Reviewed: September 26th 2021 Released: September 25th, 2021 Genre: Contemporary MM Fantasy
A broken mage. A penitent vampire. Can they put aside the horrors of the past to save each other?
Plagued with erratic, volatile magic, Nicodemus Green focuses his entire life to stop an evil sorcerer who brainwashes or kills anyone in his path to domination. Ten years into this crusade, Nick stumbles upon his former Academy instructor in the Austrian Alps. The strict and pious Byron Domitius has cloistered himself in an isolated manor. Alone and starving, he hates the twisted, damned creature he has become.
A prophecy calls for Nick and Byron to bond by blood to finally bring an end to the sorcerer’s hidden agenda. The two are forced to see beyond their shared past, and Nick finds himself desiring more from his old instructor than just his magic. But are these emotions real, or do they come from the heat of their bond? Read More…
Reviewed: September 23rd, 2021 Released: December 8th, 2021 Genre: Epic Fantasy
The Dryad’s Crown series is not just a book series, is it a work of art. From the delicate earthy covers to the beautiful illustrations you’ll find inside. A Slow Parade in Penderyn is the first novella.
In the port city of Penderyn, Silbrey once served as a soldier for the cruel, ambitious guildmaster. Silbrey escaped the city and her life of violence by rushing into marriage and motherhood. Now she returns to Penderyn to atone for her crimes and confront the guil
Silbrey discovers there is more to her past than even she realized, beyond the familiar cobbled streets of the city. What begins as a fairy tale transforms into an epic adventure about love and loss—and a woman with a strange connection to the natural world. Read More…
Reviewed: September 16th, 2021 Released: September 15th, 2021 Genre: Dark Fantasy
Check out this new release, the second book in the Banshees Curse series.
Fight or flight… why not do both?
Cara is magic-bound by her promise to Cadan, keeping her in the fae realm. On the run from the power hungry King, Cara and her friends search for a way to stop him and bring back balance to Gon’an’rit. Still hurt by a recent betrayal and confused by her heritage, Cara struggles to find her place within her evolving life.
Perfect for fans of fated mates, enemies to lovers,complicated & diverse characters, slow burn romance, and celtic folklore.Read More…
Reviewed: September 8th, 2021 Released: October 31st, 2020 Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Two worlds collide when Emily Swift turns thirty and her late father’s journal lands on her doorstep… Seventeen years after Emily Swift’s father died, a door is opened to a new world, an Empire led by peculiar men and women called Salesmen – transporters of magical items. These Salesmen have the unique ability to travel from place-to-place, and even world-to-world, simply by stepping throug
Now that Emily is thirty, it turns out that she can “door travel” too, stumbling unplanned into kitchens, bathrooms, and alleyways as her connection to the Salesman Empire is revealed. Fueled by the cryptic notes and sketches in her father’s journal, Emily discovers the real reason behind his death: he was targeted and assassinated by the Fringe, a terrorist group of rogue Salesmen. Read More…
Reviewed: September 5th, 2021 Released: September 1st, 2020 Genre: Fantasy
Artist Matthew Sugiyama can alter the physical world with his art. As the top student graduating from the prestigious Popham Abbey, Matthew Sugiyama’s future is secure… until he bucks convention and begins a journey to find answers about his birth family. The trouble is, he doesn’t know who or where they are.
Determined to find answers, but without a clear destination, Matthew sets out on horseback across a post-technology world, guided only by random flashes of a vision or long-buried memory. Using his skills as an artist to barter for hospitality and supplies, Matthew soon learns his sheltered upbringing has left him wholly unprepared to face the obstacles on the road or his unexpected yearning to join the communities he encounters. When he uncovers a mysterious adversary’s plan to harm the people he’s come to care for, Matthew must decide what’s more important; the adopted family he has created, or his need for answers about his past.
And once it’s revealed, it could tear this world apart…Read More…
Reviewed: August 31st, 2021 Released: August 11th, 2021 Genre: Urban Fantasy
My name is Thea, and I’m a monster hunter. Or a monster, depending on who you ask…
My dad trained me to be tough and ruthless, so I could replace him someday as head of our shifter clan. Then I discovered my father wasn’t the man I thought he was. So I went freelance instead. Now, I fight for the underdogs my dad used to exploit. Sure, I get paid. But I don’t do it for the money…
So when a rogue werewolf I’m hunting turns out to be innocent, I want to know who framed him, and why. His name is Marcus, and with his broad shoulders and piercing eyes, he can certainly take care of himself. But someone wants him dead. And I want to keep him alive… At least long enough for me to figure out what he’s hiding.
Because Marcus is more than just your average shifter. He’s something much stranger, and much more dangerous. An ancient secret lurks behind his fierce, smoldering gaze.
