Reviews

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale: Book One of The Outlaws of Avalon

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

Cover and Spine, Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale

Okay, full disclosure time: I’m best friends with the author.

Fuller disclosure time: this book is the reason I’m best friends with the author.

I was plugging my own WIP of the time on a National Novel Writing Month forum, and the then-unpublished Danielle E. Shipley messaged me, asking to hear excerpts of my work. Flattered, I sent her my opening scene. Then she sent me her opening scene in return.

Full disclosure again? I winced when I saw the message. Fact is, most people’s first drafts aren’t worth looking at, and I hadn’t actually volunteered myself as a reader for some stranger’s project. But, feeling obligated–after all, she was reading my first draft–I decided to look it over.

I was stunned. It didn’t read like a first draft at all. It read like a–like a novel! Like one I’d keep reading! And so I did, eagerly awaiting every section as she wrote it, as she awaited mine. And over the course of those shared manuscripts and conversations, we became fast friends.

It’s been a few years since then, and the manuscript has been through some revisions. It’s even better now. It’s been through some drafts, and she’s become a better writer. She’s now worked as a player at the Faire that inspired the “What If” behind the story, and she’s gotten to know and understand the hearts of these characters better than ever.

It’s rich and silly and beautiful and hilarious and deep. It’s not one hundred percent to my taste–I tend to like “grittier” and more intrigue-fraught books than this–but it’s an exactly perfect version of what it’s meant to be.

For fans of the Wilderhark Tales, this is the urban fantasy continuation you didn’t know that you needed–but that you desperately needed. For newcomer’s to Miss Shipley’s works, know that The Outlaws of Avalon, while connected to the Wilderhark world, is a series all its own, and a perfectly good place to start. It’s where I started!

 

My Review

For fans of the Merry Men, Ren Faires, or lighthearted, magic-just-around-the-bend urban fantasy, The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale is an automatic win.

As with all of D.E. Shipley’s works, characters are the driving force behind the unique story and beautiful style–and as usual, they are individual, charming, and full of life.

Meet Allyn-a-Dale, a young minstrel whose heart is fresh from a tragedy. He’s just as freshly fallen from the magical secrets of his own world, and into the magical secrets of a modern Renaissance Faire. With his late father’s voice still ringing in his head, (Gant-o-the-Lute is quite the charismatic figure in his own right, even as an imagined echo,) the adaptable bard tentatively finds a new family in the Merry Men.

The Merry Men… you’ll find the upstanding and surprisingly straight-laced Robin Hood, Marion “the fun aunt” Hood, the frighteningly-quiet and hilariously deadpan Little John, and… Will Scarlet. Incorrigible, indomitable, energetic, babbling, brave, manic, shameless, luminous fan-favorite Will Scarlet. Just wait till you meet him. You’ll see. You’ll see.

What might have been a sweet, comedy-filled coming-of-age story takes a sharp and sudden turn into action-adventure, theft, a car chase, magical shenanigans, and battles with fantastic forces. I wish I could show you some of my fan art, but–alas, spoilers! Suffice it to say, Ballad drew me in with its voice, characters, and worlds, but it riveted me with its peril.

In a melodic style that matches the magic and minstrelsy inherent to the story, Danielle E. Shipley spins out a story that is at once fantastic, funny, sweet, melancholy, and dangerous.

Links!

The beautiful paperback is available on Amazon and at Createspace, and the e-book is available via Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Overdrive.

Here’s Danielle’s release post–complete with potential prizes! 😀

 

The Sky-Child and other stories

Sky-Child Cover

The cover reveal was breathtaking, to be sure, but now it’s time to look beneath the beautiful surface, and speak of its soul, its stories, and its songs. First, taken one at a time…

*****

~ Song-o-the-Lute ~
A breathtaking free-form poem in its own right, worthy of esteem. Brief as the brush of fingers on strings, it is a worthy opening to this compilation, and worthy of mention. (Clearly it was so worthy I was overcome with its worthiness.)

~ The Sky-Child ~
The longest tale herein–and the aching, melancholy beginning to the life of one Gant-o-the-Lute. Long before rescuing Villem Deere on The Seventh Spell’s roads, or destroying unnatural rock formations in The Song Caster, the incredible bard’s life brimmed with music and yearning, sweetness and sorrow, and a remarkable fight against the mundane. A spin on Jack and the Beanstalk like no other, the giant is the least of the difficulties the minstrel-in-blue takes on. As a tiny taste of its quality, I give you the excellent reworking of the traditional fee-fie, foe-fum folderol.

