Cover Reveal: The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale


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


Allyn would have known Will Scarlet for a relation of Robin Hood’s even had he not been introduced as his cousin. Though clean-shaven, younger, and framed by thick locks of gold tinged with the color of his name, Will’s face was patently similar to Robin’s, with the same blue eyes that sparkled cheerily at Allyn when the two were presented to each other.

“And where’d you pick this fellow up, then, Robin?” he asked blithely.

“In my tent,” replied Robin, “with Marion.”

Will’s brows leapt toward his crimson cap’s pointed brim. “Wish I were Allyn!”


“Joking, joking,” Will waved aside Marion’s halfhearted rebuke. He coughed. “…Mostly. So, Allyn-a-Dale — looking to join the Merry Men, are you?”

“I don’t really know,” Allyn said doubtfully. “What are the Merry Men?”

To Allyn’s heart-thudding dismay, Will answered, “We’re an infamous band of outlaws.”

“Not really,” Marion hastened to jump in.

“Not anymore,” Little John amended.

“It’s complicated,” said Robin. “But we’re really not at liberty to tell you much more about it until we’ve spoken to Merlin.”

“That would be King Arthur’s chief counselor and illustrious wizard,” Will said in answer to Allyn’s questioning expression. “He literally runs the show around here, so—”

“No,” said Little John, his gaze a grim weight on Will Scarlet.

“Oh, would you chillax, you pedant?” Will huffed, facial muscles ticking with minor irritation. “I know you think the Outsiders have been using the word with nary a care to its meaning, of late, but I know what ‘literally’ means, and in this case, I literally meant ‘literally’!”

The marginal lowering of Little John’s brow silently warned what he would literally do to Will if he said that word but once more.

“And they’re off,” said Robin, shaking his head. “Don’t worry, Allyn, they only bicker like this when they’re both breathing.”

Allyn’s lips twitched toward the beginnings of a smile, but froze halfway, his mind only just now becoming fully conscious of what he’d heard. “Robin,” he said, fighting a sudden swell of anxiety. “Did Will just say we’re off to see a wizard?”

The Author’s Thoughts on the Cover

 The Outlaws of Avalon trilogy is my baby, so I knew its faces had to blow me away. For Book One’s cover, there were a couple elements I for sure wanted to highlight: 1, the forest (because SHERWOOD), and 2, the lute (because Allyn-a-Dale). The rest, I mostly left up to my designers – photographer Lars van de Goor, and his son Milan.

A couple drafts later, this was the gorgeous result. The elegant swirls! The delightful rosette on the spine! Of all the darling touches – a ROBIN perched over “Ballad”s second A! And, of course, the must-have lute sitting sedately amongst the trees.

The minstrel blue, the greenwood green, the magical splash of sunlight… This cover doesn’t just say “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”: It sings it.

About the Author

Danielle E. Shipley is the author of the Wilderhark Tales novellas, the novel Inspired, and several other expressions of wishful thinking.

She has spent most of her life in the Chicago area and increasing amounts of time in Germany.

She hopes to ultimately retire to a private immortal forest. But first, there are stories to make.

Author Photo, Danielle E. Shipley, jpeg


More than Magic

Quara sighed, dabbed her eyes, and said that emotions, once used up, must break up into tiny pieces and drift in the air like dust motes. “And that’s why it’s sometimes full of feelings not your own. Sometimes I want to cry or laugh, just breathing. Do you think that’s possible?”

Her father looked up from a small sterile containment field and its gaseous contents, grey eyes tracking the air as if for evidence. “Not scientifically.”

“But maybe magically?” she asked hopefully.

He tutted. “Think like that, and you’ll never learn a thing. They’re not separate fields. Magic is the highest science known to man, and our greatest instrument of progress. No; intents may be laid into an object so that it carries the quantum imprint of a conscious being’s will, but neither magic nor mathematics nor any other branch of learning would suggest that emotions break up into an—an ethereal dust.” He swished his hand through the air.

“So it’s not possible?”

