Saturday, 7 November 2020

Meet Chad Ryan, author of Ghost River

Chad Ryan is an author and part of Lost Boys Press - and he recently launched his ghost story with sharp edges, Ghost River. He stops by the blog to chat about the book. 



Hi there, and welcome to Altered Instinct!  Tell us a little about your most recent book – what is it called, and what is it about? Give us your elevator pitch to make us fall in love with it!


Ghost River is a heapin’ helpin’ of magical realism with a rusty iron spine of horror. It’s a visceral portrait of loss, love in a jail cell, and a book full of monsters. It focuses on a cursed ghost town in the Arizona desert at the edge of the Ghost River Nation. Locals call it haunted. Wiser folk call it cursed. Whatever the case may be, something evil stirs under the dirt. Ghost River is the story about the folks who still live out there. And the dead ones too.  


What inspired the story?


2020, actually. I intended to write a different book entirely and Ghost River came out attached to it. A siamese twin. After separating it, I put the pieces together like broken glass. It’s a desolate, desperate, and anxious book about living and loving in a terrible environment that never changes. Ghost River became the refuge for my own anxiety during a pandemic and social/political unrest in America. 



As a writer, have you ever had a character grow to be a much bigger part of the story than you expected? Who was the character and what was it about them that made them emerge from the sidelights?


Esther! Ghost River follows several key characters over 30 years of time as the book unfolds. At its damaged and violent core, Ghost River is a story about oppression, breaking free, and finding yourself in a shrinking and obsolete world, and Esther Northamm emerged as having one of the more tragic yet beautiful journeys in the book. 


What were some of your favourite books to read as a child? Which were the first books you remember falling in love with?


I was obsessed with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Not only did the tales keep me awake at night, the creepy illustrations haunted my young mind more than anything! Other notables: The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Choose Your Own Adventure series.




Who are your favourite authors to read? And whose writing do you feel has inspired your own work most? 


Ghost River is an homage to the horror genre: past, present, and I hope, future. It’s my love letter to Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft and others whose important work inspired my growth as a writer.  


Are there any particular themes you address in your story? What issues do you explore, overtly or otherwise? 


Man, that’s a challenging question!  Ghosts for sure, but Ghost River isn’t your traditional ‘haunting’ tale. In this book ghosts are supernatural, scars from the past, and/or living people we’re haunted by. I should also note, this story dives headfirst into some very difficult themes to explore. Abuse, slavery, villainous misogeny to name a few. It’s a VERY mature read, and I recommend readers heed the advisory before jumping in.  


What has been your favourite reaction from readers? 


Ghost River is a risky book. I pulled no punches diving into this dark and dirty tale. My goal was to weave a horrific narrative with engaging and thoughtful storytelling to keep the reader going. My favorite response thus far has been from non-horror readers embracing the terror while enjoying the immersive experience in the world of Ghost River.  


Marketing is always a challenge for writers – to share the love, what have you found the most useful tip for spreading the word about books? 


I spend most of my time on Twitter, which I think, is the best tool for writers. You know, words. Sure I tweet about my book, but mostly build relationships and share pieces of my life with followers. Over time, it’s cultivated a network of friends and folks interested in what I do. A common mistake authors make is ONLY spamming ads for their books all day long. That’s not very engaging and easily ignored by potential readers.  


I have to ask for readers who might want to know: Is this a kissing book?


Only if you like tentacles. I’ll leave it there. 


Where can readers follow you to find out more about your work?


Check me out on Twitter (@writingiswar). I am managing partner of Lost Boys Press (lostboypress.com). And you can read more of my work on Broken Window (brokenwindow.substack.com) or my blog: writingiswar.com.  


A traditional question here at Altered Instinct – what are you reading at present, and what is the best book you’ve read in the past year?


Presently I am reading Cur Dogs by indie-author M.N. Seeley. On deck: The Ancient Ones by Cassandra Thompson, The Confession by William Aicher, and HumanAlien by Vika Coppens. I read a lot of indie-authors, like me, because I want to support the work they do to change the publishing landscape with compelling works.  


Thanks for calling by! Ever a pleasure to chat to a fellow horror fan! Good luck with the book!


