The Mystery of St. Arondight’s tells the story of six teenagers on a mysterious supernatural quest across Europe. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
Like my characters I was a teenager when I had my first taste of field archaeology. It was exciting, that feeling that you never quite knew what was waiting under the ground for you. It didn’t seem to matter how many of the experienced archaeologists on the site told me that treasure is unlikely, I firmly believed that every shovel full of dirt could hold some priceless artefact of great importance. Now, having been a professional archaeologist for ten years I have learned that not every excavated site uncovers great historical mysteries. In fact the closest I have ever come to treasure is five scattered Roman Denarii, probably from a lost purse. But I still have that belief that something important could be hiding just under my feet.
History itself consists of so many unanswered questions, so many what ifs, so many intangible stories. Folk law suggests the presence of ghosts at sites of violence, or in places they knew when alive. Legends tell of strange women living in trees, lakes or isolated ruins, of heroes who transcend time. There are so many mysteries out there to solve, who is to say that the conclusions must always be rational. Some stories tell of tangible artefacts, a philosopher’s stone, a sacred cup or a powerful sword. Legends give us all the chance to daydream … What might happen if one day I excavate a sword of Arthurian date from a waterlogged deposit. Could the legends be true?
The story has a host of young characters all with their own unique personalities. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?
With my characters I aimed to create firstly a group with a shared interest, archaeology, but to give them their own skills, knowledge and personality. The intention was to balance them so that no one character held all the aces and there was essentially no go-to hero of the piece.
I wanted to make sure that the girls were just as capable as the boys. When I was growing up I spent most of my time wanting to be one of the lads. So called ‘girly’ activities did not interest me and I felt that as a teenager there were no characters in my world, with perhaps the exception of ‘George’ from Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’, that represented me as a perpetually bruised, knee skinned tomboy, hanging out with the boys, fencing with sticks and pretending that my bicycle was a motorbike. What I wanted to do here was to create characters that represented my sixteen year old self. The girly side, the tomboy side and the downright laddish part of me. Alongside my own traits I have borrowed elements of personality from the many wild, passionate, and possibly crazy archaeologists of all ages and genders, that I have met whilst digging holes all over the country. I had to try and capture some of that combination of crude humour, intelligence and boundless enthusiasm, encountered on all archaeological sites.
The action scenes and references to historical sites was well developed. Was there anything you pulled from you own life and used in this novel?
I first started fencing at university and was lucky enough to fence for my university, even becoming captain of the team and later the club. Fencing is a lot like chess, but played at the speed of light and with significantly bigger bruises, but you get a real appreciation that timing and intelligence are every bit as important as strength and skill. In writing the sword fights in St. Arondight’s, I wanted to put across some of my own experience as a fencer – the noises, the exertion required and the clear presence of mind required to make a successful attack.
Having lived in the UK all my life, I have visited many of the locations from the book, although I do admit that for a few of them I may have used a little creative licence – getting to the “beach” below the White Cliffs of Dover is much more difficult than Sarah and Jerry found it and I certainly wouldn’t advise trying it!
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on the sequel to The Mystery of St. Arondight’s, following the same characters on their next archaeological adventure. I’m hoping it will be available March/ April 2018 although the first draft is playing hardball right now, and it’s fair to say that working full time as an archaeologist, active fencer and motorcycle enthusiast does take up some writing time. So I’m afraid the date is tentative and it may be a little later.
Camping at ruined abbey at the end of the summer holidays, six teenage archaeologists find themselves witness to a violent haunting and discover a secret crypt below the abbey.
The discoveries they make set them on an epic quest across the country. In a race against an unhinged academic and armed with only their honour, knowledge and swordsmanship the group will have to trust one another and work together, as reality and mythology merge and the quest for an artefact of legend becomes a fight for survival.
Told in a unique blend of first and third person narration, The Mystery of St. Arondight’s follows Suzannah Jones, Melody Knight, Sarah Heddon, Claire Scott, Jerry Llewellen and Símon James Matherson in their first archaeological adventure.
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On a trade visit to Malta, Orfeo – in line to the throne of Pylos – is kidnapped by mysterious strangers. The net is spread far and wide, with heroes from all over the Aegean joining forces in the quest to find the lost prince.
Is Orfeo in danger, though? His captors seem to have strange motives, what exactly do they see him as? A prince, a prophet, a political pawn, or something more? Only one thing is for certain, nothing is as it appears on the surface, and Orfeo must keep his wits about him. This wonderful work of historical fiction will amaze and engage you in equal measures.
With The Wanderer’s Last Journey, Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has woven an astounding and complex tapestry. It has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world he creates is as intriguing as it is intricate, whilst the narrative constantly keeps us on our toes. Eiland Jr. clearly has an eye for important details, as his simple use of language is restrained and mannered. He writes much like any of the great classical fantasy writers, with simplistic, well-constructed sentences forming the framework for a complex and sprawling narrative. Where he does choose to go into detailed description, he paints for us a clear and colourful picture. The milieu of The Wanderer’s Last Journey, whilst mostly serving as a stage on which to set the players, is perhaps one if the novel’s most astonishing features. This mythical, magical Mediterranean is exotic and enticing, and we are left wanting to learn more about it. As the story expands and speeds towards its thrilling crescendo, its setting is left unexpanded, and one wonder’s whether the novel might have benefited from going into greater detail in this regard. In many ways it is unfamiliar from the Ancient Greece we know and are familiar with, yet it verges upon Virgil and Homer. The Iliad is an obvious reference, and Eiland Jr.’s love of this period is clear on the page.