He threw her a sideways glance, even as he scribbled down a noted change in the containment field’s monitor. “Think like that, and you’ll never discover a thing. I said magic is the highest science known to man. I did not say that man knows all. There are mysteries still in the world. There are things even magic can’t explain.”

“So you think there might be something—something real that’s greater than any of the sciences?”

“As a Lord Magi and a professor of alchemistry, I must say that it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever find any phenomenon that cannot be eventually comprehended. Continued progress permitting, I expect that everything will eventually be resolved into a science. Though,” he murmured, in near-inaudible afterthought, “I dearly hope otherwise.”

His eyes winced shut, and Quara saw his face turn sweet with melancholy.

“There’s an ache in the air, isn’t there?” She could taste it like a tang, the tight sadness in her lungs.

He blinked the moment away, stepping to the next containment field. “Highly unlikely. But you can research airborne emotional fragments on your own time. Meanwhile, be a dear and check the group two’s dissolution rates, there’s a girl.”

Act One: Magic in the Air


Syawn here. Taking a break from our regularly scheduled 100-word wonders to showcase a piece of my author’s latest work—and mine. She’s revamped the opening of my novel, Ever the Actor, and we want to know what you think of it. All adulation and/or brutal commentary is welcome below. Without further ado, the unveiling.Danielle Shipley's beloved handiwork--an impression of the predatory fox.


I suppose you’re wondering what this is about.” The von guard’s district commander sat with the practiced tension of a man who finds danger in every living minute. His tone was nonchalant but low, though theirs was the only occupied table in the small patio gardenboth parties had backup lurking just out of sight, and such were known to grow too curious for their station.

Not acutely,” Syawn answered with a smile, the redhead’s facade of ease far more complete than the commander’s. “Old friends may call on one another for a pleasant round of drinks without any underlying purpose, may they not?”

Javvin gave him a look that struggled to be wry, but ended up looking simply amused. Javvin had requested his presence in his office at the guardhouse, not at this Kapatak grindery. Sy had returned a suggestion that their meeting take place on neutral ground, and suggested this place according to the man’s preferences. This meeting was not likely called for pleasant conversation, any more than it was likely that a von guard commander would consider the city’s thief lord to be an old friend.

The von commander declined to defend the obvious. “Nevertheless,” he said, “I have called you here on an account of a multiple homicide that occurred this morning, some ways outside of,” the man hesitated, “my district.”

He’d very nearly called it Sy’s district, hadn’t he? Sy concealed a rising grin. “Then is that not outside of your jurisdiction?”

Not entirely. They were all men of your court, which is under my jurisdiction.”

Yes.” Sy frowned. “Talk’s come running, of course, but the rumors are fresh as the best. Seven dead in one instant, broad daylight, hmmn?”

Javvin’s already thin lips went thinner. “Four. Rumor, as is its wont, has lied. The tale of it is truly remarkable.”

Sy raised ginger brows, bright green eyes shining with interest. “Please, tell away.”

The commander gave him a rightly suspicious look. “We’ve reconstructed the circumstance as well as we can from all accounts.” He leaned forward, his grey eyes intense as he settled into some place between reporting and storytelling. “Four fellows, all lower district men, are walking west along Axen Street.”

Sy had known the false-front tailor’s shop they would be making for, and the time they would rendezvous there, even before his lookout and backup had sounded the signal.

They’re stepping into the intersection—right where Vilee’s hotcakes shop is.”

Seeing them, Sy had risen from his crouch on the roof, stepped onto the horizontal awning of the hotcake shop beneath them, raised his bow, and drawn to his cheek. His palms had itched with the prick of quick-racing blood, but his fingers were steady. His quiver hung at his side with more arrows waiting. Absolute speed hadn’t been vital, precisely, but Chance take all, he’d wanted it.

Suddenly, arrows come whizzing ‘out of nowhere.’ The first two men are shot before people can even properly see what’s happening.”