“Fie!” said the roar. “Is it a foe who’s come?
Do I smell the blood of a mortal man?
If foe he be, his life’s the fee
For venturing here to challenge me.
If man he be, his life’s blood red
And bones will spice my stew and bread.”

This may be my favorite story in the whole collection, but the last gives it some competition. I suppose that, as cruel as it sounds, the suffering of the incredible simply takes my breath away. But then, ‘The suffering of the incredible’ might be a line to suit most of the tales here seen.

~ Still Broken ~
A hundred-word jaunt back to Sula and Villem.

~ Day Broken ~
A vignette set just before The Swan Prince‘s opening chapters.

~ Skie Welduwark ~
A vibrant myth of the kings of the sky and the world’s waking. I find that I always love following the (often harrowing) antics of the Welkens. Perhaps it’s one of those just-human-things.

~ Starheart ~
The two intertwined hearts of The Stone Kingdom exchange enchanting tales under a starlit sky. A myth of how the stone kingdom came to be, and a myth of the forging of Wilderhark’s nations are tailored around a gentle conversation, humming with love.

~ The Shining Son ~
A story with the regular beat of a fairy tale, of pride and jealousy in the heavens. I also get to see my favorite sneaky wind working terrible deeds, so this is a win for me.

~ Affected ~
Set first behind the stone eyes of Denebdeor’s children, we watch the chaotic beginning of The Seventh Spell unfold–then on to the woman behind the curtain, as it were, the witch behind most of the magic in The Wilderhark Tales. Then to Gant-o-the-Lute, and a quiet conversation with Edgwyn, of love and hope in the dark of night. And back at last to the thoughts of the children, awaiting the breaking of the seventh spell’s tangle.

A mini-anthology in itself, this short story following the seventh spell’s affected suits the melody of this collection perfectly; passionate, funny, sweet, melancholy, and hopeful.

~ A Gallivanting Soul ~
A lute’s music tells its owner a tale known to it alone, bringing the string of stories full circle and tears to my eyes–tears for love forever lost, and tears for treasure found.

*****

Seamlessly woven together in perfect order, this Wilderhark Tales collection can stand proudly next to any of the novellas. (A good thing, too; as book six-and-a-half, it will likely stand between The Surrogate Sea and the series’ final volume.) D. E. Shipley’s prose is beautiful and melodic, almost lyrical, her characters as lovable and exasperating as ever, (you know I’m looking at you, Lute–and a fine view it is, too,) and her wit as charming as ever.

A fantastic anthology for any readers, workable as a standalone, the abundant easter eggs would nonetheless be most appreciated by readers of the previous six Wilderhark novellas.

This lovely creation is available in Kindle and paperback forms on Amazon and on Nook with Barnes and Noble.

 

Steel and Bone Anthology Review

I was given an advance reader copy of Steel and Bone in exchange for an honest review.

Generally I would give an overall review, but I had vastly different opinions from one story to the next, so you’ll get the rundown on each of them.

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The Clockwork Seer
by Katherine Cowley: On an island of oddities, a young clairvoyant struggles for normalcy, but deadly automatons have other plans.

This story wound up with a jerky start, with rather abrupt transitions left and right, but then the story started running smoothly. I enjoyed following the mechanical prophetess, as she strove to follow her own visions through a suspenseful plot. The ending, however, seemed a little pat, even flat.

Sindisiwe
by Scott E. Tarbet: A slave girl in Zanzibar escapes a beating when a stranger in the marketplace proves her past is more than just a fairy tale.

It is with regret that I say I came away from this story with an impression of hollow trope and nothing else. It tried to be cosmopolitan, featuring many different races and cultures, but didn’t give you a true sense of any race or culture at all–except where they were such caricatures as to make me cringe. The main character seemed motivated only by the author’s poking pen, and no amount of mechanical marvels could save plot, character, or voice from being painfully 2-dimensional.

Stand and Deliver
by TC Phillips: Neither shackles, slave labor, nor the island’s deadliest inhabitants will prevent these brothers from meting out justice to their father’s murderers.