Ghost River is available on Amazon: amzn.to/2G6K6T3

 





Saturday, 31 October 2020

Meet Cassandra Thompson, author of The Ancient Ones

I first encountered Cassandra Thompson over on Twitter - where her love of horror, great books and more is only to be applauded. She has a new book out, The Ancient Ones, a gothic tale where fantasy and mythology meet and are bound by a vampire's bite. She stopped by the blog to chat about it. Read on!


Hi there, and welcome to Altered Instinct!  Tell us a little about your book – what is it called, and what is it about? Give us your elevator pitch to make us fall in love with it!

The Ancient Ones tells the story of David, the last immortal blood drinker, who tells his story to the mysterious young woman he meets in a Limehouse pub. It’s gothic horror meets mythological fantasy, spanning from Ancient Rome to Medieval Romania. It has elements of ancient mythology and puts a new spin on vampire lore.

Without spoilers, what was one of your favourite moments of the story to write? What was it that made you enjoy that section so much?

My favorite scene is where my two main characters, Davius and Lucius, summon a certain deliciously dark goddess in their Greek bathhouse. I love the imagery, the magic, the emotion. While it doesn’t seem like that important of a scene, it foreshadows the unfolding dynamic between Davius and Lucius and sets the tone for the rest of the trilogy.

As a writer, have you ever had a character grow to be a much bigger part of the story than you expected? Who was the character and what was it about them that made them emerge from the sidelights?

Oh yes. Without a shadow of a doubt, it was my antagonist, Lucius. I tried so hard to make him a detestable bad guy, but I totally fell for him. He completely took over the second and third books. I love his snarky dialogue, I love how he’s always right about things, how he doesn’t care about anything (except a certain dark goddess who I also enjoy writing). We go into his mind in Book 3 and it was a blast for me. 



What are your favourite genres to read – and what is it about those genres that draws you in? 

I love horror, primarily gothic horror. All the main elements in gothic horror draw me - the grim atmosphere, the supernatural elements, the emotion. The only piece I don’t like is the damsel in distress, which I deconstruct in my own books.

Who are your favourite authors to read? And whose writing do you feel has inspired your own work most? 

I loved reading Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, Anne Rice, and Stephen King - still do. They are responsible for shaping the writer that I am today. Since this is a sci-fi blog, I feel compelled to mention I also really loved Michael Crichton; I’ve read every single one of his books.

 

I must admit I’ve loved the readings you’ve done of Poe on Twitter! Are there any particular themes you address in your story? What issues do you explore, overtly or otherwise? 

I love exploring moral ambiguity and every character I write has that inner turmoil. I also deconstruct mythology and retell history in a way that I hope will encourage readers to think about what is fact and what is fiction. I hope it will show how similar our myths/religions can be and how we all are part of a bigger, connecting thread. I also love tragic, heartbreaking romance, so that lies beneath the surface of the story.

What has been your favourite reaction from readers? 

All of it; I love how people want to challenge my historical knowledge, I am tickled that people enjoy my prose, and I am over the moon that they like my characters. It’s really been a dream come true.

What’s next for you as a writer? What’s cooking in your literary kitchen?

I will be releasing the other books in The Ancient Ones Trilogy next year; I have several writing projects in the works, including come collaborations with other horror writers. I also have a podcast called Only In Your Nightmares coming out in November, and I will continue to be posting free short horror stories on my blog, Tales from the Shadows.

What has been your most satisfying moment as a writer so far? What made you punch the air? 

When I mastered InDesign enough to typeset a really lovely book! 

Where can readers follow you to find out more about your work?

I’m very active on Twitter (@CassThomps13) and I have my own website that houses collaborations, poetry, horror shorts, and book links: www.quillandcrowpublishinghouse.com

A traditional question here at Altered Instinct – what are you reading at present, and what is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

I am currently reading Ghost River by Chad Ryan and several upcoming works by Spyder Collins. I just finished Bloodhound by Marie Casey - she takes my vote for best book I’ve read this year. 

The Ancient Ones is available here: https://www.quillandcrowpublishinghouse.com/buytheancientones



Sunday, 4 October 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Beneath The Rising, by Premee Mohamed; A Twist in Time, by Brent A Harris; Oware Mosaic, by Nzondi




Tentacles, time travel and afrofuturism have been on my reading list lately. Check out my latest reviews below. And hey, what have you been reading lately that you've enjoyed? Drop a note in the comments. 


Beneath The Rising, by Premee Mohamed

Who knew Lovecraftian horror could be such a joy? 

