The Raid on Troy, written by Murray Lee Eiland JR, is the seventh book in the Orfeo Saga. It follows two brothers, Memnon and Menas as they rise to power from the chains of slavery. Determined to taste the gold of Troy, the brothers assemble their lives so they are in a position of power to take the city. Telemon is drawn into the plans after a prophecy about the kidnapping of his daughter Elena is fulfilled. The battle lines are drawn as each player in the war game draws their sharpest weapons and assembles their greatest armies to fulfill their own dreams and desires.
This epic adventure begins with a slave boy Memnon attempting to escape the perils of slavery caused by an early capture from the Therans. Memnon’s previous family life is all but a distant memory and for now, all he knows is slavery and hierarchies of power. The brutality that he has experienced in his life has meant that kindness has seeped away from his soul, leaving a dangerous man with nothing left to lose. He is inherently a leader who fearlessly takes control of perilous situations. This allows him to develop a following of men who are eager to drop the chains of slavery too. Together they begin to rebuild their lives, raiding villages and meeting with bandits who help them acquire food and weapons.
Menas, Memnon’s brother, is also an escaped slave and eager to live a life beyond being a pawn of the Therans. Menas soon involves himself with the Spartans, where he becomes a “fixture in the local politics of Sparta”. The two brothers rise to power in an epic tale of action, revenge, lust, and influence. You will admire their ability to rise to power and success as they take what they believe is rightfully theirs, having no mercy for those who dare to cross them.
The Raid on Troy has several storylines that are interweaving together as you progress through the novel. We have Orfeo who enters the plot line as an admirable and successful leader who has a beautiful wife Clarice, Telemon and Estra with their daughter Elena and the brothers Menas and Memnon who all take the leading roles in this twist of Greek mythology. There are similar aspects to the traditional mythology story, however, Murray Lee Eiland JR curates this version to be an almost historical version of events, leaving the reader to feel connected to the characters and the plot line.
Murray Lee Eiland JR writes with a legendary force that will have the reader engaged from start to finish. The chapters are short and fast-paced, allowing the plot line to develop quickly whilst covering vast amounts of time. However, there is still an incredible transformation in the character development as you watch the characters grow in both power and ambition. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys an epic battle mixed with the rise of power and fortune.
Pages: 300 | ASIN: B06ZYK6M2Z
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Steel, Blood and Fire is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, military, and history as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I was, in part, inspired by Glenn Cook’s Black Company series, along with the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. So much so that I wanted to try my own hand at it.
I found Vykers to be a very well written and in depth character. What was your inspiration for his emotional turmoil through the story?
Here, I think I was most inspired by Odysseus, and his long journey home from Troy. Vykers has a lot of Odysseus’ arrogance — and deadly competence, as well.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
That’s a tough one! Of course Vykers is fun to write. But so is Rem, the actor. That character allowed me to poke fun at the acting profession and relive a few of my own foibles. Then there is Spirk, the idiot. I have a special place in my heart for characters who are not quite up-to-speed, for want of a better term. He also provides a lot of the story’s comic relief. Finally, Aoife was enjoyable for me, because she reminds me of my sisters and wife, to some degree. I really liked looking at the story through her Earth Mother’s eyes.
I understand that you’re also an actor and stand-up comedian. How have those experiences helped you write your stories?
I think those things definitely shape my voice as a writer, the way I hear dialogue, and indulge in opportunities to shameless nonsense. But being an actor has also given me a fair amount of experience wielding a long sword, which comes in handy when writing fight scenes.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Actually, you have (kindly) review the first book in an existing four-book series. Steel, Blood & Fire is followed by As Flies to Wanton Boys, Corpse Cold, and, most recently, The Abject God. I am currently working on the series finale, The End of All Things, which I expect will to release in late 2018.
On the march, around the campfire, and in the taverns, they tell incredible stories about Tarmun Vykers, the Reaper – how he’s never been cut in battle, how he once defeated hundreds of men by himself, how he exterminated an entire people over an insult. These stories make Vykers seem like a god, but he is a man, an arrogant, ruthless and bloodthirsty man. For all that, he may be the only thing standing between the human race and utter annihilation at the hands of the mad wizard who calls himself the End-of-All-Things. Against this backdrop, smaller, lesser folks struggle to fulfill their own destinies, folks like Aoife, burdened with a secret so dark she is driven to do the unimaginable and seek an alliance with fey powers no mortal has ever encountered.
