Kathryn Berryman’s Erinland infuses Christianity into ancient rites while catapulting 21st Century characters into a 9th Century Viking war. Two teens, Amy and Richard, serve as threads in an intricate tapestry of historical fiction. Sharing the weave is Aiden, a monk protecting valuable antiquities with his life.
The story moves along through the points of view of one of the three most important characters. When Amy and Richard land in their respective, opposing villages, they are fully embraced. Both are long-awaited reincarnations of gods of the time. We’d expect the teenagers to feel displaced and confused, but they adapt quickly.
Berryman provides much in the way of Viking history, landscape, and relic description. Erinland is driven by her vast interest in these. We learn much lore through the tale of these ordinary, troubled children endowed with extraordinary powers from the glorious beings they represent. Berryman’s depictions of the cultures during the time are lovely and detailed as she describes their villages, clothing, and lifestyles. “The kransen, a gilt circlet worn on the head by unmarried girls, is removed from the young bride to be. It is a symbol of her virginity. The kransen is wrapped up by the bride’s attendants and put away until the birth of her eldest daughter who it will pass to.” (Page 194).
In Berryman’s desire to share her knowledge, she writes long monologues. These establish her as a credible authority on ancient history, but do so at the expense of natural dialogue. After suddenly being transported in time, the three primary characters are plunked down and force-fed tons of information. “Richard listened closely to Vagn as he spoke. It was a lot of information to absorb.” (Page 325).
The lack of meaningful exchanges sacrifices character development. This is particularly true for Amy, but less so for Richard. Relating to the characters is essential for us to want to read on.
Because war is the foundation of the plot, we may find it difficult to suspend belief when we are told the teens can learn how to become warriors in a few afternoons. Berryman relies upon descendent memory to take care of the problem. “Familiarise yourself with our ways. Your memories will return. A son of Odin retains his father’s essence and with it his memories and might.” (Page 183).
In the end Erinland is a fascinating story that fuses mythology with well-choreographed battle scenes.
Pages: 278 | ASIN: B01MR9IAQL
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The Seventh Sentinel takes readers on an incredible modern day journey where the purpose of angels is still alive and well as they commune between man and God. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this entertaining story?
I’ve always been intensely fascinated by angels. According to the Bible and other ancient manuscripts angels are powerful, highly intelligent beings commanded by God to serve man. Being an avid reader, I grabbed up any books featuring angels but they were always portrayed as the bad guys and demons as the good guys, which rattled me. So I decided to write a novel where the opposite is true and based on as many historical facts as I could find about them. I wanted to show angels interacting with humans in a good way, in the age old fight between good and evil with epic fantastical battles, great tragedies and moments of joy.
Cristiano is raised in an orphanage and has no apparent past. I felt that his character was well developed. What was the ideals that drove character development in this story?
I felt that the world the characters live in is very intricate yet subtly built. What was your approach to world building in The Seventh Sentinel?
I researched how many levels of Heavens there are from a variety of sources. Some say there are nine, some say five and some seven. Who really knows? I settled on seven because it fit the title of my book. Seven archangels, seven sentinels, seven continents and seven Heavens. Most of the descriptions of the Heavens are inspired from the Bible and The Book of Enoch. Then I had to figure out a way for my hero to fight in the spirit realm, and every hero has to have a weakness or several weaknesses, right? That’s where transmutation came in, which left Cristiano’s body open for attack in the physical realm, and hence the need for paladins.
Everything and everyone has a history, known or unknown and I love stories that include orders like the Templars, St Johns, The Golden Fleece and many others. There are so many stories with the Templars, so I went instead with the once famous Order of Calatrava, in Spain, which turns out, had links with the Knights Templars, and threw in the ancient Celts for added mystery.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on the third book in the series (no title yet) and hope to have it out by the end of the year. Due to serious illness last year I’m way behind schedule and trying hard to catch up. I’ve just finished my short story, titled the Igigi Chronicles, which is going through a round of beta reading as we speak. This tale is a spin-off from False Gods, the second book in the Sentinel Series, featuring the Eljo and all manner of mythical beings set in ancient Sumer and modern times.
