#BlogTour Into the Summerland by Julian Cundy

Today it’s my pleasure to kick off the BlogTour for Into the Summerland by Julian Cundy. It’s a short and thoughtful piece of fiction. Into the Summerland is speculative, spiritual and perhaps even motivational at times.

About the Author

Living in Westcliff-on-Sea Essex, Julian Cundy is a British adventurer, dedicated day dreamer, wordsmith and observer of life and all its absurdities. He is a recognisable character in his home town thanks to his eye-catching outfits comprising fine hats, cravats, tails and spats.

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Visit juliancundy.com

Buy Into the Summerland

About the book 

The eternal question – what happens when we die? Is there a consequence from how we lived? Is there a reckoning?

Henry Ashton’s turbulent life is at an end. As he moves on from this world, he discovers how elusive the final peace can be.With a spirit companion by his side, Henry learns there can be no peace without reconciliation, no rest without acceptance. He must walk his own path to absolution.

“For some souls the transition from mortal life to eternal peace is an easy one, soon completed. For others, who have been troubled in their life or who cannot reconcile the events and their part in them, the journey is longer…and harder. But every soul will find its rest.”

Review

I wonder how many of us would choose to relive both the highlights and the lowest points in our lives, even after death and as a last task before passing on to the next level. Assuming there is one to pass on or over to in the first place, but I suppose that depends on each individuals faith, belief or complete lack of either.

In this novella length story the reader revisits the past with the newly departed Henry, who has to have closure with all the emotionally charged moments of his life in an attempt to find peace in himself , his actions and decisions. This session, which appears to be endless and without any time constraints, is a challenge he needs to succeed at in order to move on.

It is a lesson in reflection and speaks to the walls we build inside our minds and hearts to seal off the most painful memories. Everyone makes mistakes, and there are no do-overs in life. We aren’t born with a manual on how to take the best path in each situation.

It is a thoughtful piece of fiction. I suppose if seen from a more psychoanalytical perspective one could also view Chuttlewizz as the conscience urging Henry to look back upon his life and make peace with his internal fears, anger and also the small pockets of joy and tranquillity. He doesn’t believe he deserves the latter and regrets the former.

Although this can be perceived as a spiritual story, it is quite simply a natural progression towards the end of a life. The older we get the more we tend to dwell on the paths taken, the mistakes we made and any possible regrets we may have. It’s interesting how we tend to focus on the negative rather than reminisce about the positive and happy times.

What I really liked was the inference or premise that after death our souls need to be whole again before they can be released. The notion that we need to fix the holes in our souls to be able to move on and rest in peace. Perhaps we shouldn’t wait until our last breath to do so.

It is speculative, spiritual and perhaps even motivational at times.

Buy Into the Summerland at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Paperback edition Kindle edition

Publisher: Little Bang Publishing (Length 77 pages)

Follow the Tour:

Monday 11th June Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog

Tuesday 12th June Wrong Side of Forty

Wednesday 13th June Spiritual Media Blog

Thursday 14th June Abooktasia

Friday 15th June Portable Magic

Monday 18th June Big Book Little Book

Tuesday 19th June Belleandthenovel

Wednesday 20th June A Daydreamer’s Thoughts

Thursday 21st June Portable Magic

Saturday 23rd June Cupcake Mumma

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#SpotlightTour Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Today it is my turn to turn the spotlight on Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova. It is the second book in the Bruja Born series which started off with the fast-paced and volatile Labyrinth Lost. It’s a powerful premise with plenty of potential.

About the Author

Zoraida Córdova is the award-winning author of The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, and Toil & Trouble: 16 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. She is a New Yorker at heart and is currently working on her next novel.

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Buy Bruja Born

About the book

Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…

Review

This is the second in the Brooklyn Brujas series, which deals with the fallout of the dark volatile and life-changing events of Labyrinth Lost (the first book in the series). Lula spends the majority of the time trying to control a bellyful of anger and taking her lack of control out on her loved ones. She resents her sister for putting her in danger and for destroying her physical appearance.

When you’re equipped with more power than you can handle the danger is not being able to control it or possibly using it for the wrong reasons. As a witch one of the golden rules is what you put out into the universe you get back tenfold, especially when it is something negative. I think trying to intervene in life or death scenarios fits into this category. Lula doesn’t hesitate to use her power to take back what Death has already claimed, which sets a series of dangerous events in motion.

Córdova likes to explore the emotional and physical limitations and boundaries of magic. What happens when you break the written and unwritten rules? Does Lula really feel as if she is above the rules and immune from the possible consequences of breaking them. There is also a focus on the tight relationship between the sisters, and why they are willing to risk their lives to satisfy the selfish needs of their sister.

The Brooklyn Brujas has a lot of potential, especially when it comes to the sisters developing their skills and powers, so it will be interesting to see where the author takes the series. Brujas aren’t a common feature in urban fantasy, there tends to be an overall focus on bog-standard witches. This allows for a more in-depth look at the cultural meaning and myths surrounding them.

What I really want to know is whether something else other than fate or the auto-schedule of Death happened on that bus. Was it just a coincidence that Lula was in the middle of an emotional upheaval? Just putting that out there into the universe.

Buy Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Kindle pub date 5th June 2018, Hardcover pub date 1st July 2018

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Rafflecopter Giveaway for 2 Copies of Bruja Born Runs June 5th -30th (US & Canada only) – Click on the link below to enter

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Buy Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) at Amazon Uk Goodreads

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Excerpt of Bruja Born

They say El Corazón has two hearts:the black thing in his chestand the one he wears on his sleeve.

—­Tales of the Deos, Felipe Thomás San Justinio

This is a love story.