Posted in Interviews
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Imagine everything you know about reality. Now, throw it all out the window. That is the predicament Jack Griffin is in: trapped in a universe that isn’t his own, brought there against his will by some force of nature unheard of in his world and not understood in the world where he ended up. Here’s the good news: Jack discovers he has magical talent. Now he must use all the resources at his disposal – magic, wit, tenacity, and the little coin that he has – to find a way back to his beloved in his own world. But will he survive this new world? Gods exist, and so does magic. He is an outsider in a country that values nobility above all else. If you’re not from the right family and don’t have the right magical bloodline, you may as well be dirt on the boot heels of the nobles. It’s a different world, but some things just never change. Welcome to the new world.
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Capricorn by Jerry Veit is a pulpy thrill ride. Set in a dystopian world where a city has fallen to criminals and other underworld scum, we follow the hero, Montague, who deals out his own brand of justice. A man who clearly has a dark past of his own struggles with his unrelenting anger until he meets Capricorn, a beautiful young woman. They instantly have a connection but their meeting is cut all too short when a group of thugs kidnap her. Montague is driven by his pledge to Capricorn and undergoes seven trials in order to enter Mammon’s domain wherein his love is imprisoned.
The story is given in play format. The format does not detract from the story itself, although it would do well in audio format. The world of Capricorn is an interesting mix of fantasy, dystopian, and urban fantasy. There are even some themes and symbolism of classical mythology and the Judeo-Christian mythos thrown in for good measure. The world building itself walks a fine line of being just complex enough to make the world feel alive.
Typical of Veit, Capricorn is a story driven by fast actions and passionate motivations. Montague is a not quite anti-hero, but embodies similar traits of the archetype, especially by how he deals out justice. He seems to sway back and forth over the line of being good or bad, although he bears everything that is thrown at him. The trails follow a somewhat formulaic method, but still give the reader certain checkpoints.
This brings up the antagonist, who in some stories helps define the protagonist. Named the Demon, but later Mammon, Veit does some interesting things when the Demon clashes with Montague and it was these moments that will make the reader keep reading until the end. A traditional quest story set in a world that is so strange but familiar to us. Montague does seem to exist in a vacuum and does come across as too singularly minded, which tends to alienate the reader somewhat. This is circumvented by the pure romance and chemistry that Capricorn and Montague have for one another. The adventure, danger, and risk also keep this story lean and fast-paced.
Overall, Capricorn is a fun read for more mature fans of pulp fantasy, urban fantasy and dystopian fiction.
Pages: 136 | ASIN: B00IPSZQCQ
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The Nosferatu Chronicles: Origins, written by Susan Hamilton is a science fiction novel that tells a vivid story of creatures arriving from space and discovering that the planet they’ve crashed onto isn’t what it seems. The Vambir have been in cryostatis and crash land on Earth in the 15th century. This book meticulously sets the scene for many dramatic events. The Vambir discover they have a taste for human blood as Dracula and his army is growing in strength during the tumultuous 15th century.
The story of the alien Vambir landing on Earth is a fascinating twist on the vampire genre. Author Susan Hamilton does a great job of blending her story with the slow and steady rise of Dracula and his army. Together they allow a macabre blend of science fiction and horror to slowly develop. I felt like the myth of ‘Vlad the Impaler’ could have been developed quicker, so that we could have taken a deeper dive into his present and future, because his character and the time period are so fascinating in this story.
The story switches between the Vambir, a member of Dracula’s army and people who are being told the story about the Vambir later on. Because of this constant switching I sometimes found it difficult to understand what was happening.
The story that has been meticulously developed by Susan Hamilton has no loss of detail and a lot of references to vampire mythology. Susan Hamilton delivers the story with such clarity and simple prose that reading it was effortless. This lends easily to the suspension of disbelief; maybe vampires can come from outer space? This seemed as plausible as vampires, but I was never left questioning any of this, I was just thoroughly enjoying the novel.
As I enjoy vampires and mythological creatures, this book was a lovely and intriguing read that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. Hamilton has created a thrilling story that incorporates the vampire mythology while introducing some interesting new ones. If you enjoy your classic vampires, and want a new science fiction twist then The Nosferatu Chronicles is for you.
Pages: 266 | ASIN: B00X9GWEEM
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Erinland follows 21st century characters as they are catapulted into a 9th Century Viking war. Some fantastic battles and world building ensues. What was your inspiration for the setup to this fascinating novel?
