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P.L. Stuart

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  1. Honoured to appear on the wonderful Josh (Red Fury Books) channel, with the esteemed booktubers & authors Philip Chase & @ToriTalks on the feature BRUNCH AND BOOK CHAT EPISODE 3! Josh has some awesome content so please check out his channel! Thanks for watching!
  2. Opening notes, this novella can only be purchased directly from the author's website https://www.paravia.com/JannyWurts/bo... **Important**the author, Janny Wurts, strongly recommends that this story is to be best enjoyed (particularly to avoid spoilers) after one has read the novel "Stormed Fortress", which is book 8 in the "Wars of Light and Shadow". Please peruse the author's website for suggested reading order of the novellas, in relation to the different arcs in the "Wars of Light and Shadow". Davien, nicknamed "the Betrayer" is perhaps one of the most controversial figures in "the Wars of Light and Shadow". The "renegade" Fellowship of Seven Sorcerer, is condemned by many as instigating mass murder, political upheaval, and causing the downfall of the High Kings of Athera. But is Davien's reputation well-earned? Is he truly a blackguard? Or merely a man of misunderstood intentions? When a revered and powerful seeress summons Davien to help battle a sinister cult of necromancers, what will Davien do? And at what cost will he attempt to thwart the dark plot that is brewing? Meanwhile, townborn smuggler Toler Sen Beckit is down on his luck. He's betrayed his smuggling cohorts, and they've paid him back by getting him thrown into the gaols at Riverton. Toler is also grieving the loss of his dear sister Enna, who disappeared since childhood, potentially lured into a life of service to the Koriani Enchantresses. Though Toler never knows for certain what really happened to Enna. Facing ten years hard labour for his sentence, Toler has few options. But one is presented to him when Davien frees him from jail. "Cold sober, he might have remembered the warning: no one who crossed paths with one of the Seven survived the experience unchanged." Especially when the one crossing paths with is Davien, who is in bed with a Dragon - most feared of all Athera's creatures - concealing things from his Fellowship comrades, and courting disaster on the scale of the complete annihilation of humankind. But to outwit rival Koriani sorceresses, and stay a step ahead of the dangerous necromancers, sacrifices must be made. A brilliant addition to the iconic "Wars of Light and Shadow" main series, while most the short story "Black Bargain" 's narrative focuses on the dangerous but critical mission of clever townborn smuggler Toler, Davien is still the main character of this short story. Perhaps one of the most gifted and cerebral of the Fellowship Sorcerers, Damien is an absolutely fascinating character. When reading the main series, a reader may find that, at the best of times, there is this extreme dichotomy to the motivations, decisions, and results of the Fellowship's plans. On numerous occasions, throughout "Wars of Light and Shadow", what the Fellowship does can seem callous, horrific, and calculating, while still being utterly noble, altruistic, and compassionate. That's because the Fellowship, sorcerers of unimaginable power and responsibility, are playing a game on a HUGE stage, and their actions (or inactions) do not hinge on the life of a single person, or even a race of people. They are juggling with an enormity of consequences that dwarf comprehension, and they do whatever they must to cause the least amount of harm, to the greatest amount of beings. Bound to a personal code of non-interference, and the Law of Major Balance ("no force of nature should be used without consent, or against the will of another living being"), responsible for terms and conditions of settlement of humankind on Athera that ensure survival of the mystical Paravian immortals (the agreement setting out these terms is called the "Compact") the Fellowship must make seemingly impossible choices, the weight of which would stymie lesser beings. No sorcerer, perhaps, exemplifies this more than Davien. A maverick, an "outside-the-box" thinker by nature, imagine how the actions of someone predisposed to that kind of reasoning, combined with the Fellowship mandate, might appear to observers? It's obvious there's much more behind why Davien does what he does than meets the eye. Thus, the theme of "the end justifying the means" plays most heavily here, in this short story. The reader might likely be asking themselves, after reading "Black Bargain", "what decision causes the least amount of harm, and is there any other way than to do bad, in order to ultimately do good?" I know those questions kept running through my mind as the events of this poignant, incredible short story unfolded. 30-page short story like "Black Bargain", or 600-page novel, Wurts never fails to provide the reader with an incredible sense of setting, time, place in history, perspective, and fabulous worldbuilding. Besides insights into the ruthless Koriani enchantresses (especially the haughty and calculating Morriel Prime), their inner workings, and important talismans like the Great Waystone (and how it wound up in the hands of the Koriani's enemies), the sinister Gray Kravolir cult, the mysterious Biedar tribes, and the ominous political workings in Hanshire that seed future dark dealings explored in the main series, the gem of the worldbuilding in "Black Bargain" is the appearance of the great Dragon, Seshkrozchiel! "Not a small, carnivorous wyvern, but a great drake, fire-breathing, eighty-five spans of shimmering, scaled might, from armoured crest to ebony tale spikes. Before her mailed talons, the Sorcerer seemed like a toothpick, spiked upright while the massive wyrm, snaked around him, her wide golden eye and slit pupil a cloth yard across, terrifying as staring into the abyss." The magnificent dragons (drakes) who have the power of dream creation (or destruction), are perhaps the most powerful and ancient of beings we are treated to in Wurts' universe. Wild, untamed, mercurial, and whose dreams can escape their control, the dragons are great wildcards in terms of the fate of Athera. Learning more about these fantastic beings who inhabit volcanic rock, whose foreclaws can grow as tall as a human, and whose fire can level cities to the ground, was incredible, and I can't wait to see more of them in the main series! And, naturally, in terms of writing style, "Black Bargain" is replete with the resplendent, lush, and transcendent prose we have become accustomed to in a Janny Wurts book. "Black Bargain" is a marvellous, exceptionally well-written tale of a renegade sorcerer's choices, ponderous, appalling decisions made out of necessity, inauspicious magic, disturbing back-room dealings, a spy planted in the midst, the fate of humankind riding in the balance, and yes, dragons! To accentuate your reading of Janny Wurts "Wars of Light and Shadow", "Black Bargain" is a MUST-read - but again, ONLY after completing "Stormed Fortress".