At least, it was, before my sister sent me to hell. Though technically, Los Lagos isn’t hell or the underworld. It’s another realm inhabited by creatures, spirits, and wonders I’d only read about in my family’s Book of Cantos. The place where I was kept—­where my whole family was imprisoned by a power-­hungry witch—­that was as close to hell as I hope I’ll ever get.

But that’s another story.

“Lula, you ready?” my sister Alex asks.

I stare at my open closet and can’t find the socks that go with my step team uniform. I riffle through bins of underwear and mismatched socks and costume jewelry.

“Lula?” Alex repeats, softly this time.

For the past seven or so months, Alex has been extra everything—­extra patient, extra loving, extra willing to do my chores. She means well, but she doesn’t understand how suffocating her attention is, how the quiet in her eyes drives a sick feeling in my gut because I’m trying to be okay for her, for our family and friends. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at faking it. But sometimes, like now, I snap.

“Give me a minute!”

I don’t mean to snap. Honestly. But everything that’s come out of my mouth lately has been hard and angry, and I don’t know how to make it stop. That’s not who I am. That’s not who I was before—­

Rose, our younger sister, walks into my room wearing long sleeves and jeans even though there’s a heat wave and it’s mid-­June. Rose has the Gift of the Veil. She can see and speak to the dead. Spirt magic runs on a different wavelength than the rest of our powers, and being so tuned-­in to that realm means she’s always cold. Rose takes a seat on my bed and picks at a tear in the blanket.

“Can I go to the pregame with you and Maks?” she asks me. “I’ve never been to one before.”

“No,” I say.

“Why not?” When she frowns, her round face gets flushed. Sometimes I forget that underneath all her power, she’s just a fourteen-­year-­old kid trying to fit in.

“Because,” I say, digging through my dirty laundry. “It’s just for the team. You can drive to the game with Ma and Alex.”

“And Dad.” Rose’s voice is a quiet addendum.

Right. Dad. After seven years of being missing and presumed dead, he’s in our lives again. It’s an odd feeling having him back, one we all share but haven’t talked about. He has no memory of where he’s been, and even if we can’t say it out loud, maybe we’ve moved on without him. Alex was always the one who said he was gone for good, and perhaps deep down inside, I thought that too. But I always corrected her. I was the one who believed he’d return, because sometimes false hope is better than being completely hopeless. I believed in lots of things once.

“And Dad,” I say.

The three of us exchange a look of unease. There are too many things that are unsaid between us. I wish we could go back to being loud and rowdy and something like happy. But it’s taking longer than I thought.

So here are the things we leave unsaid:

One, we’re brujas. Witches. Magical BAMFs with powers gifted by the Deos, our gods. A house full of magic is bound to cause some friction, and after what Alex did, there is plenty of friction.

Two, my sister Alex cast a canto that banished our entire family to a realm called Los Lagos. She got to traipse across its magical hills and meadows with Nova, the hot brujo we never talk about, and her now-­girlfriend, Rishi.

Meanwhile, I was trapped in a freaking tree. A big, evil tree. I was surrounded by all-­consuming darkness, and even though we’re home and safe, I still feel that pull, like something is sucking at my soul and my light, and this house is too small and crowded, and I don’t know how to make this fear stop. I don’t know how to get over it.

Three, I can’t stand looking at my own reflection anymore.

I took all the mirrors in my bedroom down, even the one that was on my altar to keep away malicious spirits. They don’t need it. One look at my face, and they’ll be scared off.

“Ready when you are,” Alex says again, her guilt radioactive.

Technically, technically, the attack that left my face hideously disfigured with scars was Alex’s fault. I’m a terrible sister for thinking it. Forgive and forget and all that. But the maloscuros that came looking for her attacked me. Their vicious claws raked across my face. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I can smell the rot of their skin, see the glow of their yellow eyes, feel their presence even though they’re long gone and banished.

To be fair, Alex has scars from the maloscuros too. Right across her heart. But she can cover them up. I can’t.

Not naturally, anyway.

Having a sister who is an all-­powerful encantrix has its benefits. There are a million problems going on in the world, and here I am, worrying about scars. But deep down, I know it’s more than the scars. I’ve been called beautiful my whole life. I’ve been aware of the way men’s eyes trailed my legs since I was far too young. The way boys in school stuttered when they spoke to me. The way they offered me gifts—­bodega-­bought candies and stolen flowers and handwritten notes with yes/no scribbled in pencil. My aunt Maria Azul told me beauty was power. My mother told me beauty was a gift. If they’re right, then what am I now? All I know is I left fragments of myself in Los Lagos and I don’t know how to get them back.

So I turn to my sister, because she owes me one. But before we can get started, my mother knocks on my open door, Dad trailing behind her like a wraith.

“Good, you’re all together. Can I borrow you guys for a minute?” Ma asks. She rests a white laundry basket against one hip and waves a sage bundle like a white flag. “I want to try the memory canto on your father before we leave. The sun’s in the right—­”

“We’re busy,” I say, too angry again. I don’t like talking to my mother like this. Hell, any other time I’d catch hands for speaking to her like that. But we’re all a mess—­guilt, anger, love, plus a lot of magic is a potent mix. Something’s got to give, and I don’t know if I want to be here when it does.

Mom throws the sage stick on top of the clean laundry, scratches her head with a long, red nail. Her black-lined eyes look skyward, as if begging the Deos for patience. She makes to speak, but Dad places his hand on her arm. She tenses at his touch, and he withdraws the hand.

“We all have to pull our weight around here,” Ma tells me, a challenge in her deep, coffee-­brown eyes that I don’t dare look away from.

