An Echo of Things to Come

An Echo of Things to Come
The Licanius Trilogy Book Two
By James Islington

As shadows rise, a darkness awakes

An amnesty has been declared for all Augurs – finally allowing them to emerge from hiding and openly oppose the dark forces massing against Andarra. 

However, as Davian and his new allies hurry north towards the ever-weakening Boundary, fresh horrors along their path suggest that their reprieve may have come far too late.

Meanwhile, Caeden continues to wrestle with the impossibly heavy burdens of his past. Yet as more and more of his memories return, he begins to realise that the motivations of the two sides in this ancient war may not be as clear-cut as they first seemed . . .

608 pages
Published by Oribt
Published on January 30, 2018
Author’s webpage
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I purchased this book.
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An Echo of Things to Come is a big book. Huge. Which is just my cup of tea. Second book in the Licanius Trilogy there were actually times that I felt I was reading the final book because SO MUCH HAPPENS; and Islington moves you at an ever increasing pace towards what feels like a conclusion – and it is, of a sort, but it is more the ‘end of act two’ and set up for act three.

Islington does a great job of spreading his wings in this novel and clearly puts into play the lessons learned while writing the first book. The story closely follows the main characters of book one, Davien, Wirr, Asha and Caedan, – and if you have not read that you may be a little lost as there is no hand-holding or rehashing of what’s gone before here. Islington does a masterful job of keeping the readers interest across all four threads with the stories balancing out in a complex dance of wave-like tension, one thread rising while another lowers.

And while each of these stories has interest and merit, the standout – for me – is Caedan’s story.

Caedan’s journey to regain his lost memories is simply marvelous. Islington uses flashbacks to allow Caedan and the reader to live the revelations rather than just reciting them to us dryly. It is a great use of the flashback device (one that often annoys me, but not here). In fact is almost ‘time travel’, given we are looking back over millennia and it deepens the readers understanding of what went before and what is happening now in terms of the current timeline plot.

Davien’s, Wirr’s and Asha’s journeys are no less interesting and serve to anchor the story in the ‘now’. Through their POV’s we see the plans made by Caedan’s alter-ego of the past begin to come to fruition and see firsthand just how the foretelling gift of the Augurs moves players across the story like chess pieces.

The pace really starts to crank up in the final third of the book, all the threads rushing towards their  climax – as I said earlier, it often felt as though we were coming to the end of the final book such was the sense of progression in the story. All in all, Islington has written a stellar novel of epic fantasy that ticks many of the boxes for me. I can only see him getting better as he continues his journey as a writer and I am keen to see where he goes next.

An Echo of Things to Come suffers from none of the middle book syndrome that so many other second volumes in a trilogy do. It is a fast paced tale of magic, mysterious, politics, back stabbing and prophecy as we explore the idea of closely our view of identity is molded by our memories. And while Islington does use many familiar tropes he is also using a very cool device with Caedan (no, not the flashbacks) that I do not believe has been widely used in epic fantasy before and offers a very really feeling of ‘something new’. If you are a fan of Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson you will surely love this.

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Interview with Aidan R Walsh

In my last post I raved about The Game Bird by Aidan R Walsh (Buy it here!).

I have also been lucky enough to sit down with him (on the interwebs) and question him interview him, gaining a greater insight into his world and writing life.

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Hi! I’m Aidan (R!) Walsh.

I was born in Newcastle, Australia. I spent primary school in Newcastle before my parents moved us up to the family cattle property outside a little place called Singleton. Singleton was a great country town to grow up in and I got a lot more Sound Garden and old Commodores in my life that I might otherwise have had… I’m also the oldest of five sons, so growing up on a big property involved a lot of motorbikes and blowing things up and other general mayhem.

After school I moved back to Newcastle for university, where I read Classics extremely lazily, before going on to work at a large telco.

2. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

God, all of them. At eighteen I was a dolt. A dolt who embarrassingly thought he was clever.

To pick one idiotic thing, I had a weirdly British Imperial concept of manhood. Very into pluck,  fortitude and duuuuteh and other John Buchan-type  things like that. Some of those attributes are fine, and I think being able to deal with disaster and keep your head isn’t such a bad thing, but thankfully my views of what manhood and masculinity can and should  be have rather broadened since.

