reads, Recent Reads

A Song of Flight

Publisher’s Description

After a violent encounter with masked men and the sinister Crow Folk, Prince Aolu of Dalriada disappears without a trace, and his companion Galen is seriously injured.

Liobhan and the Swan Island warriors seek answers to the prince’s abduction. For Liobhan this mission is personal, as Galen is her beloved brother. While she and her team investigate, Liobhan’s younger brother Brocc is in serious trouble. Brocc’s secret attempt to communicate with the Crow Folk triggers a shocking incident, and sends him on a path which endangers the one he loves above all else.

What brought the Crow Folk to Erin? And who plots to use them in an unscrupulous bid for power? As Liobhan and Brocc seek the truth, it becomes clear the two missions are connected – and an extraordinary mystery unfolds.


*** I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ***

My Review

My recent read was A Song of Flight by New Zealand-born Australian author Juliet Marillier.

A Song of Flight continues the story of Liobhan, Dau and Brocc, all introduced in the first in the Warrior Bards series in The Harp of Kings. Where Dau and Liobhan are now full members of the Swan Island warriors, Brocc has continued his life in the Otherworld with his fey wife Eirne and their newly born child, Niamh. But Brocc and Eirne are at odds over the mysterious Crow Folk who terrorise Eirn. While Brocc has made successful ventures to understanding the Crow Folk, when Eirne finds Brocc in treaty with on the Crow Folk, tension rise and a trusted advisor to Eirne is killed. Furious with Brocc, Eirne banishes him and Niamh from the Otherworld. Cast onto the road, Brocc is soon entwined in a dark plot to use his talents as an Otherworld bard to militarise the Crow Folk and set Chieftain against Chieftain. With Niamh taken from him and held as ransom, Brocc plays a careful and dangerous game with his abductors.

Liobhan and Dau also find themselves on a mission that draws Liobhan home to Winterfalls after the prince of Dalriada goes missing after a failed ambush. Dau is certain there is an Otherworldly explanation and once Liobhan begins to investigate, hers and Dau’s suspicions begin to align. The threads of Otherworldly escapes, espionage and rescue slowly wound into a common thread where returning the Crow Folk to their homelands is key. To this end, the Swan Island team must work with Brocc in the greatest challenge of his role as an Otherworldly bard.

Final Thoughts

A Song of Flight was a marvellous story that drew so many different characters throughout the series into a single volume, skilfully written to keep each of the story threads exciting and connected to each other. A beautifully written story, great characters and well-integrated mythology and lore.

Conclusion

A must-read for those who enjoy fantasy fiction, fantasy inspired by mythology and lore and fans of Juliet Marillier. A Song of Flight is a powerful story that combines the elements of storytelling, music, lore and mythology into an exciting journey. Highly recommended!

reads, Recent Reads

Dreaming of Djinn

Publisher’s Description:

To open Dreaming Of Djinn is to open a jewel encrusted box full of exquisite and mouthwatering delicacies.

This sensuous and truly mouthwatering collection melding the modern and the ancient with the strangeness of speculative fiction, is a treasure trove of originality and exotic magic. It will ravish your senses as it transports you to a world of flying carpets, powerful ifrits, exotic foods and above all, dancing as deadly as it is beautiful.


My Review:

My recent reads included the anthology Dreaming of Djinn edited by Liz Grzyb is inspired by the Arabian Nights mythology, tales and folklore.
Particular favourites include ‘On a Crooked Leg Lightly’ by Alan Baxter, a tale of princess would-be assassins willing to escape societal control at any cost. ‘The Quiet Realm of the Dark Queen’ by Jenny Blackford is a beautiful weaving of Mesopotamian myth and legend with a feminist edge. Lastly, ‘Silver, Sharp as Silk’ by Dan Rabarts tells of the desert Ifriit and the unexpected reasons behind destroying travelling caravans.

Final Thoughts:

Dreaming of Djiin is a wonderful anthology of diverse tales, lavishly told and well-researched.

Conclusion:

A must-read for lovers of Arabian Nights, vivid tales and enchanting retellings of classics. Highly recommended!

reads, Recent Reads

No Good Deed

Publisher’s Description :

Isobel assumed her wedding would be the grandest day of her life, but when she wakes in a ghost-filled tomb still wearing her bridal veil, it’s clear events have taken an unexpected turn.