“Moments before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the seven Archangels remove powerful, ancient artefacts from the Jewish temple. These are given into the safekeeping of seven men. Throughout the ages, these men and their descendants become known as the Seven Sentinels.
In medieval times, the Seven Sentinels formed various military Orders as a cover for their activities. Today, of the Seven Sentinels, two are dead and two have turned rogue, which means only three remain to carry out their roles.
A war rages between Heaven and Earth. It is up to the newly empowered Seventh Sentinel to stop the rogues and Fallen Ones, from using these artefacts to gain control of the souls of mankind. Can the Seventh Sentinel endure?”
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Zurga’s Fire takes place in historical Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean and is broken up into four books filled with short tales of adventure. What was the inspiration for this third book in the Orfeo Saga?
The fictional universe laid out by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings was probably the series that got me thinking along the lines of an extended saga. I liked the way Tolkien used ancient sources to create heroic fiction. At the same time I wanted to be more historical like Robert Graves and his series I, Claudius. I wanted to write something that would not be fantastic, and which would not re-tread well known history. The Bronze Age offered scope to speculate. There are few written sources, but what there is offers scope to invent characters and place them in historical context.
Zurga’s Fire introduces the issue of nomads and how they impact civilization. I had been researching nomads for my other interest, Oriental carpets. Nomads were very effective warriors, and they could overwhelm sedentary societies. They did have one weakness, and that was leadership. Every group from that lead by Attila to Ghengis Khan eventually fell apart. A charismatic leader is essential for nomads. In Zurga’s Fire the leader of the nomads is eventually undone not so much by a face to face challenge, but by a crisis in leadership.
Why did you go with the format of short stories told as a collection?
This is a very good question. I really did not think about the format before I started writing the series. I wrote many short stories over a period of years that were never published. Looking back that was probably a good thing. I always liked reading short stories. I think I have a short attention span. The result is that I am quite comfortable writing short stories and I have structured my Orfeo Saga that way too. Many books in the Orfeo Saga are made up of two different stories which are divided into books. In contrast my other series about a Los Angeles based private eye (the Bart Northcote series) are entire novels.
I felt that the characters in this book were complex and well thought out. What was your favorite character to write for?
I think that the character I had the most fondness for was “Zurga.” I gave him a rather ridiculous name because the character went by many names. This name suggests that you cannot take the character seriously. Zurga likes to deceive people as to his true intentions, as well as build up a mythology around himself. Zurga realized early on that he would not be fully accepted. No one would ever select him as a leader. In contrast his protege Orfeo can become a leader. Again I was well aware of Orpheus in the Greek pantheon. While Orpheus was a gifted lute player, he is also credited introducing civilization to savages. My Orfeo character has some similarities with Orpheus, but I have taken all supernatural elements away.
I think of Zurga’s Fire as a historical adventure tale. Did you do any research to keep the setting and characters true?
I studied ancient and modern nomads for years. I read about them, their social structure, history, and particularly art. Many of my research trips were to see nomads making textiles, particularly Turkish speaking people. I knew that for the Bronze Age there were not good historical sources, so I filled in the blanks with what I understood from more modern nomadic groups. I tried to capture their lifestyle in the novel, without going into the nuts and bolts of their society. The interesting thing is that the Greeks had recently settled by the Bronze Age. In the novel they were well aware of the kind of enemy they faced. The same pattern repeats throughout history many times. A group settles and then the next group of nomads impinges on them. Every sedentary group has the same choice. They can fight or they can flee. For Zurga’s Fire I wanted to show how the nomads being horse riders and archers had an advantage. Sedentary society, with farmers, had fewer people who would naturally take on a warrior role. They could fortify cities to stop nomads, but that does not always work. That is the tension I wanted to accentuate in the book.
What does the next book in the Orfeo Saga take readers?
The next book is also divided into two main parts. The first part takes the characters to the New World. There has been a huge amount of scholarly speculation about the contacts between the Old and New Worlds. I think that there must have been limited contact between these two areas, but I am not sure that it occurred as early as the European Bronze Age. However, there was likely early contact. There was a report that a scientist had found traces of cocaine as well as nicotine in Egyptian mummies as early as 1000 BC. I think it is important to look at evidence with an open mind but have a healthy skepticism about big claims.The Orfeo Saga volume 4 has a bit more humor in it than other books in the series. I also thought it was important for Orfeo to take a greater role in his own fate. His teacher disappears during this story.
