This week’s featured author is Elizabeth Hull, writing under the by line of C.N.Lesley. Elizabeth lives in Alberta with her husband and cats. Her three daughters live close by. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth likes to read and to paint watercolors. She is also a keen gardener (despite the very short summers) and now has a mature shade garden. Once a worker in the communications sector, mostly concentrating on local news and events, she now writes full time, and fusses over her cats. She was senior managing editor of FlashMe Magazine and now is assistant flash fiction editor for Abyss and Apex.
The wyvern has hunted for the young outcast all her life; a day will come when, after being rejected by civilisation and the tribes, she must at last face him.
REVIEW BY JEANNE HASKIN
Author of ‘Love, War and Magic’, Artema Press
Raised in the world of Darkspire Reaches to heal the sick and fear the wyvern, Raven is an immediately accessible and lovable character, for whom the road from servitude to motherhood is paved with persecution, betrayal, and ultimately a showdown for who will command the loyalty of her mate. At times, the book is heartrendingly brutal, and, at others, filled with a tenderness that inspires happy tears. Comic relief, in the form of Raven and Connor’s wit, not to mention the antics of Kryling, a much smaller cousin of the wyvern, raises the book another notch from excellent to brilliant. With layers of complexity that attain additional depth each time I return to the story, this is a book to be read again and again.I cannot recommend it highly enough.
REVIEW BY LIT AMRI, READERS FAVORITE – 5 STARS
In C.N. Lesley’s “Darkspire Reaches”, when Emperor Chactar order the death of witches by burning, Raven and her foster mother, Margie, leave their village and seek shelter from the very man who is responsible for their misery. In exchange for a secret that Margie threatens to expose, they are granted shelter by the wicked emperor. From that moment onward, Raven’s life continues to change, and she will learn so much more about herself, about Samara Maidens, a Drakken male and the beast Wyvern that has plagued her mind like a nightmare.
I love the cover art by Alex Boca which grabs my interest right away. The dialogue was confusing at first until I figured out the difference of a ‘peasant talk’ and the normal speech that Margie and Raven use. The author’s beautiful writing style easily sparked off interest and my imagination about the story. I rooted for Raven from the beginning as I felt her pain and sympathized with the harsh life that she had to endure. Honestly, I didn’t like the things that happened to a protagonist that deserves so much more. I couldn’t find it in me to like Connor, the Drakken male, at all. Only when Raven accepted him that I followed suit. A tumultuous but otherwise entertaining read, this is an adult fantasy novel with solidly-built worlds, characters and creatures. If you love dragon-themed tales like me, the Wyverns are definitely on par with the dragons as a large, mythical winged creature. http://readersfavorite.com/book-review/11842
From Kristell Ink
Darkspire Reaches is a dark romantic fantasy, richly told and with characters so real, you cry for them. C N Lesley is masterful. This is for lovers of Ilona Andrews, Karen Chance, Sherrilyn Kenyon and such like.
‘Despite the cover this is not yet another book about magic and dragons. It is about a young woman’s journey of self-discovery. On par with the lowly Wart of Arthurian legend, fifteen-year-old Raven starts out as a foundling, a servant, bound by love to the only mother she knows.’ Review by Wendy Delmater
‘Despite this being a suspenseful read, however, Lesley’s words are so rich, so well-crafted, that you don’t want to finish it off so soon–you’d want to nibble the words just to make it last a bit longer. Highly recommended, especially those who have read a lot of fantasy books and are looking for something “deeper.”’ Review by Meghan
‘Leslie knows how to build a world, and create–not just characters–but whole races of them, complete with speech patterns and a recognizable cadence that sucks you into her world. From the first chapter you know you are entering a new world, and by the third chapter, you are already familiar with it.’ Review by GG
Do not go gentle into that good night, and the author doesn’t ask it of readers. She leads them gently into the apparently normal, but fascinating, world of an orphan living with a peasant woman. Margie. Raven’s foster mother rescued her when she was new-born and left out in the open as a sacrifice to the Wyverns. Raven’s affinity is with the woods, and the wild deer and rabbits. Margie, a herbalist and fortune-teller, is growing old and Raven helps her by learning about the brews she makes and uses to barter for food and other goods in the nearby village of the golden-haired Angressi people. Only one of them, Tomar, is kind to her and, as Raven, with her different raven hair, grows older, she falls in love and gives him precious potions in exchange for kisses.
Raven sees him seduce an Angressi man’s golden-haired daughter, Katra, and laugh because she’s jealous of kisses that obtained cures for his dog from the girl he calls a First Born savage. Heartbroken, Raven sees a lonely future, despite her magic powers that Margie covets, and her healing hands. The Angressi villagers accuse Raven and Margie of witchery, hurl stones, and give chase, intent on killing them. With nothing more than the clothes they are wearing Raven and Margie are forced to flee, but where? Is Margie wandering in her aging wits or is she Lady Margery Istentor, a high-born woman with a hold over Emperor Chactar who rules as a Living God in a far land?