“Dad doesn’t,” I say, and feel Rose and Alex retreat two paces away from me. Traitors.

“He’s trying. You haven’t healed so much as a paper cut since—­”

I widen my eyes, waiting for the her to say it. Since Los Lagos. Since the attack. But she can’t.

“You have Alex,” I say, turning my thumb toward my sister. “She’s an encantrix. Healing comes with the package.”

“Lula…” Ma pinches the bridge of her nose, then trails off as my father tries to be the voice of reason.

“Carmen,” he whispers, “let them be. It’s okay.”

But my mother doesn’t fully let up. “How much longer will you keep having your sister glamour you?”

Alex looks at her toes. All that power in her veins and she can’t escape being shamed by our mother. I might be just a healer, but I match my mom’s gaze. We share more than our light-­brown skin and wild, black curls. We share the same fire in our hearts.

“Until it stops hurting,” I say, and I don’t let my voice waver.

We share a sadness too. I see it in her, woven into the wrinkles around her eyes. So she just hands me a black bundle—­my uniform socks—­and says, “We’ll see you at the game.”

#BlogTour Pretty Little Things by T.M.E. Walsh

prettyfin

Today it is a pleasure to host the BlogTour for Pretty Little Things by T.M.E. Walsh. It is truly a wicked psychological thriller, in every sense of the word. Walsh really knows how to keep readers hooked.

About the Author

Tania (T. M. E.) Walsh is the author of the DCI Claire Winters series. Tania began writing full time after becoming a casualty to the recession in late 2008.

The first DCI Claire Winters book, ‘For All Our Sins’, was originally published in February 2011. When the rights reverted back to the author, the novel then underwent a re-write.

Tania went on to successfully self-publish ‘For All Our Sins’, and the second novel in the series, ‘The Principle of Evil’, in 2013. Both novels appeared in the various best-selling Amazon Kindle charts, before being picked up by HQ Digital – a division of HarperCollins – in 2015.

‘For All Our Sins’ was published in September 2015, ‘The Principle of Evil’ in February 2016, and ‘Trial by Execution’ followed in February 2017, all published by HarperCollins.

Tania lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and young daughter.

Follow @tmewalsh @HQStories @HQDigitalUK

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Visit tmewalsh.com

Buy Pretty Little Things

About the book

It’s bad when the girls go missing. It’s worse when the girls are found.

Six months ago, Charlotte almost lost everything. Now, she’s determined to keep her daughter, Elle, safe. So when local girls close to Elle in age and appearance begin to go missing, it’s her worst nightmare.

Charlotte’s fears are confirmed when a frantic search becomes a shocking murder investigation. The girls’ bodies have been found – half-buried, and with traces of mud and wildflowers under their fingernails.

As Charlotte’s obsession with keeping her daughter close pushes her marriage to the brink, local DI Madeleine Wood embarks on a gruelling search for the killer. And, as they dig deeper into the lives of the people they call friends and neighbours, they uncover secrets more terrible than they ever imagined…

Review

Nice one.

Seriously, it’s a wicked plot. The solution comes completely out of left field, it’s a bit like being slapped unexpectedly up the side of the head with a really fat wet kipper, and then just standing there completely dumbstruck. *Bows down to the author*

It’s fair to say that things haven’t been the same for Charlotte since she was involved in a nearly fatal accident a few months ago. Her face is scarred, which makes her feel insecure, and her memory is as reliable as a leaky tap. The difference is you can fix or replace a tap, whereas Charlotte can’t be fixed and sometimes has no idea whether she is coming or going.

Her insecurities and post-traumatic stress have become consistently worse, especially because she refuses to seek any medical attention. Her husband has started to look elsewhere for comfort, her daughter resents the control issues her mother has, and Charlotte herself has become too attached to the man who saved her life.

Everything comes to a head when the corpses of young girls are found. There is a predator on the loose and Charlotte is determined to make sure her daughter doesn’t become one of his next victims, because the killer has already struck too close to home for comfort.

Walsh writes a compelling piece of crime with fascinating characters, and the plotting is done with an almost criminal air of nonchalance. With a kind of cheeky disregard for what the reader might have been expecting, which is incredibly clever from a plot perspective.

I will definitely be reading more by this author in future. I always appreciate a devious mind and a storyteller who is willing to bend the rules in order to deliver a read one won’t easily forget. It messes with your head, but in a nice evil way.

Buy Pretty Little Things at Amazon Uk or go to Goodread for any other retailer.

#BlogTour Body Heat by Candy Denman

Today I am delighted to take part in the BlogTour Body Heat by Candy Denman. This is the second part of the Jocasta Hughes series. A crime mystery with a main character who likes to meddle and dig until she finds the truth.

About the Author

Candy Denman is a Crime and TV script writer of programmes such as The Bill, Heartbeat and Doctors. Author of the Dr Jocasta Hughes crime series set in Hastings.

Follow @CrimeCandy @CrimeSceneBooks

Buy Body Heat

About the book

Dr Jocasta Hughes is faced with a gruesome series of murders which leave the remains of the victims twisted and charred. The hunt heats up for the arsonist, and so does Jo’s relationship with the exasperating DI Miller. A chilling mystery with lead characters you want to spend more time with, and a murderer you definitely want to avoid.

Review

I think Jocasta tends to be a meddler. She inserts herself into situations she doesn’t belong in, and although her intentions may be good, she often makes certain situations worse.

I get the whole unrequited love or insurmountable obstacles between Miller and Jo is a wee bit hypocritical, especially given the reason why this particular killer might be killing. She is the ‘other’ woman, even if it is just on an emotional level. It is the easy way out for someone who tends to stay away from serious relationships.

