reads, Recent Reads

Age of Assassins

Publisher’s Description:

TO CATCH AN ASSASSIN, USE AN ASSASSIN…

Girton Club-Foot, apprentice to the land’s best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But his latest mission tasks Girton and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince’s murder.
In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire land.


My Review:

I recently read Age of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom, #1) by UK fantasy author R. J. Barker.

Age of Assassins follows the protagonist Girton, apprentice assassin to Master assassin Merela Karn, when she and Girton find themselves unwillingly embroiled in court intrigue and blackmailed by the Queen of Manyidoc determined to find those behind the attempted assassination of her son and heir, Aydor.

Girton, disguised among the noble blessed class, and using the title ap Gwyner, takes a position among the squires to learn the grievances and allegiances between Aydor and the challenger to the throne, Tomas. The machinations of the court at Castle Manyidoc, rivalries and alliances soon threaten to sweep Girton and Merela into deadly intrigue with fatal consequences. The only hope for survival that Girton and Merela can have is staying one step ahead of other assassins, rival factions, and a growing threat from sorcerers.

Final Thoughts:

I had reservations about reading Age of Assassins, concerned how similar the publisher’s description was to Robin Hobb’s Assassins trilogy. Despite my misgivings, The Wounded Kingdom series has been an interesting journey through a unique fantasy world and history, the well-defined characters intriguing and thoughtful.

My Conclusion?

Age of Assassins is likely to become a favourite for any fans of epic fantasy, unique world-building, and intrigue. A highly recommended read!

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming: Zombie Anthology


Disclaimer: I am genuinely creeped out by zombies.

Infection (Legends of Night Drabbles, #1) from Black Ink Fiction was an unlikely theme for me, but I am excited to say, I’ll be a featured author in this zombie/walking undead microfiction anthology. My 100 word drabble “The Revenants” is a dark fiction inspired by witchcraft, reanimation and the consequences of meddling with the fabric between life and death.

Keep a close eye on updates for more details on release date of Infection (Legends of Night Drabbles, #1) coming in 2021.

Short Fiction, Writing

Dark Fantasy Assassins


There’s any number of great epic dark fantasy books and series that explore the darker nature of humanity from the point of mercenaries, assassins and anti-heroes.

I decided to delve into some of that inspiration and an anti-hero protagonist in a flash fiction story. What motivates characters to choose a darker path? Does the morally ambiguous road they follow trouble their conscience?

The result was an interesting character with a psyche primed to survive, whatever the cost. A “riches-to-rags” story in the underbelly of a fantasy metropolis where the only ones imagining a hero are dependent on an anti-hero to survive. “The Hero of Silversmiths” will feature in the Avenge (Five Hundred Fiction, #2) Anthology, coming soon in 2021.

Short Fiction, Writing

Reimaging the Pied Piper Fairytale

One of the most fascinating fairytales to me has always been the ‘The Children of Hameln’ recounted by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm in 1816 and 1818 editions of their famous fairytale collection. But there are several legends of similar figures like the Piped Piper from surrounding region of Saschen and wider Germany. Another fairytale I found intriguing is the ‘The Singing Bone’ and the variations, including the Scottish legends of an enchanted harp made from bone.

In crafting my own reimagining of the Pied Piper tale and the fate of the children from Hameln, I was inspired by of the gothic folklore of Forests, a common theme in many fairytales. The Forest often represents great dangers and only reason a community taught to fear it might enter would be unwillingly. The Pied Piper is often described as a troubadour or jester-like character, but in this reimagining, I wanted something darker and connected to the Forest. I thought of magicians, a failing harvest in the otherwise fertile valleys where an unspoken agreement between hamlets and magician to restore fertility and abundance to the lands would come at a high price. The magician is feared, not only for his magic but his appearance, a gaunt and physically deformed man, historically not welcome in many medieval communities for the ill-fortune to which they were associated. In keeping with the tales, the hamlets refuse to honour the bargain with the magician and an enchanted harp wrought from human bone becomes the tool to steal away the young and future generations of the hamlets, summoning them to wander forever among the groves and copses of the Forest.

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming: Paranormal Anthology

Bones (Five Hundred Fiction, #4)

Pleased to announce my flash fiction story “The Bones of a Dead God” will feature in Bones (Five Hundred Fiction, #4) to be published in 2021 by Black Hare Press! All flash fiction in this anthology is inspired by dark pagan themes. My story “The Bones of a Dead God” is inspired by Aztec ritual and legends.

Release dates and how to purchase a copy of the Bones (Five Hundred Fiction, #4) will be updated when available. Keep an eye on my publications page here.

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming: Heroes & Villains Anthology

Avenge (Five Hundred Fiction, #2)

Pleased to announce my flash fiction story “The Hero of Silversmiths” will feature in Avenge (Five Hundred Fiction, #2) to be published in 2021 by Black Hare Press! All flash fiction in this anthology is inspired by the theme of heroes, anti-heroes or villains.

Release dates and how to purchase a copy of the Avenge (Five Hundred Fiction, #2) will be updated when available. Keep an eye on my publications page here.

Short Fiction

Horror, History & Folklore

While it’s Women in Horror Month, I’ve been researching gothic and dark folklore themes. Here’s a few of the diverse research topics I encountered including the history of witchcraft and an Icelandic folklore sure to make your skin crawl.