  3. “The wheels of due process ground on unchecked, until a struck look of terror transfixed his green eyes, and an arraignment for black sorcery was read out by a nasal secretary. Then that scene ripped away, replaced by another: of the accused, chained to a scaffold, stripped for a ritual execution. The sharpened sword waited, and the bundled, oiled faggots. Nearby, a cowled headsman mounted the stair, while a mob shook raised fists and clamored for redress in blood against the Master of Shadow.” Half-way point nigh achieved in my reading of my favourite fantasy novels of all time, “The Wars of Light and Shadow”, by the marvellous Janny Wurts! Book five, “Grand Conspiracy”, was another amazing installment in a series that has truly raised the bar in terms of what epic fantasy can be. **Please note**this review touches on events that occurred in previous books in the series – thus potential SPOILERS for the previous four books.** Following the tumultuous events of “Fugitive Prince”, this book focuses, as the title indicates, on the long percolating plot by the Koriathain sorceresses, to lure our protagonist Arithon – reputed Master of Shadow – into a snare that will secure him in their clutches once and for all. At the centre of this scheme is the unwitting dupe, the brave but simple young shepherd Fionn Areth, chosen at birth to be a helpless pawn in the Koriathain designs, and groomed since then to be the bait that draws Arithon to his capture, and demise. Meanwhile Lysaer – Arithon’s half-brother and full-time arch-nemesis, heralded as “Lord of Light” – is still bent on destroying Arithon at all costs. To consolidate his power base, Lysaer uses his considerable charm, natural leadership and diplomacy skills, and the fervor of those who hail him as a saviour and the only hope against Shadow, to procure a new wife in order to ensure the continuity of his house, beguile the wealthy trade guilds and nobles to continue to fund his war against Arithon, and solidify his future rule as a king. However, things take an exceptionally sinister turn, as Lysaer, who claims to have rejected all sorcery, has seemingly – hypocritically - turned to dark occult, in his rabid pursuit of Arithon. Lysaer essentially begins to wield the power and influence of a deity, and his besotted followers begin to revere him as such. “The Cabal of Light” is emerging, and readers may begin to wonder, what cost (if “Light” is to prevail, and humans will have sway in the world, and magic is destroyed save the power of Light, as opposed to Shadow successfully bringing the immortal races who founded the world back to ensure magic is sustained) is Lysaer willing to pay to triumph? And how many will suffer for the cause of Light, as Lysaer’s troops seem to be becoming more and more expendable. Reference characterization, once more, Wurts provides the reader with some of fantasy’s most meticulously and realistically drawn characters. The two main opposing players, the two half-brothers, of course are still the essence of the plot. Larger than life, heroic, but victim to the curse that makes them hated foes, their humanity seems to be collapsing under the weight of both the Mistwraith’s curse and their royal-born traits of compassion versus justice. They cannot help who and what they are, and cannot help being set against each other, to the death. More and more casualties escalate, as ominously, there is mounting evidence that everyone caught up in the war, could potentially fall, in cause of Light against Shadow. Arithon features more prominently in the narrative than Lysaer. That does not mean the Lysaer does not make an impact when he does appear. Smoothly seducing nobleman and common-born alike, forging alliances, leading by example inspiring troops by participating in battle exercises, getting down in the muck and grime when he could repose in splendour, convincing or coercing even those who initially don’t believe in him to cleave to the Light, and drawing anyone within reach of his aura like moths to the flame of his charismatic personality, Lysaer is a force that can’t be withstood. Except he continues to be thwarted by Arithon, and seems to be becoming more and more fanatical in his pursuit, and more self aggrandizing in his mannerisms, while in inviolable fashion, married to his core trait of justice. But it becomes more and more evident that Lysaer’s brand of justice, and chivalry, is devoid of compassion. On the other hand, Arithon is infirm, tortured, haunted by nightmares due to his guilt at those he has been forced to kill, and those who have been killed, caught up in the war between he and Lysaer. His innate traits of foresight and compassion are crippling him. Spending more than a decade at sea, on the run from Lysaer, but also seeking the Paravians, there is a quiet desperation to Arithon that made me want to weep for him at so many junctures in this book, and this series. Auxiliary characters that stood out for me in this book, besides Elaria, were Sulfin, Raeitt, Ellaine, Cattrick, Parrien and Mearn and the rest of all the S’Byrdions. More on the new character of Dawr below. Raeitt especially is deliciously complex, intelligent, and devious, and as such it’s minacious to see a schemer of that calibre be inveigled by the “Lord of Light”. Dawr S’Brydion, grandmother of the S’Brydion brothers, was by far my favourite character in the book. She is just the kind of snarky, crabby, cantankerous, quick-witted and sharp-tongued, plain-speaking, clever, and past the age of caring what others think (or what she says to whom regardless of rank) that I absolutely adore. Her tenacity surrounding her suspicions about the fate of Talith, her dressing-down of the Lord of Light’s acolyte, her upbraiding of the younger, fiery S’Brydion males and putting them firmly in their place, was a joy to watch. She might be diminutive in stature, but her presence is enormous. She was my scene-stealing character of the novel, whom I very much hope to see more of. Of special note, Ellaine turns into the exact opposite