For a split second I see Varazan, his eyes lighting with a blue smile.

Then I jump upwards – or forwards; direction itself is spinning about me now.

And all is brilliant light.

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Beyond the Parchment: Part 2

In the first installment of Beyond the Parchment, we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. A pair of brothers, actually, who are currently engaged in mortal combat.

All Brothers Fight Sometimes, Right?

I do what any girl would do when two men plunge into a duel to the death in her bedchamber. I step behind a pair of bookshelves and get dressed. Thirty seconds is all it takes to throw on a skirt and shirt. Another half a minute to pull on my socks and shoes. For all their faults, Daraton and Jerin are two of the most expert swordsmen I’ve written. My only characters who can fight until exhaustion with neither one drawing blood…to their everlasting irritation and my own amusement.

Except it’s not amusing now. My ears ring with tinkling glass, crashes, and thuds. Long swords and small rooms don’t mix well. And with little room comes daggers. And with daggers…

With daggers, one brother is very much superior to the other and, in their current rage, neither one will pull back on a fatal blow if an opening reveals itself.

They’re too good for that. Relax.

You’re telling me to relax? Do you know what will happen if one of the brothers dies?

Universal apocalypse? Which is why you’re taking the time to get dressed?

Something like that. And do you expect me to leave here in a nightgown? Don’t give me that look. I’m not like Jerin. I finish tying my shoe as I fire off the last thought to my own inner voice, then throw my body against the bookshelf as something heavy thuds against it. A wave of books jolt from their perch above my head, tumbling down around my shoulders. I wince, peering around the wood, then jerking back as a blade flashes near my head.

“Botheration.” I mutter the exclamation as a figure rolls to avoid a descending blade, then twists back to his feet. Not good. Not good at all. I’ve got to get Jerin out of here before he kills his brother. As it is, I can hardly tell which twin is which. The lights won’t help, even if I could reach them without losing an arm. I’m certain each bulb is shattered by now. But Jerin is the one with the cloak, isn’t he and Daraton…his cloak is darker? Since when do they wear anything remotely similar?

That feast last night, remember? You forced Jerin to dress down and Daraton to dress up.

Right. That. In which case the story isn’t very advanced at all. That is it. I have to get Jerin out of here.

I yank a photo off the wall and jerk down on a sort chain. A groan echoes through the room as a portion of wall slides away and, for the fraction of a second, the fighting pauses long enough for me to hear more boots downstairs. Jerin’s back is to the bookshelf and I grab his arm, ignoring his glare as I hold up the silver petalled stone I still hold. “Come with me now!”

“Where did you…” his voice trails as his sword flashes, deflecting a spinning gleam with a clang. Seizing my wrist, he dives for the opening in the wall, dragging me with him as another dagger thuds into the bookshelf.

A dagger?

My gaze picks out second figure in the room, a figure whose eyes are now blazing with anger as they stab through me. More boots are pounding up the stairs and I duck, punching a button as another dagger hurtles through the air, clattering against the inside wall moments before the door shuts.

Flaming flames! Or whatever it is they say in Braceaon. Daraton must have been practicing recently. It isn’t right for one man to have so many skills.

“Jerin…” my voice trails off as I spin to face the figure in the dim but growing automatic lights of the concealed corridor.

“Jerin?” The man’s eyebrows lift up. They are so alike, and yet so different. More firm. More determined. And yet with the same tense sorrow I’d seen earlier. “My brother lets you call him Jerin?”

Daraton. My breath sticks in my throat.

No wonder the other figure threw daggers so well.

And now Jerin is left facing Daraton’s men. I only hope he doesn’t kill them all. That would really put the brothers on bad terms.

Daraton sweeps up his brother’s dagger from the floor and slips it in his belt, his face dark. “What dealings do you have with Jerinthreo?”

“I don’t…I’m not…” Why can I scold Jerin and yet find myself wordless when faced with his brother. Their hair. Their build. Their nose and jaw. It is the same. And yet Daraton’s eyes are different. Hard, wary… He scowls.

“Whatever the reason she sent you with that stone, it better have been worth interrupting the judgment of an avenger of blood.” Daraton’s eyes sparked, his hand tightening over his sword’s hilt. “How did you even get over here? I gave stern orders to the contrary. Ethred wouldn’t let anyone over unless it were a matter of life and death.”

“Do you think she doesn’t have her ways?” The words spill out before I can stop them, even as my mind spins. She? The stone? It was an heirloom of their house; no single person claimed ownership of it and certainly not a girl. Not that I ought to complain, the story is sadly lacking in female characters. But what is Daraton…

A sword stabs through the drywall of the entrance, almost grazing my cheek.