Is that hold real? Will Chactar grant them sanctuary? Can Raven survive the fate of a Samara Maiden or suffer death at her saviours’ hands if Lady Margery fails protect her? Must she flee and face the danger from the Wyvern’s, the flaming creatures who would have taken her at birth, and have sought her, away from the protection of the woods, all her life? Every chapter, almost every paragraph, ends with a hook to tempt the reader on, right to the end.
This is a very different fantasy. It’s not based on a story that could stand alone as a thriller, as the best of that style of the genre do, or one that depends on instant violent action by werewolves, dragons and other mythical creatures to grab and hold a reader. It truly does start gently, but it’s impossible to leave unfinished if you read the first paragraph. Highly recommended.
AN EXCERPT FROM DARKSPIRE REACHES
The late afternoon sun gave a red tinge to the sky as Raven emerged from the rank tunnels onto the lake shore. She wrinkled her nose in distaste at the smell coming from her wet clothing. Foul water found and polluted every dry shred of fabric on her body.
The hunters used vargel hounds to track, and they would come to this place, so she would spread her scent to confuse them. Raven waded out into the lake, keeping within her depth, then, using the sun as her guide, she headed northwest. They would figure a direct north line of escape to the settlements of the tribes. Raven didn’t doubt Margie would help foster that notion to save her own skin. Again, a bitter smile curled her lips upward. As long as she remained in the water, she left no trail. Almost as an afterthought, she dipped her torch into dull, gray waters and let it fall.
Cold seeped into her bones while she waded on the fringe of the lake. It made a harsh contrast to the foul, but warmer, temperature of sewer filth. Hunger clawed at her insides, bringing another form of cold, one that started from within. The baying of hounds startled Raven into a misstep and she fell; her feet rose to the surface, turning her on her back, the motion warring with the wet clothes pulling her down. If she shed them, she would give the hunters another clue to her passage, and how would she get new ones? The fabric belled out to catch a current and draw her to the center of the lake.
She drifted north to the sounds of the horn call of hunters and the baying of their hounds. Maybe they would burst from the thick line of trees almost reaching the edge of the lake. No pyre could send her spirit on its journey now.
She didn’t know the size of the lake. She hadn’t seen the other side across a vast expanse of water, sunlight sparkling off the waves and ripples. No doubt it drained in the direction of her passage for the current to pull her, but that soon ceased to concern her as the icy waters leeched at her, sucking out her life. A small bird fluttered down to settle on her chest and under his bright gaze, she let herself become enveloped by death’s cold arms.
Waves of sleep lapped around her, washing away hurt. She closed her eyes, feeling the wind on her face, on her body, as she hurtled through the air. For a moment, she imagined herself back at the citadel, throwing herself off a turret to ride the wind. One last image of Margie, a smile lighting her face after a good scrying session, and then flashes of gold lanced through the picture in her mind’s eye until only gold remained. Gold upon gold, fading down into nothing—nothing but a pair of shining, golden eyes.
The sequel, Serpent of the Shangrove, is coming soon. Here is a taster.
Shadow Over Avalon
This book is first of a series and delves into science fiction, fantasy and myth. Ever wondered what happens when the legendary King Arthur is returned to fulfill his vow to protect his people in the time of their greatest need? In Earth Year 3874 all hell breaks loose. Stay tuned for what happens next.
Beyond the mists of time, a dying warrior binds his soul to his sword with an oath to protect his people. His shade now rides with the Wild Hunt while he waits for the call of greatest need. When it comes he doesn’t know it is a lie.
A War Maid princess is raised to be fearless, ready to sacrifice her life to defend her kin, but faced with the unthinkable; she must die or devolve into a creature worthy of loathing.
In the undersea city of Avalon, a Seer Acolyte nears the end of his training. He wants to serve on the surface world with the air breathing Terrans, fighting their common enemy instead of serving the Archive. Others have plans for him and the price will be his life.
On Moonbase, a predator finds a threat to the comfortable existence led by his species. How did Terrans diverge to generate an amphibious branch? They must all be killed.
An ageless man sits in a cave conjuring images in his fire. Weave a twist here; pull the weft of compulsion there and the plan is ready to set in motion. Fortune twists in the strongest of hands.
Arthur and Kai have escaped the threat of Emrys, but now they must face life on the surface world—and all the fearsome creatures that dwell there. But just as they assemble the beginnings of a fighting force, they discover a vital component to their safety has been compromised. This means a return to Avalon, where Arthur has an unexpected encounter with the untrustworthy Merlin. The magician’s orders are clear: Arthur must find the sword to save the surface-and Avalon. There is no alternative.
Kiri Ung, leader of the Nestines and ultimate controller of the Terran slaves on the surface, needs Arthur in order to ensure of the continuance of his species. With the Nestine Queen dying, failure means ultimate extinction. Wherever Arthur goes, so goes Kiri Ung. Whoever finds the sword first gains control over all humanity. But simply gaining possession of this powerful artifact is not enough to wield its power. Let the battle commence.