Premee Mohamed has gleefully snatched up two fistfuls of Cthulhu Mythos, dropped it into the modern day and proceeded to ruin the lives of her two lead characters with it. Possibly while giggling manically. 

But while she creates a canvas from that mythos, it's the story of those characters that will draw you in. Johnny and Nick are two survivors of a childhood tragedy that bound them together. Johnny is the superstar, a genius inventor with money and talent. Nick is her devoted friend, trailing in her wake, struggling to manage work shifts and helping his family while she soars ahead like a shooting star. 

Things change, though, when Johnny needs help. A door has opened, and she might be to blame, and things that should not be are creeping through it. 

The real delight of this book is the relationship between the two lead characters. Johnny is a star, and Nick is locked in her orbit, drawn to her and in love with her in so many ways, but more than that a friend. The two have their shorthand ways of talking, the banter that goes with people who have been friends forever, even as they struggle to deal with things at the heart of their relationship that they cannot tell one another. They are broken in so many ways, and lean on one another to get through because trying to fix things would hurt even more. 

All this continues as the world starts to unravel - and it turns out that two people who have nothing in the world except one another might be the world's only hope for survival. There are secrets revealed, bad bargains, and the kind of regrets that leave the taste of ashes in the mouth. 

A fantastic book. I heartily recommend it. 

AI Rating: 5/5

Beneath The Rising is available on Amazon.




A Twist in Time, by Brent A Harris

Sometimes you read a story and you think how on Earth did no one thing of doing this before? With A Twist In Time, Brent A Harris delivers a book I can only wish I could have thought of. 

You know Oliver Twist. Yes, that one. The orphan. That young chap that Dickens created, the one that said in the musical "Please, sir, can I have some more?"

Well, Brent Harris gives him more. And then some. A Twist in Time tells the story of a grown-up Oliver, the orphan made good, one who looks out for the children that tread the same path he did. 

When some of those orphans start disappearing, Oliver sets out to save them, aided by Nell Trent and a host of steampunk-style gadgets. Most fascinating of all is the pocket watch he can use to turn back time, giving him a second chance when he needs it most. 

Facing a gender-flipped Artful Dodger, Oliver begins to unravel the mystery of the disappearing children - uncovering a threat that is far bigger than he could have imagined. 

This is rollicking fun as a book, and it really zips by. Taking the Victoriana element of steampunk and welding it onto the world of Oliver Twist is a genius move, and taking the frail scrap that was Oliver and turning him into the forged steel of his adult self hits the mark perfectly. 

I really enjoyed this - and it's set up nicely for future stories in this same world. Delightful. 

AI Rating: 5/5

A Twist In Time is available on Amazon.



Oware Mosaic, by Nzondi

This is the winner of the 2019 Bram Stoker Award for a YA novel - which is how I heard of it. 
It's a slice of afrofuturism set in Ghana, and... well, let's just say there's a lot packed in here. 
There's been a nuclear war, the characters in the novel are dealing with the aftermath, scientists have found a way to store consciousness on data orbs, some people have been affected by radiation and turned into vampire-like creatures, there are vicious dog creatures to beware of... oh, and there's a virtual reality construct called the House of Oware that people spend their time hanging out in. 
Against that background, the story tells of a young woman, Feeni Xo, who thinks she may have killed someone in a hit and run. As she spends time in the virtual reality afterwards, a friend helps her realise that more is at play and there may have been a murder instead. As the pieces of the puzzle start to drop into place, society itself turns out to be at risk. 
I really wanted to like this book. There are lots of great touches, such as the family gatherings which feel to me really authentic for the setting. Unfortunately, these tend to get used for a whole lot of infodumping about the world or clumsy ways of pointing out who the bad guys are. 
Add to that there just being too much stuffed into the story that is irrelevant to the plot - and plot developments suddenly bursting into the story without any real build-up, and it just doesn't hang together. 
Great setting, interesting premise, but a fine example of why less is sometimes more. 

AI Rating: 2/5

Oware Mosaic is available on Amazon

Friday, 11 September 2020

FLASH FICTION: What happened to Ribbons? By Leo McBride

There's a very welcoming Facebook group I'm part of, called Write Askew. You'll find them here. Every now and then, they throw down a writing challenge. In this case, they posted the picture below and urged writers to tell the legend of what happened on this trial. I fired up a reply, and rather than it vanish into the history of Facebook, I thought I'd share it here too. A flash fiction piece, if you will. Enjoy. 