The blade Andrith. Apparently the wall is far from innocent because the blade withdraws, then carves another gash into the wall.

“He’s getting quicker.” Daraton mutters, his hand closing about my wrist. “Well, which way is out? Unless you’re going to let me finish the fight this time?”

“Not a chance.” I pull my hand from his grasp. “This way.”

I always told you it was a good idea for us have a secret passage.

Yes, and maybe it still would be if the doors actually kept out intruders, I counter as I dash around a corner. As it is, it will work well enough as an escape route. And, once we are outside there are dozens of places to hide in the surrounding forest or fields. Assuming we can get out of the house.

Because that’s another downside of this passage. It leads to the kitchen pantry. Though Jerin can’t know that, so we should be safe. The crashing behinds us ends with the sound of crumpling wall and I shove open the door to and spring into the shadows of the wide pantry.

My fingers close over the handle and I yank the door open then freeze, drawing a sharp breath. The kitchen glows in a faint light. Dishes, food, and glass lie in shambles over the floor and the door to my fridge hangs open at a rakish angle. Even as I watch, a soldier steps from the inside, almost slipping on the tile floor. But my brain doesn’t even comprehend the ridiculousness of the portal’s exit as my gaze fastens on a pair of pale blue eyes meeting my own, then travels outwards, to his clipped black hair. His dark face. His red and gold clothing. The black belts crossing his chest and the silver blade flicking between his fingers.

Varizan, dark lord of someplacethatneedsaname and a character who isn’t even supposed to be in Braceaon yet.

This…

This is not good.

So, what do you think? Any favorite characters? Any guesses at to what will come next?

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Summer Reading: Mini-Reviews

As summer has progressed, I’ve gotten busier. The good news is I’ve managed to keep track on writing. The bad news is that my reading list has suffered.

summer-2016-books1

Some of you might remember was writing monthly reviews on what I’d read, but I realized I’d only be posting about one or two books a month, so I decided I’d settle for writing seasonal mini-reviews on the fiction I’d been reading.

a-branch-of-silver-a-branch-of-goldOverview: When Heloise’s sister vanishes, she will do anything to get her back. No matter the cost.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4.5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: I loved the depth of the fantasy world and the characters. I also liked how there was very little romance…a few hints of what could happen towards the end, but that was it. This is the first book in a series and, while ending the story, A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold was left very open ended (obviously). The climax of the book was exciting but *spoilers* I did feel like it more involved Heloise reacting to situations and accepting help than actively forcing a conclusion.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. This book was an exciting read and I enjoyed how the focus was more sibling orientated than romance orientated…though that is something which I’ve a feeling won’t continue through the series.

elantris

Overview: Once a transformation called the Shaod gave ordinary humans power. Now it is a disease. For those who are struck, there is no cure and they are thrown into the city they once ruled, Elantris. But while Elantris is rotting from the inside, not all is well in the lands under its shadow either.

Technical aspects: Writing: 5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5

My thoughts: This is the closest to an ‘epic’ fantasy I’ve read in awhile. The book is long, but I didn’t find it slow. Also, three cheers for a story contained in a single book! I loved the depth of the fantasy world and the multiple threads of politics and religion with influence the story. The themes of loyalty and doing one’s duty are strong, but Elantris is not a Christian fiction book so the religions are just that, belief systems of the world. They’re not allegorical, they are just there. There is also a magical element in the story with an abstract force which can be tapped into by those with the right abilities.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. I love fantasy, so I loved all the subplots and threads of this story, but this book isn’t for everyone. However, if you enjoy world-building and don’t mind an abstract view of magic or fictional religions (they play a fairly large part in the story, though their details aren’t gone into much…it’s political as much as anything else) then I’d definitely recommend the book for those 13 and up (due to an element of violence which isn’t graphic, but is still present).

cave-worldOverview: Donny enjoys writing about his science-fiction world where all worlds are connected by the caves of the planet Arrax. What he doesn’t expect is to be caught into his own world.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4 of 5 – Characters: 4.5 of 5 – Dialogue: 4 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: Cave World was a fun read. I loved the humor included as well as the idea of meeting one’s characters and entering a world one has created. The characters were fun and the plot moved quickly.

Recommendation:  4 of 5. An enjoyable read, but I’d recommend it for those 13 and up since it is on the darker side of Christian science fiction when it comes to violence.