Sy hadn’t needed to use a bow in ages. In truth, he hadn’t needed one then; he could have used knives, gone closer range, and had other fighters with him. But he’d wanted to claim every kill personally, if he could manage it, and with a cluster of targets together in the morning light, bow and arrows from a discreet distance was his best bet.

The last two draw their knives. The first of them is hit before he can throw. The last one manages to orient, spot the assailant, and throw the knife before he’s struck, but his throw misses the attacker. And seconds after it’s begun, it’s ended.

Eyes on the approaching blade’s trajectory—it had been a fine, strong throw—Sy had snapped his torso backwards and out of its path, his feet never leaving the beam beneath him. The blade had clattered against the clay roof tiles behind him and fallen to the cobbles below as he’d righted himself.

Witnesses did get a good look at the bowman, though,” Javvin continued, a new tone to his voice as he leaned back. “He stood still for a moment afterwards, as if he wanted folk to see, then went darting away over the rooftops, moving very swiftly for a man his size. A black cloth masked his whole head, so all we can say is that he’s very large, muscular, and fair-skinned.” His eyelids half-lowered. “Can you give me any leads from that, old friend?” 

Sy shook his head, eyes widening with a slight hyperbole of disbelief. “Outlandish. I can’t think of anyone with such incredible skill and generally attractive body type.”

Javvin merely scowled. “It sounds rather familiar to me. Seems to crop up in a number of reports of late.”

I’m glad your officers know true talent and beauty when they see it, Sy was tempted to say, but deemed it unwise in the current conversational climate.

Their drinks arrived, and both men went quiet. The commander took his coffee, breathing in the exotic scent with reverence. Sy sniffed then sipped at his chocolate, a drink just as foreign, but safer. He’d found the other to make his fingers jitter; not the best effect for a thief lord whose survival might depend on steady hands.

This quadruple homicide fits into a larger theme of killings in the area,” Javvin continued as though they had never paused. “Knives have been the predominant weapon, but they have all been, to my knowledge, members of your court, and all have been killed in (or their bodies removed to) publicly visible spaces.”

They sipped silently for a moment, watching one another through the steam. “Surely,” Sy said quietly, “you don’t need me to draw the lines for you.”

Javvin’s gaze broke as he took another swallow. “No. No you don’t. And your spring cleaning is your affair. But not when it starts touching the public.”

Sy’s full lips pursed slightly. “Touch the public? Sir, I’m ever careful not to. You know I am an expert at avoiding collateral damage.”

The commander rubbed his chin. “To the public psyche, Syawn. I can’t have corpses lying about it the streets, no matter how justly.”

He meant, of course, that he couldn’t have the thief lord displaying his victims like the law was permitted to, or people would begin to question who the ultimate authority was, anyway. It would be best for him if he permitted the von commanders and their chief to assume that it belonged to themselves and the nobility. He looked down into his chocolate for a moment, pondering.

My spring cleaning (or autumnal cleaning, more accurately,) is nearly complete. There is one more display to be made, and it is the most important one. It would not be wise for me to permit the illusion that these dust bunnies had escaped the broom.”

Javvin’s lips wrinkled back from his teeth. “Dust bu—please don’t take my metaphor any further, I might gag on it. You’ve one more kill to make and body to toss about, please don’t mince.”

Sy smirked. “As you like it. I have the usurping upstart himself remaining, and I can’t let people think he escaped me. I’m sure you understand.”

I understand that I’ll not have any more of these publicly displayed bodies.” The commander’s grey gaze was steady and stern. “I’m sure you understand that equally well. Display it within your court proper, if you must.”

Sy frowned. The court was no place for bodies to be flung about. It was to be a place of revelry and sanctuary, not fear-mongering. It would not do. “I don’t like to leave the epicenter dirty,” he said, his voice lighter than the matter at hand. “A compromise?”

What do you have in mind?” Javvin sighed, used to Sy’s wheedling.

The man is a thief, as it would happen. Caught, convicted, sentenced, and escaped.”

Would it just so happen.”

If the von were to find his body in a discreet alleyway, could they not find a way to… put that body with the other executed?”