And once it’s revealed, it could tear this world apart… Read More…
Join me as chat to USA Today Bestselling author Astrid VJ about her fantasy novels The StoryTeller’s Apprentice and the associated Wordmage Tales set in the same world. The Companion’s Tale was released on July 9th, 2021. I am fortunate to have read both The Companion’s Tale and Astrid’s Apprentice Storyteller. I highly recommend both and you can find my book reviews here. Astrid welcome! Please tell us about your Wordmage’s tales series.
Astrid: I’ve just released The Companion’s Tale, which is the first book in The Wordmage’s Tales series. It happens to be the third one I’ve published in this series because things got a little too tight with my pre-order dates on the other books, while this one being a permafree offering didn’t have a pre-order and could wait. Thankfully, each of the tales in this series is a stand-alone, so I didn’t have to worry too much about publishing the books out of order.
The Companion’s Tale combines my love of fairytales, and my desire to have tales that reflect our modern sensibilities, with my passion for transformation. This tale grew out of a dream and I realised during my certification training that this, and the other tales in the series, was connected to a specific principle of transformation. The principle in question happens to be the potential we all have for finding our purpose and achieving what might appear to be impossible, if only we give possibility and opportunity a chance.
This tale is connected to my novel The Apprentice Storyteller, as The Companion’s Tale is one of the stories the apprentice learns from master storyteller, Viola Alerion. What I loved about writing this story is how it can simply be read and enjoyed on it’s own, while at the same time it also expands on the worldbuilding in The Apprentice Storyteller, and forms as part of the history of that novel. It’s been fun to expand on the greater universe I’ve created, while still keeping everything bite-sized for my readers.
Helen: I love the way you are gradually building up your world by telling a tale within a tale. You also have a theme behind your covers, don’t you?
Astrid: The Wordmage’s Tales emblem, a “W” with an Asian dragon and a lyre is the symbol I’ve created for my character Jo from The Apprentice Storyteller. In essence, he IS the wordmage, for there is only one. The dragon symbolises his ability to tap into the greater cosmic forces and wield powers far beyond what is common for magicians in this universe. The lyre represents the wordmage’s talents as a bard, for he is not simply a storyteller, but weaves magic and tale together, creating something entirely new and utterly powerful.
The first four stories of The Wordmage’s Tales have a green cover because they symbolize growth. They are the tales connected to the first four principles of transformation that have also been labelled “the blueprinting stage”. Essentially, these are the tales that represent the seed for success and simply engage with our potential for achieving anything we set our minds to.
The subsequent three stories of The Wordmage’s Tales have a blue cover because they symbolize the power and potential all of us have to bridge the gap between where we find ourselves and where we long to be, most simply represented in the transition from earth to sky (hence the blue). When placed beside one another, the green of the first four stories (representing earth) become the blue of the second set of stories (representing the sky).
Which brings us to the final set of stories, as yet unwritten, but certainly envisioned. These three tales will have red covers. The red symbolizing the inner fire of every individual who tempers their nature and transforms themselves into the best possible version they can become. Red is also representative of the heart, lifesblood; but at the same time is the colour of the grounding chakra at the base of the spine. The stories with the red cover are the tales dealing with the principles that allow transformation to flourish.
Helen: Thank you for sharing the story behind your covers. It adds to the reading experience to understand how the cover enhances or compliments the story. I am sure you have put as much thought behind your titles.
Astrid: My titles come to me in different ways. The Companion’s Tale came to me quite easily, since this is a story about the companion to a princess. Each of The Wordmage’s Tales originated in a dream and the titles are closely linked to the experience of waking up and remembering every detail of the dream as if I’d personally lived it.
However, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the titles in the accompanying series, the Wishmaster series. The first book in this trilogy is The Apprentice Storyteller, and this one took me quite some time to come up with. The original spark for a story about a wandering fabler and her apprentice came to me through one of my favourite songs by the Finnish band, Nightwish. One of the lines in the song is as follows: The apprentice becoming… master!
I wanted to honour that seed of my original idea by referring back to the song through the titles of the books in this series, which are as follows:
Book 1: The Apprentice Storyteller
Book 2: Becoming Spellwright
Book 3: Master Wordmage
I’ve even gotten my cover designer to use different fonts in the first and second parts of the titles so that this continuity and the reference to the song remain clear, even if I’m the only one who notices.
Helen: What made you write these books as a series of tales?
Astrid: The Wordmage’s Tales were originally envisioned as forming a part of The Apprentice Storyteller as nested short stories, much like 1001 Arabian Nights. However, when I realised that each of the shorter tales was actually connected to a principle of human transformation, I understood that I would have to take a different approach to the one originally envisioned. The Apprentice Storyteller would have become a Lord of the Rings-style megalith and that wasn’t what I was going for. This is why I decided to separate the two series, having the novels dedicated to the journey of the apprentice as the Wishmaster series, while expanding each of the tales into a novella that could be a stand-alone within The Wordmage’s Tales series.