of what Lysaer intends, by his treatment of her, and I really enjoyed her character arc, though I fear for her greatly. There’s little room for a wife of Lysaer to assert her will in such a marriage, and it does not bode well for her that she’s unwilling to be just a brood mare and stand docile while Lysaer keeps himself distant and estranged from her, to prevent her from becoming an Achilles heel. The sophisticated Lirenda is all fire, underneath the cold, calculating, and cunning exterior, and her ambition is the flame burning ceaselessly within her. But that fire could be doused, and replaced by another raging inferno – her secret passion for Arithon, the man she hates, and yet achingly desires, against her will. Lirenda has done everything she can to put herself in the position of First Senior, and succeed the ancient Morriel, but has yet proven herself unworthy in the Prime's eyes. Yet Lirenda’s obstinacy and her weakness for Arithon is her greatest exposure, and she is compromised in ways that she could never predict, even with her enchantress tools of prescience. Power, and how it’s used, was a major theme that stood out for me in “Grand Conspiracy”. What does it mean to use power judiciously, and what does it mean to use it for malice. In thinking about this theme, at this point in the series, the Koriathain have clearly, for me, of the two main sorcerous factions, become the villainous ones. Their original mandate of using compassion (ironically, the main trait that Arithon, their enemy, embodies) and forgiveness to help shape humankind, and guide them towards a better future, seems to have been twisted and perverted, towards malice, deception, and self-preservation of the relevance of their order, and attaining their Prime’s ends, at all costs. It appears the Koriathain are unwittingly allying (though for Lysaer they are his enemy as they are “evil” magic wielders) with Lysaer, because they place their enmity with their rivals of the Fellowship, goodness, and maintenance of the best elements of human nature (i.e. mercy). The Koriathain are willing to attack the very land of Athera they claim to love, and put it in grave jeopardy, in order to thwart the Fellowship. I can only conclude, by this point, that the Koriathain, and their ruthless leader Morriel, have lost their way, and become nefarious, and are endangering not only Arithon, but Athera itself. The unyielding Morriel’s clinging to life, bent on longevity, clinging to power, refusing to relinquish it to any successor she deems unworthy biding her time beyond reason, and her solution to the succession planning, was chilling and thought-provoking. Speaking of the rivals of the Koriathain, what completely stunned me in “Grand Conspiracy”, was that I finally, unavoidably, began to grasp the true power of the Fellowship of Seven sorcerers. While Wurts has long before (since the first book in the series “Curse of the Mistwraith”) outlined that the Fellowship held immense powers at their disposal, there can be absolutely NO doubt left after reading “Grand Conspiracy” what the Fellowship could wreak upon the world of Athera, should they chose. When Asandir speaks to fishermen and clanborn scouts early in the book, there are passages there that sent an icy chill up my spine. Among them: “Only this time, they would be compelled to the act of mass slaughter in full cognizance, causation set into a lens of awareness refined by then thousand years for arcane wisdom.” Fortunately, and sometimes frustratingly in terms of saving bloodshed, the Fellowship are bound by the Law of Major Balance (which reminds me of something akin to “Star Trek”, where the “Prime Directive” is the principal tenant of Starfleet). Non-interference, consent, free will, and an unbreakable pact, govern the Fellowship actions. It’s plain, the Fellowship have the power to avert any catastrophe, but are bound by their own agreements with the mythical Paravian races that founded the world, not to use that awesome power. Compared to the Koriathain, the Fellowship look far more benevolent, caring, and perhaps the only hope to help save Arithon, who in turn may be the only hope to restore order to the world, if he can utilize his talents to locate and return the Paravians to the world. I will sound like a broken record here, but for me, among all the things I love about reading a Janny Wurts book, her priceless gift for prose is something I will never be able to get enough of. Stunning magic, dizzying plots, countermoves and betrayals, blistering fights, stirring nautical scenes, rising tension to a fever pitch, desperate flight, an unrelenting thirst for vengeance, loyalty, sacrifice, guilt and depression, joy in service, the beauty of music, and more, this book is yet another in a series that will have your emotions bobbing like a boat on stormy waters. As per Wurts’ calling card, be prepared for a heart-wrenching ending which will have you grasping for the tissue box. I don’t see anyway how, one is this deep in the series, that one has not been able to recognize and appreciate just how stupefying talented Janny Wurts is. From the depth and scope of her worldbuilding and her keen eye for detail and stunning realism, to her poetic, lush, mesmerizing prose, to her witty and poignant dialogue, and masterful ability to compare and contrast her characters, and bring them to vivid life on the pages, for me her place can be only amongst the most esteemed fantasy writers of her generation, such as Martin, Jordan, Erikson, Le Guin, Hobb, and that ilk. My enthusiasm to finish this miraculous series in 2023 is sky-high, and I will consider it perhaps the greatest accomplishment of my reading life. Bring on “Peril’s Gate”!
  4. The marvellous blogger Luke Winch now has a booktube channel! Please go check out his awesome content! I'm so looking forward to what Luke has in store for us on YouTube! One of his first videos was his 'Top 5 books of 2022'. I'm proud and honoured that A DROWNED KINGDOM made the list, alongside some incredible books! Check out Luke's list!