The man frowned. “You want us to display your example among our examples?”

Sy shrugged one large, rounded shoulder. “He’s an escaped convict. Your people laid hands on him. What difference is it if he’s cold before you do? Most wouldn’t know the difference.”

Your court would know.”

My objective exactly.” Sy swallowed the rest of his chocolate before it could grow lukewarm.

Hmmn.” Javvin rubbed his chin, the afternoon stubble showing grey. “I suppose it’s suitable. If my people find a corpse with convict marks, we’ll place it up with his record.”

Sy smiled. “That’s all I ask. Thank you, Javvin.”

He could see the man struggling against the instinctual“Your’re welcome,” instead grunting and taking another swallow of coffee. “What keeps the peace.”

And that was why the von tolerated thief courts in the first place, when some might suppose they should be against such organized illegality. As any experienced guards of the law knew well, the underworld was going to exist, and it was better to have a finger on its pulse and a hand on its neck, to try to control it and keep things orderly, than it was to try to quash it altogether and make a many-headed monster of the thing. That was where thief lords came in handy. The von always knew who was at the top of the heap, could develop an uneasy relationship with him, could control them to some degree—the danger being, if the thief lord was very good, they would only think they were controlling him.

Sy would negotiate, Sy would compromise, Sy would let them think they had the upper hand. And Sy would get what he wanted. There was a time to seem hard—a time to slaughter four upstarts in the middle of the street, for instance—and a time to seem soft. With the von, he wanted to cultivate respect, appreciation, and a confidence in him with an underlying unease. Simple enough, for an actor who knew what they were about. In fact in a way, it was easier to tether the law than it was to manage his own court.

Sy caught a slight frown at the edge of Javvin’s mouth, a tightening around the eyes, which themselves flicked downward and away. The commander was contemplating something, something Sy guessed was not altogether pleasant, and by the slight shifting in his seat, he was deciding whether to speak his thoughts aloud.

The theif lord reached up to tug one of his own carrot-colored curls, wondering whether there was any good way to draw the man out, then figured that his best bet was to say nothing. A silence between two conversants was a thing begging to be filled.

I’ve heard some interesting news from the chief,” Javvin said, his voice pitched lower than when he’d spoken of quadruple homicide.

Aye? What’d she have to say?”

She was just passing along information from above. I don’t rightly know what she thinks of it… nor what I think.”

Sy only raised his eyebrows again, impressed. News from above the chief? The von, while they served the local nobility, didn’t consider the nobles to be their superiors in a hierarchical sense; a higher caste, but not their officers, as it were. If Javvin’s chief had gotten her information from above, she’d have been referring to the captain of the von of the entire realm of Yaa. This was word from the Crown City.

The new king has decided that he’s going to be taxing you.”

Doesn’t he do that already? And didn’t the old one? It’s a kingly habit.” Sy smirked.

Javvin gave him a sharp look. “What I tell you now, I tell you not as a commander, but as a friend. It is a serious warning, and I would not have you make a jest of it.”

Sy immediately schooled his face in sobriety, inwardly cheering that the man had admitted to a friendship. “I’m sorry, Javvin. Go on.”

Your fronts are taxed, certainly,” the commander went on. “Your money-lending business. Your legal stores and trades. Your brothels. But the court is not taxed.”

Sy straightened his shoulders at this, and the move succeeded in making him look as significantly larger as he truly was. “And who would dare to tax the court?” he asked, warning and steel in his tone.

Javvin frowned. “King Vingorn, it seems.”

And how?” Sy spread his hands on the table. “Who walks into my house and audits my treasuries?” That, Javvin surely knew, would mean war. And just as surely, he would not want an all-out war with the denizens of alley shadow and windowsill crawlers. This would mean the making of the many-headed monster the von sought to avoid, and no agent of the law would be safe, dawn or dusk, street or bed. “How would he dare?”


Sy’s spread fingers twitched. “M—” the word caught in his throat.

