Hollow Road, by Dan Fitzgerald

As with all good speculative fiction, Fitzgerald has asked some hard questions about our society

I’m pleased to be participating in the Storytellers on Tour blog tour for Hollow Road, Book I of The Maer Cycle by Dan Fitzgerald.

Legends describe the Maer as savage man-beasts haunting the mountains, their bodies and faces covered with hair. Creatures of unimaginable strength, cunning, and cruelty. Bedtime stories to keep children indoors at night. Soldiers’ tales to frighten new recruits.

It is said the Maer once ruled the Silver Hills, but they have long since passed into oblivion.

This is the story of their return.

Carl, Sinnie and Finn, three companions since childhood, are tasked with bringing a friend’s body home for burial. Along the way, they find there is more to the stories than they ever imagined, and the mountains hold threats even darker than the Maer. What they discover on their journey will change the way they see the world forever.

Travel down Hollow Road to find out which legends are true, and which have been twisted.

Three friends on a journey together: what a classic start to a fantasy story! Two men: an apprentice mage and a soldier; one woman, a skilled archer. They’ve been hired (and well paid) to take the dead body of a friend back home for burial. Too well paid, in truth. Why?

Danger lies on the road home; danger that comes from legend and story: the Maer, a humanoid people reputed to be cruel, fierce fighters. But as Finn, Sinnie and Carl discover, the perceived danger from the Maer is mostly that: a perception, the result of fear and lack of communication. The Maer are as human as they are, although their appearance is different, and their culture perhaps more advanced than the three companions’ own.

Hollow Road is the first book of a trilogy. It serves as a wonderful introduction to Fitzgerald’s world, introducing the societies, the conflicts, and the main characters deftly. The three main characters are distinct personalities: conflicted Carl, who’d wanted to be a mage but had no skill; Sinnie, a woman who knows she can’t settle to the village life of her mother; Finn, the young adept who quickly will outstrip his mentors. Each has a role to play in the tentative alliance with the Maer, and each have things to learn from them.

The scale of Hollow Road appealed to me. The world is small (so far); the action takes place in a limited geography, devoid of huge armies, fortresses to storm, or vast distances to travel. Sufficient small details build the world without weighing down the story, building a believable iron-age society with some magic, but not so much that it dominates. Finn’s body magic assists the trio in their goals, but only in a way equivalent to Carl’s prowess with a sword and Sinnie’s skilled archery.

I had two small niggles with the story, neither major. One is the pacing of fighting scenes, where I felt tension could have been increased by a change in the rhythm of the narrative; the other is in some of the language in dialogue. Fitzgerald’s characters speak naturally, often using modern words in an iron-age setting, and while for the most part I didn’t find this jarring, one or two words did jump out at me as inappropriate.

As with all good speculative fiction, Fitzgerald has asked some hard questions about our society; about how we judge and fear people by their outward appearance. His characters – and readers – see that once true dialogue begins, commonalities outweigh differences. But while individuals learn this, and accept the Maer as human, will the Realm, the larger government which is only hinted at in this first book? Hollow Road ends with questions that should make the reader impatient for the next book in the trilogy, The Archive, due out December 4th. It certainly made me frustrated that I couldn’t keep reading the story immediately!  Strongly recommended for readers who like character-based fantasy with a solid plot.

Win a signed paperback copy (US only) of Hollow Road!

September 13, 2020 at 12:00am EDT to September 20, 2020 at 11:59pm EDT

Hollow Road by Dan Fitzgerald. Adult Fantasy, 243 pages, published: September 17, 2020 by Shadow Spark Publishing.

Book Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54801285-hollow-road

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FDPR332

Author Information

Dan Fitzgerald is a fantasy writer living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When he is not writing, he might be gardening, doing yoga, cooking, or listening to French music.

Find out more about Dan and his books at www.danfitzwrites.com, or find him on Twitter or Instagram, with the handle danfitzwrites in both places.

Author Links

Website: http://www.danfitzwrites.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanFitzWrites

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danfitzwrites/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/danfitzwrites

Empire’s Exile milestone 1

I’ve got the first draft of the first third of Empire’s Exile written.

Here’s one of those ‘milestones’ a writer reaches; I’ve got the first draft of the first third of Empire’s Exile written. That’s about 40,000 words. Writing this one is an interesting experience.

There are the logistics to consider: making sure I tie up all the loose ends and unanswered questions from Books 1 & 2.  There is making sure I stay true to the theme of exile:  in Book 1, Empire’s Daughter, Lena was barely adult, still a ‘dutiful daughter’ in many ways, just beginning over the course of the book to realize that truth comes in many forms.  In Empire’s Hostage, Book 2, Lena is a hostage both actually and figuratively, her fate in the hands of rules and traditions. In this third and last volume, I’m exploring the theme of exile, again both actual and figurative.  It doesn’t always make for easy writing.

