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!

events, Writing

Scorpio Anthology Release


I am excited to announce the release of Scorpio (The Zodiac Series, #11) from Deadset Press that launched on 28th March, 2021. I had the great pleasure of co-editing this zodiac- themed anthology featuring short stories inspired by the Scorpio zodiac including my Gaslamp fantasy story “Serket’s Curse”. You can read more about my research into Egyptology and the creation of an alternate Victorian era Dublin here.

If you are interested in purchasing an ebook or paperback copy of Scorpio (The Zodiac Series, #11) you can find more details here.

events, Writing

Lost Lore and Legends Anthology Release

Pleased to announce the release on 22nd March, 2021 of micro-fiction anthology Lost Lore and Legends published by Breaking Rules Publishing Europe and featuring five of my 100 word drabbles inspired by European folklore and mythologies.

Lost Lore and Legends explores a variety of legends, mythologies and folklore from European tradition. Two of my drabbles, “The Troll-Witch” and “The Elf Stone” were inspired by Icelandic folklore and legend, “The Seelie Court” was based on Scottish Fae folklore, while “Pixie-Touched” explores the dark Cornish lore of pixies and madness, and “Oak and Holly” tells of the physical manifestation of the summer and winter kings, forever duelling for supremacy. If you are interested in the research behind these five drabbles, you can read more here.

Interested in purchasing an ebook, paperback or limited hardback edition of Lost Lore and Legends? More details and links can be found here.

Short Fiction, Writing

Aztec Rituals & the God of Death

One of the most interesting folklore research I did recently involved the Aztec Empire in Mesoamerica. I have always been fascinated by the Aztec Empire and the many intriguing mythologies and my latest research was into the god of Underworld, Mictlantecuhtli. The death-god is often depicted in constant combat with the opposing force, the god of renewal Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent. The two gods are constantly locked in a fight for supremacy, the balance between life and death.

The Aztecs practised human sacrifice on a colossal scale in the late stages of the empire. Recent archaeological excavations in the sacred city of Tenochtitlan at the base of one of the largest pyramid temples, the Tempo Mayor, huge wooden racks of skulls were offerings to the gods of war and rain. The extreme numbers of suggested human sacrifices coincided with Aztec empire expansion, it was probably considered necessary to appease the gods who could provide battle success and the rains to grow crops and support an increasing population.

The Aztec Underworld or Mictlán was ruled by god Mictlantecuhtli. To the Aztecs, every soul no matter the privilege or poverty during life, would descend through the nine layers of Mictlán to face Mictlantecuhtli. Not surprisingly, worship of Mictlantecuhtli was important to all Aztecs and during the Aztec month of Tititl , the temple Tlalxicco conducted a specific ritual human sacrifice. A chosen sacrifice became the embodiment of Mictlantecuhtli and sacrificed at night to honour the god.

In my flash fiction story, I was inspired by the elaborate skeletal depictions of Mictlantecuhtli and the creation myth where Quetzalcoatl is deliberately delayed in the Underworld while searching for the bones of every creature destroyed in the previous world. The Aztecs, like many past civilisations, had a cyclic view of time rather than a linear one. Drawing on inspiration from depictions of Mictlantecuhtli adorned in carved bones or as a skeletal figure, my flash fiction story was set during the Aztec month of Tititl at night at the temple Tlalxicco. Here the ritual sacrifice gruesomely transforms the flesh embodiment of Mictlantecuhtli into a skeletal representation of the death-god before sunrise.

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming: Reimagined Fairytales Anthology

Pleased to announce I will be joining a wonderful lineup of authors for New Tales of Old, Volume 1 to be published in 2021 by Raven and Drake Publishing! All stories and flash fiction in this anthology were inspired by the retelling and reimagining of fairytales. My story “A Trail of Corpselights” is inspired by gothic folklore of forests and the folklore behind corpselights, also known as Will o’wisps. You can read more here. My second story included in the volume is “The Dark Harpist” a reimagining of the Pied Piper of Hameln legends and the fairytales and folklore of the singing bones and enchanted harps. You can read more about this story here.

Release dates and how to purchase a copy of the New Tales of Old, Volume 1 will be updated when available. You can also keep an eye on my publications page here.

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming: Dark Fiction Anthology

Watch (Five Hundred Fiction, #3)

Pleased to announce my flash fiction story “The Eldritch Wood” will feature in Watch (Five Hundred Fiction, #3) to be published in 2021 by Black Hare Press! All flash fiction in this anthology is inspired by the theme of stalking. My flash fiction story “The Eldritch Wood” is inspired by gothic folklore of forests and dangers of the Fae beings.