Actually, my inspiration came from the Irish side of the conflict. When visiting Ireland some years ago we visited Trinity College in Dublin. Displayed in a glass case is the Book of Kells. It is a beautifully illuminated ancient manuscript with vivid colours and characters depicting stories from the four Gospels of the bible. The Book of Kells is believed to have been written around the year 800 in a monastery in Iona. After a Viking raid on the monastery, the surviving monks took refuge in a new monastery at Kells, taking their treasures with them. The meticulous attention to detail and its beauty resonated with me, so I did some digging into Irish history and the Viking presence in Ireland. This finally lead me to Amy and Richard and the writing of Erinland.
Erinland provides much in the way of Viking history. Did you do a lot of research to maintain accuracy of the subject?
Yes, I certainly did do a lot of research into both Irish and Viking (Norse) histories and mythologies. I learned a lot about their ways and beliefs and found it absolutely fascinating!
I understand this is a your debut novel. What a fantastic start! What made you start writing?
I’ve always dabbled a little with writing. I enjoy getting lost in the ‘writing space’ and hopefully creating something entertaining for the reader but for Erinland, the catalyst was seeing the Book of Kells first hand.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on a sequel to Erinland. It should be available mid 2018.
Two troubled young adults find themselves key players in a deadly game that spans the 21st century and the Viking Age.
Amy, finding it difficult to ‘fit in’, becomes increasingly obsessed with the virtual reality game Erinland. The VR characters and the mist of Erin begin to invade Amy’s dreams and her waking moments. She finds herself drawn into Erinland in 9th century Ireland. Amy becomes part of this mystical world as she joins in the struggle to defeat the Viking raiders.
Richard has a complicated home life and feels he doesn’t belong anywhere. A series of events finds him desperate and living on the streets, where he finds himself dragged into 9th century Norway by a Viking warrior. Richard finds acceptance with the Vikings and joins them on a colonisation raid to Ireland.
Posted in Interviews
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When live-action-role-playing adventure goes horribly wrong it’s up to our battered group to save the day! Dale, his girlfriend Jane, sister Katie and friend Gavin are off on a LARPing adventure. Dale isn’t used to this style of play and is finding himself wishing it was bit more interesting. One must be careful what they wish for in The Barrow of the Damned by Jonathan J. Drake. After a few days enacting their scenes the group is presented with a special module by Mr. Stephens, their coordinator. He leads them to a barrow where they will go to combat with other friends in an orcs-versus-adventurers play. They’ve even got a game master to keep them in line. All seems to be great, until the group steps foot in the creepy crypt for the first time. It’s dark, foreign and crawling with things that go bump in the night. Will they survive? Where are they, exactly? Finally, who is the one pulling the strings behind this adventure? Be careful what you wish for.
The story begins with a shock as a young man meets his end inside the barrow. This poor fellow will play an important role in the tale to come so it’s a good idea to remember him. The story isn’t too long with short chapters that serve to change up the perspective now and then. We get a good glimpse at what is going on from the viewpoints of all involved. There is a lot of blood and gore in this story, so if that’s not for you it would be wise to steer clear. Those who like a fantasy-adventure tale with a bit of horror will find this tale is right up their alley. The story appears to take place in the United Kingdom, although definitive places are never mentioned. Based on the terminology the characters use and the way they speak it is assumed that is where our tale unfolds.
While the story is relatively entertaining with shadows of J.R.R. Tolkien and some black humour dabbled about, the overall execution could use some polishing. There are grammatical errors and strange capitalization on words that pop up here and there which detract from the overall story. There are some key elements that aren’t explained very well that can leave readers with more questions than answers after completing the journey. Questions like, why are the Fates, who have origins in Greek mythology, in some barrow in what appears to be rural England? How did they get there? How long have they been there? From what we read, it seems like they have been there for a while, trying to steal something from a spirit who was created by the gods. With a name like O’Fleistus it’s assumed this spirit would be of English origins, but it’s not really explained. We get a bit of an explanation, but it could have been fleshed out much more instead of being revealed in fleeting conversation.
A little bit of blood and horror can dress up any LARPing event. What began as fun and games quickly turns into mayhem in The Barrow of the Damned by Jonathan J. Drake. This book has some very good potential if it had been fleshed out a bit more. There is opportunity to expand and explain more of the black-humoured story found on these pages. Aside from these minor drawbacks, it’s a fun and quick read. This tale is quite gruesome for the faint of heart. If that’s your cup of tea, you can’t go wrong venturing into this Barrow of the Damned.
Pages: 263 | ASIN: B00B79MVZA
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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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A Small Bronze Gift Called Mirror follows Lydia who is a sixteen-year-old girl living at a boarding school when the headmaster of the school forces Lydia to compete in a mirror contest. What was the inspiration for this very imaginative story?