The main characters felt fully formed, lifelike and likeable, and the voice was engaging. It stretched my suspension of disbelief a bit towards the end, which was also a bit pat, but I was thoroughly enough on the characters’ team by then that I gladly forgave them that. Entertaining, with just-so touches of rage and sorrow.

Island Walker
by C. R. Simper: Kit digs her treasures out of trash heaps, but the theft of her invention leads to discoveries money can’t buy.

In Island Walker, I found my favorite main character in the anthology. She was brilliant and captivating, self-possessed, amusing; a determined underdog, to be sure, but without any real chip on her shoulder. Beyond that, there were quirks of character around the corners that marked her out as different from your name-brand heroine. The other characters were also unique and breathing, and the relationship dynamics lived and changed. The plot arc drew me on and sated me at the end, and the unobtrusive writing style showcased well the hallmarks of steampunk–not just zeppelins and steam bots, but the creative and adventurous minds behind them.

A Mind Prone to Wander
by Danielle E. Shipley: Beyond a locked door lies Rowan Charles’ death or his sanity, and the survival or extinction of his people.

Richly visual, beautifully told through the eyes of a tragic main character, this story was… hard to follow. Perhaps that’s because it centers around madness, but as lovely as the writing was, as enthralling as I found the characters, I spent way too much time saying, “Wait… huh? What?” It’s hard to get caught up in the plot when you’re not sure what’s actually happening–or why–from the halfway point and on.

Curio Cay
by Sarah E. Seeley: The future of humanity rests in the hands of three time-traveling scientists battling biomechanical creatures in the Jurassic past.

I’d call this a well-written, well-characterized long vignette. It’s conflicts were interesting, the suspense sometimes had me wide- eyed, but its main plot arc, if existent, was extremely weak. It seemed to center around a son’s attitude towards his father, which shifted… all of a millimeter? All the way from You shouldn’t be doing this, I intend to make you stop, to You shouldn’t be doing this, I intend to make you stop. Yeah, more of a big slice-in-the-time-traveling-steampunk-life than anything.

The Mysterious Island of Chester Morrison
by Kin Law: Dodging her chaperone, a debutante stumbles into adventure and romance at the World’s Fair.

Elegant, and slightly stuffy, but deliberately so, with hilarious flights of fancy and ridiculous overdramatic spinnings of the mind. I considered it the most ostentatiously steampunk story in this steampunk antho. I’m not sure whether I much like our well-bred protagonist, but I certainly do love her. It also held this little gem: “Those well-adjusted to a sick world cannot be called healthy.” Now, the plot was much too straightforward for my taste, and the ending something of a yawn, but the voice carried it well.

Revolutionary
by John M. Olsen: A dirigible captain goes down with his ship, and wakes to find himself a captive of a sky-dwelling civilization.

There was no connection with the antagonist–I never understood what made him so adamant that their information shouldn’t be shared. He didn’t seem to have any life to him, and honestly, the female main character seemed hardly better. The conflict seemed a bit dull, as did the conclusion. The first scene was well-written and engaging, though, and I cared about the captain’s fate for the first half of the story before the interest gained by the first scene just petered out.

The Steel Inside
by Gail B. Williams: Darkness lurks in Sarah’s forgotten past, kept hidden by those who claim to be her devoted husband and loyal servants.

My first thought was that the first scene really dragged out the main character’s seemingly useless observations and sensations. Fortunately, that was the last negative thought I had about this story. I was swiftly drawn into and on through the story by its sense of mystery. Like the main character, I felt that a lot of details of the tale seemed off. I shared her underlying discomfort as she searched–sometimes fervently, sometimes reluctantly–for answers. And the ending… well, she wasn’t the only one stunned by the revelation. Well-played all around. This ties with Island Walker for my favorite tale in Steel and Bone.

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

Last week, I gave my thoughts on Vicious, by V.E. Schwab. This week, I delve into A Darker Shade of Magic, as promised.

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Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

*****

My feelings about this book? Fear.

Not right off, mind. I started with curiosity, as the pages gradually unfolded the workings of these four parallel Londons stacked neatly atop one another, the workings of magic, the workings of the minds and hearts of Kell and Delilah. The worldbuilding satisfied me; never a dam bursting with information to overwhelm the reader and clog the story, but plenty of rich detail tucked between one plot point and another.

But from the outset, I was faintly ill-at-ease. In a good way.