Helen: You typically write fantasy novels. Is Fantasy the only genre you write?
Astrid: I’ve always written fantasy because that simply has been the most natural for me. My fascination with magic has a long history and I started writing in this genre and never really stopped. That said, I do write in a wide variety of subgenres. I have fairytale retellings that have a whimsical feel to them and are heavily influenced by the styles of Austen and Guy Gavriel Kay. I have young adult fantasy, particularly portal and academy fantasy stories that are more heavily influenced by Nordic lore of the “little folk”. And then there’s the Wishmaster series, which is a combination of fantasy and space opera, blending my love of magic and technology into something wholly different. Finally, The Wordmage’s Tales have a strongly historical feel to them and are not strictly speaking fantasy. Many of these tales don’t actually feature any magic, but as they are set in my universe for The Apprentice Storyteller, where magic does exist, and since all my other works are classified as fantasy, it seemed easiest to consider these tales “historical fantasy”.
Helen: What made you first start writing?
Astrid: I had an idea and it wouldn’t let me go. From there, a ripple effect happened and hundreds of ideas have found expression in my head and want to break free into the realm of my writings.
Helen: How do you come up with ideas for your books?
Astrid: They tend to come to me spontaneously or through dreams. Sometimes I’ll read a book and it will get me thinking on a “what if” questions, which will evolve into a book idea.
Helen: What are you curently working on?
Astrid: I’m currently working on two books. I’m writing Warring Lions, the next tale in The Wordmage’s Tales series. This story is all dedicated to the transformational principle of overcoming fear and reaching for a better future even if that is terrifying. It’s also my first LGBTQ+ romance.
I’m also working through self-editing Naiya’s Wish, my next novel. I’m due to submit it to my editor in a few weeks, which is really exciting. This is my third retelling of a lesser-known fairytale. This story has been so much fun to work with. The fairytale, The Nixie of the Mill-pond is so very beautiful and empowering, but as I’ve been writing, we’ve met some characters who will have their own fairytales too. I’m so inspired to keep writing! Absolutely loving where the fairytales are taking me.
Additionally, Naiya’s Wish has turned into my exploration of the condition of women over time. I’ve drawn on anecdotes from women in my and my husband’s families and woven them into this story. In recent times I’ve noticed how ahistorical our perspectives often are. We seem to struggle to put into perspective what life was like in times past. I’ve explored some of the questions I often ask myself about the lives of women in the past, particularly over time. For this reason, my three main characters for this story are at different points in their lives. Amina is an adolescent and has a beautiful and powerful story. Balancing her are Naiya and Hilda who are older characters and together illustrate other aspects of the female experience, aspects which are so often ignored in stories for younger readers. This is something I, for one, want to rectify.
Helen: Thank you so much for spending time with me today. It has been great finding out more about your books, and the meaning behind your covers and titles. Just to close us out, tell us something random about yourself.
Astrid: I love to cross-stitch. My particular specialisation is creating patterns of my favourite anime characters. A few years ago, I made one of my husband’s favourite anime character from when he was a child, and his friends all thought it was so cool they commissioned me to make them each one with their own favourite character. It was a fun project. Recently I haven’t gotten to do as much cross stitching, firstly because it’s a little hazardous trying to do that with young children who can’t sit still and constantly need to poke at what mom is doing. Another reason is I’ve been putting a lot more time into my writing, which has affected the time I have for cross-stitching.
About the Author:
I am a USA Today Bestselling and Literary Classics award-winning author, social anthropologist, and transformational life coach. I grew up in South Africa and currently live in Gothenburg, Sweden (after having lived in many exciting and interesting places). I live with my husband and our two children.
My South African-German heritage and the experiences of living and integrating into other societies have given me a great deal to think about and process. The training in anthropology has given me the tools to think beyond simple stereotypes and ideological explanations of social interaction while the understanding I have of human potential underlying my certification as a transformational life coach allows me to see what is possible and to appreciate the human capacity to achieve success in the face of adversity.
My parents instilled in me a love for books, and the natural world that we inhabit. This love has led to a deep appreciation of the written word and the desire to contribute as much as I can towards improving the state of the world. I would like to use my expertise and passion for cultures to help us move forward.
Reviewed: August 22nd, 2021 Released: February 1st, 2020 Genre: Paranormal Gay Fantasy
To be loved by a dragon is to be treasured.
A hundred years ago, werewolf Alpha Montgomery took a risk driven by desperation—he borrowed money from the ancient dragon Warwick Ehecatl, putting up the pack lands as collateral. Now the debt is due, and dragons don’t forget—or forgive. Warwick demands Montgomery’s son, Avery, and three businesses as compensation. As an Omega, Avery knows he is basically useless to his pack, so he might as well agree. He soon has second thoughts, though. Warwick is fearsome, and he’s free to do as he likes with Avery.