Jo also tends to ignore boundaries and rules, as if they apply to everyone except her. Whilst that may seem like an endearing and mischievous personality trait, it is also detrimental to her in a professional capacity and her patients. Even when others, including the more vulnerable, are giving her clear signals that she should watch those boundary issues, she still persists on pushing on through.

Denman does make a valid point when it comes to vulnerable people and the police. They are more likely to confess to any crime if put under enough pressure, which is why they need proper representation and support. Their vulnerability doesn’t mean they can’t be guilty of a crime, but they are more likely to be coerced into believing they have committed one.

The main character is an interesting contrast between an irritating meddler and persistent do-gooder. Her heart is in the right place, however her mind and physical presence are usually pursuing the truth with no regard for her own safety. This is a fascinating ploy from a plot perspective, because Jo has more flaws than a faulty product.

This is a story with an overpowering main character, who is determined to solve every problem or mystery in her vicinity, with a sideline of crime. It is compelling and harsh without relying on a certain level of violence to create a gripping plot. Given the ending I am interested to see where the author takes Jo and Miller in the next book.

Buy Body Heat at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: Crime Scene Books ( pub. date 24 May 2018) crime-scene-books.com

#BlogTour The Log House by Baylea Hart

Today it is time for some creepy horror vibes on the BlogTour for The Log House by Baylea Hart. It is a riveting combination of horror, apocalyptic and dystopian storytelling.

About the Author

Baylea Hart is an IT Technician by day, horror writer by night and a reader everywhere in between. In 2013 she wrote, directed and edited the short film Behind the Door, which won a Top 50 spot in the Bloody Cuts “Who’s There?” competition and as of 2015 has over 410,000 views on YouTube.

In October 2015 she won the Bristol Horror Writing Competition with her short story Jack in the Box, and her short story Eyes Open was published in the 12th issue of 9Tales Told in the Dark.

Baylea’s debut novel The Log House was published by Unbound in 2018.

Follow @bayleahart @unbounders #TheLogHouse

Visit bayleahart.com

Buy The Log House

About the book

The forest is a deadly place. Nobody knows this better than Penny. She has spent her whole life hiding in the darkness, shielding herself from the terrors that watch and wait within the trees. When Penny is abandoned and left for dead in the forest, she is forced to navigate this terrifying labyrinth in order to return home to her son and take revenge on the woman who tried to kill her. But the murderous creatures with the false smiles aren’t the only monsters to lurk in the forest, and some demons may be closer than she thinks.

Review

What’s interesting about this story is the way the negative aspects of human nature still shine through, despite the fact said humans are in a dire life or death situation. Instead of supporting and helping each other to survive under these extreme circumstances, they switch to survival of the fittest mode, which means sacrificing the weakest links.

The small pocket of humans we meet at the beginning of the story keep themselves locked away from the rest of the world. Everyone has to be inside by the time darkness falls and no source of light is allowed to be seen from outside the building. Outside, there is danger, death and terror lurking in the shadows. Monsters waiting to tear anything living from limb to limb.

When Penny is tricked into breaking one of the paramount rules of survival in their small community she finds out just how strong and determined she is when faced with a constant battle for her life. She is consumed with paranoia, pain and fear, but you know what they say – it isn’t paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Penny didn’t really evoke a lot of positive feelings in me. I found her quite selfish and self-absorbed at times. Perhaps understandable given the dark and dreary dystopian setting and fight for survival she finds herself in the middle of or do her almost narcissistic personality traits go back a lot further?

The author isn’t afraid to give the story the ending it deserves, very fitting for a dark fiction story. It is an interesting combination of apocalyptic, horror and dystopian fiction. What makes it even more compelling is the way Hart didn’t feel the need to make the main character sympathetic. She is brash, honest and ruthless.

It’s nice to see a breath of fresh air in this particular genre, and I look forward to seeing what this author does next.

Buy The Log House at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: Unbound Digital (24 Jan. 2018)

#BlogTour Lancelot by Giles Kristian

It’s an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Lancelot by Giles Kristian today. Lancelot isn’t merely a reinvention of a popular and age-old legend, it is the story which explains the legend we know. It is both a literary and storytelling delight.

About the Author

GILES KRISTIAN’S bestselling trilogies ‘Raven’ and ‘The Rise of Sigurd’ have been acclaimed by his peers, reviewers and readers alike. The novels The Bleeding Land and Brothers’ Fury tell the story of a family torn apart by the English Civil War and he co-wrote Wilbur Smith’s No.1 bestseller, Golden Lion. In his new novel, Lancelot, Giles plunges into the rich and swirling waters of our greatest island

Follow @GilesKristian @TransworldBooks

Visit gileskristian.com

About the book

In his epic new novel, the acclaimed and bestselling author of Raven and God of Vengeance re-imagines and retells the story of one of the great figures of British myth and legends – the warrior who fought at King Arthur’s side: Lancelot.

The legions of Rome are a fading memory. Enemies stalk the fringes of Britain. And Uther Pendragon is dying. Into this fractured and uncertain world a boy is cast, a refugee from fire, murder and betrayal. An outsider whose only companions are a hateful hawk and memories of the lost.

Yet he is gifted, and under the watchful eyes of Merlin and the Lady Nimue he will hone his talents and begin his journey to manhood. He will meet Guinevere, a wild, proud and beautiful girl, herself outcast because of her gift. And he will be dazzled by Arthur, a warrior who carries the hopes of a people like fire in the dark. But these are times of struggle and blood, when even friendship and love seem doomed to fail.