Javvin softly snapped his fingers thrice. “Chance knows I think it’s a bad idea. You can’t riddle the government with magic. But there’s no telling his Majesty that; his lover is the head of the Yaa Mage’s Guild—his late Majesty never should have allowed them to band together under the law’s protection, but there you have it. I reckon Vingorn is in her thrall. But he’s sending those unnatural creatures out into the middle of my city, my district, and it’s going to walk into your house and audit your treasuries. And Hag only knows what else.”

Chances Daughters,” Sy whispered, his normally ruddy face gone pale. “I…” he let his words trail out, surrendering the fight to find something to say, and the two men simply stared at one another grimly across the table.

Tell—” Sy cleared his throat. “Tell me, please. What more do you know of this?”

Javvin snapped his fingers once more, then folded his hands deliberately, clearly restraining himself for fear of trying Old Man Chance’s patience. “I know little, but I’ll tell you what I know. Luck save us all.”

Sy leaned forward with fearful fixation that was not feigned, his green eyes growing more desperate with the commander’s every piece of news. The thief lord didn’t believe good fortune could be called by a finger click and wooed by small offerings, but he found himself suddenly wishing it were so.

If he was going to face down what he’d run from at every opportunity, he’d need all the luck on his side he could get.


100 Word Wonder: Failure

Hey. Syawn here.

I’ve started a weekly challenge for my author. It’s a good way to keep her on track. This challenge will be to write exactly 100 words on whatever subject I’m wondering about at the time, every Tuesday.

Why Tuesday? she asks. Because today is Tuesday, and I’ll not let her put it off for one more day.

Why whatever subject you’re wondering about? What about subjects I’m wondering about? the author asks, affronted. Because if I let her pick, she would be all day dithering between one musing and another.

Why 100 words precisely? she asks. Because I said so.

Why “failure”? I don’t know, author, why did you wait until 11 pm to begin our agreed-upon weekly assignment?

Without further ado, the 100-word wonders of myself, her, and us together.


So do you see what I have to put up with? An author who agrees to be coerced into writing 300 measly words every Tuesday, and what does she do, but put it off until it’s barely even legally Tuesday anymore? There are moments a person feels that they shall certainly never be written. This is what comes of nesting in a head prone to failure—saved by the bell? Reminded by the midnight tolling just how altogether lost is our cause, more like. I don’t know what to do with this girl. Would that I could scribe without her.


I was entirely planning on writing this post in the afternoon, you know that. Then out of the blue, it turns out that I have work in the afternoon, not the evening, and I’m already late, so I rush to do that, and once I return I have well forgotten—this excuse begins to sound less like an explanation and more like a further unfolding of exactly how much I have failed at this day, I wince to note. Remembering tasks to do and agreements made is not my strong point, and my grief therewith fails to mend the ill.


“S’truth. Tears turn not back the hands of the clock.” Sy nods.

 “Surely you can have some compassion?” Tirzah asks, exasperated with herself, but hopeful of mercy. “Have you not had some pet failure your efforts could not overcome?”

 Sy sits a moment, silent. “Never anything to do with discipline,” he says. “Which is why I so boggle at your incapacity to force your own hand. If I have struggled and failed, it is against external forces. That is, until…” he swallows. “Magic,” he confesses. “Never have I so failed as at magic. Inside me, and at once the enemy…”


Tirzah is displeased at the lack of resolution, the lack of a decent arc. That’s what happens when you started minutes before the deadline, dearest–poor quality. Just suck it up, vow to do better, and post before midnight. You’ve got two minutes.

This is my world, this is my fantasy.

Walking down the street the other day, I saw a cat.

Woah, right? No, I didn’t get any pictures, but I swear it was right there, crouched on the street corner, watching me warily as I went by. I can describe it perfectly. Still don’t believe me?

Oh wait, you do? What’s so amazing about seeing a cat?

That’s exactly what I started wondering. I looked at that small, coiled, beautiful, feral beast, and thought– this is fantasy. This is magic. The only thing missing here is the fact that it exists. Then I decided to look at the cat as though I’d never seen one before, as though I’d only ever read of them in fantasy books. Then I looked up and around, and realized that– wow! –we have such an amazing world, it might as well all be a fantasy.