3. What books, or authors, would you say have most influenced you in the type of writer you’ve become?

There are far too many fantastic writers that I’ve learnt from and enjoyed to list, but in no particular order I’d say my chief influences are:

Georgette Heyer
Robin Hobb
David Eddings
David Gemmell
Naomi Novik
Dorothy L. Sayers
Patrick O’Brian
Keith Douglas
Tolkien

4. Please tell us about your debut novel, The Game Bird.

Putting my marketers hat on, I call The Game Bird a swashbuckling black powder fantasy, wrapped around a spine of darkness and romance.

There are two main characters. The first is a young sea-captain who, in an effort to escape his debtors, sets out to hunt a sea-monster. The second is a clever young woman who carries a curse and is hunted by a half daemon assassin. Then there are leviathans, weather mages, secret societies, storms and mutiny.

Think Heyer’s Regency period and romance, O’Brian’s ships and seas and Eddings, Hobbs and Gemmell’s fantasy. All mashed together.

5. What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

Time! Time! Time!

I’m fortunate that ideas come to me easily and I can write quite briskly, but finding time is a real challenge. I work a job that regularly gets me for sixty hours a week and I try to be a present husband and dad – and all that just makes it hard to find time. I’d say at least 80% of The Game Bird was written between 21:00 and 02:00.

6. How do you balance what you’re reading against what you’re writing?

In my case, with difficulty.

I find it very hard to keep my own voice when reading a great novel at the same time as I am writing. Consequently, I read something very, very different to what I’m working on. Or I just read non-fiction. In the case of The Game Bird I wolfed down a huge number of Regency period letters, biographies and diaries while I was writing.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Enjoyment! I just tried my best to write a book that would be a really enjoyable adventure.

I also hope people like and remember my characters. I’m a bit sick of fantasy’s current gloominess and I wanted to write characters that are flawed, foolish and silly at times – but basically good people doing their best. People who you want to succeed.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I’m tempted to lie and say something adult like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but my real answer would have to be the polar explorer, Tom Crean. His fortitude, good humour, endless patience, unshakeable bravery and almost complete humility is just incredible (also, maybe I haven’t changed that much since 18).

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Five hundred years before the events of The Game Bird,  there was a great upheaval in my world into which burst a hero (and maybe prophet – which the world has fought about endlessly since), Prince Isaladar. I’d love to write an epic trilogy covering his life. I’d have to hone my craft a lot before I had a crack at that though.

Even less practically, I’ve set myself the goal to make enough money from writing to buy a 1972 Buick GSX.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

For God’s sake write.

So many writers don’t ever seem to  finish anything. I’ve been in and out of writing clubs and groups for the last ten years and for every one writer who fails because they’re not good enough, I’ve seen dozens who just petered out because they just didn’t stick at the whole putting words on a page thing.

Just write!

It’s never easy to sit down at the end (or start) of a long day when you could be having a beer / playing a game / watching Netflix, but if you’re serious about writing that’s what you need to do. As often as you can without going crazy or wrecking your health.

Aidan R Walsh, thank you for your time.
Readers can find Aidan on Facebook, Twiiter and online here.

Buy The Game Bird now!

The Game Bird

The Game Bird
By Aidan R Walsh

An evil is growing. The Realm is under attack. A leviathan has risen from the depths and is destroying the fleets that feed Stormhaven.

Stuck ashore and drowning in debt, Captain James Faulkner resolves to hunt the sea monster and claim the enormous bounty on the beast.

Sophia Blake’s life looks effortless. But she carries a secret, an occult curse that is capable of destroying both her and her nation. Sophia knows her time is running out.

The Tallowman is a slowly decaying melding of demon and man. This monstrous assassin is desperate to capture Sophia and will let nothing stand between it and its prey.

As these hunts build to their shattering conclusion, Faulkner and Sophia will be thrown together and forced to confront malevolent forces beyond their imagining. The Game Bird is a swashbuckling black powder fantasy, wrapped around a spine of darkness.

404 pages
Published by Aidan R Walsh
Published on April 3, 2018
I purchased this book.
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In his debut novel The Game Bird, Aussie author Aidan R Walsh dispenses with the more traditional medieval type setting of most fantasy novels and sets his tale upon the bones of a Regency England stage. I was – at first – concerned this setting would overwhelm the understanding that the book is not, in fact, set on earth. It didn’t. With a sure hand belying the fact that this is his first novel, Walsh allows the story and characters to tell his tale in such a way that while there is a feeling of familiarity to the world, it is very much his own creation.