The gods are vanishing beyond the reach of dreams. Treachery and jealousy rule men’s hearts and the fate of Britain itself rests on a sword’s edge.But the young renegade who left his home in Benoic with just a hunting bird and dreams of revenge is now a lord of war. He is a man loved and hated, admired and feared. A man forsaken but not forgotten. He is Lancelot.

Set in a 5th century Britain besieged by invading bands of Saxons and Franks, Irish and Picts,

Giles Kristian’s epic new novel tells – through the warrior’s own words – the story of Lancelot, that most celebrated of all King Arthur’s knights. It is a story ready to be re-imagined for our times.

Review

Kristian has taken a legend and made it his own. This isn’t just a retelling or reinvention of the Arthurian legend, it is the story about how the legend came to be. It fills in the missing gaps and subtly becomes the foundation upon which the legend of Arthur is built, and as such also the story of Lancelot and Guinevere.

The story starts with Lancelot as a child, the son of one of the many kings of Britain, during times of great upheaval and betrayal. When the tribes and men who ruled Britain were more interested in fighting each other than banding together to protect their country from outside forces like the Saxons. War- and bloodthirsty men too involved in intrigue and tribal conflict to perceive the greater danger surrounding them and their people.

Lancelot is rescued by Lady Nimue, after what can only be described as a scene akin to a Game of Thrones atrocity, and taken to an isolated place where he will learn the hardest of lessons. The pain of losing a friend, his first love and how to kill.

Kristian is an adept and very talented scribe. You can tell how deeply he has immersed himself into the Arthurian legend. One could almost suspect he has an inner ear to someone who knows the truth, that’s how authentic this version of events sounds. From now on, this will be the story I think of when someone asks me where Lancelot came from and how he and Guinevere met. This tale and the legend fit together like a hand in a fitted leather glove. A testament to the dedication the author has for his craft.

Lancelot is a superbly written epic fantasy. Although the main characters are known to readers, Kristian infuses them with new life and a breath of fresh air. Where once the character Guinevere was perceived as the innocent girl who experiences the throes of passion and first love, she is now portrayed as the clever, mysterious and enticing femme fatale with a penchant for her own survival. Lancelot isn’t the stranger who becomes a member of the love-triangle, in this story he is a young man struck by tragedy who has had to fight to make his mark in life.

Prepare to be beguiled and mesmerised by this new look at Lancelot, Arthur and Guinevere, and the love and loyalty which binds them all. Their stories are set to the background of a tumultuous and violent Britain. A country erected and strengthened by warriors, tribes and people, who had and still have one thing in common, a will of iron.

It’s a spectacular read. If the author wasn’t already on the book-world map and known for his talent at storytelling, then this book would certainly place him firmly on it.

Buy Lancelot at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#SpotlightTour Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Today it is my pleasure to host the Spotlight Tour for this compelling and complex YA Fantasy read. Furyborn is the first in The Empirium Trilogy by Claire Legrand.

About the Author

Claire Legrand is the author of several novels for children and young adults, most notably The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, Some Kind of Happiness, and Winterspell. Claire lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Follow @clairelegrand  and @SourcebooksFire on Twitter

Follow instagram.com/clairelegrand

Follow facebook.com/clairelegrandwriter

Visit claire-legrand.com

Buy Furyborn

About the book

The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.

Watch Furyborn Video Trailers: Blood Queen and Sun Queen

Review

Furyborn takes the reader in between two timelines and two girls, both of them connected through the power they try to keep hidden from others.

Rielle struggles not to let her power consume her own self, her willpower and every emotional instinct she has in her life. When her real nature is discovered, her king and the church decide she has to be tested to determine whether she is someone who needs to be destroyed, contained or embraced.

When it comes to Rielle the real question is which powerful queen she really represents. The prophecies are open to a lot of different interpretations.The Blood Queen represents destruction and the Sun Queen represents light and life. At times I don’t think she knows or doesn’t want to know which part of the prophecy applies to her. The truth could destroy everything and everyone she truly cares for.

Rielle’s story takes us through the events that lead to the story of Eliana. The story of Eliana is pulled in two directions, as her true identity is revealed, and takes place simultaneously as she is forced to evaluate her loyalties and her choices up to that point.

Being a killer comes naturally to Eliana, something she has never thought about before until someone who knows her true identity makes her wonder about where this instinct comes from. Does she kill because she has to or because she enjoys the kill? Her own hypocrisy is shoved in her face, as her family is threatened by a mysterious invisible evil force in their own home.

Legrand is a very creative writer, and if this first part of the trilogy is any indication of what is to come then readers are in for a treat. It encompasses elements of both epic and urban fantasy. The world-building is incredibly intricate, the characters are riveting and full of depth. It is a premise with a lot of potential and room for development. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Buy Furyborn at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Kindle pub. date 22 May 2018, Hardcover pub. date 13 June 2018

Publisher Sourcebooks Fire

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Excerpt from Furyborn Chapter 1:

– RIELLE –

“Lord Commander Dardenne came to me in the middle of the night, his daughter in his arms. They smelled of fire; their clothes were singed. He could hardly speak. I had never seen the man afraid before. He thrust Rielle into my arms and said, ‘Help us. Help her. Don’t let them take her from me.’”

—Testimony of Grand Magister Taliesin Belounnon, on Lady Rielle Dardenne’s involvement in the Boon Chase massacreApril 29, Year 998 of the Second Age

TWO YEARS EARLIER

Rielle Dardenne hurried into Tal’s office and dropped the sparrow’s message onto his desk. “Princess Runa is dead,” she announced.