  5. This story is available exclusively on the author's website: https://www.paravia.com/JannyWurts/bo... A stark, violent, and heart-breaking look into the bitter and senseless conflict between the townfolk and the clanborn of Athera in the "Wars of Light and Shadow" series, Janny Wurts' short story "The Decoy" put us in the middle of a bloody uprising, where rulers will fall, but others will take their place, and will - no matter the terrible cost - fulfill their duty, and their destiny. The plot revolves around Falion sen Ardhai. Falion is a young man who has experienced a complicated, sometimes harrowing, and in many ways sad life. Torn between two worlds, Falion's father (whose last name is sen Ardhai) is a glass forger - a townborn guild tradesmen. Falion's mother is a distant relative of the royal family of s'Ilessid (yes, THOSE s'Ilessids, whose lineage bears the High Kings of Tysan, of which Lysaer in Wurts' main "Wars of Light and Shadow" series is the current heir.) Falion's father wants Falion to follow in his footsteps as a guild artisan, but fate has other plans for the young man. The portentous dichotomy that Falion is both townborn and clanborn manifests in an incident that takes place when Falion is very young. In a prank born of the immaturity of youth, Falion's childhood friends Torrien (of noble heritage whose family are members of the royal court), Jaegan, and Leylie leave Falion with a sack bound over his head, in the royal dungeons in Avenor, traditional capital of the High Kings of Tysan. This incident traumatizes Falion, and also rouses his latent royal heritage but neuters the adroitness required to be a guild artist, thus destroying any chance for Falion to follow his father into that line of work. Most mortals, save some of the clanborn, cannot normally withstand the intensity of exposure to the Paravians (the ancient semi-mortal races who once dominated the world of Athera). However, as a clanborn, exposure is still attempted as a rite of passage, to see if the one exposed can emerge without being driven mad, or dying in the exposure, proving the strength of one's clanborn inheritance. Still, at age 12, Falion passes the trail, and would nominally receive an indelible clanborn tattoo, to mark their attunement with the Paravians and proud clan endowments. But there is a growing hatred between the clanborn and townborn. Falion's father does not want the derision of his family, potential loss of business from townborn customers, or even danger that could be brought down on him from Falion being clearly marked as clanborn. So, Falion's father does not permit his son to receive the ritual tattoo. Yet this absence of the tattoo comes very much in handy later in life, when Falion, unable to be a tradesmen, becomes one of a quartet of "unmarked" clan messengers. These messengers can walk with more ease among the townfolk, and thus have a better chance to deliver surreptitious dispatches of urgency when needed. Fatefully, one day, such a message arrives, and it's the most imperative message yet. And it's on Falion's shoulders to get that message to the queen-regent in Avenor, or all may be lost. Fortunately, Torrien, Jaegan, and Leylie are not just fair weather friends, and only good for practical jokes. They are loyal comrades, who will risk their lives to assist Falion, in his desperate attempt to help save a kingdom, and the world beyond it. A lack of page count never limits the author from providing brilliant characterization, and that holds true for this approximately 30-page story. Falion is a very interesting and well-drawn protagonist, who in many ways is not the true hero of the story. I'd give that honour to, ultimately, Cindein. Or, even Falion's friends Torrien, Jaegan, and Leylie. Falion is described as a clumsy youth, no warrior, and one can't help but feeling empathy for him. He's never truly fit in with either society, it seems, clanborn or townfolk. At first - and later for different reasons - one can't help feeling sorry for him. His life has seemed rather lacklustre, with a lot of frustrations and unfulfilled promise. Rather than being some grand mover and shaper of his own destiny, much less others, Falion seems to be a victim of happenstance, or one saved by the bravery of others, to carry his mission forward. But he uses his anonymity, his lack of standing out, to his advantage, and there is no question he is clever, brave, and talented at his core, endowed with the s'Ilesid traits of justice, courage, and fortitude, and the ability to channel the gifts bestowed to him. It's the secondary characters, little as we see of them, that truly stand out, and will make you weep, for all they do to preserve the s'Ilesid royal line. Which brings me to what I found to be the main theme of this short story: sacrifice. It runs throughout, and the sense of pathos Wurts delivers here, in terms of what others must give up for the greater good, hits like a hammer. The altruism of some of these characters, the cruel and clear pragmatism in the face of death, shows us the best of what humans can be. We also see the worst of humanity as well. The utter idiocy, the absurdity of the clanfolk versus townfolk conflict, the horrible danger it poses to all mortals, the complete savagery of the uprising, and delight in barbarism and depravity that can potentially explode when people are stirred to self-righteousness behind a cause, was wholly frustrating, hideous, and depressing. Thus once more, Wurts gives us the darkness and the light, side by side, bare for all to see. Yet in the end, she does give us hope. In terms of worldbuilding, I have truly enjoyed the glimpses Wurts' shorts have provided, for they are all set in very dark times - either extremely or infinitely far before the main series. "The Decoy" takes place approximately two decades following the initial invasion of the dreaded Mistwraith, whose gaes blots out sunlight in Athera, now a place of shriveling crops, an increasingly despondent populace, and constant war. By this time, the situation surrounding the Mistwraith has become dire indeed. Fighting this curse has snatched the lives of many noble lords and soldiers, and only the Fellowship of Sorcerers and what High Kings remain can rally humans against the darkness. But the petty dispute between clanborn and townfolk puts all this in jeopardy, as revolt against the rule of the High Kings, and mistrust of the Fellowship and all things related to sorcery, mount. And, of course, we are gifted once more with the delight of Wurts' stellar, unique, lush, and mesmerizing prose, in this short story. "He breasted the wisped gleam where the flux currents draped the ancient haunts in cold phosphor, and flinched from the ghost-fingered cling of the cobwebs streamered in the drafts. His step gritted on the detritus of centuries, and he breathed the fust of mouldering wood, where disuse had sealed the high vaulted doorways the far sides refashioned into recessed bookshelves or cabinets or cushioned lover's nooks." A dark, emotive, sorrowful tale of courage, honour, sacrifice, and destiny, and an amazing story in its own right, "The Decoy" can only serve to enhance the reader's journey into the seminal works that are Wurts' "Wars of Light and Shadow". I highly recommend reading as many of Wurts' short stories related to Athera that don't spoil you for reading the main series. Please peruse the author's website for suggested reading order of the novellas, in relation to the different arcs in the "Wars of Light and Shadow".