Set in the city of Stormhaven, and the seas that surround it, The Game Bird tells the tale of Captain James Faulkner, a semi-retired war hero down on his luck since the last war ended and the Kingdom put many of its navy personnel on half-pay. Looking for a solution to pay off his enormous debt he decides to try his luck in taking out a monstrous leviathan that is attacking the traffic of the Kingdom’s shipping lanes, hoping to win the bounty placed on its head to ease his woes. Joining him on this adventure is Sophia Blake, a young lady of standing with a secret she and her father are desperate to keep from society, and the world at large. Unbeknownst to Sophia – or her father – the secret of her supernatural powers is already known by the Tallowman, the nefarious agent of an ancient evil, thought by many to be just a legend. His goal is to capture Sophia and her power for his master, at any cost.

The Game Bird is a swashbuckling, stand-alone tale of high adventure and romance, set in a beautifully realised world. Walsh’s writing is rich in history and lore, which he uses to masterfully colour his world – never once letting the details overwhelm the story and to present us with vivid characters that leap off the page and into your heart. It is a rip-roaring romp blending the sensibilities of Georgette Heyer, Patrick O’Brian and George R R Martin in a page turning read that is sure to find a wide audience.

On a personal note I am disheartened that a book this good was unable to find a home with a traditional publisher. We are exceedingly lucky that Walsh did not give up his quest to bring his writing to the world and that the facilities of self-publishing are quiet comprehensive these days. I highly recommend this book, indeed such are his writing chops that I am sure I would recommend any book by Walsh. I cannot wait for further adventures with these characters – or any characters he cares to introduce – and stories set in this world.

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The Shadow of What Was Lost

The Shadow of What Was Lost
Licanius Trilogy Book One
By James Islington

OLD POWERS AWAKEN

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them – the Gifted – are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their own powers.

As a young Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and his friends are despised beyond their school walls for the magical power they wield: a power that Davian, despite his best efforts, cannot seem to control. Worse, with his final test approaching and the consequences of failure severe, time to overcome his struggles is fast running out.

But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will change his life – and shake the entire world.

608 pages
Published by Orbit
Published on May 17, 2017
Author’s webpage
Buy the book

I purchased this book.
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It took me a while to get into this one but I am glad I stuck with it. Around a third of the way in (for me) it really took off and I couldn’t put it down.

Magic, mystery and a major threat from a long ago war sets the stage for a cast of characters who are a lot of fun to follow as they learn about themselves, the world around and the part they have to play in saving it.

That this is Islington’s first novel is exciting – I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with as he develops his craft. The Shadow of What Was Lost is a fantastic take on the hero’s journey and sure to be enjoyed by lovers of epic fantasy.

As a side note, it’s interesting just how much of an influence the Wheel of Time has been for Islington – don’t get me wrong, he’s created a very different world to Jordan’s and has a different story, but there are a lot of peripheral things that scream WoT. It’s something I notice because Jordan has been a massive influence for me too and my own work, so seeing how this story plays out is really exciting to watch.

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The Blood of the Spear – WiP Report 4

or The Long and Winding Road

More time has passed then I care to think about since my last update.

Work during this time has been intermittent, the Black Dog is a heartless master but you do what you can. I am currently working through the FINAL rewrites of The Blood of the Spear. The goal is to have these complete by the end of summer (that’s summer in Australia, for any of you who happen to be in the Northern Hemisphere that’s the end of winter).

I am cautiously optimistic that I will reach this goal although the progress bar in the top right corner of the site has not updated because it’s kinda hard to gage just where I am at with all the cutting and adding of words.

When we last spoke I was lamenting the need to change the name of my series, well presently I am calling it ‘The Eye of the Eternity’. That is perhaps not a hugely original title given it has been the title of at least one novel and is a place in the universe of the World of Warcraft, but it is also a place in my universe and I first heard the phrase/name in the mid 80’s when reading Sorcerer’s Legacy by Janny Wurts. So there.

There is another title I am mulling over. We will see.

In the meantime, the actual back story of the novel has… shifted. So while the actual tale itself has not changed some shifting in the narrative and world building needs to be done to bring it into line. That will happen once I have completed the final re-writes of the middle section (which have been driving me crazy!).