Overview: What if some people have the gift to read characters out of books? And what happens when the villains escape and want to use the reader’s gift for their own profit.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4.5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5

My thoughts: I’ve read Inkheart and Inkspell, and Inkdeath is on my list sometime soon. These books are charming and well written with great characters. The first one started a little slow, the next one not so much. But even if it takes 100 or so pages before the story is moving quickly, they are also 500+ pages long so there is plenty of time for action. Warning: there are a few minor swear words, mainly when the aunt is talking.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. I’ve enjoyed these books very much. As I mentioned before, I love writers meeting characters and the idea of going into a book.

the-secret-of-the-lost-settlementOverview: A Colonel must find proof to save himself and his friend from the gallows while two brothers eager for an adventure take it upon themselves to help him.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4 of 5 – Characters: 4 of 5 – Dialogue: 4 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: Secret of the Lost Settlement brings Colonel Nobody from The Boy Colonel and Lawrence and Chester from Brothers at Arms together in one adventure. This is a fairly quick and enjoyable read.

Recommendation:  4 of 5. If you’ve read the first two books, then this book is a fun sequel where you can see your favorite characters again.

What about you? Have you, or will you, read any of the books I’ve mentioned? What have you been reading this summer?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

 
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Fidelyon: ‘C’ Ethaniel

Ethaniel, the main character in my novel, Fidelyon, has taken it upon himself to introduce you to his world by going through an alphabet of terms and names.

I have two names which begin with ‘C’ for you today.

The first is Calexa. Of the twelve provinces of Elentisa, each with a capital the same name of the province, Calexa is the largest of them all. The fifth major port city along the Elentisaren coast, the city of Calexa is a center of trade and bustles with craftsmen of all sorts. The people tend to be talkative and merry, or so I’ve heard. I was only there once, briefly, in the middle of winter and in the middle of war. No one was merry and there was very little speaking.

Cedric is the other name that begins with C. The Councilman of Ryth, Cedric is also a merchant and savvy businessman. Brother to Anthedon, also a Councilman, the two have been a great help in the war against Voland. In private, they argue almost constantly, balancing Cedric’s occasional rashness with Anthedon’s cautious planning until they are sure they have hammered out the best plan possible. In public, they show an undivided front.

A father of two daughters, Cedric longs for home life but is dedicated to the wellbeing of his country, no matter the cost.

Unrelated to these ‘C’ words, Hope bids me inform you all that beta reading sign-ups for Fidelyon will open tomorrow! So keep your eyes open for that extra post if, you know…you’re interested in me and my story for some reason.

 

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Beyond the Parchment: Part 1

Last month I gave you three options for the beginning of a serial story, and the third one won by a landslide. And so, without further ado, here is the ‘pilot episode’ of my serial story (including what I wrote last time). Enjoy!

It Just Had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second

I wake up in the dark. Shreds of parchment flutter around me, sifting through the shadows in a noiseless wind. I watch them vacantly for a long moment as my thoughts slowly connect. A late night of writing. My muttered threats about deleting the whole document if it didn’t cooperate. My dreams filled with vague faces, half remembered prophecy fragments, and a gleaming silver sword a character was given as proof of his kingship…which he then accidentally stabbed into a stone, couldn’t pull it back out, and ended up leaving behind.

My lips, which have gradually turned upwards in a smirk, widen into a smile. Now that idea I’ll have to write down. I roll over, reaching for the notebook I always keep by my bed.

And freeze.

It isn’t there. Only darkness and the paper fragments, quickening in a wind I can’t feel. I narrow my eyes. Am I not awake then? Is this an inception type of dream? I frown. But I have to wake up. To write down that idea before I forget it. What idea was it again…? It will probably be something really weird once my logical brain gets a hold of it.

Except…

Except I feel awake. And the wind about me almost looks like… It looks like the portal cavern I’d been trying to invent the day before. That jolts me into a sitting position.

“Calm yourself, May Ann,” I growl to myself, then, “what if this is real? If I should be so lucky.” I raise my eyebrows. “Which I doubt, of course. Luck indeed. The portal didn’t even work. But then…you never know. It’s good for description anyway.”

The parchments have sped into a blur now. I stretch out one hand. For the fraction of a second, a cold gust slices against my skin, then it is gone. The paper. The wind. The darkness. Moonlight seeps through my window. Everything is as it should be.

I swallow down an unreasonable touch of disappointment and reach for my notebook. At least…

My breath quickens.

I’m not alone.

Reaching backwards, my hand closes about the dagger I keep by my bed as a shadowy figure steps through my door. I stare, barely even remembering to breathe as I take in the fair hair, short beard, leather armor, emblazoned hammer and whip, and the sword clenched in the man’s hand.

Emotions and thoughts batter about my mind too quickly to even acknowledge them, but one thought sears through all the rest. Why him? Of all my characters, why had the portal brought him through? There were so many others I’d rather see.