Then there are my characters.  I thought I knew the basic story arc, but they had different ideas. Listening to what they told me (or what my subconscious told me, if you prefer), had led to Exile being a different story than what I thought it was going to be, introducing other forms of displacement into the narrative. It also left me with an enormous dilemma about the ending…which I have resolved in a way that is both true to the story and satisfying for me. (If you’re wondering why I’m talking about the ending when I’m only 1/3 into the book, it’s because I need to know what the ending is, so I can work towards it.)

So I’m going to take a breather for a few days, work on two unrelated editorial projects, get organized and packed for our escape from winter, and once we’re settled in there, start the middle third.  Quite a bit of research is associated with this third, and I need to plot out the major conflicts and crises, but I’m hoping to have this section done by March.  I’ll need to work flat out if I’m going to get this book out for the Christmas 2018 market…which is my current goal….but, just maybe, I will make it.

Updates, excerpts, backgrounders as I have time and they are appropriate!

Empire’s Legacy Book One is FREE

For a limited time (Sunday July 23rd to Thursday July 27th), the Kindle edition of Empire’s Daughter, Book I of the Empire’s Legacy series, is FREE on Amazon.

For a limited time (Sunday July 23rd to Thursday July 27th), the Kindle edition of Empire’s Daughter, Book I of the Empire’s Legacy series, is FREE on Amazon.

Empires_Daughter_Cover_for_Kindle

 

“… the world building is quite remarkable and the characters incredibly real. The reader is pulled in by the rich descriptions – the action scenes are brilliantly done, and the romance is unforced. This is a good one.” Rebecca Rafferty

 

 

 

While you’re there, you might want to check out Empire’s Legacy Book II, Empire’s Hostage. It’s not free, but it’s priced as low as Amazon will allow for the Kindle edition.cover ebook under 2MB smaller

Involving, evocative, intelligent—an outstanding historical fantasy.” – Maria Luisa Lang

For some of the background to the Empire’s Legacy series, take a look here.

Empire’s Hostage Now Available

“Involving, evocative, intelligent – an outstanding historical fantasy.” – Maria Luisa Lang

“Involving, evocative, intelligent – an outstanding historical fantasy.” 

Arboretum Press announces the publication of:

Empire’s Hostage

Book 2 of the Empire’s Legacy series.

“Marian delivered a fantastic sequel.”  Cover to Cover

Marian- book cover final

Paperback available from Arboretum Press:  arboretumpress@gmail.com

Canada/USA: $12.95 + $11.00 shipping/handling ($23.95); payment via Paypal or personal cheque

For international rates please contact arboretumpress@gmail.com

Payment via PayPal or personal cheque.

Kindle and paperback editions also available from Amazon.

 

Reaper: A Snowverse Novel, by L.C. Mawson: A Release-day Review

I found Reaper more satisfying than some of the longer books. It’s tighter, more focused on the immediate issues.

Reaper is the seventh book in the Snowverse series, continuing Freya’s adventuresReaper almost immediately after Enhanced.  With Alex, Freya is travelling in Europe, dealing with car-sickness and more: the diversity of supernatural genes she carries result in upheavals she cannot fully control, and her past experiences are adding to the volatility.

Freya’s difficulties in controlling her emerging powers, and in tapping into the ones she needs to access, reminded me (not in a plagaristic manner, but in a thematic way) of the “Threshold Sickness” of the psi-enhanced characters in Marion Zimmer Bradley ground-breaking Darkover series.  The disruption that uncontrolled psi powers can wreak, when an untrained individual accesses them, can have far-reaching and dramatic effects: a great subject matter for a book,  and I was pleased to see the issue addressed in Reaper. (By the way, if you’re a fan of the Snowverse, then I’m guessing you’re a fan of diversity in science fiction and fantasy – and if you haven’t read the Darkover series, give it a try. Yes, it was written in the 1960’s, but for early introduction and acceptance of LGBTQ characters, it was truly a ground-breaker.)

Lucy Mawson’s skills as a writer have blossomed over this series, and her depiction of Freya’s internal conflict about Alex, and her realization of how to access her Angel powers, are some of the author’s best writing. Freya is learning, too, to make the distinction between how her autism directly affects her relationships, separate from how her (unrecognized?) emotional reactions to past events affects both herself and how she relates to others.  I’m treading carefully here, because I’m allistic, or as my husband prefers, a neurotyp, but certainly Alex’s attempts to help Freya handle her reactions and understand them rang very true to me, after thirty-eight years of living with a man with ASD.