Part II of the book deals with the rise of Sparta. This is not as far-fetched as some people think. Archaeology is pushing the date for Spartan civilization further back in time. I try to post interesting links to the archaeology on my Facebook page.
The Getae inhabited the region on either side of the Lower Danube River, in what is today northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. They were in contact with ancient Greeks from an early date. Herodotus – writing in the 5th century BC – extols their martial spirit: “…when it lightens and thunders, they aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own.”
They ruthlessly incorporate conquered people into their society through enslavement, and are prepared to kill those who are not useful to their plans. They have no need for the luxuries of city life. Fighting in troops of mounted archers, they mock individual heroes. Getae have a long history of reducing enemies in deadly hails of arrows while not getting close enough to lose warriors in single combat. Here Orfeo and his warriors must deal with an expanding Getae empire during the heroic age of Greece. Vastly outnumbered, can they stop an invasion that threatens not only their lives, but also their entire culture?
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Stealing Magic follows three characters as their worlds collide and they must help each other. Earth’s trees carry all the magic that the residents of Androva are trying to harvest. Where did the idea of harvesting magic from trees come from and how did that help you write the rest of the story?
Great question! The idea of magic-taking, or harvesting magic, came first, and then I needed to find a believable source of that magic. I live in the South of England, at the end of a street that’s completely ordinary, apart from the ancient woodland next to it. ‘Ancient woodland’ in the UK means that the trees have been around since at least 1600. It’s easy to imagine there could be something magical about trees that old.
It helped to balance the rest of the story. Although Earth didn’t have any magicians, it did have a lot of powerful magic. If anything were to happen to that supply of magic, it could (and eventually does) cause enormous problems for everyone.
Shannon is from Earth and learns of her magical abilities when Jax and Darius go to Earth to harvest magic. What were some aspects of these character that you felt had to be different and some aspects that you felt had to be the same?
I loved writing all three characters, but especially Shannon. She’s just an ordinary teenager, until she touches some of the magic that Jax is harvesting. She has no idea what she’s capable of. I needed Shannon, Jax and Darius to have quite distinct personalities, not just to keep the story moving forwards, but to give them each the chance of learning something different from their adventure.
However, I wanted them to be friends, and to trust each other. Making them close in age, having them be honest with each other, and also able to have fun together, was important for that.
Some of the key themes in this book are loyalty, family bonds, trust and letting go of the past. Do you feel that these were important ideals to write about or did they happen organically as you were writing?
The loyalty and trust, and the bonds of family and friendship, were important right from the start. All the excitement of discovering magic could seem pretty meaningless otherwise. And of course, the characters can only overcome their challenges if they work together. Everyone has a part to play.
The idea of letting go of the past happened more organically. It became obvious as I was writing that the adults in the story allowed the past to shape their current decisions in a way that the teenagers didn’t. I ended up exploring what was good and bad about that.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will that book be published?
I am about to start writing the fifth book in the series. The fourth book, Controlling Magic, will be published at the end of December 2016. Shannon’s friend Penny is now a main character alongside the other three underage magicians, and this time they’re up against an enemy who can turn their magical ability into a disadvantage. Each of the four books has a self-contained story, as I can’t quite bring myself to write a cliff-hanger!
What would you do? Would you open your eyes, if you were the one that heard them? Two magic-takers from another world, arguing about whether they can collect what they came for before you wake up. It sounds like a crazy dream, or a practical joke. But what if the air around you started to vibrate with an invisible force field? What if, all at once, it felt terrifying yet familiar too?
You would have no way of knowing that your life would change forever. That this discovery would set you on a path no-one from our world has taken for centuries. Towards a deadly enemy, and a fight that you will almost certainly lose. All you know is that your heart is beating so fast you’re worried they will hear it, and your brain is starting to buzz as the force field reaches it. Would you open your eyes?
Join Jax and Shannon as they live through the most exciting and terrifying ten days of their lives (so far). This is the first book in the Legacy of Androva series.