You’re asking why him when you should be asking why at all? Are you insane? Do you realize what you have done? What will happen now…boy, but he is perfect isn’t he? That sneer and the way he holds himself with such…such vainness. Even my inner voice is having trouble focusing on scolding me the man strides to the middle of the room, slowly turning as his gaze skims the maps covering the wall.

I should probably introduce myself. Something calming. Perhaps some flattery.

He steps towards my desk, his hand curling around a crystal figurine.

“Don’t touch that!” The words snap out of my mouth before I can stop them and the man spins, his eyes searching out the shadows. One long step, and his hand wraps itself around the front of my nightgown as he drags me from the bed, bringing the cool edge of his blade against my throat.

“You dare give me orders?” He demands. “Do you even know who I am? Of course you don’t. You should though. You will too, after tonight. You’ll remember me. Your whole world will remember me. Also, how far is your nearest tailor shop? Because I require the best of whatever –”

“What you require is something I’m going to be sorry I didn’t give you,” I grumble, twisting backwards.

“And now you’re interrupting me.” The man shifts his grip to my hair and holds up his blade before my eyes. “Don’t you know what this is, girl? It’s a sword. It will kill you.”

I smirk as my eyes travel adoringly up the engraved blade to the ruby studded hilt. “Well, it might if it weren’t Andrith, the third most powerful blade in Braceaon and incapable of killing anyone who is innocent. Frankly, you’d do better with a normal dagger. Can I hold the sword?”

“No.” The man growls out the word as he slams it into his sheath and thrust a dagger under my skin. The edge of this blade is sharp. Idiot that I am. “It’s the second most powerful blade. Now who exactly do you think yourself to be? And what are you dressed in? Is that the fashion here?”

“Andrith is the third most powerful blade. And it’s a nightgown. Something which, in your world, would be very improper for you to see.” The man snaps himself out of his perusal of my long nightgown with a suddenness which makes me suppress a grin. On second thought, there are worse characters who could have appeared at this time of night. “Also, I’m May Ann. Will you please remove that dagger from my throat?”

The man scowls, but actually complies, even though it’s only to step back and sweep a dashing bow and flick his cape over his shoulder. “Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the second, Earl of the third shire of Braceaon.” He never could resist introducing himself with a flourish. “And owner of the second most powerful sword in the world.”

Yep, just as vain as I imagined him. As far as swords were concerned…I’d looked forward to the discovery of the most powerful blade in my book for this very reason. I just hadn’t expected to be the one to tell the second son of one of the most powerful lords in Braceaon about it. For now the matter was best left alone. As well as the fact that Jerinthreo was claiming his brother’s title.

“Well, then maybe –” I reach over and flicked on the light switch. The next moment I am pressed against the wall, the dagger at my throat once more.

“Traitor!” Jerinthreo spat out the word. “Firstly, you can call me Lord Jerinthreo. And what do you want to do, signal my enemies?”

“It’s a light!” I protest. His glare deepens and I amend my statement. “Lord Jerinthr… Jerinthre… will Jerin do?” The names I make up; I’ll never be able to add that perfectly accented ‘eo’ like Jerinthreo had said it. “Everyone has them. Look!” I point upwards and at the light fixture and Jerin followed my gaze. I take the opportunity to shove his hand out of the way and sidestep towards my chair where I’d draped my clothes.

“It’s…natural then?”

“More or less.” I shrug. “Did you expect everything to be the same in this world?” How has he even gotten to this world anyway? The portal machine isn’t his, though I don’t put a bit of meddling – or outright stealing – past him. He must have got in another fight with his brother…

My eyes widen. “Daraton?”

Jerin’s gaze hardens. “What do you know of my brother?”

For a second, my breath catches in my throat as my mind sifts through the tangle of half-formed plot twists and characters. There’s no way to know exactly where the characters are or if they’ve even followed my storyline exactly, but as my gaze skims over Jerinthreo again, this time under the light, I pick up signs I missed the first time. The tear in his velvet sleeve. The lopsided clasp on his cloak. The scuffs on his boots. The tightness lurking under the faintest sneer which curls his lip and lifts the side of one nostril. My eyes end at his, taking in the green glare which masks fury and pain.

He takes a step forward. “Are you in league with him too?” His fingers tighten over his dagger. “Whoever you are; however you know so much about us –  because it obvious you’re not from Braceaon, tell me what you know about my brother right now. Because if you helped him murder my father, then by the blazing mountain itself…” His cavalier attitude has vanished but I hardly notice as I stare at him.

