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Thursday, 9 April 2015

Huw the Bard

My current reading speed is that of a five year old, what with extra work to fund the ongoing house patch up, and my addiction to painting plastic crack (warhammer minatures).

So it is with a satisfied grin that I have completed the excellent Huw the Bard by Connie Jasperson. Connie, as you may recall, is a writer and editor involved in Myrddin Publishing- in fact she edited books 3 and 5 of the Prism series. She is a major fantasy buff, and her clear intuition of the genre comes across in her work.

Huw the Bard is a prequel to Connie's The Last Good Knight, a book I hold in particular affection as it was one of the first Indie books I read several years ago when I first heard of self-publishing.

It follows the journey of Huw Olwyn, a bard fleeing the massacre of his fellows/family, as he escapes northward admidst political upheavals. The journey acts as a framework on which Jasperson fleshes out the history of Huw's world, and matures his character. The detail of the fantasy world is, as expected, very intricate and well constructed. The regional politics, the clans, how that sits with the feudal system and magic has enough detail to satisfy the reader without intruding on the flow.

The narrative is very cleverly done. I found it's style quite unique, almost as if the prose was part of a ballad that Huw was recounting. The humour is well done, and balances well with some fairly intense scenes of violence and sexual content. The fact these aspects are handled in a very sensitive and empathic way are a testament to Jasperson's skill as a writer. Personally I struggle with such scenes, and given one is a particularly harrowing marital rape, it is dealt with very adeptly. I do worry that such scenes have crept into modern fantasy works more since Game of Thrones, yet this aspect of the book is particularly key to Huw's maturation and vindication.

Inevitably the appearance of the various key characters in The Last Good Knight pepper the book, and help drive Huw's journey north. The encounters with monsters and creatures in the latter part of the book contrasts with the threats of evil nobles and their cronies in the earlier sections- and this progress in the story brought to mind elements of role playing games, and authors such as Jack Vance and Moorcock. A fitting pedigree for this excellent book to join.

Ultimately the book is a great introduction to the world, and a good fantasy read very different to many 'fantasy by numbers' currently out there now.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Da Secret Waaaggghhhh.

The ongoing addiction to plastic crack has meant that Charlie and I have six armies on the go in 40k. This means great variety to the games, and a great motivation to paint as when I get bored with one style is change to another.

The most recent pair are Space Wolves and Orks, via the Stormclaw box set I got for my birthday. Space Wolves are fab- I love the Viking ethos and the detail of the miniatures. But Orks are my fave at present- the style of the figures, the bonkers codex, and the flexibility during modelling and painting all appeal.

So here's the progress so far. The colour schemes of the main tribes didn't appeal, as they repeated colours from the other armies (yellow from Eldar, red/blue from Chaos) or was not to my taste (black for Goffs). So I did my own- purple and red, with a few chequers as I got more confident with it. 

Now purple to Orks is a colour of sneakiness, after all you've never seen a Purple Ork. Red is for speed- because it... Just is. So I present the fledgling Ork Tribe- Da Secret Waaagghh. An off-shoot of the Goff clan, so focused on big Choppas and Klaws, replete with huge Nobz, and a huge warboss.

Da Big Boss, Morgok Goregargler, leads the tribe. Formed from the remnants of a Goff horde slaughtered by Krom Dragongaze's Space Wolves, Morgok decided that his Orks needed to combine sheer strength and brutality with cunning. By painting their armour purple it would allow them to sneak close enough to the enemy to unleash a mighty Waaagghh and rip them to shreds. This purple was good enough to let them run down the middle of a battlefield without problem- at least in Morgok's twisted brain it was...


Morgok wears mega armour, with a massive Power Klaw and big shoota built in. He usually leads his trusted Nobz into the fray, laughing at the bolter rounds skittering off his armour. 

Although convinced of the might of Orks, Morgok's hatred of the Imperium has meant he has allied with Chaos Marines a number of times in the past.

Gort Da Shredda

Morgok's trusted lieutenant is Gort , a massive warboss with a huge buzz saw grafted into his cybork power klaw. Gort's love of pain means he shuns mega armour and sees each bolter hole in his green flesh as a medal to be proud of. His faithful attack squig, NumNum, drags him across the battlefield with zeal.

Morgok's Mutilators 

The elite Nobz are the backbone of Da Secret Waaagghh, whether kicking the Boyz into shape, or as a distinct unit charging by Da Big Boss's side. They carry a mix of Big Choppas and Klaws. Currently I have eight, one having a combi-flamer for fun, and the Boss Nob (yet to paint, has a Waaagghh banner for Da win).