With the assistance of a vengeful spirit Isobel escapes her imprisonment, but her new husband Adolphus will not be pleased to discover his wife is alive. As Isobel comes to understand her husband’s darkest secret, the newlyweds begin a deadly dance that only one will survive.


My Review:

I read Dark fantasy novelette No Good Deed: A Sourdough Tale by Australian author Angela Slatter.

No Good Deed is set in the Sourdough universe following protagonist Isobel, a former student of St Dymphna where she learned many skills from blade-work to poisoning, and not a lady easily pushed around. After a marriage proposal from the son of a old family (unknowingly long since fallen on hard times but keeping up appearances), Isobel thinks her marriage well made. Until she wakes in her wedding dress locked within a crypt with the remains of Adolphus’s previous wives. Alive and determined to get her revenge, Isobel finds support from another vengeful wife, this one incoproreal, but more than pleased to get revenge on Adolphus with Isobel’s help.

So begins the cat-and-mouse game between the newlyweds where Isobel must kill Adolphus if she wishes to survive her marriage.

Final Thoughts:

No Good Deed is truly a tale of revenge and laced with dark humour. The gothic theme is lavishly applied but joined with a strong female protagonist to make No Good Deed very enjoyable and unique.

My Conclusion:

Highly recommended read for lovers of gothic fiction, horror, dark fantasy and grimdark. Beautifully written, darkly humorous and enjoyable to the end. A must-read!

Short Fiction, stories, Writing

Näcken Folklore

The näcken is a water being from found in Scandinavian folklore. The näcken is a variant in Sweden of the Norwegian fossegrim, a river sprite that drowns children and unwary travellers in the brook. The näcken can also be bargained with and a mortal learn to play the fiddle with similar enchantment. Once taught, the mortal fiddler will play so beautifully that the trees are said to weep. But like any bargain with otherworldly beings, there is usually a high cost for the skill earned at the näcken’s tutelage.

I was inspired by the folklore of the näcken and similar river sprites when writing a new microfiction focusing on the aftermath of a bargain made between the näcken and a musician. The fiddler now plays with the enchantment the näcken’s skill provided, but those who listenen to him play must dance to their deaths.

reads, Recent Reads

A Local Habitation

Publisher’s Description:

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.

Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester’s realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can’t find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.


Review:

A Local Habitation is another fabulous journey into the amazing world-building and folklore of US author Seanan McGuire in her October Daye series.

A Local Habitation sees Toby sent to the independent fiefdom of Tamed Lightning , precariously placed between the two warring duchies in the Summer Lands of Shadow Hills and Dreamer’s Glass. Tamed Lightning is a fiefdom like no other in the Summer Lands, where technological promise meets the magic of the Fae. But the Countess of Tamed Lightning is also the niece to Shadow Hills Duke Sylvester and Toby’s liege, and to avoid diplomatic stand-off with nearby Dreamer’s Glass, Toby is sent to check on the Countess. A series of mysterious deaths within Tamed Lightning becomes an immediate concern and Toby’s mission becomes incredibly dangerous as a killer on the loose, intent on destroying all who still live in Tamed Lightning, puts Toby in a an impossible situation to avoid a diplomatic disaster and outright war between the two largest duchies in the Summer Lands.

Final Thoughts:

Cleverly written and rich in the folklore that makes the October Daye series so enjoyable, the addition of a promising technology to help the Summer Lands survive the alongside mortal world is an interesting premise that is jarring enough to suit the clash between natural and artificial worlds. Although the plot is a little predictable at times, the world-building skills and interesting characters keep the pace and interest high.

Conclusion:

A recommended read for anyone who enjoys paranormal urban fantasy, folklore based fiction, a paranormal mystery and well-written fiction.

reads, Recent Reads

The Once and Future Witches

Publisher’s Description:

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the three Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote – and perhaps not even to live – the sisters must delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.


Review:

The Once and Future Witches by US author Alix E. Harrow was an absolute delight. Following three sisters who meet unplanned after years apart in New Salem, drawn by an inexplicable magic, and caught in a half-spun spell to summon the Lost Tower of Avalon, dislodged in time and space, waiting for the next three witches with enough need to summon it back.