 


They called her Ribbons. No one remembers what her real name was now, it's so long ago. She was an out-of-towner. Her family came her for the summer, and everyone remembered she always had ribbons in her hair.

When they found her down that trail, the sheriff brought in six boys from the local gang. Each of them swore they had nothing to do with it. The sheriff had nothing and had to let them go. If you caught him drinking down at Old Bill's Lodge, he would tell you he knew they'd done it but there was nothing he could do. Perhaps if he had, he could have changed what was coming.

Everyone called it the Red Fall. At first because the colours of the trees had never seemed so rich. Later, because of what happened.

The first of the boys, young Bill Cheney, was found dead the week the leaves turned. The police tried to keep a lid on things, said there was nothing to worry about, he'd broken his neck in an accident. The Old Bill's regulars said the sheriff was drinking a lot harder from then, though.

It was once a week after that. Bill's brother, Scott, was next. Then the Lansing boy. Then Cheeter Willis. Bobcat Lawrence after that. The last one was the gang leader, Will Farthing.

All accidents? The police couldn't keep that up when the deaths kept happening, but they insisted there were no wounds to be found. Even brought in an out-of-town coroner but the outcome was all hush-hush.

I cornered the sheriff one night at Old Bill's years later, when he was six bourbons to the wind and whispered to him, "What really happened, sheriff? What did the coroner find when he opened them up?"

"They were all through 'em," he said. "All their insides jammed up with 'em. Couldn't breathe. Suffocated on 'em."

"On what?" I asked. "What was inside 'em?"

He looked me dead in the eye and said one word, and I swear to you now I don't know if he was drunk, or mad, or the coldest sober I've ever seen him.

"Ribbons."

 

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Superheroes, aliens and more - Rob Edwards talks about his new book, The Ascension Machine


I'd like to welcome Rob Edwards back to the blog - and this is a very, very special occasion. Let me throw a couple more verys on that too. Rob's debut novel publishes in the coming week - The Ascension Machine. It's a novel of heroes. More to the point, superheroes. So I'm delighted he's here to talk about it. 

Hi Rob, and congratulations on your debut novel! We’ll get to the meat of the book soon – but we know it’s got science fiction, aliens and most importantly superheroes! So, let’s start with caped crusaders – what’s your first love when it comes to comic books and what is it that hooked you about those characters?

Thank you, sir. Exciting times.

The first comic book I remember reading was issue two of the comic adaptation of the very first Star Wars movie. My dad thought these silly space comics (this was before Star Wars was, you know, Star Wars) were missing the point, so he bought me the latest Green Lantern and Justice League of America to show me what comic books should really be like. Now I think, this blend of sci fi and superheroes has been with me a long time now.

And I guess that also informs my first love for comic books, DC’s Legion of Superheroes, a title which has been goofy, weird, fascinating, dark, light, popular, forgotten, epic and personal. That’s comic books, always something new, always something fresh and creative just around the corner.

You and I got to know each other across the gaming table playing Heroclix – that’s a superhero tabletop strategy game for those who don’t know – but what was your favourite team you used to play?

With so many miniatures to play with (so very very many), I tried to vary my teams as much as possible, playing Marvel teams, DC teams, Lord of the Rings teams and Star Trek teams pretty regularly (and mixing it up to enjoy things like Gandalf driving the Batmobile). But eventually I’d always come back to Legion of Superheroes or Birds of Prey.


I think I need pictures of Gandalf driving the Batmobile! OK, so tell us a little about the novel – what was the hook that drew you into writing about superheroes?

They do say “write what you know”! I’ve been consuming superhero media for decades now; if you cut me, do I not bleed four colour inks? The kernel of this story, though, comes from a question of identity. Everyone in the book is going through some kind of identity adjustment, either because they’re trying to get out from their parents’ influence, or habitually lying about who they are, or they are superheroes, for whom the secret identity thing is baked into the concept.

It’s set in an academy for superheroes – where did your inspiration come from there?

It was a function of the theme, really. For many, college is where they begin to find out the kind of people they will be as adults. It’s all back to that question of identity. The working title of the book was “So you want to be a space alien superhero?”, I changed it for several reasons, but it’s still the core of what the academy is about.