Da Boyz

I've got 36 of these dudes now, and have made it through 9 so far- a quarter done!!
They are mainly Slugga Boyz, with some shootas and big shootas. Gonna foot slog them across the field with a mighty Waaagghh!!

Da Kanz

The only heavy support so far, the Killa Kans, I really enjoyed painting. I think the clunky home made style is v Orky, even if they're not so robust in games as Dreadnoughts.

The Kans are piloted by the Mucuz brothers, three Grots who are convinced they are triplets. Not renowned for their bravery, they prefer to hang back and fire at a safe distance.

Scuzbucket's Stormboyz

My fave unit so far, the Stormboyz roar through the air in clouds of smoke and fuel. Led by the fearsome Nob, Scuzbucket, whose power klaw has an affinity for Space Marines, they are the main strike force for Da  Secret Waaagghh.

And Da Rest

Left to paint (not including 20+ Boyz) are a Runtbot (probably proxy a Kan or DeffDread), a Commisar, a Deffkopta, Boss Zagstruck, and 10 Gretchin with their runtherd. I'll post those as I do them, although I might have an Ork break and paint Tau and Wolves next.

Next steps for the army are Lootas and maybe some Ork planes and more Deffkoptas. Also, a Mek and Nob Bikers... Gaaahhh, damn that plastic crack...

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review: Heart Search 3- Betrayal

Heart Search 3- Betrayal

I received an ARC of Carlie Cullen's HS3-Betrayal to review, having read and reviewed the first two books in the trilogy.
One nice thing about trilogies is the opportunity to watch story arcs unfold over a longer period than a single book gives you, and Carlie exploits this to its full advantage.

In brief, in books one and two we were introduced to a paranormal world running in parallel to our own, with covens of vampires living a nocturnal existence alongside our lives. New vampires- neophytes- are created from inoculation of venom into a human's system. Vampires have the usual enhanced senses and  physical prowess, and also latent abilities (sometimes several) which resemble superpowers in many places. The ruling caste are the Commissioners, the oldest of the kind, who the covens owe allegiance to.

At the end of book two, when Remy found Joshua ( who had turned in bk1 at the outset), she became a vampire and took her twins to live with Josh and best friend Jakki, in a neighbouring mansion to the main coven. During these events, Josh had found a bomb planted at the mansion, placed by Liam- a neophyte created in a reckless moment by one of the coven.

Book three takes these two plot strands forward. Remy is getting used to life with Josh and the twins, but struggling with her new identity, the remnants of her old life ( being very close to her twin) and Josh's altering dominant persona. Liam's plans to attack the coven are facilitated by a traitor, whose identity is kept secret until the final chapters.

This disquiet and distrust makes the book very enjoyable, as you try and second guess who the traitor is (codenamed Phoenix) and the tension strains relationships, and also puts a previously minor character into a hostage situation.

Of the three key characters, Jakki shines the most for me. Her personality, her independence and challenge to rigid tradition in the coven, and her precognitive ability make her great to read. Remy, whose story I loved in books 1and 2 wasn't as strong for me this time, although the struggle with her past life is a key element. I do like the way her chapters continue to be written from a 1st person POV as in previous books- it gives a more personal style to her story.

Finally, Josh is a tricky character to take to. He's clearly awesome at everything, but the prior rise to dominance in the coven has created an arrogance and irritability that I didn't like. His manner of speaking to his men is midjudged, and his relationship with Remy complicated.
The book raised some intriguing ideas with me. I like the formality of the coven, the way they address one another and interact. It can make dialogues drag out too much, but it complements Carlie's very detailed prose. Their disregard of human life as a food source is disturbing in places, and leads to some very dark humour as they kill their victims. The involvement of the half -vampire toddlers in the proceedings treads the line between inspired and bonkers, and their acceptance of feeding on prey touches the edge of disturbing.

Yet why shouldn't it be disturbing? The current spate of Vampire teeny paranormal series dance around the darkness of the subject. These aren't clean nice model vamps, these are predators who munch their way through half of Essex by the end of the book. They swear, they fight, they murder, and they have sex. In fact the sex scenes in the book pull no punches- with graphic detail that would push this book into Adult category (and make HBO keen on filming it!!!).