Why should the everyday objects and beings around us be left out of the “awe” boat simply because they exist? That’s hardly fair. There are things just as amazing as magic and myth, but our eyes slid over them like they’re not even there, for no better reason than that they are. But what if we started looking? What if we let ourselves think we live in a fantasy world?

(HINT: This can be used for sci-fi, too, but I’m a fantasy girl, so I’ll stick with  my magic.)

I looked back at the cat on the corner, its shape as smooth, as predatory, as hoax-like as any snapshot of the Loch Ness monster. I began to hum snatches of a song, and before the day was out, I’d tinkered it onto the page. Sorry I can’t give you the tune (think sappy Disney princess la-di-da-ditty), but here are the words.

This is my world,
This is my fantasy,
Everything here
Blowin’ my mind I see

Creatures of wonder
On every street corner—
Is that a feline,
Marbled in grey?

Slit-eyes that divine
Cunning and sly,
Beasts from the fey world
Are lining my way.

This is my world,
This is my fantasy,
Everything here
Blowin’ my mind I see

Great spreading boughs
Towering fifty feet upward,
Needles for leaves
In a dusky blue-green

Can it be real?
I feel bark ‘neath my fingers,
I’m walking through groves
that are built out of dreams!

This is my world,
This is my fantasy,
Everything here
Blowin’ my mind I see

Water turned white
Gushing down in a geyser,
Dangerous as dragons
And loud as their roar.

Some say canals are but
Dirty dull rivers,
I see fair silveren
Slipstreams of lore.

This is my world,
This is my fantasy,
Everything here
Blowin’ my mind I see

Sunrise and sunset,
Explosions of color,
How can the world
Hold such spectrum and hue?

Light is a miracle,
Brightness a legend,
Tell me a tale
Of a sky made of blue!

This is my world,
This is my fantasy,
Everything here
Blowin’ my mind I see

Up in that blue sky
A predator roams
Great fearsome creature
Of feather and claw,

Wings beating, circling,
Both hunter and hunted,
Riding the wind
Above gravity’s law.

This is my world,
This is my fantasy
Open your eyes
To impossibility.

This is my world,
This is my fantasy
Open your eyes
To this reality.

For more poetry, here.

(HINT: This can be used on humans, also. What funny creatures they all are; varied as sprites, dangerous, sweet, or both, and every one powerful. Who could have dreamed up such a thing?)

Archetype, or; Like Gandalf But Totally Not.

“Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created–nothing.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Rich Boy”

To be sure, this is very good advice, and I see where he’s coming from. Nonetheless, sometimes you  have a bill, and need to create a character that fills it.

For me, the archetype-shaped hole in my story was in the form of The Sage Mage. You may spot this archetype in the persons of Gandalf and Dumbledore. Rowtan was the fellow I created to fill this position, but like any decent writer, I did not want him to be type only (and therefore nothing).

To start the individualizing, I made him 40, crazy young for a sage. Second, I gave him a top secret government job in what we would call magic research and development. Also– well, I’ll let this excerpt from Scriptless do the talking.

Until his venture to the Land of Ice, he had lived his entire life in Kapatak, and was unused to being considered exotic. He’d drawn stares before, of course; the youngest elected Head of the international Mage’s Guild was bound to be gawped at every so often, but he had never liked it. Even when they were not simply staring at him for his own sake—if he was speaking to the council, or teaching a university class, or some such thing—the watchers made him nervous.

The only time he could be comfortable under their gazes was when he forgot them altogether, when he lost himself in his subject or his cause. When he spoke as an advocate or a mediator, he could occasionally forget the room, and give all his attention to those he was negotiating or debating with, but it was easiest to do when he was teaching.

Then—no students, no colleagues, no audience; naught but magic, magic and science and detail and theory, fact and possibility and experiment. How easily he could lose himself in his passion! He had once gone two full hours over schedule, lecturing on the degrees and bridges between wild and domestic objects.