Warwick knows his race’s reputation, and he even admits some of it is deserved. But he’d rather cut off his tail than let his innocent mate’s light go out. It won’t be easy, but buried deep, there’s something between them worth safeguarding. Read More…
Reviewed: August 21st, 2021 Released: December 1st, 2020 Genre: YA Fantasy
For two years, Ebony Wick has survived alone as an outlaw and highwaywoman in Rundlewood Forest. She doesn’t need people. She only needs to survive. But when Hunter Sparrow breaks into her camp and invites her to join his gang, the Bounty Hunters, she finds herself facing a difficult choice.
With a burning desire for revenge against a powerful enemy, Ebony must choose between reason and instinct. But in doing so, she discovers a long-hidden secret that will change her world forever. Read More…
Join me as chat to Alex Wolf about her YA fantasy novel Élan which releases today, August 20th, 2021. Congratulations Alex, on the launch of your book. To start us off, tell us about Élan : Son of Song.
Alex: My current book Élan: Son of Song is about growing up and finding out that the world isn’t how you expected it to be/ were told it was to be – this then forces the MC to find his personal strength and become your own hero, by using your gifts.
Helen: How did you come up with the cover? It is beautiful, with the soft pastel colours.
Alex: For my cover, I visualised a movie style poster for the book in order to appeal to the right genre of readers. I wanted to convey the fantasy and magickal elements as well as the looming sense of dread of the MC’s dark journey. Having the MC featured also was important to demonstrate how this was his journey through his POV.
Helen: Is there a meaning to the book title?
Alex: Élan was inspired by a song that was by his namesake, and as this story is entirely about his journey – it made sense to name it after him and the legend that was borne from it.
Helen: When writing do you prefer to write heroes or villains?
Alex: Villians! They have always been my favourite. There is just something about that ambition, that negative arc that really fascinates me. Famously, my favourite Disney character as a child was Scar from Lion King (which isn’t normal for a kid right?). I always cried when he died. Of course I understood he was ‘bad’ but I appreciated the need to be noticed, to be recognised. Their arcs always seemed to stand out to me, their motivation – how they can move forward without any support I found most inspiring. In my own writing, my villains certainly are my favourites too.
Helen: I agree, some villains are definitely under rated! When writing do you plan your book in advance or do you like to let your book take you where it will?
Alex: I am definitely a planner. In general I am an annoying ‘list person’ anyway. When I outline my stories though, its not necessarily what stick to. In fact, 9/10 I never reach the same ending or even middle that I planned to, but I guess having those ‘guidelines’ there give me enough of nudge to get going. I let my creativity take over and the outline is more of a guideline that gives me enough of an ‘oomph’ to get started.
Helen: Sounds familiar! I have very stubborn characters and they always go off plan! When writing do you listen to music? Or do you prefer silence?
Alex: Almost every single time I write, I listen to music. Otherwise, the silence is deafening when I write. There is just something about me having a rhythm, a vibe or mood is vital for my creativity. Its the same for my illustrations too. I have playlists arranged by character that help inspire me and get into the zone.
Helen: Tell us something competely random about yourself.
My first story I ever wrote was based off my toy dog Curly when I was around 10 years old. From then on I used writing as a way to cope with my social anxiety and help me process my external environment.
I went to Japan for a work trip in 2017. My flight home got cancelled so I was stuck in Japan for an extra day. I decided to use the opportunity and went on my own to Disneyland Tokyo.
Helen: I find writing very therapeutic. It helps you look at things differently, and also makes you take the time to understand why it is the way it is, and how people react.
I want to know how different Disneyland Tokyo is, or whether it is very similar to other parcs! Moving on! What book are you reading now?
Alex: I am currently reading the Wild Spirit series by Victoria Wren. I love the fantasy genre and love even more supporting fellow indie authors. Its the best part about being one for sure. If anyone is on goodreads, please feel free to friend me! I love that platform for keeping tabs on my reading. I also love to beta read so feel free to contact me if anyone wants to try anything.
Helen: Thank you so much for chatting with me today, it has been lovely meeting you. Just to finish, are you working on anything new?
Alex: Currently it is nicknamed Project Prince and it’s another book in the same Saga as Élan but features a different character and timeline. Also will certainly be more NA than YA. For this one, I wanted to go a bit more into fantasy romance as that is my favourite genre and now that I have set the scene for my writing, it feels natural to head there next.
About the Author:
Alex is a creator based in the centre of England who enjoys writing fantasy novels. She also illustrates fantasy-style portraits and draws commissioned pet portraits. Writing and drawing have always been her passion since she was five years old.
When she is not creating, she is either working her day job or reading various genres such as romance, true crime and dark fantasy.