“Lord Balstin is dead?”

“Why else do you think I’m here?” Jerin spits out the words.

No. It’s not right. Something is missing. A few pieces shift in my mind. My picture is different from anything Jerinthreo or Daraton will guess, but it’s still far from clear. Except in one point.

I spring for the light switch, plunging us both back into darkness. “Is he here? Daraton? Did he follow you?”

In the moonlight, it’s hard to decipher Jerin’s expression. In any case, he doesn’t have a chance to answer as glass crashes downstairs. Jerin’s jaw clenched and he steps toward the door, drawing his sword. I grit my teeth and snatch my clothes and shoes from my chair, then grab Jerin’s arm, ducking as he swings his dagger.

“Come on. I know a way out.”

His eyes narrow. “Any why should I trust you?”

Feet thud through the house, nearing. Where has the portal let out at and who has come through? More than one person, from the sound of it. I send a glance desperately around my room, finally pausing as they rest on a green stone, framed with silver petals.

I spin back to Jerin. But it’s too late. Another figure fills the door in the moonlight and the room explodes in a clash of silver and metal.

So, what do you think? What should happen next? Any guesses as to backstory? Or clothes Jerin should try out, assuming he survives the fight?

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Captive Bride

The Volandums had absurd ideas about how to treat a captive princess. I mean, golden chains? Really? Were they showing me off to the people, or were they showing off their own wealth to me? I honestly wasn’t sure anymore.

My mount’s hooves clopped against the flower-strewn pavement of Dezmond’s central street and I briefly let my gaze wander, taking in the towering stone buildings, mapping out routes, exits, dead ends. They were crowded now, with cheering citizens greeting their returning king. Oh yes, and the Elentisaren princess who’d been the price of peace and would become their queen.

I gazed steadily at the faces passing by. Returning each insolent stare with defiance. Each slur with a smirk. Each fragment of pity with determination. But many of the gazes were ones of wonder. Or perhaps they were just staring at my ridiculous white fluttery dress. Loose bits of gauze flew about my waist and a heavy necklace hung about my bare neck while taches of gold fastened my sleeves. All in all, it wasn’t a dress I’d be able to slip away in without being recognized.

But, mostly, my gaze rested on the guards surrounding my mount. An especially grim soldier led my horse, but others closed in on all sides. Two before. Three on each side of me. Four more behind. Not as if they thought I could escape, but I couldn’t help relishing in their worry over the almost mystical legends surrounding the Elentisaren Phoenix, otherwise known as the most deadly woman assassin in history. They seemed to think she’d not stand for her princess being taken by Volandums. And that she’d be coming after me.

Ahead of me, the Volandum king shifted in his saddle. His gaze swept over me for the dozeneth time. And, for the dozeneth time I met his stare with a glare of my own and the slightest curl of my lips.

His own smile creased his beard as he turned away.

The Volandums respected strength. Already the king was well pleased with the spirit of his bride-to-be.

Except all the Volandums lacked one small detail.

And, as the castle of Dezmond loomed over us, I permitted my smirk to deepen. The Volandums thought they were welcoming a bride. Instead they were providing the Phoenix of Elentisa safe passage into their most guarded fortress.

They’d been right about one thing. I wasn’t about to let my cousin, the princess, surrender her freedom for peace.

I was the Phoenix. And I was here to bring Voland to her knees

 

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Books Worth Reading – June 2016

This month has been busy, but I’ve still got some reading done. Of course. Even if it was just during the evenings some days.

Three of these books are parts of series that I finally got around to reading. And only one of them is a library book. Hurray! I’m finally starting to read some of the books on my shelf. Or am adding more books to my shelf. But who really cares? And if you do, what does it matter? They’re books!

Futuristic Fiction

Last month I told you about, A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. And, this month, I read the second book in the Out of Time Series, A Time to Speak. What happens when one expected to die and finds themselves alive? With a mission to help and lead people who hate them?

Writing: 5 out of 5; well written and engaging. Like the first book, the style reminds me of how a biography would follow a person’s life more than the normal novel story arc, though there is an arc too . At the same time, it was a bit quicker with more action than the first book.

Characters: 5 out of 5; the poor characters. Nadine hasn’t grown any more merciful in the second book. But I love them. They are distinct and very human. And Parvin’s struggles connect me to her so closely even though we aren’t very much alike.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Very clear and foundational to the story, but at no time does Parvin’s struggles seemed forced or sections turn preachy.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I highly recommend this book. Though be warned, the end will leave you in anguished expectation for A Time To Rise which comes out this fall.