She wouldn’t describe her mood as excited exactly, but her own kingdom, Celdaria, and their northeastern neighbor, Borsvall, had lived in a state of tension for so many decades that it was hardly noteworthy when, say, a Celdarian merchant ship sank off Borsvall’s coast or patrols came to blows near the border. But a murdered Borsvall princess? That was news. And Rielle wanted to dissect every piece of it.

Tal let out a sigh, set down his pen, and dragged his ink-smudged hands through his messy blond hair. The polished golden flame pinned to his lapel winked in the sunlight. “Perhaps,” Tal suggested, turning a look on Rielle that was not quite disapproval and not quite amusement, “you should consider looking less thrilled about a princess’s murder?”

She slid into the chair across from him. “I’m not happy about it or anything. I’m simply intrigued.” Rielle pulled the slip of paper back across the desk and read over the inked words once more. “So you do think it was assassination? Audric thinks so.” “Promise me you won’t do anything stupid today, Rielle.”

She smiled sweetly at him. “When have I ever done anything stupid?” He quirked an eyebrow. “The city guard is on high alert. I want you here, safe in the temple, in case anything happens.” He took the message from her, scanning its contents. “How did you get this, anyway? No, wait. I know. Audric gave it to you.” Rielle stiffened. “Audric keeps me informed. He’s a good friend. Where’s the harm in that?” Tal didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to. “If you have something to say to me,” she snapped, color climbing up her cheeks, “then just say it. Or else let’s begin our lesson.”

Tal watched her a moment longer, then turned to pick up four enormous books sitting on the shelf behind him. “Here,” he said, ignoring the mutinous expression on her face. “I’ve marked some passages for you to read. Today will be devoted to quiet study. And I’ll test you later, so don’t even think about skimming.” Rielle narrowed her eyes at the book on the top of the stack. “A Concise History of the Second Age, Volume I: The Aftermath of the Angelic Wars.” She made a face. “This hardly looks concise.” “It’s all a matter of perspective,” he said, returning to the papers on his desk.

Rielle’s favorite place in Tal’s office was the window seat overlooking the main temple courtyard. It was piled high with scarlet cushions lined in gold piping, and when she sat there, dangling her legs out into the sun, she could almost forget that there was an enormous world beyond the temple and her city—a world she would never see.

She settled by the window, kicked off her boots, hiked up her heavy lace-trimmed skirts, and rested her bare feet on the sill. The spring sunlight washed her legs in warmth, and soon she was thinking of how Audric blossomed on bright, sun-filled days like this one. How his skin seemed to glow and crackle, begging to be touched.

Tal cleared his throat, breaking her focus. Tal knew her far too well.

She cracked open A Concise History, took one look at the tiny, faded text, and imagined tossing the book out the window and into the temple courtyard, where citizens were filing in for morning prayers—to pray that the riders they had wagered upon in today’s race would win, no doubt. Every temple in the capital would be full of such eager souls, not just there in the Pyre—Tal’s temple, where citizens worshipped Saint Marzana the firebrand—but in the House of Light and the House of Night as well and the Baths and the Firmament, the Forge and the Holdfast. Whispered prayers in all seven temples, to all seven saints and their elements.

Wasted prayers, thought Rielle with a slight, sharp thrill. The other racers will look like children on ponies compared to me. She flipped through a few pages, biting the inside of her lip until she felt calm enough to speak. “I’ve heard many in the Borsvall court are blaming Celdaria for Runa’s death. We wouldn’t do such a thing, would we?” Tal’s pen scratched across his paper. “Certainly not.” “But it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, does it? If King Hallvard’s councils convince him that we killed his daughter, he will declare war at last.” Tal dropped his pen with a huff of annoyance. “I’m not going to get any work done today, am I?” Rielle swallowed her grin. If only you knew how true that is, dearest Tal. “I’m sorry if I have questions about the political climate of our country,” she said. “Does that fall under the category of things we’re not allowed to discuss, lest my poor vulnerable brain shatter from the stress?” A smile twitched at the corner of Tal’s mouth. “Borsvall might declare war, yes.” “You don’t seem concerned about this possibility.” “I find it unlikely. We’ve been on the edge of war with Borsvall for decades, and yet it has never happened. And it will never happen, because the Borsvall people may be warmongers, but King Hallvard is neither healthy nor stupid. We would flatten his army. He can’t afford a war with anyone, much less with Celdaria.” “Audric said…” Rielle hesitated. A twist of unease slipped down her throat. “Audric said he thinks Princess Runa’s death, and the slave rebellion in Kirvaya, means it’s time. That the Queens are coming.” Silence fell over the room like a shroud.

“Audric has always been fascinated with the prophecy,” Tal said, his voice deceptively calm. “He’s been looking for signs of the Queens’ coming for years.” “He sounds rather convinced this time.” “A slave rebellion and a dead princess are hardly enough to—” “But I heard Grand Magister Duval talking about how there have been storms across the ocean in Meridian,” she pressed on, searching his face. “Even as far as Ventera and Astavar. Strange storms, out of season.” Tal blinked. Ah, thought Rielle. You didn’t know that, did you? “Storms do occur out of season from time to time,” Tal said. “The empirium works in mysterious ways.”

Rielle curled her fingers in her skirts, taking comfort in the fact that soon she would be in her riding trousers and boots, her collar open to the breeze. She would be on the starting line. “The report I read,” she continued, “said that a dust storm in southern Meridian had shut down the entire port of Morsia for days.”  “Audric needs to stop showing you every report that comes across his desk.”“Audric didn’t show me anything. I found this one myself.” Tal raised an eyebrow. “You mean you snuck into his office when he wasn’t there and went through his papers.” Rielle’s cheeks grew hot. “I was looking for a book I’d left behind.” “Indeed. And what would Audric say if he knew you’d been in his office without his permission?” “He wouldn’t care. I’m free to come and go as I please.”