The end comes with great pace and excitement, with twists and surprises galore. The conclusion felt a little rushed, and there were some loose strands that didn't resolve to my satisfaction. I think Erika's ordeal and it's consequences could have been explored, as well as Josh and Uppteon's dagger. Yet these are small points in an otherwise excellent conclusion to the trilogy, and I do wonder (and hope) one day Carlie will return to the paranormal world she has created.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Red Seas under Red Skies

Just read the second of Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard series. 

What can I say? Still head and shoulders above many in the fantasy genre, but didn't quite excite me like Book 1 did.

The plot is sound enough- Locke and Jean are running a scam, which then seemingly gets turned on its head. They get dragged into the politics of their new found city, and then lumbered with a strange nautical mission. 

I won't say any more, as spoilers are a pain, but I think my issue with the book was pacing. The first part is fine- enough hooks, with well inserted flashbacks. Usual banter, which could've benefitted from a tighter edit.

The second part really limped along, though. Not enough scamming and conniving for my taste. The period on the sea, and the characters they met didn't seem well realised enough.

The third part, picks up, but was rushed. Clever realisation of the scams, nice twist, but felt jarring after the mediocre momentum of the middle.

Lynch is a great writer, but he lost his way a bit here. Few too many Deux et Machina aspects with alchemy, excesses of banter, and misjudged pace- yet, as I said, still superior to most in the genre.

Definitely reading the third book... 

Monday, 16 February 2015

WH40k family tournament 2: White Scars v Chaos Marines

So, onto game 2, this time Evelyn vs. myself. Now E isn't as regular a player as Charlie, but nonetheless has a grasp of gameplay from 6th Ed. She has usually played SM or Eldar before.
We drew our lots: I got Chaos (yay, MY army) and E drew Wildcard, so she chose Space Marines.

My army was: Sorcerer (terminator armour, ML 2, combi-melta); 5 terminators (reaper auto & mix of power weapons and chainfist-power fist); Chaos Marines (10- power fist; heavy Bolter; plasma gun; CCW); CSM (5 with flamer); 10 cultists; raptors (power sword; melta; plasma); predator tank (autocannon; 2 lascannons).

Evelyn took: Khan (on bike); librarian (ML 1); bike squad (6 and an attack bike with Multmelta; 2 plasma guns); 1 tac squad (plasma gun; rhino); 1 terminator squad (with assault cannon); 1 bike squad (3 bikes; meltagun; proxied by Chaos bikers and an attack bike!!); 1 ironclad dreadnought (proxy with Helbrute) with drop-pod.

Evelyn set up terrain as it was her home game. She won initiative. Same as before: 3 pts for objective secured, 1 for looking after it; 1 for units killed, and standard for 2nd goals.

Evelyn kicks off with the drop pod landing just behind the fuel tower. The librarian moves with his terminators to behind one of the ruins and casts Invisibility on the Dread. The Rhino trundles past the second ruin, which conceals her objective. Khan rides with the small bike unit up into edge of ruin for cover, and big bike unit boosts up the centre. Quick shooting from Dread onto Chaos Termies, with storm bolter and hK missile does nothing.

CSM round 1. Mainly movement. Terminators clamber onto the ridge; predator nudges around the fuel tower; the CSM squad moves around ridge to try get line of sight on Dread. Raptors jump across towards ruined parking lot, and small CSM squad runs after. The predator and CSM squad open fire on the Dread but the few hits (he's invisible!!) don't even glance the armour. Oh dear...

The Dread stomps into melta range on the Pred; the bikes roar up the centr of the battlefield. The rhino decides to pull back and protect the objective. The tac squad bundles out into the ruins. The terminator and librarian get into the second ruin- still within range to cast Invisibility on the Dread again!!

The Dread misses with his melta. The big bike squad opens fire with a hail of bolters plasma and melta at the raptors killing one. Bring it on! The small Khan squad fires at the Chaos Termies, the melta killing one. Acceptable losses for the dark god Tzeentch. 

CSM round 2. The Sorcerer is just out of range for his two template spells, as the Termies descend from the ridge. The raptors jump across towards the ruins with the SM objective in. The small squad run into cover.

The predator hits the Dread with its cannon and glances! Yay!! The CSMs open fire on the small bike unit with bolters, plasma and HB- they kill two, but not Khan. The terminators open fire at the other bike unit and totally fluff it. The chaos gods are fickle indeed.

SCars turn 3, and the round it all changes. Angered by the death of their brothers, the Scars unleash everything they've got. The terminators and librarian move around the ruins and into range; the bikes occupy the centre of the field.