Plus, I just loved the idea of taking some of the sillier elements of the superhero genre and making them into college courses. If you want to study Grapnel Gun Maintenance, Costume Design and Rescueology, the Justice Academy is the place for it.

Tell us about Grey, your hero – a person out of place, it must be said, living a bit of a fraud!

At the start of the book he would (and does!) tell you that he has an awesome life, drifting from one space station to another, seeing the whole galaxy, earning his way with odd jobs, petty crime and grifting. He gets into a lot of trouble and has a knack for lying. But he has nothing to ground him. At seventeen he has no friends, no past, no future. He’s a little lost and doesn’t realise it until chance (and a scam) find him enrolled at the Academy under false pretenses.


The book reminds me a bit of Harry Harrison – but what would you say your influences are?

I’ve not read any Harrison since I was a teenager, but yes, I see the comparison to the Stainless Steel Rat. I wrote a post on Altered Instinct a few years ago about the books I carry with me, and you’ll find most of my influences there! Erik Frank Russell’s Wasp, Bujold’s Vorkosigan books are both in the DNA of The Ascension Machine, stir in a little Dumas, a hint of Rowling and top it off with some great comic book storytellers like Keith Giffen, Gail Simone and Mark Waid.

The artwork for the cover is fab – was that a custom commission?

It’s the work of the talented Ian Bristow, a scifi writer in his own right. I love what he did with the cover, and he was very professional when it came to handling my fussy last-minute changes.

What was your favourite part of the writing? (Without too many spoilers!)

Dialogue always flows the easiest for me, so my favourite part is the banter between Grey and the people he meets and friends he makes. I particularly enjoy writing for the characters Seventhirtyfour and Gadget Dude.

You’ve published quite a few short stories, but this is your first full-length novel, how did you find the difference in the different formats as a writer?

What I found with novels, I mean the essential difference in my approach, is that when writing novels you have to come up with so many more words. The biggest issue, aside from that, is that for most short stories I can keep it all in my head. I know what I’m doing and where I’m going, and consistency flows from that, but I couldn’t do that with the novel, so I had to be a little more rigorous with note taking so that Seventhirtyfour’s height didn’t change, for example.

What’s cooking next in your literary kitchen?

No rest for the wicked, I’ve gone straight on to the sequel for The Ascension Machine. This book will be called The Crossover Paradox and Grey and his friends must deal with the changes that happened in the first book, plus a murder on campus.

Where’s the book available?

All the usual places. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the like. Kindle and paperback.

Traditional last question here – what are you reading at the moment, and what’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past year?

I’ve just started on Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward. I’ve not read any of his stuff before, other than when he stepped in to help with the end of The Wheel of Time, but I know he has quite a following. Looking forwards to finding out if he lives up to the hype.


What have I read this year? I confess that the whole lockdown thing, I’ve found it difficult to sit and read during it, I’ve not read half as much as normal (not helped by needing new reading glasses since before the lockdown started! I’ve actually managed to get a new pair now, so that will help). Oh, of course, I must mention Brent’s A Twist in Time, steampunk meets Dickens, and with a hint of the superhero to it too.  And of course, Tales from the Pirate’s Cove, Inklings Press’s latest. Seems a bit self-indulgent, but eleven of the stories in there aren’t mine, so I don’t feel bad about plugging it.

Thank you very much for calling by, Rob. I'm looking forward to reading the book. It's pre-ordered, so that'll be my reading for the week ahead! Good luck with the launch! 

• Pick up The Ascension Machine at mybook.to/ascensionmachine







Sunday, 23 August 2020

How cosmic horror and pirates came together for Tales from the Pirate's Cove

Let's talk pirates. 

After all, who doesn't love pirates? Especially sea monsters. They loooove pirates. Crunchy but good. 

Tales from the Pirate's Cove is the new anthology from Inklings Press - and I've got a story in it. First stop, look at that lovely cover, designed by the fabulous Ricardo Victoria. 


Ooooh, shiny.

My story for the anthology started to come into being when I was a kid. The challenge to come up with a pirate story was fairly straightforward. Any variety of pirate would be acceptable. The anthology has space pirates, time pirates and more, but for my story, one particular influence came to mind. 