The oldest sister, Bella, is a librarian working at the New Salem College library. An unmarried woman who quickly finds herself drawn to the exotic and welcoming Ms Cleo, a black female reporter with more than a little hint of magic about herself. The middle sister Agnes, is beautiful and strong enduring a menial job as a mill-girl just to keep her independence. A strong woman whose beauty would allow the pick of any men, if Agnes would allow herself to be loved. But Agnes must choose to be supported by others, especially when she is with child and finds the stronger love in a man who isn’t the child’s father. While the youngest sister, Juniper, is a wild and fierce young woman intent on taking the male dominated society down so women (and witches) might assume their rightful place as leaders and advisers.

In the meeting of these three estranged sisters, bonds are rekindled and a other women across New Salem join their cause to have more than what is handed to them, to make certain their daughters have better lives than they did. But a dark spectre hangs over New Salem, an ancient malevolence that is determined to see the last of the witches crushed once and for all beneath a boot-heel.

Final Thoughts:

The Once and Future Witches was a wonderfully well-written novel with strong, detailed characters and a thrilling alternate history of 1893 and the post-Salem witch burnings. Beautifully paced storytelling with exquisite detail, this was such an strong book.

Conclusion:

Highly recommended read for those who enjoy historical fantasy, alternate history, magical realism and more than a dash of folklore. A must-read!

Short Fiction, stories

666 Release


Thrilled that 666 Dark Moments was released on 31 August, 2021. This is a micro fiction anthology of horror and dark fiction published by Black Hare Press.

Included in 666 is my own dark fiction “The Gallows Dancers” inspired by the gothic folklore of the hangman and hanging trees.

You can find out more about 666 Dark Moments and where to purchase ebook and paperback copies here.

Short Fiction, stories

Reign Release


Delighted that Reign (Five Hundred Fiction, #7) was released on 31 August, 2021. This is a flash fiction anthology of dark fantasy of the genre published by Black Hare Press.

Included in Reign is my own dark fantasy flash fiction “Poisoned Fruit, Poisoned Reign” inspired by the folklore of curses and poisoned apples. You can read more about the research behind my flash fiction here.

You can find out more about Reign (Five Hundred Fiction, #7) and where to purchase ebook and paperback copies here.

research, Short Fiction, stories

Dark Christmas Lore


Christmas is a time for celebration and family gatherings, right? Strictly speaking, yes. But there are darker lores beneath the celebration many of us enjoy each year. The folklore surrounding the Krampus and even Saint Nicholas and the Butcher are grisly territory.

When I travelled to Iceland in 2019 for research, I found a very different set of folklores related to Christmas and the span of Yuletide. The folklore of thirteen Yule trolls who terrorise and disrupt Icelandic life for thirteen days is eclipsed by the arrival of their mother, the cannibalistic troll-witch Gryla who steals away children to cook into stew for her large family in their mountain cave.

Fascinated by this dark and fable-like warning of the dangers around Yuletide in Iceland, I was inspired to write a short story featuring Gryla and the Yule trolls, focusing on the darker natures the Yule trolls reportedly once possessed before modern sanctification of their images.

reads, Recent Reads

Starve Acre

Publisher’s Description

The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.

Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.

Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.


Review

I read horror folklore novella Starve Acre by UK author Andrew Michael Hurley after many recommendations. It did not disappoint!

Starve Acre follows protagonist Richard and his wife Juliette six months after the unexpected death of their son, Ewan. The couple are struggling to mend their marriage and Juliette is convinced Ewan’s ghost still haunts the house. When Juliette invites a group of occultists into the house to help with Ewan’s ghost, she is remarkably healed for a while, her thoughts of Ewan almost vanished as though he never existed in their lives.

Juliette’s husband Richard, has become fascinated with a legendary oak tree that once grew in the now fallow field of Starve Acre, a plot of land where nothing grows and where the oak tree -where once men were hanged for crimes – no evidence remains. But Richard finds the roots of the oak tree and a skeleton of a hare. Bringing the skeleton of the hare inside the house, Richard begins a dark reworking of magic and horror that is reborn from the fallow earth of Starve Acre.

Final Thoughts

Starve Acre is a only a novella but written in a skilful literary style more commonly found in novel-length volumes. Weaving together complex characters and events, important details are revealed like breadcrumbs leading the reader to the final truth of the mystery of Starve Acre. It is a glorious dark fiction tale, strong in gothic folklore and utterly chilling.

Conclusion

A highly recommended read. Starve Acre is a must-read for fans of dark fiction, those who enjoy gothic folklore, a literary contemporary fantasy and readers who enjoy a chilling mystery. Thrilling!