Perhaps it was the tone, almost pleasant, but stained at the edges with a discontent and darkness. Perhaps it was Kell’s mismatched eyes, one pale, one the edge-to-edge black of an Anatari–a blood magician. Perhaps it was an early and unexplained visit by White London’s ambassador, the one other known Antari in any of the realms. Is he the villain? I wondered, or is the situation far more complicated than that? Time (and Schwab’s straightforward and largely seamless writing) would tell.

Whatever the cause, I had the definite sense that the balance between these worlds might be threatened far too easily. And of course, it was. The fear began, then, at first trickling in, then thickening in a steady incline throughout the whole of the book. V.E. Schwab knows how to set the flame under a plot and turn it hotter, ever hotter, until everything is engulfed in an explosion of tensions at the climax.

But while interesting and fully-fleshed worlds, finger-tingling new magic systems, well-woven plot arcs, and marvelous infinity-coats (Did I not mention Kell’s enviable coat of many dimensions?) are wonderful and even necessary, in my eyes, books live and die by their characters. The world(s) get five stars from me. The magic system? Five stars. The plot? Five stars. The dialogue and one-liners? Five stars. The coat? Six stars. The characters?

*Sigh* Four stars. Now, that’s not too bad a rating, but it’s just a little sad for me when compared to the excellence of the rest–and to the absolutely magnificent cast of persons Schwab created in Vicious.

I liked them. Kell, young and immensely powerful, was a good blend of sweet and cocksure, happy, but touched with bitter melancholy. Lila, I first feared would be a typical brash tomboy character, but while brash and tomboyish, she’s also a blase adrenaline junky who takes a fierce delight in life, and has a refreshing lack of angst for a teenaged girl. Even when she’s cutting throats.

They were good. Just not great. They were… almost complex. Almost vivid. Almost breathing. Almost superb. Almost captivating. Perhaps part of the fault lies in the fact that the entire novel covers a relatively short amount of time–less than a week, I think—and they were in the thick of a flurrious plot for most of it. But they simply fell short of popping off of the page.

Here’s the oddity. Most of the secondary characters, I’d give five stars. Holland, the hard and humorless White London Antari. His pale, super-creepy twin rulers. Rhy, Red London’s crown prince, and Kell’s adoptive brother, the embodiment of “charming rouge,” but more than that as well. Even the Grey London tavern keeper, and the Red London fencer.

Even with the two main characters at four stars, the book averages out to five stars for me, though, and I eagerly await the release of A Gathering of Shadows, second in the to-be trilogy. Perhaps I’ll find what I was looking for in Kell and Lila there. And if not–there’s sure to be another crop of lines to make me grin. I’ll leave you with these.

***

Bad magic, Kell had called it.

No, thought Lila now. Clever magic.
And clever was more dangerous than bad any day of the week.

***

He would see her again. He knew he would. Magic bent the world. Pulled it into shape. There were fixed points. Most of the time they were places. But sometimes, rarely, they were people. For someone who never stood still, Lila felt like a pin in Kell’s world. One he was sure to snag on.

***

“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”

***

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”

***

A Vicious Review

I bought a pair of books by V.E. Schwab, based largely on hype (beginning with that found poem contest a while back). You never know what you’re going to get with hyped books, but judging them by their covers, I knew they would provide a photo op, at the least.

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I shall review A Darker Shade of Magic sometime soon. Today’s review focuses on Vicious, a (currently) standalone paranormal novel and, as the tagline states, “A twisted tale of ambition, desire and superpowers.”

The book focuses on three timelines, opening with “Last Night” and proceeding from there.

Truth be told, Victor didn’t care for graveyards, either. He didn’t like dead people, mostly because he had no effect on them. Sydney, conversely, didn’t like dead people because she had such a marked effect on them.

Jumping to “Ten Years Ago,” when the protagonists first began to play with the extraordinary.

“Victor wondered about lots of things. He wondered about himself (whether he was broken, or special, or better, or worse) and about other people (whether they were all really as stupid as they seemed). He wondered about Angie – what would happen if he told her how he felt, what it would be like if she chose him. He wondered about life, and people, and science, and magic, and God, and whether he believed in any of them.”

Skipping back regularly to “Two Days Ago,” and the forming of the plans that lead to “Last Night.”

The paper called Eli a hero. The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain? He took a long sip of his drink, tipped his head back against the couch, and decided he could live with that.