Reaper is short – 139 pages in my e-book edition – but it doesn’t suffer from that; in fact, I found it more satisfying than some of the longer books. It’s tighter, more focused on the immediate issues. Five stars.

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

What may still lie between the mountains and the sea….

Interested in reading? Send me a message.

 

“…will you face east with me, and bow to that memory, and to what may still lie between the mountains and the sea?” 

Those enigmatic words seal a truce called in the fifteen-month war between the Empire and Linrathe, the country north of the Wall, binding the Emperor Callan, the Teannasach Donnalch, and their people. But in additional surety of peace, the truce requires hostages, children of the leaders. 

Lena is a Guardswoman on the Wall when this peace is negotiated, one of many women who rode north to defend their land. When the General Casyn asks her to take the place of one of his daughters as a hostage, Lena agrees, to learn that she will be sent to a Ti’ach, a house of learning, for the duration of the truce. Here, perhaps, she can learn more about the east, and what its place is in the history of the Empire.

 But not every student welcomes her, and Lena soon learns that the history of both the countries beyond the Wall and her own Empire are more complex, and more intertwined, than she imagines.  When circumstances take her even farther north, into lands of a people unknown to the Empire, all her skills of leadership and self-defense are needed to avert danger to herself, the Empire, and its fragile allegiance with Linrathe…at an ultimate cost beyond her imagining.

Empire’s Hostage, book II in the Empire’s Legacy series, is fast approaching release. It follows Lena, the protagonist of Empire’s Daughterinto a larger world and into greater danger, testing her loyalties once again.

ARCs will be available soon in either e-pub or mobi format.  Interested in reading, rating, and/or reviewing?  Send me a message.

The Eye of Nefertiti, by Maria Luisa Lang: A Review

We all need amusing distractions and Lang’s novels fit that bill perfectly.

The Eye of Nefertiti is a worthy sequel to Maria Luisa Lang’s delightful The Pharaoh’s CatNefertiti, which I reviewed in November of 2015.  Written in the same light-hearted style, the sequel follows the adventures of Wrappa-Hamen, the walking, talking cat Egyptian cat and his family…who just happen to be a High Priest of Amun-Ra transported to modern-day New York City, his 21st century wife Elena the Egyptologist, and their child, who is the reincarnation of Wrappa-Hamen’s beloved Pharaoh.

Travelling from New York to England to Ancient Egypt, and involving Tarot cards, opera, and various gods and rulers, The Eye of Nefertiti can be read as a stand-alone story, but I recommend reading the previous book for a fuller understanding of the back-story here.  Like its predecessor, it’s a light novel, and again that is not a criticism: we all need amusing distractions and Lang’s novels fit that bill perfectly.  It probably helps to be a cat-lover, because walking and talking or not, much of Wrappa-Hamen’s behaviour will resonate with cat owners (or those owned by cats).

I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of Wrappa-Hamen; surely as the baby Pharaoh grows up there will be more adventures for his cat to be involved in!  Four stars for a well-written, fun read.

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

The Ravellers’ Guild, by Rachel Emma Shaw: A Review

A tantalizing introduction to what may be a fresh new fantasy series.

Tahnner is a pawn in his father’s game of shifting allegiances.  Eager to prove his loyalty to the king, he offers his son to the Ravellers’ Guild, forcing him into a lifetime of serviceravellers-guild Tahnner never wanted, reading the past and future of his world in the mysterious Threads of morning and evening.

The Ravellers’ Guild is a novella by Rachel Emma Shaw, setting the stage for a book series in production. The world the author has created is both familiar and new: the warring political factions are the background for many a story; the Ravellers, adepts who can follow, understand and translate the messages of the Threads are new.

The novella jumps into action quickly, building both conflict and the world in which that conflict occurs, and introducing us to many of the major characters. The story moves over time – several years pass, allowing Tahnner to mature in his skills, bringing us to the climax, a moment of betrayal, self-realization, and regret for Tahnner, and leaving the reader with enough questions to encourage them to delve into the full series, when it is available.

I’m giving The Ravellers’ Guild 4.5 stars; not 5, because the pacing in the middle section of the book could have been tighter, and I found my attention wandering. But overall, it’s a tantalizing introduction to what may be a fresh new fantasy series.

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

Comments wanted!

Feedback on the proposed cover wanted!

Here’s a look at the proposed cover for Book II of the Empire’s Legacy series, Empire’s Hostage, alongside the very well received cover of Book I, Empire’s Daughter.  While I know there are a few tweaks needed – border size for one – I’d appreciate feedback on the background colour, tag lines, or anything else.  Thanks!