The Dread melta glances the Predator. The big bike squad hit with eight bolter shots, a multi melta and two plasma on the Chaos Terminators. Two Termies die, and the sorcerer loses a wound. The second bike squad fire at the hapless warlord and hits with a melta. The two loyal Chaos Termies try and take the wound, but fail to do so, and the Sorcerer melts into a pile of chaotic ash.

The Chaos Termies fail morale and do a runner. The loyalist terminators fire on the CSM squad and take out two, one with the heavy bolter. The tac squad in ruins shoot at Raptors, but raptors make save. Can they get the SM objective and save the day?

Chaos turn 3. The Termies stop running, thankfully. The small flamer squad emerge to avenge their warlord and fire at Khan and the sole biker... and do exactly nothing. Meh. The eight CSM fire at big bike unit but due to some awesome saves by Evelyn only kill one biker. The predator, intimidated by the approaching invisible Dreadnought, misses all it's shots.

The raptors leap into the ruins and shoot the tac squad and wipe out three before charging in. The 4 vs 2 combat yielded no further casualties. The flamer CSM squad charge Khan and the single biker. With a sigh he swings Moonfang, and kills three CSMs! The squad of eight declare a charge on the big bike squad... and fail to make the (short) distance.

Not looking good for me at end of round 3.

SM round 4, and by this stage it was getting late for a 10y old, so it was looking like last round.

The big bike squad roared around the side of the CSM squad, in an unusual move. The Dread lumbers towards the Pred for final showdown. The terminators move out towards the CSM squad, and the SM in the ruins fight on with the raptors.

With a chatter of bolters and hiss of plasma, the bikers unleash doom on the cultists. Five down in one salvo!
The Dread hits and penetrates the predator with the melta. Crew stunned, as it watches the huge walker charge towards it- seismic hammer whirring. The terminators unleash bolter and cannon fire on the CSMs, killing three.

Into assault. The big bike squad make the 11" charge into the cultists! Between hammer of wrath and assault they leave one hapless cultist standing, who turns and scarpers. The Dread slams his hammer into the Pred and destroys it. The Terminators charge into the CSMs, over watch plinking off their armour. The power fists leave nowt but a smeared set of boots in their wake as they wipe out the squad. Khan, with a cheer of victory, carves up the two remaining chaos space marines. 

And in the ruins the raptor v SM scrap ends in stalemate. As the cultist scampers away like a scolded puppy, Chaos admits defeat....

So total points? Evelyn gets 9 (objective 3; kept her own 1; 1 slay warlord; 1 first blood; 3 of my units destroyed) and I get a round zero. 

A great game, with balance until round 3 when she abruptly took me apart. Invisibility is awesome, and my sorcerer never got close enough for his spells. In retrospect Chaos Lords better choice for me. Or Demon Prince. Also come to conclusion I'm not very good at the game, but I enjoy the laughter of playing anyhow!!

Next game Charlie vs. Evelyn. Could be some pouting lips ahead...

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

WH40K family tournament 1: Scars vs Orks

So in the interest of further drawing my children into the world of fantasy I’ve decided to play a little tournament with them in Warhammer 40k. The principle is to run 1000pt battles with armies chosen at random from our six forces: Space Marines (white scars), Eldar, Chaos Marines, Space Wolves, Orks and Tau. We’ll each do a home and away, and one wildcard allows you to choose your favourite army rather than what you’re allocated. They’ll be objective games with 3pt allocated to an objective capture in each half, 1 for keeping it safe, 1 for units destroyed and 1 for the usual Slay Warlord, First Blood and Linebreaker. 

 The first battle was between me and Charlie. He was delighted to pick Orks, and I picked SM—so a classic battle on the Orks home turf. 

 Charlie ran (with a fair few proxys as we’re just starting this army): 2 warbosses (both in mega-armour with cybork, Power Klaw, Big shoota); 3 mega-nobs (PK, BS); 20 Boyz (Ard armour; one rocket, one big shoota) and 2 nobz (PK); 3 killa kans (2 BS and one RL); and a Gorkanaut. He proxied the meganobs with normal nobs, and the Gorkanaut for a… Dalek. I ran Khan, a terminator squad (with Assault Cannon); biker unit (2 plasma; six riders + one attack bike with MM); Tac squad (ten guys; sergeant with Lightning Claws; 1 plasma cannon; 1 flamer; split into combat squads and with razorback, with Heavy Bolter); 2 landspeeders (Typhoon launchers and Multi-melta). And White Scars tactics. The setting was a ruined town, with my objective being a wounded marine of importance, and Charlie’s an Ork Commissar. 