If this sounds like it might be confusing, don’t worry. The sections are very clearly labeled, and expertly braided together. Each timeline holds its own questions and tensions, beyond the question of how the three (and eventually more) weave together. An interesting device, but more importantly, to me, Schwab is just as expert at braiding together a diverse cast of characters and their smorgasbord of questionable intentions.

Some characters only want to survive. Others live for revenge, or duty. Some don’t seem especially interested in living at all. Some people die and some people care and some people don’t. Almost all of them have supernatural powers. An extraordinary number are sociopaths. In the words of a hacker and escaped convict and, in my opinion, just about the best person in the story, “There are no good men in this game.”

Oh, am I dancing about a bit? Here’s a blurb for you, then:

A pair of troubled college kids kill themselves for power. It was a bad idea. You can’t put life back just the way you found it.

That’s all I’ll give you in the way of synopsis. I like the plot, and I like the world mechanics, but I don’t want to give away too much of either. But mostly, I don’t think I need to tell much in the way of plot and mechanics. This was a book that hooked me more with its characters, its vibe, its sharply grim pall, than anything.

I’m not usually one for general, single-word titles, but the title truly captures the book’s heart. The words have sharp edges to catch in your throat. The chapters are bloodstained and crackling with dark energy. The people are broken. There are superpowers, but no superheroes. It’s not a warm read. It’s not nice. It’s not uplifting.

But it’s deeply, viciously satisfying.

Word on the Wind: Surrogate Sea review and character interview

It’s here, the book we’ve all been waiting for ever since its magnificent cover reveal: Wilderhark Tales book six, The Surrogate Sea! (If you weren’t waiting for it, why on earth not? Have you not read the other Wilderhark Tales? Ah, well, we won’t hold it against you, so long as you repent and change your ways.)

One thing I’ve always appreciated about the covers of the Wilderhark Tales novellas is that you can actually judge the books by them: they’re beautiful, they’re stylistically different from most of what one sees on the market, and each one seems better than the last.

Opening with tears and danger, and ending with tears and love, this may well be my favorite of the tales to date–but then, I’ve always favored twisty plots, broken hearts, and the machinations of trickster gods.

Oh, maybe Austeryn isn’t a proper deity, but the manipulative master of rain and fog is certainly a capital-T Trickster. The elemental shrouds everyone’s plotlines in such thick deception, there’s little guessing where the tale will end up. Personally, I like to be kept guessing, I like to be surprised, and I love to root for a sneaky antihero.

(I also love rainstorms, but that’s nearly tangential.)

To date, Miss Shipley has written mildly rocky tales, fraught with as much amusement as angst, and tidily tied up with a happily-ever-after-until-next-time. In The Surrogate Sea, she maintains her wry-and-dry humor, but weaves a terrible tangle that can only end in tears. Whose? There’s no telling.

This book hurts. It hurt the characters, it hurt me, and it’ll probably hurt you.

Maybe I’m an awful person, but I love it for that.

Amazon ~ CreateSpace ~ Kindle ~ Nook
If you pick it up quick, you could be eligible to
win cool prizes as outlined over at D.E. Shipley’s Ever On Word blog.
^_^

But before anyone goes anywhere (oh, fine, pop off to pick up the book first if you’d like, but do come back,) Sy and I have a few questions for the sly South Wind mentioned–and beautifully pictured–above.

Welcome to our blog, Austeryn. Would you explain to our readers what your specialty is?

“It’s all in the name, really,” says the wind, smiling. “The meaning of ‘Austeryn’ is what I am: Slaker of the earth’s thirst. My jurisdiction is warm, water-laden air. I bring the rain and mists, general humidity and dew. Essentially, if it’s damp out, it’s my doing.”

Being air and water, you could assume any form you choose. Why that of a man, and why this one in particular?

“Oh, I don’t always choose to look like this. I’ve adopted any number of appearances, over the ages – winged creatures, water creatures… the Sea has been known to enjoy when I take the seeming of a leviathan. But the human shape is my second favored default, after formless invisibility, because the Sky’s kings are human-shaped. You know how it goes,” he drawls. “The powerful and well-to-do set the fashion.

“As for why I chose these specific features, that was a matter of personal taste. Hair black like a storm, long that it might fly wild and free as the rest of me. Musculature that, were I merely a man, would suggest I am one of the stronger of my kind, for I am indeed among the strongest of the winds. And eyes fogged over that they might not be too easily read. Too many people give up their secrets through their gaze,” he tsks. “I am not so careless.”