Moving forward with this book, and the rest of the series, I am working from this document as placeholder/mission statement/keystone. It’s not a synopsis or a blurb, but the underpinning of everything to follow:

The Legacy of the Sahrin

For three millennia the Sahrin, men and women marked by the Eye of Eternity and gifted with the ability to summon beings of elemental power, led humanity to heights undreamed of by their star-faring forefathers. But in their pursuit of power and immortality, ten of the Sahrin opened a gateway to the Void and fell to the possession of daemons. The war that followed destroyed the civilization that the Sahrin had built and the cataclysm, known as the Sundering, changed the face of the world.

At the war’s end a High Seer of the Shaluay foresaw that with the tear in the veil between worlds, daemons would forever more hunt those branded with the Mark of the Summoner. Since that time, though records held in the shrines of the elder gods venerate the Sahrin as saviours, the people have feared them as destroyers. Any child born with the Mark of the Sahrin, or any man or woman upon whom it appears, is now executed without exception before they might fall to possession and unleash forces that cannot be controlled.  

But in the chaotic years after the Sundering, other Seers who survived the collapse of civilisation were plagued with conflicting visions and prophecies. They saw that the Sahrin would return and that the daemons hordes would come again. And that the Phoenix Lord – warlord and leader of the Sahrin – would be reborn, and in his hands would he hold the world’s salvation, or its destruction.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai

Twelve Kings
The Song of the Shattered Sands Book One
By Bradley P. Beaulieu

In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, eda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai, but she’s never been able to do anything about it. This all changes when she goes out on the night of Beht Zha’ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It’s the night that the asirim, the powerful yet wretched creatures that protect the Kings from all who would stand against them, wander the city and take tribute. It is then that one of the asirim, a pitiful creature who wears a golden crown, stops eda and whispers long forgotten words into her ear. eda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to find hidden riddles left by her mother. 

As Ceda begins to unlock the mysteries of that fateful night, she realizes that the very origin of the asirim and the dark bargain the Kings made with the gods of the desert to secure them may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai. And yet the Kings are no fools-they’ve ruled the Shangazi for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Ceda digs into their past, and the Kings come closer and closer to unmasking her, Ceda must decide if she’s ready to face them once and for all. 
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I enjoyed this book immensely. I am always on the lookout for new epic fantasy sagas and Beaulieu’s ‘The Song of the Shattered Sands’ looks like it is going to slide in a favoured place on my bookshelf nicely.
Twelve Kings is set in a beautifully realised world with a history as deep and wide as the sands that surround the amber city of Sharakhai. Filled with political intrigue, gladiatorial battles and supported by a half remembered history of blood and genocide, and compelling characters led by a kickass heroine determined to find the secret that led to her mother’s death.
I am very much looking forward to learning more of the new magic system(s) that Beaulieu has been hinting at and of the inter-kingdom politics that swirl around the story like shifting sands. Luckily I’ve begun reading this series when book two is already out and book three has just been handed in to the editors!
If you are a lover of epic fantasy, inventive magic systems, political intrigue and stunning world building then go buy Twelve Kings now!

Blackwing

Blackwing
The Raven’s Mark Book One
By Ed McDonald

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.
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The stage is (what feels like) a grimy city of dust, pollution and decay. It is a place where humanity has been reduced in stature to such a degree (by war and the Misery that lays outside the walls of their home, and whose taints permeates everything) that base traits and are buried only by a thin veneer of skin. The people eke out a meagre living while trying to avoid becoming casualties in what is essentially a war between gods. Or beings of godlike powers. The Nameless and the Deep Kings are never overtly named deities in the sense that they are believed by the populace to have created the universe/life/everything but the powers the wield place them so far above mortals the difference becomes moot. It is the type of dark and war-torn landscape that would be familiar to readers of Joe Abercrombie and Daniel Polansky and other grimdark authors.

Unlike many heroes of epic fantasy, our main – Ryhalt Galharrow, through whose eyes the story is told – is a 40 year old war vet and agent of Crowfoot, one of the great powers in the land. He is charged by Crowfoot to protect a noblewoman and discovers a secret that could see his city and those he cares destroyed. This begins a rip-roaring tale of conspiracy, treachery and murder that will keep you on the edge of your seat and guessing until the end.

Blackwing – Ed Mcdonald’s debut – is a finely wrought novel of grimdark fantasy lightened by sparkling rays of rainbow hued magic and has a weighty sense of history of which only a fragment is revealed in this volume. He is also particularly talented at creating monsters!

Given Blackwing is a ‘book one’, yet resolves nicely and without any over cliffhangers I am very keen to see where McDonald will take us next.