Tal closed his eyes. “Lady Rielle, you can’t just visit the crown prince’s private rooms day and night as though it’s nothing. You’re not children anymore. And you are not his fiancée.” Rielle lost her breath for an instant. “I’m well aware of that.” Tal waved a hand and rose from his chair, effectively ending all talk of the prophecy and its Queens. “The city is crowded today—and unpredictable,” he said, walking across the room to pour himself another cup of tea. “Word is spreading about Princess Runa’s death. In such a climate, the empirium can behave in similarly unpredictable ways. Perhaps we should begin a round of prayers to steady our minds. Amid the chaos of the world, the burning flame serves as an anchor, binding us in peace to the empirium and to God.”

Rielle glared at him. “Don’t use your magister voice, Tal. It makes you sound old. He sighed, took a sip of his tea. “I am old. And grumpy, thanks to you.” “Thirty-two is hardly old, especially to already be Grand Magister of the Pyre.” She paused. She would need to proceed carefully. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were appointed as the next Archon. Surely, with someone as talented as you beside me, I could safely watch the Chase from your box—” “Don’t try to flatter me, Lady Rielle.” His eyes sparked at her. There was the Tal she liked—the ferocious firebrand, not the pious teacher. “It isn’t safe for you out there right now, not to mention dangerous for everyone else if something set you off and you lost control.”

Rielle slammed shut A Concise History and rose from the window seat. “Damn you, Tal.”

“Not in the temple, please,” Tal admonished over the rim of his cup.

“I’m not a child. Do you really think I don’t know better by now?” Her voice turned mocking. “‘Rielle, let’s say a prayer together to calm you.’ ‘Rielle, let’s sing a song about Saint Katell the Magnificent to take your mind off things.’ ‘No, Rielle, you can’t go to the masque. You might forget yourself. You might have fun, God forbid.’ If Father had his way, I’d stay locked up for the rest of my life with my nose buried in a book or on my knees in prayer, whipping myself every time I had a stray angry thought. Is that the kind of life you would like for me too?” Tal watched her, unmoved. “If it meant you were safe and that others were safe as well? Yes, I would.” “Kept under lock and key like some criminal.” A familiar, frustrated feeling rose within her; she pushed it back down with a vengeance. She would not lose control, not today of all days. “Do you know,” she said, her voice falsely bright, “that when it storms, Father takes me down to the servants’ quarters and gives me dumbwort? It puts me to sleep, and he locks me up and leaves me there.” After a pause, Tal answered, “Yes.”

“I used to fight him. He would hold me down and slap me, pinch my nose shut until I couldn’t breathe and had to open my mouth. Then he would shove the vial between my lips and make me drink, and I would spit it up, but he would keep forcing me to drink, whispering to me everything I’d ever done wrong, and right in the middle of yelling how much I hated him, I would fall asleep. And when I would wake up, the storm would be over.” A longer pause. “Yes,” Tal answered softly. “I know.” “He thinks storms are too provocative for me. They give me ideas, he says.” Tal cleared his throat. “That was my fault.” “I know.” “But the medicine, that was his suggestion.” She gave him a withering look. “And did you try to talk him out of it?” He did not answer, and the patience on his face left her seething.

“I don’t fight him anymore,” she said. “I hear a crack of thunder and go below without him even asking me to. How pathetic I’ve become.” “Rielle…” Tal sighed, shook his head. “Everything I could say to you, I’ve said before.” She approached him, letting the loneliness she typically hid from him—from everyone—soften her face. Come, good Magister Belounnon. Pity your sweet Rielle. He broke first, looking away from her. Something like sorrow shifted across his face, and his jaw tightened. Good. “He’d let me sleep through life if he could,” she said. “He loves you, Rielle. He worries for you.”

Heat snapped at Rielle’s fingertips, growing along with her anger. With a stubborn stab of fury, she let it come. She knew she shouldn’t, that an outburst would only make it more difficult to sneak away, but suddenly she could not bring herself to care. He loves you, Rielle. A father who loved his daughter would not make her his prisoner. She seized one of the candles from Tal’s desk and watched with grim satisfaction as the wick burst into a spitting, unruly flame. As she stared at it, she imagined her fury as a flooding river, steadily spilling over its banks and feeding the flame in her hands. The flame grew—the size of a pen, a dagger, a sword. Then every candle followed suit, a forest of fiery blades.

Tal rose from his desk and picked up the handsome polished shield from its stand in the corner of the room. Every elemental who had ever lived—every waterworker and windsinger, every shadowcaster and every firebrand like Tal—had to use a casting, a physical object uniquely forged by their own hands, to access their power. Their singular power, the one element they could control. But not Rielle. She needed no casting, and fire was not the only element that obeyed her. All of them did. Tal stood behind her, one hand holding his shield, the other hand resting gently on her own. As a child, back when she had still thought she loved Tal, such touches had thrilled her. Now she seriously considered punching him.

“In the name of Saint Marzana the Brilliant,” Tal murmured, “we offer this prayer to the flames, that the empirium might hear our plea and grant us strength: Fleet-footed fire, blaze not with fury or abandon. Burn steady and true, burn clean and burn bright.” Rielle bit down on harsh words. How she hated praying. Every familiar word felt like a new bar being added to the cage her father and Tal had crafted for her. The room began to shake—the inkwell on Tal’s desk, the panes of glass in the open window, Tal’s half-finished cup of tea.