 You denizens of the sky have something of a rocky family relationship, from what I’ve seen. Who are your favorite Welken elementals, and who are your least favorites?

“I make it a point to get along with everyone, as much as may be. The more people who feel you’re on their side, the friendlier they’ll be toward you, and that just makes life easier. Of course, my heart will always belong to the Great Sea, but as she is not strictly of the world above, I will limit my answers to Sky residents only.

“Of those,” he says, musing, “I would say I am closest with my elder brother, Aquinore. The arctic wind is something of a brute, but I rather like that about him. I can rely on him to be simple and sadistic; little to no unpredictabiltiy. Our younger brother, Euroval, is just as endearingly cruel, but more erratic. Peskier, too, though his thunder and lightning do add undeniable panache to my rainstorms. I have the least use of all for our little sister.” His lip pulls into a subtle sneer. “So small. So sweet. So… Sun-favored.”

“You have a certain reputation for clever manipulation,” Sy notes. “One sly bastard to another, could you relate the most satisfying victory you ever won with cunning? Spoilers excepted, naturally.”

“Well…” Austeryn’s humble tone is belied by the set of his smile. “I suppose there was that one small instance in which my silver tongue saved the world. Perhaps you’ve read an account of it – or your author may have, as it was published some time ago in a literary journal in her world. I’ve heard it rumored that my own scribe means to re-release it in her next Wilderhark Tale book – a collection of short stories to precede the final volume in the series. I’ll admit I’m pleased,” he says, mists swirling in his gust of anticipation. “I may not be the hero my world deserves, but I was certainly the one it needed right then.”

“You watched from the wings as your two kings vied for the hand of a human princess. Did you think it foolish? What was your personal view of humankind—and has it changed?”

“I thought it… peculiar,” Austeryn says cautiously. “All the millions of human girls that have ever lived, and both Sun and Moon get their hearts set on one? I’ve personally never seen what all the fuss is about. And though the fact that the kings’ appearance is so human-like may be indicative of some correlation or another between them, humans have more in common with insects than with a wind, scurrying little ground creatures that they are. Such do I know of humanity as a whole. But individually…” He pauses. “Perhaps a human may prove in some way worthwhile, in one takes the time and bother to figure out how.”

“One last question,” Sy says quietly, “Concerning Surrogate Sea. Your plots spun this tale in a circle and turned it on its head. Without giving anything away, can you tell me… Was it worth it?

“Worth it?” The wind’s movement lessens, his fog settling low. “Is a hurricane worth it? Does the beautiful, breathtaking ferocity make up for the ruin of property and loss of life? Not many would say so. But worries of ‘worth it’ will not stop a gale. I blow as I must. And the earth is resilient.” He rises to go, hooded eyes turned away. “Time will tell whether the same may be said of the Sky.”

The Sun’s Rival Release

Sun's Rival Novella

 

Sun's Rival Excerpt

 

Sun's Rival Available

Amazon and CreateSpace for paperback, Kindle and Nook for e-book.

 

Sun's Rival Review

 

The ever-prolific Miss D.E. Shipley has recently released the fifth novella in her Wilderhark Tales, a charming series of fairy-tale retellings and mash-ups.

The Sun’s Rival takes the Wilderhark world to a whole new level–and in a slightly different direction, being her magical realm’s take not on a fairy tale, but on the ancient story of Psyche and Cupid. As golden as anything Miss Shipley’s words have wrought before, as fraught with peril, as full of love and love’s hard choices, this story focuses on the truth of beauty, and the eyes that behold it.

As a reader, I most loved the way the Wilderhark world expanded, the new elements this book brought into play. Of course I also loved the chance to see my old favorites again, Edg and Rose, and like most fans, I delighted in see the children of beloved characters, and amused myself spotting elements of their parents within them.

Vivid individuals once again characterize Shipley’s story–characters loveable, hateable, obnoxious, confusing, admirable, frightening, and everything else that people can be.

As a writer, I wished there was a way for the mid-book reveal to pack a little punch–I was unfortunately unsurprised, but since some readers might be, I will refrain from spoiling it. While it didn’t surprise me, however, it did make me happy, and as there were some other, more emotional shocks to the system at the time, I’ll let it slide.

On the whole, the book was a beauty to match the heart of the princess inside.

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