Fantasy Books:

I wrote about the first two books in The Blades of Acktar last month. In a fantasy land, set in some obscure corner of our world, Christians must worship in secret to escape the wrath of an evil king and his handpicked blades: assassins proficient at spying and fighting with knives. But now in Defy, war covers the land, Renna is a captive with a horrible choice before her, and the price Leith must pay to rescue her is indescribably high…assuming the rebels will even trust him enough to let him help.

Writing: 4 out of 5

Characters: 4.5 out of 5; there was so much character development in so many characters in this book. Especially Renna. And the things things Tricia makes her characters suffer…I’m so glad I’m not one of them.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5

Theme: 4.5 out of 5; Very clear and very up front, but it didn’t proceed to the point where it was annoying and preachy.

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5; This is my favorite of the three books, and there’s a fourth book coming! I loved Renna in this book, and Leith, and basically everyone. Defy is a fitting climax to the last two books and is a exciting read filled with danger, turmoil, and treachery.

And here’s another third book in a trilogy, Arrow by R. J. Anderson. This was also a fitting climax to the No Ordinary Fairy Tale trilogy. In a world where fairies are real, they’re far from innocent glittering pixies. With an evil empress, rebels determined to fight for their freedom, and a fairy determined to stop bloodshed before it’s too late, this is a fascinating story.  If you like reading about fairies, then this is a version of their life you will very much enjoy.

Writing: 4.5 out of 5; good pace; very interesting.

Characters: 4.5 out of 5; fairy and human are both excellently done, though compared to some of the other books I’ve read this month, they don’t have as many distinct quirks as they could. But still, well done.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5; sound, solid.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Subtly woven into the story.

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5; I loved all three books in this trilogy. The climax didn’t disappoint and is probably my favorite of all three. I love the main character, the settings, the other characters…an exciting read.

And finally there’s this book. A single book, not part of a series, just one beautiful, delicious, single book…Waking Beauty by Sarah E Morin! I heard about this book during The Very Serious Writing show podcast and, when I saw it at the library, I couldn’t resist. What happens when a prince wakes up the Sleeping Beauty, but she refuses to believe she’s awake? What happens when a princess has been tormented by dreams for so long, she won’t let anything close to her heart for fear it will be torn away again?

Writing: 4.6 out of 5; a little slow at the beginning but very interesting.

Characters: 5 out of 5; fresh, fun, distinct.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; sound, solid.

Theme: 5 out of 5; subtle at the beginning, but the depth of allegory by the end stunned me.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I loved this retelling of Sleeping Beauty! I enjoyed reading about the ‘after it all happened’ story and the allegory was wonderful. If you like fantasy and fairy tales, I highly recommend this book.

How about you? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned and what did you think? What other Christian fantasy books do you love?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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Flames of Resistance

The moat was nearly dry, all except the pool surrounding the causeway up to the castle gate. It was deep there yet. Hopefully it was deep enough.

Fathren tried to swallow, but his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as a hot wind swept over the dry parched plains. He told himself it was from the rationing of water, but the dust raised by the invader’s armies wasn’t helping either.

“Ready?” His whispered cracked.

“Ready.” Three soft voice replied from the dry grass about him.

Fathren nodded his fingers tightened around his bow as his breath hissed rapidly though the cloth covering the lower half of his face. They had one chance, the four of them. If they failed, they’d die. If they succeeded, they would be branded destroyers. But at least the invaders would suffer a bitter blow.

Already the steady tramp of feet were echoing along the brush filled moat surrounding the castle. On the wall, the sun glinted off silent troops.

Fathren closed his eyes for a long moment, then drew an arrow. “On my mark, and may the Prince be with us all.”

“May the Prince be with us.” His companions’ voices were accompanied by the swish of arrows.

Fathren tensed, measuring the distance of the approaching soldiers. The troops in the moat. The horsemen behind his party in the tall grasses. The dryness of the grasses.

Almost…almost…

He raised one hand.

Now!

Fathren sliced his hand downward and leapt to his feet, springing to the middle of the causeway. Focusing, he breathed on the tip of his arrow and his heart leapt as it flashed into a flame.

“Draw!” His voice seemed to echo along the battlements even as startled cried from the wall reflected the shouts of derision from the invaders.

“Aim!”

He focused toward the brush just beyond the lead troop, feeling rather than seeing his friends fall in place behind him.

“Loose!”

His string sang as the arrow cut through the air. Shouts burst into a confused babble and Fathren spun, a single glimpse assuring him his companion’s arrows had found their mark while anger ripple through the walls above. But it was the only way. The lord would have surrendered if given the chance. Surrendered, and been slaughtered.

He’d not have the chance.