“Rielle?” Tal prompted, shifting his shield. In his body behind her, she felt a rising hot tension as he prepared to douse her fire with his own power. Despite her best efforts, the concern in his voice caused her a twinge of remorse. He meant well, she knew. He wanted, desperately, for her to be happy. Unlike her father. So Rielle bowed her head and swallowed her anger. After all, what she was about to do might turn Tal against her forever. She could allow him this small victory.

“Blaze not with fury or abandon,” she repeated, closing her eyes. She imagined setting aside every scrap of emotion, every sound, every thought, until her mind was a vast field of darkness—except for the tiny spot of light that was the flame in her hands.

Then she allowed the darkness to seep across the flame as well and was left alone in the cool, still void of her mind. The room calmed. Tal’s hand fell away.  Rielle listened as he returned his shield to its stand. The prayer had scraped her clean, and in the wake of her anger she felt…nothing. A hollow heart and an empty head.

When she opened her eyes, they were dry and tired. She wondered bitterly what it would be like to live without a constant refrain of prayers in her thoughts, warning her against her own feelings. The temple bells chimed eleven times; Rielle’s pulse jumped. Any moment now, she would hear Ludivine’s signal. She turned toward the window. No more prayers, no more reading. Every muscle in her body surged with energy. She wanted to ride. “I’d rather be dead than live as my father’s prisoner,” she said at last, unable to resist that last petulant stab. “Dead like your mother?”

Rielle froze. When she faced Tal, he did not look away. She had not expected that cruelty. From her father, yes, but never from Tal. The memory of long-ago flames blazed across her vision. “Did Father instruct you to bring that up if I got out of hand?” she asked, keeping her voice flat and cool. “What with the Chase and all.” “Yes,” Tal answered, unflinching. “Well, I’m happy to tell you I’ve only killed the one time. You needn’t worry yourself.”

After a moment, Tal turned to straighten the books on his desk. “This is as much for your safety as it is for everyone else’s. If the king discovered we’d been hiding the truth of your power all these years…You know what could happen. Especially to your father. And yet he does it because he loves you more than you’ll ever understand.”

Rielle laughed sharply. “That isn’t reason enough to treat me like this. I’ll never forgive him for it. Someday, I’ll stop forgiving you too.” “I know,” Tal said, and at the sadness in his voice, Rielle nearly took pity on him. Nearly. But then a great crash sounded from downstairs, and an unmistakable cry of alarm. Ludivine.

Tal gave Rielle that familiar look he so often had—when she had, at seven, overflowed their pool at the Baths; when he had found her, at fifteen, the first time she snuck out to Odo’s tavern. That look of What did I do to deserve such trials? Rielle gazed innocently back at him. “Stay here,” he ordered. “I mean it, Rielle. I appreciate your frustration—truly, I do—but this is about more than the injustice of you feeling bored.”

Rielle returned to the window seat, hoping her expression appeared suitably abashed. “I love you, Tal,” she said, and the truth of that was enough to make her hate herself a little. “I know,” he replied. Then he threw on his magisterial robe and swept out the door. “Magister, it’s Lady Ludivine,” came a panicked voice from the hallway—one of Tal’s young acolytes. “She’d only just arrived in the chapel, my lord, when she turned pale and collapsed. I don’t know what happened!”

“Summon my healer,” Tal instructed, “and send a message to the queen. She’ll be in her box at the starting line. Tell her that her niece has taken ill and will not be joining her there.” Once they had gone, Rielle smiled and yanked on her boots. Stay here? Not a chance.

She hurried through the sitting room outside Tal’s office and into the temple’s red-veined marble hallways, where embroidered flourishes of shimmering flames lined the plush carpets. The temple entryway, its parquet floor polished to a sheen of gold, was a flurry of activity as worshippers, acolytes, and servants hurried across to the peaked chapel doors.

“It’s Lady Ludivine,” a young acolyte whispered to her companion as Rielle passed. “Apparently she’s taken ill.”

Rielle grinned, imagining everyone fussing over poor Ludivine, tragically lovely and faint on the temple floor. Ludivine would enjoy the attention—and the reminder that she had the entire capital held like a puppet on its master’s strings.

Even so, Rielle would owe her a tremendous favor after this.

Whatever it was, it would be more than worth it.

Ludivine’s horse stood next to her own just outside the temple, held by a young stable hand who seemed on the verge of panic. He recognized Rielle and sagged with relief.

“Pardon me, Lady Rielle, but is Lady Ludivine all right?” he asked.

“Haven’t the faintest,” Rielle replied, swinging up into the saddle. Then she snapped the reins, and her mare bolted down the main road that led from the Pyre into the heart of the city, hooves clattering against the cobblestones. A tumbled array of apartments and temple buildings rose around them—gray stone walls engraved with scenes of the capital city’s creation, rounded roofs of burnished copper, slender columns wrapped in flowering ivy, white fountains crowned with likenesses of the seven saints in prayer. So many visitors had come from all over the world to Âme de la Terre for the Chase that the cool spring air now pressed thick and close. The city smelled of sweat and spices, hot horse and hot coin.

As Rielle tore down the road, the crowd parted in alarm on either side of her, shouting angry curses until they realized who she was and fell silent. She guided her mare through the twisting streets and made for the main city gates, her body pulled tight with nerves.

But she would not give in to her power today.

She would compete in the Boon Chase, as any citizen was free to do, and prove to her father that she could control herself, even when her life was in danger and the eyes of the entire city were upon her.

She would prove to him, and to Tal, that she deserved to live a normal life.