In the coming months, I’ll be doing a significant edit on my historical fantasy Bone Arrow which was inspired by Amerindian prehistory and fables. All previous editions of Bone Arrow will no longer be available. I’ll be sharing my latest research and editing developments as the new edition of Bone Arrow progresses.
I recently read Orphan Warriors, the first installment in the Children of the Otori duology by British-born Australian author Lian Hearn. In the events following the aftermath of the Tales of the Otori series, Orphan Warriors follows a young protagonist, one of the orphan sons of Arai Zenko, former friend and betrayer to Lord Takeo Otori.
Orphan Warriors takes place several years after Takeo’s death, Sunaomi and his younger brother Chikara have escaped execution alongside their parents providing they remain within the secluded protection of the Terayama temple monastery. Although Sunaomi and Chikara were raised as warriors, they now live as monks under the protection of their aunt, the late Lord Takeo’s wife’s Kaede. However, Sunaomi’s grandmother is Muto Shizuka, now a prominent leader in the Tribe. Soon, Sunaomi begins to discover his own inherited talents from the Tribe and he must choose between the honurable ways of the warrior class he is forever now excluded and the less honourable paths followed by the Tribe.
Closely bound to Sunaomi’s own story and self-discovery is that of another orphan warrior at Terayama, Lord Takeo’s own son Hisao, who was stolen and raised among the Tribe to assassinate his Takeo. Events in the Eight Islands suddenly change when Saga Hideki, the Emperor of the Eight Island’s most powerful Warlord becomes increasingly unstable. Sunaomi escapes Terayama when Saga Hideki sends forces for the remaining Ortori heir, but Hisao also escapes capture. Sunaomi forms a complex bond with Hisao, who has a rare Tribe talent as a ghostmaster, controlling the spirits of the dead. Yet Sunaomi is reluctant to condemn Hisao as morally corrupted as easily as the Tribe and the warrior class. Sunaomi works to understand and reverse the effects of a lifetime of privation, suffering and darkness that Hisao has endured. In the end, Sunaomi must confront his own rare gifts inherited from the Tribe to either directly combat or outmaneuver Hisao as the ghostmaster brings the threat of war and destruction closer to realization.
Orphan Warriors was a wonderful story following the aftermath of the Tales of the Otori series while combining important elements from The Tale of Shikanoko series. I look forward to reading the second volume and conclusion to the Children of the Otori.
I have just finished writing a new story concept I have been exploring. The story is inspired from my museum research in Europe in 2019. I was very interested by the prehistoric sections of museums. Before societies became larger civilisations, the bonds between communities were used to forge alliances. As these societies expanded under Chieftains and more land was claimed in the name of a Chieftain’s lineages, battle became more frequent as these dynasties were established. I was interested in exploring this lesser known part of history where archaeology is the only source to use and written records do not yet exist. Some of the oldest legends and mythologies have their early foundations in these prehistoric period when oral storytelling was common.
The rise in conflict between clans and increasing size of communities seems to also coincide with appearances and increased frequencies of human sacrifices (among many other things). I was interested to explore this single connection between conflict and human sacrifice in a story combining magic, ritual, history and battle together in a historical fantasy.
Very recently I finished writing a story inspired by the Zodiac sign Sagittarius. I was intrigued when learning the the astrological sign, of Sagittarius is representative of prophecy and fate, among other things. The story is a historical fantasy but set in a hypothetical Renaissance-style Italian city similar to Venice. In this world which is similar to the historical version of how our own might have been, some differences do occur. There are Twelve temples to different deities, each with a distinct purpose to fulfil for the citizens of the sprawling city. The Twelve temples are organised in a hierarchical manner with each deity served by religious devotees. The main character is a priestess in the Order Sagittarius where she begins to realise her perception of religious involvement in the functioning and fortune of the city inhabitants is corrupted. I explored these social tensions and realisations from research into ancient Roman religion where the religion was used as a propaganda tool and for social control.
I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me . . .”– City of Lies, Sam Hawke
One of my belated book reviews is the debut Fantasy novel City of Lies by Australian author Sam Hawke.
The opening line is the best hook for a novel of political intrigue, murder, mystery and the social disquiet that fill the once peaceful city of Silasta. The story revolves around three unusual protagonists, the irresponsible and unprepared heir to the Chancellory, his quiet best friend Jovan, also the master of Poisons whose family duty has been protecting the life of Chancellor by consuming all food and drink intended for the ruler. The last of the group is Jovan’s intelligent but physically frail sister Kalina, damaged by the poisons training her brother withstood, Kalina relies on her education and intellect.
The three friends represent the next generation of Silasta and are not yet initiated into the secrets, policies or threats that are directed at the mighty trade city. When the Chancellor and Jovan’s uncle die prematurely, Silasta is immediately besieged by an unknown military force and rumours of a secret sect within the populous emerge, rebel groups intent on overthrowing the ruling classes. Jovan and Kalina must now uncover the truth behind the murder of their uncle and the Chancellor before the city falls to the outside forces and try to get word to the commander of the army when all routes from the city are closed.
City of Lies is a story of intrigue within the ruling classes, the need to uncover the truth of a history kept hidden and the struggle for Jovan and Kalina to keep their friend, the new and unprepared Chancellor alive long enough for the city to be rescued by their returning army. The siblings uncover many truths that had been deliberately hidden from them and the principles of equality they believed the city stood for seems false and the uprising awakens the angered ancient forces of the land, Silasta must be genuinely united if it is to survive.
In the most recent trilogy by Juliet Marillier, Blackthorn & Grim begins with Dreamer’s Pool, the first volume following two emotionally scarred protagonists, healer and wise-woman, Blackthorn and the mysterious Grim, escapees from a prison and injustices of Mathuin of Laois. The unlikely rescuing of Blackthorn, and incidentally Grim, is orchestrated by Conmael, a member of the Fey. Conmael places strict conditions on Blackthorn’s freedom: for seven years, she must not return to Laois to confront Mathuin but must reside in Dalriada and accept all requests made of her. Blackthorn travels to Winterfalls in Dalriada with Grim, who has made himself Blackthorn’s protector. The pair settle at Dreamer’s Wood on the estate of crown-prince Oran of Dalriada. Soon, Blackthorn and Grim are drawn into solving a mystery involving Dreamer’s Pool, a well-known local area for the Fey and uncanny transformations. While solving the mystery closely involving Prince Oran and his new bride, Lady Flidas, Blackthorn and Grim begin to heal from the traumas of prison and torture, deeply bound together by trust and friendship. Dreamer’s Pool is a retelling of the classic tales of the Fey and physical transformations but a dark under-current pervades the story in which the Fey are neither just nor unjust and the human world is as perilous.