And, as Fathren followed his men, leaping over the causeway to the murky pool beneath, he only hoped the flames already catching hold on the plains and enveloping the invaders would be enough to save them all.

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Books Worth Reading – May 2016

I’m delighted to be able to share with you some of my bookish discoveries this last month.

It’s not all fantasy this time. My second great love, after fantasy, is futuristic fiction. There’s more connecting the two genres than might appear: one gets to create the world and do pretty much whatever one pleases, either with technology or fantasy type power. The rules can be bent and history invented. So, first on of all…

Futuristic Fiction

I read the first book in the Out of Time Series, A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. Yes, the title made some of my family give me strange looks, but it is perfect of the theme. What would you do if you knew the day of your death? And if that day was almost upon you?

Writing: 5 out of 5; well written and engaging. The style, while following a basic story arc, reminded me of how a biography would follow a person’s life more than the normal novel.Hence, there were some parts which might seem a little slow in a novel where every scene is building towards one single goal, but I think it works in this book.

Characters: 5 out of 5; oh the poor characters. I can’t believe how much Nadine hurts them. Even as a writer, there were still some parts which shocked me. And then it got me thinking…and that might not be good news for future characters of my own. But I digress. I loved the characters in this book. And I loved Parvin, the main character. Her fears, her doubts, the raw realness of her struggles in and with faith… it was excellent.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Very clear and foundational to the story, but at no time does Parvin’s struggles seemed forced or sections turn preachy.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I highly recommend this book. I just bought the second book, A Time To Speak and am looking forward to reading that as soon as I get though some library books. And the last book, A Time To Rise, comes out this fall. *squeals* Which is another reason I keep putting off A Time To Speak; once it’s over, I won’t have the next book to read until later this year.

Fantasy Books

I heard about The Blades of Acktar series from a friend who highly recommended them. In a fantasy land, set in some obscure corner of our world, Christians must worship in secret to escape the wrath of an evil king and his handpicked blades; assassins proficient at spying and fighting with knives. And the best thing about Dare and Deny is that the third (and, I think, final) book in the series just came out yesterday. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading it.

Writing: 4 out of 5; the beginning of the first book was a little slow, but not enough for me to stop reading.

Characters: 4 out of 5; the characters are deep, but not broad. Each character has a distinguishing characteristic by which they are defined, and that characteristic is present in almost every interaction. But I still love the characters, even Renna, who’s doubt and fear sometimes made me sigh. This, by the way, is simply personal opinion; but while I like and know there needs to be room for character development, I do like reading about main characters with a little more confidence.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5

Theme: 4.5 out of 5; Very clear and very up front, but it didn’t proceed to the point where it was annoying and preachy.

Recommendation: 4 out of 5; I love the blades, and I love Leith. And my only consolation for the end of the second book was that the third book was about to come out. The mixture of a fantasy land in name, along with real life Christianity works well. While not my absolute favorite books, mainly because I like my characters to have more breath and nuances, I would recommend them as an interesting and exciting read filled with danger, turmoil, and treachery.

Other…Book

I’m not sure what to call The Hidden Oracle, the first book in the Trials of Apollo series. It’s not really fantasy; more a mix of modern and mythology. The premise in all of Rick Riordan’s books, of which he’s written quite a few (the Percy Jackson series being my favorite) is that the Greek gods are real. Not real in that they are God (the idea of there being an all-powerful God is left open ended), but they are immortal beings which tinker in the affairs of men and who have children with them. These children are called demigods and are the main characters in most of the books…except this one, where the main character is actually Apollo, who Zeus has made human. (Apparently that happened twice in mythology…and now once in Riordan’s books.)

Writing: 5 out of 5; Rick Riordan is an excellent writer who makes me laugh with the most outrageous random lines.

Characters: 5 out of 5; the characters are all layered, distinct, and play off each other in a very humorous manner. Also, there is an arrow that talks in Shakespearean English near the end of the book. I’ve read of talking swords, but never about talking arrows. It was absolutely hilarious.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5

Theme: Umm, this is the one reason I debated between mentioning the book, but the talking arrow tipped the scales in the story’s favor. Rick Riordan is not a Christian author. Actually, his books are some of the few fiction books I read outside of the ‘inspirational fiction’ area. There are good themes of loyalty and courage, but Riordan’s view of life, and of marriage is not the Christian view of one man and one woman. Not that there is overwhelming romance of any kind in these books, but when it is touched on in minor subplots, the worldly view of ‘marriage’ is treated as normal and perfectly fine.