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Another Self throws us into the life of a girl who has been broken of all spirit and self-esteem, but by her wits and grit she becomes the richest person in ancient Rome. What was the inspiration behind this fascinating novel?
The sad truth is, this story is inspired by my own life. Because of undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD I left school at a young age with no qualifications and, more importantly, ‘no’ self-esteem. Like Julia in Another Self I became successful while believing myself undeserving, even deceitful.
The writing in your story is creative and filled with twists. Was it a conscious effort to create a story in this fashion or is this style of writing reflective of your writing style in general?
From the age of 5 until a complete mental breakdown in my late 40’s, I was too ashamed to write anything down. After a psychiatrist diagnosed my dyslexia I started to write spontaneously. This story quite literally poured out of me and took its own course. The character may be a woman and the story set in ancient Rome, but Julia is experiencing the real agony of my own life.
Julia’s character is like none other I’ve read this year. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the Julia’s development?
Writing Another Self was like therapy for me. Searching for the words that sent Julia on her journey of discovery helped me understand how I could achieve so much while believing myself so completely worthless. Now, I’m a little in love with Julia because she and I have been through so much together.
Can you tell us more about what’s in store for Julia and the direction of the second book in the Our Eternal Curse series?
In book two, Another Tribe, Julia’s character is forced to confront racism in the southern states of America during the civil war. In book three, Another War, she must come to grips with her guileless part in causing The First World War. At the end of book three we learn why Julia has been Eternally Cursed, but I won’t spoil it for your readers.
Julia, brilliant yet humbled by cruelty and abuse, overcomes great disadvantage to become the richest person in ancient Rome. Living a double life, she wields power from behind the scenes to bring vengeance down upon those who wronged her. When her schemes ensnare Rome’s two greatest generals, Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Gaius Marius, Julia provokes civil war and condemns herself to suffer for the sins of her past.
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Another Self throws us into the life of a girl who has been broken of all spirit and self-esteem, and we’ve very often reminded of that. Perhaps that is why this extremely strange story catapults us through Ancient Rome and how this one damaged girl manages to take it all down with her.
While the beginning of the story is a bit confusing, especially when you have no idea why everyone wants to kill this poor girl for, the middle of the book catapults you through this insane spider-web of lies, deceit and pure financial carnage. If you ever wanted lessons on how to overthrow a government, destroy a black market and basically scare the daylights out of a houseful of poor slaves, Julia is your teacher. Though thoroughly damaged, she manages to corrupt all of Rome and herself at the same time. Did I mention that she was pretty mentally damaged?
In all honestly, the game she plays is fairly amazing. Outside of her time wallowing in a glass of wine or gazing lovingly at a piece of jewelry she doesn’t own, Julia turns out to be an incredible sponge of knowledge which helps her to become the guru of all things dirty and deceitful in the underbelly of Rome. Like a string of Cash and Loan stores, Julia becomes the wealthiest person in all of Rome, and very few people know that she is the one to do it. She strings up her victims in little chains of events that will make your head spin, and at some point, have you cheering for her until it all comes crashing down.
If the beginning didn’t exist, and the ending didn’t punch you in the face with unanswered questions and situations, the middle of the book would be an amazing tale of a poor unwilling slave girl who became the most powerful person in an ancient civilization. The sheer width of power that she gained from one well thought out plan and the manipulation of a powerful force who’s heart she stole, it needs to be read and admired. Take notes, as it can show that if you put your mind to it, as damaged as that might be, you can achieve anything. Even if you have an incredibly damaged mind from years of mental and physical abuse. Just pointing out how often you must remember that she’s mentally damaged, as the author will remind you just as frequently. Ignoring that fact, reading about how a city can be overtaken by any mentally equipped individual was a fun ride. Though a lot of people were hurt for it, watching someone get revenge from those that hurt them is very satisfying as well.
Hopefully a lot of questions will be answered as you travel through the series and through time with Julia’s character. She seems to gain a new life every time her old one ends, and hopefully this book can do that as well. Let’s go Julia, on to your next adventure.
Pages: 287 | ASIN: B00G4QWIZY
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