This novel sets Eiland Jr out as an author of great scope and intention, however one who isn’t afraid to create a world of great depth and complexities. He cleverly weaves multiple storylines and, for the most part, manages to keep on top of this, and keeps all the strands of his stories working together. There are moments, though, where the machinations of the plot seem to get the better of him. The action tends to flit between one character’s perspective and another’s, and whilst this serves to provide us with a huge wealth of storyline, it occasionally distracts from it. It also means, at points, that we aren’t given long enough in each character’s story to form an emotional bond with them, and we are left wondering who exactly our protagonist is. This is perhaps to be expected, though, with a story so vast, and one with so many strands, and for the most part The Wanderer’s Last Journey works well as a rich, entertaining fantasy epic.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B018RHOIRI
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The Six and the Crystals if Ialana is a coming-of-age fantasy story rich with details, a large cast of characters, and a world rife with magic. What was the inspiration for the world of Ialana and the rich history you’ve built into it?
My inspiration for Ialana arose from the myths and legends of the lost continent of Atlantis. In my Ialana Series, the City of Rhiannon is loosely based upon these legends, while the continent itself is drawn entirely from my imagination. In the first book, I also drew the mysterious island of Mu’A partially out of these so-called myths, but the bulk of the inspiration for that island actually came from a dream I once had. In this dream, I was an inhabitant of this island, and all the shielding technology—so-called “magic”— once existed. This dream was very real, so that is what I used as my basis for the shielding technology in my series. The history of Ialana is loosely based upon our own world’s lost history. I firmly believe that we are not the first civilization to inhabit this planet, and we won’t be the last. It is my opinion, and one that is shared by many, that technology is not new here, and that our current level of knowledge still has a ways to go. My series highlights the vast gap that now exists between science and spirituality, or what we think of as magic. I want to show how they can come together, to not be disparate from each other.
In this story six kids realize they have more in common than they might suspect. What character did you enjoy writing for and why?
I identified with Jarah, my main protagonist, the most. He feels different from not only the people of his village, but also from his family and his peers. While this may be a common teenage issue, his angst goes beyond the normal insecurities. When his dreams begin, his worst fears are confirmed: he is different to those around him. Each one of the six characters feel this gap between them and the people around them, but they each deal with it in different ways. They all know that their dreams are out of the ordinary, and that this sets them apart from their peers in a way that they must grapple with and try to understand.
The kids are rescued by a mysterious shape-shifter named Irusan. This enigmatic creature becomes their first teacher. Why did you feel he was the best character to teach the kids about their past?
Irusan is the “Gandalph” of the series. He is the archetype of the wise old man, the Mentor. Someone must help these kids to understand what is happening to them, and why, and Irusan is just strange enough that the kids will know without a shred of doubt that there is much more to reality than they’ve been taught. When they see with their own eyes what he is capable of, they must believe, and that helps them open up to the magic that is around them; and initially, with the help of crystals, the magic that they can tap into. I also hope that the reader will understand that we are only limited by our beliefs, and that if we knew what we were really capable of, we’d be amazed.
This book is the first in a series. Can you tell us more about what we can expect as the story continues into books two and three?
The Six and the Crystals of Ialana is the foundational book of the series. It sets the stage for all that is to follow, and I recommend that readers read them in the order they were written. It will help them to better understand the characters and the events that follow. In the second book, The Six and the Gardeners of Ialana, the Six continue on their healing mission, but they are thwarted by another despotic man, and hunted by a new enemy: yet another shape-shifter, but one that is the polar opposite to their mentor, Irusan. This one is capable of great magic and she and Irusan have a history that is hinted at in the rest of the series. The Six find themselves on the run again, and they must now find another hidden kingdom where they will be taught elemental command. They encounter many more challenges, as does their friend Blaidd, whose life has now taken an unexpected and tragic turn. In the third of the series, The Six and Anwyn of Ialana, the focus is still on the Six friends, but now there is an addition: a daughter. This girl, Anwyn, was born and raised in the elemental kingdom, and her skills surpass those of her parents and the Six. As they and Anwyn are now adepts in their chosen roles of healers, the opposition to them from the forces of evil increase. They find themselves facing enemies whose skills and abilities are equal to or even greater than theirs, and they must not only protect themselves, but at the same time save the planet from destruction.
Mutant creatures, a Reptilian Dragon King, and a mysterious shape shifter… For fans of epic fantasy, the first book in the Ialana Series delivers a thrilling and fast-paced adventure saga. The quest, 500 years in the making to find and restore the lost crystals of Ialana, unites six young people who, along with a seventh between the ages of 15-21, were all born with a secret buried deep within. Guided by a shared dream, they leave the only homes they have ever known and set out on a life-altering quest through a maze of mountain caves and tunnels where they encounter insidious creatures, but none so dangerous, perhaps, as one of their very own. Mentored by Irusan the transcendental shape-shifter, the six young heroes develop impenetrable relationships and ultimately learn to rely upon one another. They battle their way to the lost crystal, but will they find it in time? Or, will their enemy succeed in his mission to control the powerful crystals of Ialana?
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