  6. This story is available exclusively on the author's website: https://www.paravia.com/JannyWurts/bo... "The fate of a land and the history of a people are not always determined by the confident hands of the great." And so, a stablemaster is drawn into a web of conspiracy, when a king's messenger arrives, demanding horses. What the stablemaster learns, the messenger's seeking of redemption, and the actions of the stablemaster in trying to preserve a royal line, will play a pivotal role in the fight against the Mistwraith, the great sinister foggy being that has assailed the skies, and blotted out daylight in the world of Athera. The poignant short story of 25 pages, "Reins of Destiny", set in the world of Janny Wurts' seminal series, the "Wars of Light and Shadow", takes us back to year 5018 of the Third Age, and introduces us to Kayjon sen'Davvis. Kayjon is a townborn man, and master of horse, just outside the city of Telmandir. Telmandir, located in the principality of Lithmere, is the former capital of the High Kings of Havinsh. Telmandir is also a place with magical implications, as it was once a place where the mythical Paravians - the ancient semi-mortal races who once dominated Athera. Kayjon has earned a reputation as a man of utter impartiality and fair-handedness, and also as a peerless horsemaster, perhaps the greatest master of all things equine in the land. He's stayed as a casual and detached, even lazy observer of the growing revolt, removed from the impending uprising. "If some voices claimed the High King and the Sorcerers were milking the towns that upheld the realm, Kavyon never took sides. He yawned through the rebellious talk and shrill fears, even as the Fellowship Sorceres summoned the cream of five kingdoms to bolster their warding defense. Clear nights, when their uncanny bolts of raised power streaked the southern horizon, Kayjon sipped his usual tankard of beer." One day, Kayjon's rest and leisure is interrupted by the appearance of a clanborn messenger from the king, who bears a royal writ, demanding eleven horses. Kayjon agrees to obey the writ, but insists on accompanying the messenger with the horses, though the messenger disapproves. For, Kayjon suspects that a revolution has attempted to unseat the High King, and the writ he has received is fraudulent. Even though this story is only a quarter of a 100 pages in length, it comes with all the trademark magnificence of a Janny Wurts work. This grandeur begins with outstanding character work. The unnamed clanborn messenger, and the townborn Kayjon are the two protagonists of this story, and they are contrasted very well. They are from opposing sides of what evolves into a long-standing and bitter rivalry, born largely of misunderstanding, elitism, and prejudice, that escalates throughout the following centuries between clanborn and townborn. Throughout the main "Wars of Light and Shadow" series, and the other short stories associated with Athera, Wurts elaborates on the origins of this feud of two very different perspectives, and how it continues to burn, costing the lives of hundreds of thousands through the many years. The alienation of clanborn and townborn, protracted and seemingly without end, brought on by the deprivation the humans of Athera have experienced due to being robbed of the grace of the Paravians, looks hopeless. Yet seeing the relationship between Kavjon and the clansman herald grow from the typical disdain, mistrust and suspicion, to one of greater comprehension, is encouraging for the future of the mortal races of Athera, uniting together one day under a common cause, free of rash judgement, bigotry, and lack of true discernment. That is perhaps the main theme of the story: how even the most diametrically opposed factions can come together, and change the course of history, putting aside old arguments, for the greater good. Wurts always gives the readers optimism to hold onto, along with the bleakness and tragedy portrayed in her works, and "Reins of Destiny" is no different. And, of course, we are treated to Wurts' usual transcendent prose in this short story. "Fixed as a post astride the retired charger, he rode with straight back and soft hands. While the anguished mare twisted and screamed, he played her along with experienced gentleness. Then the damp darkness closed in like a shroud, and the loom of the barns fell behind. The lamps dwindled, veiled under sea mist that spat chilly rain. The band of young horses were a moving patchwork of shadow until the brightening dawn lit the dew spangled downs leaden silver." A brilliant, though very brief story that provides greater appreciation of several key aspects that are highly relevant to the "Wars of Light and Shadow", including the significance of the kingdom of Havish - which is germane to the Arithon / Lysaer issue - the reasons behind the townfolk being indignant over Paravian charter law that the clanfolk cleave to, and the desperate need of the Paravians to come back to the world, and restore balance, "Reins of Destiny" is recommended to be read after "Fugitive Prince", book four of the main series. But the brevity of this story belies its richness, and beauty. Like every book I've read so far associated with the "Wars of Light and Shadow", "Reins of Destiny" is amazing.