Round 1—I went first. I raced up my left flank with the speeders, and Razor. I left the flamer squad with my objective in the ruins of a cathedral. The bikes and Khan raced across the centre. I got a lucky pot shot with one Typhoon on the Gorkanaut where it peered from behind an old silo, and got a hull point off and ‘crew shaken.’ My plasma cannon squad deploy from the razorback into the central ruins. 

 Charlie’s Gorkanut lumbers into cover with the Meganobz and bosses, eager for the termies to appear and start a klaw-fist battle. The Boyz moved up Charlie’s left flank alongside the ruins, looking for ‘umies to smush, and leaving the Kans with the commissar. The Kans fire a rocket and shoota at the squad in the ruins—and kill the dude with the plasma cannon and his buddy. Nooooooooo!!!

 Round 2- The bikers veer from the centre and down onto the right flank and start firing on the Boyz. I nail a few, but I’m on the edge of my charge distance and didn’t fancy charging a wall of overwatching shoota boyz. That proved to be a mistake. The speeders move around to try and get a bead on the Gorkanaut, and the Razor heads around to try and get towards the Meganobz. The Khan is eager for Ork blood, and prepares Moonfang. The terminators… don’t arrive. Balls.

 The Orks declare unleash a rain of dakka, the declare a Waagghhh. The sheer volume of shots rip apart the bikers, followed by the charging mass of Boyz. Two Nobz hurtle into Khan, who manages to survive the onslaught, wounding one of them. The bikers fair less well and are wiped out, with a few Orks going down too. Khan pulls away from the massacre, slamming the bike into reverse in a spray of mud (and bits of White Scar). The Gorkanaut comes out from its hiding hole, and sends a volley of shots at the speeders, exploding one. The Kans shoot at the squad in the ruins, killing another marine. 

 Round 3- Khan screeches to a halt and then revs his bike, before hurtling across the centre of the board towards where he knows the bosses to be skulking. In a crackle of energy the Terminators deep strike behind the Ork lines close to the Meganobs and Bosses. They fire storm bolters and cannon, but some excellent rolling by Charlie means only one Meganob is wounded. As they’ve just arrived, the terminators can’t charge and they can only watch as the two bosses and three meganobz activate their power klaws… The squad by the objective know they are better use across the field, and run to try and help their comrades. The two marines in the ruins break cover and scamper across the open ground towards the Kans, krak grenades at the ready. The Razorback screeches around the ruins towards the Ork boyz and shoots a few down with the heavy bolter. The speeder gallantly attacks the Gorkanaut, but the typhoon and melta only strip a hull point off with a glance. The heroic marines look in awe at the enormous Ork walker… 

 The two Nobz charge the Razorback and open it up with their Power Klaws, and smush the marine drivers. The Razorback is destroyed. The gretchin in the Kans chuckle as they unleash a wall of dakka on the two marines in the middle of the field, leaving only smoking white boots. The Bosses and Meganobz charge into the terminators. The melee is swift and brutal—one Meganob dies, and four terminators, leaving one brother to make his stand. With a clatter of dice, the Gorkanaut annihilates the land speeder, unleashing a ‘wagghh’ of delight at the shower of smoking space marine tech raining around. 

 Round 4- in a last ditch move of heroism, Khan charges across the field towards his terminator brother. His bolter fails to wound, but his mighty sword cuts into the bosses and meganobs. The terminator strikes at the bosses, but fails to kill them. In a hum of Power Klaw his armour is destroyed and he dies in his captain’s arms. The final battle—two warbosses and a meganob against a wounded Khan can only have one conclusion. Despite inflicting wounds on a warboss, Khan falls to the onslaught. The battle is over for the White Scars—and reluctantly I call the game. 

 A resounding victory for the Orks—Charlie gains 7 VPs, and I had 1. Although a fun game, I reflected upon my poor tactics. I’d have been better not hurtling forwards and picking away at the Ork horde, using my speeders against the Kans so as to get his objective, and not worrying about the Gorkanaut so early. Or perhaps the terminators may have been better used against the Kans, and the speeders against the Nobz as they lacked invulns to the meltas. Charlie plays well, especially as he hadn’t used Orks before and the Gorkanaut is awesome (although a 60 quid model—maybe next Xmas….).