A quote from Plato’s Apology of Sokrates served as my inspiration for my story:
“something divine and spiritual comes to me, (…) I have had this from my childhood; it is a sort of voice that comes to me, and when it comes it always holds me back from what I am thinking of doing, but never urges me forward.” – Plato’s Apology of Sokrates- 31d. What if we could not only hear this divine and spiritual voice, but also give it a face? Would we be satisfied with the image? Would it be what we imagined it to be or would it be what others expect it to be?
Lydia is a strong-willed, independent teen who takes matters into her own hands. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
Like most characters of the story, Lydia has many challenges to overcome and a difficult task to carry. She faces a lot of issues that people today struggle with. That require many morals and values like self-respect, compassion, altruism and justice. Lydia is a strong-willed young girl, who changes and develops these values as she grows up.
The story has a wonderfully unique take on magic mirrors that’s different from the fairy tale version. How did this idea come to you and how did you develop it into a story?
From the beginning I wanted somebody for Lydia to talk to, because it’s not easy for a child to be left grow up alone. This resulted in the creation of Phoebus, who could prove to be a true friend or an enemy. I tried to show how difficult it is for us today to protect ourselves from bad influences. That’s why the reflections in the mirrors are often shaped by how we perceive ourselves through the manipulation of the others.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Currently I’m writing another mystery novel about two very different people, which have nothing in common until they bump on each other. It will be available as soon as the English translation is finished.
“A small bronze gift called “Mirror” follows the story of Lydia, who is forced to go on the run at the age of 6 when her mother is murdered. Protected by her grandmother, Lydia’s life is shrouded in mystery, compounded by the small bronze gift she was given and which she calls ‘mirror’.
At the age of 12, Lydia is left in the care of Mrs. M, and is given a place at a school filled with unusual characters. When she arrives there Lydia discovers that all the children have the same ‘mirror’ as she does. But it’s when she starts to learn how to use it that the real story unfolds and she must undertake a remarkable journey.”
Posted in Interviews
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Move over, Homer. These aren’t your gods and goddesses anymore. Angelina Kerner puts a whole new spin on the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods in her book Deity’s Soulmate. Our usual suspects are there: Athena, Zeus, Hera, Hermes, Hades and others. We’re introduced to a new structure of the world thanks to the first person perspective of a young goddess, Gardenia. At first, we’re not sure who she is as she leads us through the universes to the Milky Way Galaxy. She comes across humanity in their bloody splendor immediately. This shatters what she has been taught about humans. Not all is what she has been told. It’s time for Gardenia to learn the real way of the world. She has a place in her family’s pantheon, but will she be twisted around the thread of a Fate first? This entertaining story about gods, goddesses, dragons and the creation of worlds is the first installment in what is sure to be an amazing trilogy.
While most of us have perceptions about the gods and goddesses from ancient Greece and Rome, seeing Hera in a black suit with white stilettos is definitely an interesting image. Kerner builds her world in a fascinating way. Yes, there have been more ‘modern’ interpretations of such heavenly beings before, but the way Kerner does it makes the reader feel like this is how they have always been. Her description on the creation of galaxies and worlds, giving each god and goddess an entire mini universe to be responsible for is an interesting take on the creation myth. She does not deny the science of a world being born yet the way she peppers that in with the mystical ability of the gods and goddesses seems natural.
This book is more than just what the gods and goddesses get up to in their spare time. Gardenia is a very new, very young goddess. She is scorned by the majority of her family and she strives to show them she is not someone to be taunted. However in the beginning she is just that: young. Barely alive for eighteen years, which is less than a wink for immortal beings; she is taken advantage of and manipulated by the Fates. Even on the brink of death she does not give in. She is a strong, fiercely independent young lady. She realizes she’s been dealt a bad hand at life and is determined to make more out of it than anyone expects. To this end, she journeys. She travels across galaxies in her search for teachers older than her family: dragons. These mystical beings that hold the power of creation yet can’t be bothered with using it.
A coming of age story is wrapped up inside a mystical journey. Not only is Gardenia searching for herself, she is striving to rise above the path that has been laid out for her. The eternal question on whether or not someone can change their ‘fate’ is addressed in this delightful read. Deity’s Soulmate by Angelina Kerner sports beautiful illustrations and a fantastic story to match. Will Gardenia change her future? Or will she be a pawn of the Fates? Only time will tell.
Pages: 180 | ASIN: B06Y1GCCF5
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