  7. Opening note, this novella can only be purchased directly from the author's website https://www.paravia.com/JannyWurts/bo... One might be forgiven, reading the first few paragraphs of "The Sundering Star", that you had mistakenly picked up some sci-fi novella reminiscent of "Star Trek", rather and a book that is intricately related to author Janny Wurts' seminal "Wars of Light and Shadow" Series. But rest assured, dear readers, if you were looking for that sort of book - one that formed part of the "Wars of Light and Shadow" universe, you were not in the wrong place. Jaw proceeding to swiftly hit the floor moment when I learned that "The Sundering Star" is set approximately 20,000 YEARS PRIOR TO the events of "Wars of Light and Shadow"!!! In the novella, Wurts whisks us off to a place where Scathac, a world separate from that of Athera in the main series, exists. The planet of Scathac itself is painted by the author as a very bleak place, almost uninhabitable, deathly blazing hot in the day and frigid at night, where malnourished animals roam amongst volcanic ridges and flowing lava. But one thing this seemingly barren and inimical environment has is precious minerals. The minerals are utilized in building ships capable of light speed. Thus Scathac becomes a highly strategically important location. These minerals are of course, being extremely valuable, subject to those who want to exploit them. A mysterious and reclusive tribe native to Scathac, who inhabits the planet, are, at first, thought to be primitive, and merely a speed bump for mega trade organizations such as PanTac. PanTac is the group who capitalizes and exploits the minerals from Scathac. PanTac has been created via the amalgamation of two other governments outside Scathac. PamTac has been involved in a long conflict with two competing governments. The space military and intelligence entity Worldfleet, enforces PanTac's mandate of mining anything useful from Scathac. A small mining outpost staffed mostly by miners, is maintained by Worldfleet on Scathac. Susan Amanda McTavish is a young high-flyer in Worldfleet, who has passed all their rigorous background checks and biometric assessments. At odds perhaps with much of their mandate, Worldfleet claims to value integrity and honesty above all else (the reader must suppose that only applies WITHIN the organization, and not necessarily to outsiders). So that vaunted high moral standard, somehow doesn't preclude Worldfleet from being PanTac's henchmen, and also from conducting numerous clandestine operations, that appear decidedly in the purpose of self-interest. McTavish's capabilities soon get the attention of the upper echelon of Worldfleet, for a specific purpose. "The surgical mind unveiled by her psych tests brought a specialist's assignment to Cultural Liaison. There, her alert manner and linguistic fluency drew the acquisitive notice of Cover Intelligence." But McTavish is a spy within a spy, and when Worldfleet dispatches her on a secret mission to seek terms with the native tribe on Scathac, and relocate them off-planet due to the threat of impending disaster, she discovers there is more to the mission than meets the eye. Worldfleet believes the tribal people of Scathac have magic, which of course Worldfleet also wants at their disposal. Yet, McTavish's real name is actually Jessain, and she is a Koriani sorceress, sent by her superiors, who desire access to the tribal magic too. Looming large, and ominous, is a newly created, diabolical weapon that can destroy worlds, trained on Scathac. And Jessain, and the tribes on that planet, are squarely in its sights. In just 25 pages, which for many sci-fi or fantasy books is merely a chapter, Wurts, once more, accomplishes the seemingly impossible, and makes us care deeply about a character's fate. And it's not an easy character, in my opinion, to care about, at first glance. Of course, my viewpoint is slightly tainted because of what I have learned thus far of the Koriani in the main series, and from other novellas relating to the main series that I have read. Even though, at this point in the history of the enchantresses, Jessain makes them sound much more benevolent than my other reading of them. Nevertheless, even though Jessain's mission from the Koriani seems mostly one of mercy, even humanitarian, there is the underlying usury that seeps through to cloud the reader's insight into Jessain's motives. The very implication of being a 'spy' normally can imply something potentially sinister. But we soon learn that Jessain has in fact far exceeded the Worldfleet standards for integrity. She is much more than just an ambitious Worldfleet officer. She is much more than a scheming Koriani. She is a wonderful, complicated, fascinating character, torn between multiple objectives, who is faced with an earth-shattering, convoluted decision, and impossible moral dilemma, that puts much more than her very life at stake. Wurts's makes us care about Jessain personally, as much as the decision in front of her, because of the author's fantastic characterization. I won't say more about the tribal characters that appear in the book, but rest assured, they too are extremely well drawn. If you read enough of Wurts' books in the "Wars of Light and Shadow", certain themes, like empathy and justice will be extremely prevalent, and overarching. Another theme one may find in Wurts' books are those of choice, and free will. In Sundered Star, the protagonist Jessain is confronted with choice on an immeasurable scale. That is the main theme of the book: making the choice that does the greatest good, or perhaps - though it can appear as the same thing - merely the least harm. Wurts' writing continues to be transcendent, and truly I go to some other place in my mind whenever I get to lose myself in her prose again. "The stars blazed down, pinprick cold, on a hostile landscape, veiled under darkness....gusts rolled down off the volcanic heights, bitter and burning with chill...At each step she felt Scathac itself rejected her trespassing presence." The uniqueness of the worldbuilding in this novella is that we plainly read a sci-fi novel that is directly connected to what seems to be, at first blush, a high fantasy series. We are provided a brief look into Worldfleet, what its mission is, and its structure. We are treated to things such as compass with satellite tracking, space rockets, starships, mechanized all-terrain vehicles, and more that squarely placed "The Sundered Star" as in the sci-fi genre. In an alternate world, with characteristic beautiful, evocative, uniquely lush and lyrical prose, incredible characterization, intrigue, advanced technology, moments of poignancy, danger, despair, tragedy, and ultimately hope, Wurts takes readers of her main series far, far back into time and space. Long before humans came to Athera, and the Mistwraith's geas settled, and two opponents, one representing Light, the other Shadow, grappled, with the fate of humankind in the balance. Readers of this book who have read the "Wars of Light and Shadow" MAY discover some absolutely startling reveals that will be highly relevant for the main series. Reading this book is a watershed moment for me, as I truly begin to slowly understand, in reading this novella, a sci-fi book, just how massive, daunting, and wondrously staggering the worldbuilding is that Janny Wurts has created for the "Wars of Light and Shadow". I absolutely can't wait to read and understand even more.
  8. As you know @ToriTalksis a phenomenal booktuber! I was humbled when she asked me to appear on her channel, as she finished reading A DROWNED KINGDOM, and she had questions, lol! Please check out the interview below, and of course check out all of Tori's content - she is quickly becoming a VERY popular booktuber, and that's because she's simply awesome!
