urban fantasy

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I was plugging my own WIP of the time on a National Novel Writing Month forum, and the then-unpublished Danielle E. Shipley messaged me, asking to hear excerpts of my work.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! 😀

 

Flashes of Fiction: Ease

Got a fantasy short story for you, more than a drabble this time.

Today’s Prompt:

Ease

There’d been an age when the fangs had been a problem, but that age was past. There’d been an age when his animosity with the sun had been a problem. That age was past for more reasons than one. There’d been an age of secrecy and stalking, but that age was past, replaced by an age of sharp smiles and seduction, and oh, by the legion, it was easy.

It hadn’t been this easy since he’d made himself a god of the Aztecs. He’d stolen a different form, then; one of theirs. It had been ages before he’d been successfully slain. His body was always slain in the end, and it always took a a spirit-age to claw his way back to the mouth of hell and out into the world of flesh—and blood.

He had taken possession of this body just prior to the Edwardian era, and had been making his way in the world of that most dangerous prey—man—for more than a century since. But now… he stroked his victim’s soft brown hair and chuckled. Now, he lived in what he fancied to call the New Edwardian era.

“What’s funny?” she asked as she fawned over him. Fawning—so like a fawn, she was, except that even the newest-born deer was wiser than to trust its natural predators. She should be, too. Humans had always been uneasy around him. However he’d tried to allay their fears, they had ever been skittish, sensing the demon and its blood lust, boiling just below his facade of flesh and skin.

But now, all he had to do was tell these girl-children what he was, and they would forgive every warning that should have set the hair at the nape of their neck to standing. Now, they would follow him into secluded places and think the danger of him titillating. There was the joke of it!

“Funny, darling?” He tapped her nose with a pale fingertip. “You are.”

The idiot giggled as though she understood. He kissed her pulsing jugular, and sank his fangs into it. He’d taken mincing sips before, and longer draws—she’d let him, of course; he’d explained that he needed it ever so—but this time he drank until he felt that he would burst. The fledgling woman in his arms went limp, limper, then as limp as she’d ever be.

The vampire stood, and the husk of a human fell to join the leaf litter at his feet. If she’d even noticed death stealing over her, he thought, she’d probably found it romantic.