Recommendation: 4 out of 5; because of the book’s theme not being Christian as mentioned above, I can’t recommend it 5 out of 5 like I’d really like to. I enjoyed the book, and love most of Riordan’s works that I’ve read. But, in the end, you’ll have to decide if you want to read a book which treats some sins as fine and normal, recognizing that the author’s worldview is wrong, or if you’d rather forego it altogether.

Flashback Fantasy

And I figured, since there’s lots of books I’ve read which I won’t be rereading any time soon but still want to share with you, to have a ‘Flashback Fantasy’ section each month. So, without more ado, the Wingfeather Saga, everyone!

I started reading this series when a friend sent me the first book for my birthday. She sent me the second book a few months later, and then I eagerly bought the last two books in The Wingfeather Saga before handing them off to my brothers who also loved them

Writing: 5 out of 5; the writing is for a younger age group than I normally read; probably 12-15. But who cares? I loved the story and I loved the humor, even when it was a bit silly in the first book or two.

Characters: 5 out of 5; very distinct, each character with their own humorous addition to the story which sometimes covers painful secrets.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5

Theme: 5 out of 5; these are fantasy books, but the Maker (God) is mentioned and referenced as a part of life, not just some abstract and distant force.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; These books made me laugh. They made me cry. I ached for the characters and I loved them. It’s an especially great series to read out loud to younger siblings. I just might do that this summer…

How about you? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned and what did you think? What other Christian fantasy books do you love?

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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Books Worth Reading – April

Fantasy Books of the Month

A writer must read. There’s no question about it. What you want to write, you read. Reading not only sparks creative thoughts, but it also sharpens a your skills as you see how one writer could have done something better, or study how another writer expertly manipulated your emotions.

Of course, the downsides to being a writer is you can’t enjoy as many books as before because you’re consistently picking out poor writing. At least I do. But that just makes the well written books that much better. And, for the month of April (I realize this is a little late, but better late than never) I read several great fantasy books. *rubs hands with impish grin*

Firstly, Songkeeper by Gillian Adams. I’ve already written a whole review post on this second book in the Songkeeper Chronicles, so I’ll keep this brief.

Writing: 5 out of 5; great pace, great settings. Perfect amount of description and action.

Characters: 5 out of 5; Fresh, human, love them.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, funny, rings true.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Subtle, but strong.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; one of my favorite middle books of a trilogy; keeps the story going while building up to the next book.

Then there is Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland. *sniffles* I had to spend the rest of the evening recovering after finishing this book. It was…it was good. Wonderful. And I felt so bad for the main character. As the one person in his generation who is able to cross from our ‘real’ world to the ‘dream’ world, he’s always awake in one or the other; either fighting for his life or trying to save the world. No long restful sleepy mornings. I don’t envy him his role, but I do highly recommend this book. It’s long, but it’s worth it.

Writing: 4.5 out of 5; there were a few sections with some telling instead of showing, but they were always brief enough I hardly cared. Dreamlander has great pace which kept building up. You know those books which you like, and then it gets better, and then it gets even better? This was one of those books

Characters: 5 out of 5; Fresh, both human and nonhuman; you can see the reasoning behind various character’s actions, even when they are wrong. They draw you into the story, emotionally investing you in the outcome.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Well woven throughout the story

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; highly recommend this book. And, one of the best things about it is that it’s a single book. Don’t get me wrong, I love series. But everything seems part of a series now days. I love finding great single books I can read without having to worry about how many more books I need to buy or when the next one comes out.

Next, there is Knife and Rebel by Christian author R. J. Anderson. The third book, Arrow, just came out and I’ve not got it yet though I fully intend to. The series title, No Ordinary Fairy Tale, says it all. In a world where fairies are real, they’re far from innocent glittering pixies. If you like reading about fairies, then this is a version of their life you will very much enjoy.

Writing: 4 out of 5; A little slow to start, but they’re still interesting and quickly get exciting.

Characters: 4.5 out of 5; fairy and human are both excellently done, though compared to some of the other books I’ve read this month, they don’t have as many distinct quirks as they could. But still, well done.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5; sound, solid.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Subtly woven into the first book. Stronger, but without being preachy, in the second book

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5; This trilogy keeps the story moving well. Each book is a separate story with one overall arc through all three. I’m looking forward to reading the last book…you’ll probably be hearing about it next month.

And finally, I finished the Two Towers in my journey though reading Lord of the Rings for the third time. And there’s no need to parse out this book. Tolkien is an excellent writer and all fantasy writers should read his works. No, they must read Lord of the Rings. It is the fantasy trilogy of the century. *Glares down any challenge*

So, what about you? Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading lately? Any wonderful fantasy to recommend to me?

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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