  9. The wonderful @Layla Azmi Goushey asked me to interview on her new Youtube Channel, Baladi Magazine, about THE DROWNED KINGDOM SAGA. Of course I was honoured to join Layla! We had a wonderful, stimulating discussion, that you can check out below!
  10. Trenzle Mag is described on their website as "an online magazine, blog, and news site bringing you the latest updates, releases, and announcements related to Authors, Books, Creators, Art work, People, Ideas, Opinions, and Stories from around the globe." I recently interviewed with them, and had a great time! Please check out the interview, and interviews of some of the dynamic creatives Trenzle has chatted with! https://www.trenzle.com/a-conversation-with-p-l-stuart-a-fantasy-author/
  11. The wonderful and talented Joanne Morrell, author, podcaster, technical Scriptwriter, was kind enough to invite me on her podcast entitled 'THE HYBRID AUTHOR'! We discuss: the various types of hybrid publishing options available to authors internationally; royalties author advances and more. Please check out the interview, and of course Joanne's books at https://hybridauthor.com.au/books/ ! https://hybridauthor.com.au/podcast/everything-you-need-to-know-about-hybrid-publishing-with-p-l-stuart/
  12. Thank you so much @chibipoe! Very excited to move onto Grand Conspiracy before month's end! Wow @Paromita Mukherjee! Yes, Fugitive Prince was amazing...I think Warhost is my favourite so far but it's so hard to make that judgement, my enjoyment of each book is off the charts.
  13. If you've read the book, (or want to watch up until the spoilery part) check out this ***spoiler filled*** discussion of THE LAST OF THE ATALANTEANS hosted by the wonderful @Steve , featuring @MaedBetweenthePages @Layla Azmi Goushey @JannyWurts Miles / Christian Cameron, & I chatting about the second novel in THE DROWNED KINGDOM SAGA!
  14. Historical fantasy full of fascinating female perspectives, deliciously morally grey characters, sumptuous Irish folklore and mythology, wonderful political intrigue, mysticism, and smoothly flowing prose, “The Children of Gods and Fighting Men” (book one in “Gael Song”) by Shauna Lawless, is a beautiful novel that will suck you into its pages, and refuse to let you wriggle away from its grasp. This book is one of 2023’s most heralded fantasy releases, and I was not dissatisfied AT ALL about this novel not living up to the hype. Let the superlatives begin, and let’s dive into what this book is all about. Set in Lawless’ version of 10th century Ireland, the novel is told from two contrasting POVs. The first POV is that of Gormflaith, an incredibly beautiful, charismatic, and utterly ruthless woman, who is hiding a huge secret: she is a Fomorian. According to Irish legend, the Fomorians are a paranormal race, and the opponents of Ireland’s first settlers, which consisted of six categories of people. Among those categories are the Gaels, Irish mortals. Included among the categories are also the Tuatha Dé Danann, a competing supernatural group. Gormflaith is immortal, in that, unless killed or dying by misadventure, she lives forever, masquerading as a mortal, faking her death, and changing identities when the span of a natural life should be at it’s end, to avoid suspicion being drawn to her, that she is anything other than what she seems. For the Tuatha Dé Danann have defeated the Fomorians, believing all of Gormflaith’s people hunted into extinction. Yet Gormflaith and several members of her family remain alive, surreptitiously plotting to turn the tables on their ancient enemies, and rise to power once again. But were the Tuatha Dé Danann to become aware that any Fomorians still existed, they would track their old foes down, and destroy them. Thus Gormflaith lives in constant danger. Gormflaith is the wife of Amlav, the King of Dublin. Formerly a great warrior, the aged Amlav has passed, and with him has passed Gormflaith’s nominal influence in his court. Still, the succession of Dublin’s throne is far from guaranteed, even thought a new monarch assumes power. There are many contenders among Amlav’s heirs who could rule, and Gormflaith is determined that her son, Sitric, ends up in the king’s seat. The second main POV is that of Fódla. Fódla is a Descendant of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She lives with the other Descendants, hidden from the eyes of mortals, and is a healer among her people. Fódla, generally kind-hearted, and passionate, but guarded, and somewhat melancholy, as she copes with grief over the death of her human offspring. She once was romantically involved with the leader of the Descendants – Tomas - but that relationship now more tenuous, and fraught with tension and mistrust. Fódla’s sister has been inserted as a spy among humans to help ensure the Descendants can help circumvent human conflicts, which they see as their mandate. But Fódla has broken the rules of the Descendants while on her covert mission. She has had relations with a human and is bearing a human child. Her punishment for doing so will be severe. For love of her sister, Fódla not only agrees to foster her sister’s offspring, but also engages in a spy operation too, at the behest of Tomas. Fódla, in disguise as a disfigured commoner, will snoop on a famous mortal king that the Descendants see as a threat to peace, because that king believed to be a scheming warmonger. Two women, with magical abilities, destined to be sworn enemies due to the timeless feud between their peoples, neither whom know of the existence of the other, cleaving a path through a severely patriarchal, medieval world, to influence major events, and play important parts in an Ireland at a pivotal point in history, where cultures and faiths will clash, wars will erupt, and the primeval gods and mythical creatures of yore are not ready to relinquish their hold on Ireland yet. As always, I begin my review speaking about the characters. The two mesmeric main characters in “The Children of Gods and Fighting Men” entranced me from the start. My admiration for and interest in both these incredibly addictive female leads was equal. Though I must admit, Gormflaith was my favourite, because she was so categorically unremitting, cold, merciless, cunning, and ingenious in her wily plots. I adore highly flawed characters, and the devious yet alluring Gormflaith definitely fits the bill. Gormflaith holds as high a role in society as a woman can have, but is still in many ways completely stymied by the patriarchy. She can only use her magical abilities so far to have sway over mortals, so she must rely on her charm, her wits, and her powers of persuasion, gentle