Release dates and how to purchase a copy of the Watch (Five Hundred Fiction, #3) will be updated when available. Keep an eye on my publications page here.

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: 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.

Short Fiction

European Folklore

The past several weeks, I have been exploring many different aspects of European folklore, particularly involving the Fae. Below is a series of some of my research favourites, fae beings and associated folklore.


Seelie and Unseelie Fae

In Scotland, the Fae are often divided into the Seelie and Unseelie courts, or the Light and Dark , respectively. Unlike the Irish Fair Folk, the Seelie and Unseelie beings follow a stricter divide, those fae which are malevolent are found in the Unseelie Courts, while those who are more kindly toward mortals such as brownies (but like all fae beings, this does not mean there is no in dealing with the seelie. Just with all Fae beings in Icelandic, Irish and Welsh folklore, the tendencies of the Fae are not comprehensible by mortal means and their own needs will almost always take precedence.


Elf-Stones

In Iceland, elves are an integral part of Icelandic culture with folklore infused throughout everyday Icelandic life. Elf-stones as they are sometimes called are believed to be doorways to the underground realms and otherworldly lands where elves dwell. The disturbance of an elf-stones is often considered a major concern with recent road construction and a series of disasters befalling the site, workers and nearby region occurring when a recognised elf-stone was moved. Subsequently, the stone was relocated and the course of the highway adjusted to avoid disturbing the area further.

In Icelandic legend, the renowned waterfall Skogafoss, a spectacular waterfall in southern Iceland, fed by glacial melt is also associated with a legend of elves, buried treasure and the founding of the Icelandic landscape. A Viking Age sorcerer, Þrasi Þórólfsson directed the flow of two rivers threatening the drown nearby villages sparked the volcanic eruption of in the Mýrdalsjökull Caldera. According to the legend, a chest containing a valuable and powerful symbol of Þrasi’s magic was stored and guarded by the elves at Skogafoss until his return. Þrasi’s ring is believed to be just one small part of the treasure the sorcerer left buried and guarded behind Skogafoss but never returned to claim.


The Oak and Holly Kings

Throughout the British Isles and in some Germanic folklore, the Oak and Holly kings are ancient rivals, a timeless battle between Summer and Winter, Although both kings are sometimes depicted as older men the elemental and enduring nature of each gaining dominance only long enough until the next seasonal change. There have been some attention paid to the similarities with the ancient legend of the Horned god, or the Green Man.


Pisky Pixies

Cornwall, while considered by many as a part of the UK , the Cornish people have their own unique legends and folklore Amin to The British lands. Pixies are known generally as mischievous and practical jokes. The Cornish pixies have become very popular in folklore and, where can be associated Piskies as they are often referred to in Cornwall, rare and responsible for the classic saying ‘away with the pixies.”

Piskies as they are often referred to in Cornwall, rare and responsible for the classic saying ‘away with the pixies.”


The Yuletide Troll

In Iceland, folklore and legend of trolls can be found at nearly every strange rock formation. Constant volcanic activity in Iceland has meant the these are plentiful and these formations are believed to be the mountain-dwelling trolls who were caught in the dawn sunlight, instantly turned to stone. Testimony to the Icelandic trolls versus the popular media view that they are stupid and slow-witted, is the dark yuletide legend of the troll-witch Gryla. You won’t find any stories in Iceland of red-nosed reindeer, present-making elves or a merry St. Nicholas. Instead, one of the oldest legends is Gryla and her 12 Yule lads, twelve mischievous and sinister trolls present for 12 days before and after Christmas Day, or the length of Yuletide. But on Christmas Eve, the Yule Lads’ mother leaves her mountain home to stalk the night. Gryla takes orphan children who, without the protection of hearth and home, are defenceless. Once stolen away in a sack, they are taken back to her husband in their mountain cave and cooked into a stew. For Icelandic lore, the safety of having a home, protection of family and from the harsh Icelandic winter is embodied in the threatening figure of Gryla.

Short Fiction

Forthcoming: Charity Anthology

Stories of Survival

The forthcoming charity anthology, Stories of Survival will be published by Deadset Press in support of Cancer Research after Australian speculative fiction author Aiki Flinthart announced her cancer diagnosis. As I was preparing this post this morning, I learned that Aiki lost her battle with cancer overnight. She will be remembered for her generous nature, sense of humour and courage. I am incredibly saddened by the news of her passing and hope my story “Three Tasks for Sidhe” and the others in this anthology provide hope in the shadows for those affected by cancer.

Details on release date for Stories of Survival, purchase links will follow. If you are interested in learning more about my story, you can do so here. Information on the wonderful Aiki Flinthart is available here including her latest edited anthology Relics, Wrecks and Ruins published during the last months of her life.