Here, however, there was no subject on which to sermonize, and he found it hard to lose himself in his own thoughts in crowded taverns and common rooms. And so he drank his hot cider, and flushed undetectably, and tried not to hear the whispered comments that came with the stares.

I did not make him balanced, or even near to it; I made him a scientist with an obsessive passion. For flaws, I found him sometimes unsure of what to do, of the right thing. I also found him to be shy and somewhat skittish– not nervous of confrontation on behalf of another, but scared to bring up anything personal.

He hasn’t got it together like my original idea of him; he’s not the guru on the icy mountaintop I first envisioned. Shedding the majesty that came with the archetype, he became one better: a person. A person who fills my book’s bill, who stands in The Sage Mage’s spot, and stands well. He is a powerful mage, able to explain the mysteries of magic and advise my wandering characters.

But one flaw at a time, one discovery at a time, Rowtan ceased to be “The Sage Mage” and became simply—Rowtan.

The Spirit Thief

You may remember me wailing with joy, two blogs ago, about winning the Eli Monpress Omnibus, by Rachel Aaron. I have completed the behemoth, and am here to wail with joy about having done so. I am also here to shove you into a bookstore to follow my footsteps.

The Omnibus consists of three books, The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater. While I would recommend the Legend of Eli Monpress Omnibus, (partly for its price and mostly for its spectacular cover art– go check it out!), I will focus on Spirit Thief for now.

There are tons of reasons to read Spirit Thief, but I fear many of them would be spoilers. So if you want to know why you should read it, to the last detail, I’m afraid you’ll just have to read it. But in case you want something of a review before you run off and pick up a copy, here are three pre-packaged reasons. I kept them as un-spoiling as possible.

1) Eli Monpress, the wizard thief at the heart of the tale. As I suspected, ‘wizard thief’ refers to the fact that he is both a wizard and a thief, not to his being some sort of wizard-stealing thief. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried his hand at wizard-napping– Spirit Thief begins with a king-napping, after all. Calling Eli Monpress “ambitious” would be an understatement, people. This fellow is in it for the glory, fame, fans, but most of all, he’s in it to raise the price on his head. What thief wouldn’t love a high bounty? …Besides the sensible ones.

2) There’s magic in the world! Well, such would be assumed in a fantasy novel, but I found this magic system fascinating and novel (pun not fully intended). This is a world where everything has a spirit (hence the proliferation of ‘spirit’ in the various titles), and if you’re a wizard, you can wake them up and have a chat. If you can catch them in the right mood, they might do you all kinds of favors. Some wizards are better at this than others, and for some reason, Eli is the best of them all– Unless, of course, the spirits he speaks to were frightened into submission by a spirit Enslaver…

3) Here. If you doubt me, read the first two chapters for yourself. Go on, I dare you. If you don’t have time to read it all, read the first chapter. It’s short, and it’ll intrigue you. If you don’t have time to read the first chapter, read the first section. It’ll intrigue you. If you don’t even have time for that, read the first few paragraphs right here:

In the prison under the castle Allaze, in the dark, moldy cells where the greatest criminals in Mellinor spent the remainder of their lives counting rocks to stave off madness, Eli Monpress was trying to wake up a door.

It was a heavy oak door with an iron frame, created centuries ago by an overzealous carpenter to have, perhaps, more corners than it should. The edges were carefully fitted to lie flush against the stained, stone walls, and the heavy boards were nailed together so tightly that not even the flickering torch light could wedge between them. In all, the effect was so overdone, the construction so inhumanly strong, that the whole black affair had transcended simple confinement and become a monument to the absolute hopelessness of the prisoner’s situation. Eli decided to focus on the wood; the iron would have taken forever.

He ran his hands over it, long fingers gently tapping in a way living trees find desperately annoying, but dead wood finds soothing, like a scratch behind the ears. At last, the boards gave a little shudder and said, in a dusty, splintery voice, “What do you want?”

“My dear friend,” Eli said, never letting up on his tapping, “the real question here is, what do you want?”