or otherwise. Manipulating and steering primarily the men surrounding her, Gormflaith’s single-minded obsession to see Sitric on the throne is driven by more than maternal love, though that is surely at the heart of why she takes the extreme actions she does. Not opposed to seduction, lies, and even bloody murder to achieve her ends, Gormflaith needs her son to be in power to secure her position as well, and keep her relevant. Even though she knows any such relevance can only be fleeting, as, eventually, she must contrive her death, give up her position as a dowager queen and mother of a king, and start over, in another phase of her immortal life. Gormflaith is often thwarted in her schemes by the power plays of the dominant males around her. She is also at their mercy to a degree, used as commodity for her looks or her womb, and a pawn for the political alliances being married to her can forge, for the benefit of whichever man controls her. So she fights back the only ways she knows how, and she is a force to be reckoned with. Fódla is the more pleasant character that readers who need a nicer person to root for will find. In her courage, intelligence, nurturing, protective, yet suspicious nature and damaged past, Fódla’s willingness to risk and sacrifice herself for others, yet face the pragmatism that comes with being an immortal, that, in the end, the mission must take precedence over any one human life, will make the reader mourn for her. Fódla can be judgmental, but she also is quick to care as well. Her compassion for the humans she must spy on is admirable, and her fierce guarding of her sister and nephew – who she essentially adopts – makes her very likable. She is also more passive, compared to Gormflaith, but while more docile, it does not mean that she is weak. She is more an observer, and cerebral, in her approach than Gormflaith, though she can be impetuous, at times. But while she is not a complete bystander, she is not willing to put herself wholly in the middle of happenstance, as Gormflaith is. She does not want turmoil, in fact Fódla wants to stop turmoil, as is consistent with her task bequeathed to her by the Descendants. That said, Fódla is an independent thinker who begins to doubt the methods her people are using for the stated sake of preservation of peace, and if the ends justify the means. Contrasting Fódla, Gormflaith thrives on being at the centre of any turmoil, for it is within turmoil that the Queen of Dublin best operates, being able to take advantage of the uncertainly and tumult. The secondary characters are wonderful. Rónnat, Tomas, Sitric, Murchad, and Olaf really stood out for me, amongst a great auxiliary cast, many of whom, along with Gormlaith and Fódla, are based on either legendary or real historical figures. Lawless expertly and inventively weaves lore with historical accounts of these characters, to create vivid, well-fleshed out, very memorable people who leap out of the dimness of antiquity onto the pages of her book with flair and gusto, refusing to fade into the past. Most of the characters are amoral at best, wholly unscrupulous at worst, with a few genuinely noble ones sprinkled in. Just the way I like my fantasy – the presence of unprincipled characters always tend to keep things interesting in a fantasy novel. Let's talk thematic: the topics broached in this novel are quite absorbing. Found family, family bonds, sacrifice, gods intervening in the fate of mortals, patriarchy, suppression of women and misogyny (and women fighting back), betrayal, lust, grasping for power, maternal love, grief, loss, and more, permeate this novel. I loved the exploration of the turbulence where the Irish and the Vikings face an clash of cultures and violent conflict. This is upheaval amongst the mortals mirrors the secret immortal war between the Fomorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann, in itself reminiscent of other divine wars from various cultural traditions, such as the Norse gods with the Æsir versus Vanir conflict. Religious conversion, and the option to chose one faith or another for political expedience rather than genuine faith, I also found to be a fascinating topic that was explored in the book. The court politics, jockeying for power, double-crosses, misinformation, endless plots, and ‘moral flexibility’ in this book was remarkable, and the kind of stuff I absolutely love about both fantasy and historical fiction. I also adored the soft magic, which features Fódla’s healing powers and Gormflaith’s wielding of fire. While the battle scenes are somewhat muted, with more reported than actual witnessed, there is plenty of high engaging drama, collusion and conniving, to keep the entertainment value of this book quite high. It was a compulsive read, as we go back and forth between the two protagonists’ POVs, wondering what will happen to them, what they will do next. The pacing is wonderful, not a lag in the narrative to be found, and a very unpredictable story, that takes some marvellous turns I did not expect. A hard book to put down for any length of time. No secret, I love my flowery, even somewhat dense prose. Yet for me the effectiveness of writing is always more about how it’s said than how much is said. Lawless’ prose is graceful, fluid, efficient yet delightful, and it really worked for me. The author is to be commended for her first-rate research of Irish history and mythology. Lawless has twined the arcane with the factual, without obvious seams, clumsiness or confusion. While the worldbuilding focuses more on the historical aspects, and the legends, rather than more ornate descriptions of scenery and setting to ground the reader, the reader will definitely FEEL like they are in 10th century Ireland, in a land of the occult, tempestuous warlords, shifting allegiances, chaos, and yet beauty and wonder. “The Children of Gods and Fighting Men” is a perspicacious, epic, enchanting, ambitious first installment, centered on fabulous female main characters, in what promises to be a lauded and exciting historical-fantasy series. There were plenty of unresolved plot threads that will convince readers to eagerly anticipate the next book, which is – thankfully – coming this fall, entitled “The Words of Kings and Prophets”. Personally, I can’t wait to continue the story of Fódla and Gormflaith, and return to the Ireland of the time of the Fomorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann. This novel is surely worthy of the plaudits it has been receiving, and should wind up on many ‘best of’ lists for 2023 fantasy books, including mine.
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