Friday, 30 January 2015

Fantasy Rising

I think it's fair to say that in the last decade fantasy as a genre has undergone something of a revival. Now before I get bombarded with a tirade of BloggerDoom+2 spells, or death threats written in Elvish, I do realise that it's always enjoyed a dedicated niche popularity. But what I'm talking about is a revival into popular culture, in the way sci-fi surged forth in the late 70s-early 80s.

Now fantasy takes many forms, and if we regard fantasy literature as encompassing the magical, the make-believe, the imaginary world, then we are including works as diverse as Harry Potter, George RR Martin, Tolkien and perhaps even paranormal/urban fantasy such as (ducks spell aimed at head) Twilight. Personally I'm thinking more traditional fantasy sub-genres, whether high fantasy/epic fantasy, or this darker variant made more popular with Game of Thrones series and books by Martin and Abercrombie.

I think there's a few good reasons that we're seeing this surge in popularity, and some overlap into science fiction as a genre.

First is undoubtedly the high quality series and films we're seeing. HBO Game of Thrones is superbly done, both in terms of adaptation and acting. Jackson's admirable work on the LOTR and the Hobbit have turned a new generation onto the genre.

But it's the books as the backbone of this popularity that have kept pace. As much as I love the stalwarts of Leiber, Vance, Tolkien, Moorcock et al, the writers of the last twenty years have matured the genre. And I don't mean just in terms of adult content. The style and the characterisation plays a huge part. I'm thinking of Robin Hobb, who writes intelligent books with excellent depth of character (such as Fitz in the Farseer trilogy). There's so many to choose from, and so little time to read, but authors such as Martin, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Steven Erikson really stand out for me (and I'm sure readers of the blog can suggest many more).

Quality of product aside, there is something more about fantasy that has boosted it's popularity in the modern era. It's beyond simple escapism- after all, most fiction offers a degree of escapism. Personally I think, similar to sci-fi, it allows us space to consider weighty ontological issues. Fantasy is a classic environment for good vs evil, and indeed the nature of evil and the blurring between light and dark. In my own work the 'baddy' is not utterly vile: as the series progresses you get insights into his persona, his philosophy, his fear of death, his grief, and his sense of being ostracised that have created his darkness. His interaction with Emelia is almost affectionate and flirtatious at times. We know he's evil, yet we still wonder at his possible redemption.

And other brain-bruising topics play out in fantasy: self-determination vs destiny; the nature of faith; the conflicts between nature and science and loads more. Even in classic fantasy, such as LOTR, we see these themes. To me, the key story in LOTR is that of friendship- the Frodo-Sam dynamic drives the story- and of destiny (Aragorn fulfilling his; Gandalf's purpose on Middle Earth). Yet it also touches on mortality, and how war and conflict alters those who fought (three of the Hobbits never settle in the Shire, Frodo is never the same after carrying the One Ring). And the most   Referenced theme in the books is the conflict between nature and industry. It's highlighted well in the films, as well as the books- Sauron and Saruman represent the destruction of nature, with fire and iron and smoke--the Hobbits and Elves especially represent rural life and being in tune with nature and the land. It's shown very well when Sam looks in Galadriel's mirror, and when Treebeard with Merry and Pippin see the destruction of the forest near Isengard.

I drew on a similar theme in my Prism series. Vildor and the knights represent technology, and abhor nature. Vildor being a ghast, a vampyr lord, is cheating death- the key moment of a natural cycle. In book four his knights torch the Druids and their forest. Vildor's lair is The Waste and the Dead City, areas where magic has devastated the natural world . In opposition to him we have companions from lands in touch with nature, including Marthir- a Druid- and Master Ten, an earth elemental.

In book five, some of the companions journey to Nth Artoria, a land where the New Gods- gods who represent traits rather than elements- are revered. Nth Artoria worship gods of pride and courage, Egos and Tindor- and with that comes arrogance and a reliance on conflict that will create major problems for our characters.

There are other themes that my series explores- friendship and loyalty being a key one, and a search for identity and belonging- which is the major focus for Emelia in this book. She journeys through her past, and not everything she finds is welcome.

So despite the obvious audiovisual reasons for the resurgence in fantasy's popularity, I think the themes it allows us to explore, under a veil of imagination, will ensure it's enduring (and hopefully growing) presence on our bookshelves (virtual or not).

Darkness Rising 5 is released on Kindle today.

For UK kindle it's 

And for those across the Atlantic:

Print copy to follow in a couple of months !