Witchcraft: the Devil’s Influence

Accusations of witchcraft have a long history. The era of associated with the highest prevalence of witch trials and executions was the 14th century, but before these later witch hunts of the Middle Ages, those often accused of witchcraft included midwives, healers and those dwelling on the fringe of their community, blamed for sickness, crop failure and unexpected deaths. When researching this theme, I examined the folklore of the Devil’s involvement through deliberate actions or more subtle means such as manipulation.


Necropants: Grisly Icelandic Folklore

A folklore tradition believed to be practiced in Iceland as late as the 17th century, was the gruesome lore behind necropants. A deal made with a male friend upon his death, involved flaying the skin from the waist down in a single piece and wearing the pants which adhered to the new owner. A coin stolen from a widow and a magical sigil, were inserted into the scrotum make certain the testicular sacks were always full of coins. I decided to explore this dark and grisly folklore in a mico-fiction story set during the early Viking Age.

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming: Folklore Anthology

I am very pleased to announce my microfiction pieces will feature in Lost Lore and Legends to be published by Breaking Rules Publishing Europe! Lost Lore and Legends anthology will consist of 100 word “drabbles” or microfiction pieces inspired by European folklore, legends and mythologies.

Five of my microfiction pieces will be featured, including original microfiction such as “The Troll-Witch”, “The Seelie Court”, “The Elf Stone”, “Pixie-Touched”, and “The Oak and Holly Kings”. You can read more about the research behind these microfiction stories here.

More details will follow on release dates for Lost Lore and Legends and where ebook and paperback copies can be purchased. Check my Short Fiction Publications for purchase links and further details.

Recent Reads

Borderlanders

Publisher Description:

“Some keys open doors to strange worlds…

Melissa has a happy marriage but her everyday life is a constant battle against pain. She discovers that her artwork can produce magic, prompting her to apply for an artist’s retreat to a mysterious country house. Her old schoolfriends Bettina and Zelda are also at the same retreat. But neither the house nor their friendship is what they think. A mystical library, rapacious shadows, and keys to otherworldly rooms are the links to saving the house from destruction.

A unique fantasy about people whose stories, with all their oddity and excitement, seldom make their way into novels.”

My Review:

Borderlanders by Australian author Gillian Polack, a contemporary Fantasy and magical realism, introduces the theme early with reference to the Celtic belief in the liminal worlds, and the ability to pass between the past, present, future and other. It is on this premise that Borderlands, as the title suggests, builds its narrative between realities, time and perceptions.

Partially narrated in first-person through the protagonist, Melissa, a happily married, middle-aged artist who’s life is consumed by disabling chronic pain with her artwork providing her only escape and a very real magic. Upon successfully receiving a scholarship to attend a creative retreat in the Southern Highlands of NSW, in a small misty town of Robertson, Melissa finds herself reunited with her old school friends, Bettina and Zelda, both also attending the retreat. The location of the retreat is a rambling estate, a country house that sprawls beyond the mere concept of walls and mortar and where shadows, past and future entwine the characters.

Final Thoughts:

Unlike Melissa, who is narrated in first-person, Bettina and Zelda are narrated through the third-person. This intentional shift from first-person to third-person has the desired effect to separate the reader from Zelda and Bettina, but the unintentional effect of blending their characters to the point of often being indistinguishable in personality (but not history), while Melissa remains isolated, removed and never feeling fully integrated into the story. This may be intentional as Zelda remarks early in the novel when she is lecturing on the Celtic belief in liminality, the concept of worlds and perceptions alongside our own, where the Celtic belief that people could slip into the Otherworld or mortals could be stolen by Fairies, very few ever being returned again. In this sense, Melissa feels like a character that has been stolen by Fairies, existing outside the reality that Bettina and Zelda occupy, but connected to it through a shared and often obsessive focus on small details. This obsession unites all characters, perhaps to indicate their creative personality, but feels far too repetitive, and distracts from the storyline and purpose, too often pulling attention away from the characters, their goals and actions.

My Conclusion?

Borderlanders was an interesting exploration of the concept of a liminal reality, where perceptions and magic, combine in unique ways that twist the fabrics of reality as we understand it.

** I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review **

Recent Reads

Silver in the Wood

Publishers Description:

“There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.”

My Review:

I had head many wonderful things about Silver in the Wood, the first novella in the Greenhollow Duology by UK author Emily Tesh and decided I had to experience this for myself. I’m thoroughly pleased I did.

Silver in the Wood follows the protagonist Tobias, the so-called Wild Man of Greenhollow wood, a centuries old protector of the woodlands near Greenhollow Hall. The arrival of the new young lord Henry Silver to Greenhollow Hall begins an unexpected friendship and bond between both men. Silver is intent on discovering the many secrets of Greenhollow woods which includes the stories of a mysterious historical figure “Bloody Toby”, once accused of murder alongside a fellow criminal, Fabian. But the legends surrounding Tobias and Fabian are not entirely true, and Tobias must confront the Fae being who stalks Greenhollow wood in the guise of Fabian. For when Silver starts digging up the past, he uncovers a darkness best left sleeping beneath the woods. The promise of acceptance and romance between Tobias and Silver can only be fulfilled if Silver is saved from Fabian and Tobias must confront Fabian one last time.

Final Thoughts:

Silver in the Woods explores of the mysterious folklore surrounding legends of the Fae, the Green Man and the Oak and Holly King without specifying either lore, this maintains the sense of mystery and wonder to Greenhollow. Connected to this vital part of the storyline are the vibrant characters and the deeper discussions of humanity and acceptance of the other.

My Conclusion:

A recommended read for any folklore fans, historical fantasy fans, LBGTQI readers, and readers who enjoy character diversity with vivid storytelling. A wonderful book!