As a kid, I used to devour the contents of the library. I would take them home, gobble them up and spend my time reliving in my head what had happened in the book. One of those books was a short story collection from Robert E Howard, of Conan fame. But it wasn't Conan that lived on in my mind, but a story called The Temple of Abomination, in which Cormac Mac Art and a band of Vikings (Celt hero and Vikings side by side being natural companions of course) came to a temple on an island filled with lizardmen. Battle ensued in classic Howard fashion. 

When I came to consider my pirate story, that lingering memory from when I was a kid stuck in my head. If you're a pirate out to sea, there's no one else to rely on. No one will come to your aid. Even if they did, they'd be as likely to clap you into chains as rescue you. And so I thought about that island of Howard's, and began to come up with my own impossible island, with an impossible threat, greater than a humble crew of pirates could deal with... 

It's set in the part of the world I live in these days, with references to Nassau and the Bermuda Triangle, and drawing on some of the reality of the era of pirates. 

To the End of the World is a doomed romance, a cosmic horror, a journey towards a destination that should not be. And it's out now in Tales from the Pirate's Cove alongside 11 other stories that are far better than mine. 

I shouldn't play favourites because I love them all, but if there were two that spoke to me particularly, it would be Jennifer Lee Rossman's queer story of a time pirate investigating who stole 1998, chock full of references to bands, games and trivia of the era, and Lawrence Harding's story of a romance between a captain and the fey being that powers his ship, a delicate and thoughtful story exploring the bonds between the families we come from and the families we make, alongside gender identity issues that I'm far from qualified to talk about, but which make me think. 



This is the ninth anthology from Inklings Press - and it's full of fun, capers, horror, sci-fi action and more. I do hope you'll give it a try. It's available as an ebook and in paperback - and you can find both at mybook.to/piratecove

Set sail with us, me hearties. We'd love to have you on the journey. 


PS After the book launched, I thought to myself I'd take a trip down memory lane and re-read that Howard collection - only to find it on Amazon for $830. If nothing else, I can promise our anthology is vastly cheaper! 

Sunday, 16 August 2020

BOOK LAUNCH: Glen Dahlgren launches new book The Child Of Chaos

Got a new book announcement? We're always happy to help spread the word. Check out this new book from Glen Dahlgren, pointed my way by the fabulous Courtney Cannon. But don't take my word for it - after all, when you've got Piers Anthony praising your work, you definitely should start there!

YA Author and award-winning game designer, Glen Dahlgren is pleased to present his newest release, The Child of Chaos!

Check out the stunning cover and blurb below! Also, get to know the author with Glen's bio and social media links.

And last, but not least, read the amazing reviews this book is getting from today's largest authors industry pros!

Galen loves dreaming up stories, but he never expected to be pulled into a nightmare.

An irresistible longing drags Galen to an ancient vault where, long ago, the gods of Order locked Chaos away. Chaos promises power to the one destined to liberate it, but Galen's dreams warn of dark consequences.

He isn't the only one racing to the vault, however. Horace, the bully who lives to torment Galen, is determined to unleash Chaos--and he might know how to do it.

Galen's imagination always got him into trouble, but now it may be the only thing that can prevent Horace from unraveling the world.

 

You can get your copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BN6S5R2


Meet Glen Dahlgren

Website:

http://www.mysterium.blog/

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gdahlgrenauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GlenDahlgren

Amazon: https://amazon.com/author/glendahlgren

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20441786.Glen_Dahlgren

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/glen-dahlgren


Editorial Reviews

"There is a quality of imagination and detail here that impresses me. This is no ordinary sword and sorcery story. [Glen Dahlgren] is a novelist who I think will become more widely known as his skill is appreciated. This is what fantasy fiction should be." Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author of the Xanth series

"It's rare that a fantasy story - and a YA one at that - manages to be both familiar (in terms of fantasy conventions) and yet strikingly fresh and original at the same time. But this one does... and the ultimate conclusion is very satisfying.” Michael Verdu, one of the founders of Legend Entertainment, designer and producer of Mission Critical

"An immensely satisfying page turner with some profound things to say about friendship, responsibility and true courage." Lee Sheldon, award-winning writer of Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Lion's Song

"The book managed to surprise me with clever twists and turns, and as a lifelong fantasy reader, that's a tough trick to pull off." Christy Marx, award-winning writer of Conan, Red Sonja, and Elfquest, and author of Writing for Animation, Comics & Games